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Senate Democrats Looking to End Default Gridlock

January 8, 2013 - by Donny Shaw

Since 2007, the year the Democrats re-gained control of Congress, the filibuster has turned into standard procedure for virtually everything that happens in the Senate. What was once considered a special rule to be used on rare occasions for personal dissent on an issue has become a routine matter of course for obstructing the other side of the aisle and gaining a political advantage.

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Stopping Congress from screwing up the Internet, again.

Earlier this year, people from all over the Internet rallied to stop SOPA and PIPA, the Internet censorship bills. That was great, but now members of Congress (and the telecom and media companies) are once again trying to destroy the Internet. With SOPA, they tried to give the government wide-ranging authority to shut down huge portions of the Internet. This time they're going to destroy the your privacy. But not if we can help it.

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After a full weekend of secret meetings, negotiators on the Defense Authorization bill conference committee have drafted a final version that retains the authority for the military to indefinitely maintain terrorism suspects, including U.S. citizens, without charge or trial while attempting to address the concerns of the President that prompted a veto threat. The final bill is set to be approved by the House and the Senate this week.

 

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On Thursday night the Senate passed the 2012 Department of Defense Authorization bill, including a provision allowing for indefinite military detention of U.S. citizens, by a vote of 93-7. The top-rated user comment on OpenCongress, from bpitas, does a good job explaining why the bill has just 2% support among the OpenCongress community:

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The Senate has canceled their week-long July 4th vacation so they can continue working on a deal to raise the debt ceiling, the deadline for which has been pushed forward to July 22nd. But while those discussions take place in back rooms out of the public view, the full Senate will publicly debate a bill to provide congressional authorization of U.S. involvement in the war in Libya for up to one year.

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As things were coming together for Democrats on the tax bill in the House, the omnibus appropriations bill was falling apart in the Senate. Last night, Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid [D, NV] announced on the Senate floor that nine Republicans who who had said they would support the bill had changed their minds and were now planning to vote against it. That left the Democrats with too few votes, and Reid with no choice but to pull the bill from the floor.

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Senators Conspire to Ditch DADT Repeal

November 7, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Last Wednesday, in his post midterms press conference, President Obama deflected a question about his promise to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" by laying out a plan to get it done in the lame duck session. And on Sunday Secretary of Defense Robert Gates jumped out in front of the upcoming Pentagon review and urged Congress to get the repeal done before the end of the year. But despite these encouraging signs from the Administration, there's a bipartisan agreement developing between the top senators in charge of military policy to abandon the repeal this year.

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The Obama Administration has appealed the recent court ruling suspending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." They want a more orderly repeal to be legislated by Congress after the military completes a study on how to prepare for the change. But the problem is that the study isn't due out until December 1, and the Democrats probably aren't going to have the votes to get this done in the next session. So if Obama and congressional Democrats really want DADT to end, they have to stick around in December and get it done.

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Joe Lieberman's [I-CT] controversial cybersecurity bill, the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010, was approved by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs this afternoon. Though some senators on the committee raised concerns over certain sections, today's committee action means that the bill will now move to the Senate floor.

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Last week, the House of Representatives and a key Senate committee cast historic votes in favor of repealing "don't ask, don't tell" and allowing gay men and women to serve openly in the military. The repeal is included in the Fiscal Year 2011 Defense Department Authorization bill, which contains funding levels and policy directives that the military must follow. The Obama Administration supports Congress's actions on repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," but they are dead set against another item that some members of Congress want to have included in the authorization bill, and if it is, the Administration says they will veto the whole bill, including the "don't ask, don't tell" repeal.

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During their markup of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011 this afternoon, the Senate Armed Services Committee approved an amendment from Sen. Joe Lieberman [I, CT] to repeal the Clinton-era "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy and allow gay men and women to serve openly in the military. The Senate Armed Services Committee, which is much more conservative than the Congress as a whole, is where advocates of the repeal feared their efforts would get hung up, so, for them, this is a huge victory.

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As expected, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV]has filed for cloture on the financial reform bill, setting up the possibility of a Wednesday vote on ending the debate and forcing an up-or-down vote on passage.

For financial reform advocates, this is mixed news. On the one hand, the bill that Reid is filing cloture on is stronger than what anyone had really expected the Senate to produce. Blanche Lincoln's tough derivatives language is still mostly in tact, strengthening amendments regarding debit fees, ratings agencies and auditing the Fed have been adopted, and every attempt to weaken the bill so far has been beaten back. On the other hand, some of the most important strengthening amendments haven't been voted on yet and may not get voted on if cloture is approved on Wednesday.

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Senate Democrats beat back an amendment to their financial reform bill from Sen. John McCain [R, AZ] on Tuesday that would have required the government to release Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from their control and force them to sink or swim in the free market like all the other financial companies. The amendment was defeated by a vote of 43-56, with all Republicans voting in favor along wit two Democrats -- Sen. Evan Bayh [D, IN] and Sen. Russell Feingold [D, WI].

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McCain's Maverickiness

May 6, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

A new, super-geeky (in a good way) academic paper from Princeton Politics Ph.D. student Ben Lauderdale measures the "maverickiness" of members of Congress. Here's what he found on the maverickiness of the "original maverick" himself, Sen. John McCain [R, AZ].

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As you no doubt have heard, federal agents last night arrested Faisal Shahzad, an American citizen suspected of planting the failed car-bomb in Time Square on Saturday. There isn't a lot of information out yet on how the arrest went down or whether Shahzad is connected to foreign terrorist groups, but Sen. John McCain [R, AZ] today is saying that if the agents read Shahzad his Miranda rights, informing him that he has a right to remain silent until he goes to court, they made a big mistake.

Thanks to a bill McCain introduced earlier this year, we know exactly how McCain thinks the arrest should have been handled. The bill is called the Enemy Belligerent Interrogation, Detention and Prosecution Act and it empowers federal authorities to hand over terrorist suspects, called "unprivileged enemy belligerent" in the bill, to the military for interrogation and indefinite dentition without trial, even if they are an American citizen. 

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