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House Passes Debt Reduction Bill

The House of Representatives has passed the deficit reduction bill. The vote: 269 to 161.

The Senate will vote tomorrow.

Update: Here's the roll call vote: The ayes and noes.The Democrats are in italics.

Kudos to Colorado Congresswoman Diana DeGette for voting against the bill. Same for Dennis Kucinich, Barney Frank, Bobby Scott, John Conyers, Charlie Rangel and Zoe Lofgran.

Nancy Pelosi voted for the bill.

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Obama Certifies Repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell"

Via CBS News:

President Obama on Friday signed a certification of Congress' repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy banning gay men and women from serving openly in the military, setting the stage for the Clinton-era policy to be formally abolished on September 20, 2011. The policy will not be formally abolished until September 20 because the legislation passed by Congress late last year requires a 60-day waiting period between the certification by Mr. Obama and military leaders and full repeal.

...Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen also certified that the military was prepared for repeal to be implemented.

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Bill Introduced to Legalize Marijuana Use in States That Allow It

Via NORML:

Today, a bi-partisan group of representatives introduced the first federal bill since 1937 aimed at ending marijuana prohibition. To coincide with the bill’s introduction NORML is launching a new public service announcement featuring NORML Advisory Board member, country music icon, and cannabis enthusiast Willie Nelson. In the video below, Willie calls on you to support this important legislation and to contact your elected officials and encourage them to do the same.

Major props to Colorado Rep. Jared Polis for co-sponsoring the bill introduced today. It's called Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011 and was introduced by Barney Frank and Ron Paul. [More...]

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Bill to Require Warrant for Location Tracking Introduced in Congress

Rep. Ron Wyden and others have introduced the Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance Act (H.R. 2168, available here) requiring cops to get a warrant based on probable cause to track your location via your cell phone or other device.

The ACLU explains:

The danger that unregulated location tracking poses to American’s privacy is real, immediate and universal. Because of the prevalence of mobile phones in modern society, every American is carrying a portable tracking device, one that can be used to reveal their current and past location. These devices store our every move. Whether it is a visit to a therapist or liquor store, church or gun range, many individuals’ locations will be available either in real time or months later.

Because of the sensitivity and invasiveness of these records, law enforcement agents should always be required to obtain a warrant and show probable cause, no matter the technology employed or the age of the records.

The bill needs additional sponsors, so please contact your Representatives in Congress and ask them to sign on. [More...]

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House Passes Funding Bill With World-Wide War and Detention Authority

Yesterday, the House passed its version of the the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (available here.) The roll call vote is here. The bill, which is a renewal of the 2001 authority for war, expands the authority world-wide. The bill passed by a vote of 322-96 and contains a $553 billion Pentagon base budget and $119 billion for overseas contingency operations.

It also blocks federal criminal trials of suspected terrorists who are not U.S. citizens. An amendment to strike the worldwide war provision failed. Obama has promised to veto the bill due to the world-wide war authority provision.

The bill also delays implementation of Don't Ask, Don't Tell and provides that those considered for indefinite detention at Guantanamo may not be represented by legal counsel, only a military representative. It also prohibits the Guantanamo detainees from receiving family visits. [More...]

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Obama Signs Bill Extending Patriot Act Provisions for Four Years

Update: President Obama signed the Patriot Act bill from France with his auto-pen.

Update: House passes Senate bill, 250 to 153.

The Senate today, by a vote of 72 - 23, approved the extension of the Patriot Act's provisions on roving wiretaps, access to business records and "lone wolf" surveillance. The House is debating now and will hold a vote imminently.You can watch the debate here. President Obama will be woken up at 5:45 a.m. tomorrow to sign it.

[More...]

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WA Governor Vetoes Medical Marijuana Licensing Bill

DOJ's tricks are working. After the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington sent a letter to the legislature warning that passage of a medical marijuana licensing bill would subject state workers to federal prosecution, today Governor Christine Gregoire vetoed the bill, saying she was "swayed" by the letter. (Background on the almost identical letters sent by a number of U.S. attorneys in recent weeks in states where medical marijuana is legal is here.)

More U.S. Attorneys are jumping on the bandwagon. Today, it was the U.S. Attorney for Rhode Island, sending almost a verbatim letter, even though he hadn't been asked for his position.

And in Montana today, Governor Brian Schweitzer let the bill that passed the legislature this week restricting medical marijuana become law by doing nothing. His lame explanation: [More...]

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Montana Revises and Tightens Medical Marijuana Law

Montana has allowed medical marijuana since 2004. Today, the Senate joined the House in passing a reform bill. It now heads to the Governor. You can read the bill, SB 423 (SB0423.ENR) here. Among the key provisions:

  • The law repeals the existing Montana Medical Marijuana Act.
  • Lawmakers specified a list of debilitating medical conditions which qualify for a medical marijuana card and defined a standard of care that doctors must comply with to issue a card. The bill now prohibits telemedicine.
  • Lawmakers placed regulatory authority with the Department of Health.
  • The committee limited the number of plants a card-holder can have to 4 mature plants, 12 seedlings and 1 oz of usable marijuana.
  • The amended bill defines chronic pain and forces a patient to either have proof of pain or have 2 doctors certify a chronic pain patient.

[More...]

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House Vote to Strip NPR Funding is Symbolic, Won't Happen

The House today voted to strip NPR of federal funding.

It's a symbolic vote. Democrats in the Senate won't pass it, if they will even allow it to reach a vote. And the White House opposes it, and President Obama would veto it.

With all the problems going on in the world, it's ridiculous that Republicans would waste time on something like this.

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Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Patriot Act Extension


The Senate Judiciary Committee today approved the extension of three controversial provisions of the Patriot Act. The bill was ordered reported by a roll call vote of 10-7. One Republican, Mike Lee of Utah, voted for Leahy's bill. The Obama administration and the Attorney General supported Leahy's bill.

Sen. Leahy said the bill approved by the committee contains added civil liberties and privacy protections. He introduced S. 193 on January 26. It is available here and here. Several amendments were made and voted on today. You can see them here (scroll down to bills section.)[More...]

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The Fight Over Homeland Security Budget Cuts and the Real ID Act

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is decrying the Republican cuts to the Homeland Security Budget. She testified before the House Homeland Security Committee today and said the cuts would add to delays for airline passengers. I'm not buying it. And, I think the cuts are a good thing. Who wants more of this?

The House budget "cuts technology investments and security improvements on the Southwest and Northern borders," Napolitano said.
"It cuts aviation security measures. It cuts funding to sustain the progress that has been made in enforcing the nation's immigration laws. It cuts critical cyber security tools and operations. It cuts intelligence personnel. It cuts Coast Guard funding to support our war efforts abroad. And it cuts grants that support counterterrorism and disaster-response capabilities at the local level," she added.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg joined in the fear-mongering: [More...]

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House Passes Patriot Act Extension

The House of Representatives didn't feel any love for our privacy rights today. It passed the bill extending three intrusive privacy provisions of the Patriot Act. The ACLU says:

“It has been nearly a decade since the Patriot Act was passed and our lawmakers still refuse to make any meaningful changes to this reactionary law. The right to privacy from government is a cornerstone of our country’s foundation and Americans must be free from the kind of unwarranted government surveillance that the Patriot Act allows. If Congress cannot take the time to insert the much needed privacy safeguards the Patriot Act needs, it should allow these provisions to expire.”

Anyone else not feeling the love for Congress these days?

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Patriot Act Alert: Act Tonight, Vote Imminent

Via the ACLU: please take action tonight as a vote on extending the Patriot Act may occur tomorrow.

Today the House voted to put the bill on the calendar.(It was defeated earlier this week in a vote requiring 2/3 approval. Now, a simple majority will do. Here's the bill.

Some news sites are reporting the vote won't be until next week. Either way, let your Congresspersons know how you feel tonight. Extending the Patriot Act won't makes us safer but it will make us less free.

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House Rejects Extending Three Patriot Act Provisions

Tea Partiers helped defeat a House Bill to extend three controversial provisions of the Patriot Act until December. The provisions expire next month:

The Patriot Act bill would have renewed the authority for court-approved roving wiretaps that permit surveillance on multiple phones. Also addressed was Section 215, the so-called library records provision, which gives the FBI court-approved access to "any tangible thing" relevant to a terrorism investigation.

The third deals with the "lone-wolf" provision of a 2004 anti-terror law that permits secret intelligence surveillance of non-U.S. people not known to be affiliated with a specific terror organization.

Obama sought a three year extension. Senate Republicans want to make them permanent. It is likely to be a temporary victory:

Republican leaders will bring the bill back to the floor under a rule, where it will almost certainly secure the 218-vote threshold.

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Political Gimmicks And The Constitution

Joan McCarter covers Claire McCasklil's political gimmickry on the budget (I think it is stupid politics on her part, but who knows?). While Joan details how awful the proposal is on substance, I was struck by the brazen attempt to use a procedure that the Supreme Court has declared unconstitutional. Here's is the plan:

Enforcing Spending Caps[.] If federal spending is projected to exceed the CAP Act designated amount for that year, the OMB is required to sequester funds such that it brings federal spending back to the CAP Act mandated levels. [. . .] This concept is based in part on the sequestration requirements of the current PAYGO law and its predecessor, the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act.

The Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Balanced Budget Act and Emergency Deficit Act was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in Bowsher v. Synar. Obviously this proposal is nothing but a political gimmick, with no chance of passage. Similar gimmicks which have been declared unconstitutional like the line item veto are also still trotted out. Is it too much to ask of our pols that they present better thought out gimmicks?

Speaking for me only

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