OpenCongress Blog

Blog Feed Comments Feed More RSS Feeds

The Ubiqitous Lobbying Loophole

January 31, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

"Despite a strict new ban on gifts to lawmakers, lobbyists routinely use these prime locations to legally wine and dine members of Congress while helping them to raise money, campaign records show. The lawmakers get a venue that is often free or low-cost, a short jaunt from the Capitol. The lobbyists get precious uninterrupted moments with lawmakers — the sort of money-fueled proximity the new lobbying law was designed to curtail. The public seldom learns what happens there because the law doesn't always require fundraising details to be reported."

Read Full Article Submit a Comment
 

Economic Stimulus Slows in the Senate

January 31, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

After the poor showing of Republican support in the Finance Committee (a stark contrast to the bipartisanship that characterized the House's work on their stimulus bill), Senate Democrats are already looking ahead, and saying so publicly, to how they will proceed once they fail to move their package in front of the full Senate.

Read Full Article Submit a Comment
 

A Couple New Features on "My OpenCongress"

January 30, 2008 - by David Moore

"My OpenCongress" is freshly launched, and we continue to improve these new features in response to your feedback. First, here are a couple of new features available on "My OpenCongress" and a look at what we'll be adding in the weeks ahead. Second, check out another round-up of what's hot on the site -- which bills are garnering the most comments and votes from our open user community. (As always, your comments are encouraged!)

Read Full Article Comments (1)
 

House Quickly Approves an Economic Stimulus Package

January 29, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

On Tuesday, the House passed the economic stimulus bill, designed to revive the weakening economy, by an overwhelming vote of 385-35. It proposes to inject $145.9 billion into the economy, mostly by providing rebate checks worth $600 for individuals and $1,200 for families, plus $300 per child. In order to qualify for the rebates, individuals must have an adjusted gross income below $75,000; couples must make below $150,000. It also contains $45 billion in increased business tax incentives in order to encourage investments in new plants and equipment.

Read Full Article Submit a Comment
 

The Senate Finance Committee is preparing to take a step in the right direction towards making the mysterious process that bills go through in their committee more transparent. They have proposed a set of new rules for making their committee's actions more accessible to the public, and they will discuss and possibly implement them on Wednesday, when they meet to mark up the economic stimulus bill. But, while the proposals are a welcome attempt to address key issues of transparency in government, they need to be strengthened in order to actually make meaningful contributions to the public's knowledge of what goes on in their committee.

Read Full Article Submit a Comment
 

Time to Look to Other Options for FISA Reform?

January 28, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

We'll have to wait and see what happens with the House's PAA-extension bill and the FISA debate in the Senate tomorrow, but the most likely scenario is that the Senate remains in a standstill and allows the PAA to expire. At that point, will Reid rethink his decision from December to bring the Intelligence Committee's version of the FISA bill to the floor? As he explained at the time, there are other proposals pending -- perhaps he'll want to re-explore those as possible starting points for a new debate.

Read Full Article Submit a Comment
 

"FISA does not expire on Friday, contrary to Allen's gullible parroting of what his anonymous White House friend told him. It continues indefinitely even if the PAA expires. And under FISA's long-standing provisions, the Government -- just as Bush himself said back in October, 2001 -- has all the power it needs to eavesdrop on The Terrorists provided it gets a warrant from the FISA court or, in cases of emergency, within 72 hours after it begins eavesdropping."

Read Full Article Submit a Comment
 

Reid's FISA Ultimatum

January 25, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

Perhaps Democrats aren't going to give President Bush the FISA bill he wants after all. This afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) stood up at a State of the Union preview speech and issued an ultimatum to President Bush. "The president has to make a decision," he said. "He's either going to extend the law, or he will...which is temporary in nature, or there will be no wiretapping."

Read Full Article Comments (1)
 

EveryBlock.com Is Live and Shinin'

January 24, 2008 - by David Moore

Yesterday marked the launch of a tremendous new public resource -- EveryBlock.com -- check out their blog announcement. We've been in touch with the team there before, most recently at an open-government conference last month, but we had been following the development of the Chicago-based project for a while, from slightly-afar and with outsized interest.

Read Full Article Submit a Comment
 

Specter: Sue the Government, Not the Telecoms

January 24, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

"Specter and several Democratic allies on the Judiciary panel plan to push an alternative that they hope might clear the 60-vote hurdle: an amendment that would have the government replace the carriers as the defendant. The attorney general or the director of national intelligence would have to certify that the carrier got an authorized request from the government, and the FISA court would then rule whether that request was lawful or reasonable."

Read Full Article Comments (1)
 

Has Feinstein Found a Compromise?

January 24, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has an amendment in the telecom immunity fight that just may meet muster. The amendment would kick the question of immunity over to the secret FISA court. The court would have the responsibility of deciding whether the telecommunication companies that helped the Bush Administration execute their warrantless wiretapping program were acting in good faith and if the lawsuits against them should go forward.

Read Full Article Submit a Comment
 

A Rough Start to Revamping FISA

January 24, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

The Senate this morning is beginning its much-anticipated FISA debate with a version of the bill that grants retroactive legal immunity to the telecommunications companies that assisted the Bush Administration in his warrantless wiretapping program. The first order of business on the Senate floor will be a debate over an amendment that would substitute in a different version of the bill -- the one as passed by the Judiciary Committee, rather than the Intelligence Committee version -- as the base text for debate. Among other things, the Judiciary Committee version does not provide immunity for the telecom companies.

Read Full Article Submit a Comment
 

"My OpenCongress" in Action (continued...)

January 23, 2008 - by David Moore

OpenCongress launched a major set of new features last week, and already they're being picked up by people around the country to track the hubbub of Congress and share their opinions on bills in process. Here's another installment in our regular round-up of what's hot with users of "My OpenCongress".

Read Full Article Comments (1)
 

Yesterday, our friends at the publicly-editable wiki Congresspedia published a preview of this week in Congress, written by Assistant Managing Editor Avelino Maestas. It's a useful, clear look ahead at the Congressional to-do queue -- not just regarding economic stimulus, but also FISA reform, defense appropriations and children’s health care.

Read Full Article Comments (1)
 

Stimulating the Economy

January 22, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

As the Senate convenes today for its first full session back from recess, it seems like the policy makers in D.C. have only one thing on their minds: designing and enacting an economic stimulus plan to help the country through an impending recession. You might have caught some of the front-page features on this in the papers over the weekend, or some of the chatter on blogs, and you've probably seen today's news that the Fed made a serious cut to the interest rate. Here's what people are saying about what's coming down the pipe.

Read Full Article Comments (16)