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A couple weeks ago, the House passed a bill that closes a security loophole to clarify in federal statute that it is a crime to trespass on White House property or any other federal property protected by the Secret Service. That's a relatively innocuous change in law, and it's probably just a response to the embarrassing White House party crashers incident back in 2009. But the bill also does something else that may have much broader implications, including an expansion of the government's ability to lock up protesters. It amends a long-standing law againt "willfully and knowingly" trespassing on restricted grounds without lawful authority so that criminal penalties can be applied in a case where a person "knowingly" trespasses. "Willfully" has been dropped from the law by the bill.

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With the House having voted 406-17 to "close" portions of the meetings and avoid public scrutiny, members from both chambers and both parties are meeting in a secretive conference committee to work on reconciling the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill. On the military detention provision, their main task is going to be to find a solution that can pass both chambers (again) and not draw a veto from President Obama.

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The House Republican leadership is worried that Congress might stand up to the Obama Administration and assert its constitutional prerogative as the only branch of government that can declare war. The House was scheduled to vote this afternoon on a a privileged resolution from Rep. Dennis Kucinich [D, OH-10]directing the President, pursuant to the War Powers Act, to remove U.S. armed forces from Libya. But the House leadership has pulled it from the floor because, according to Republican aides who spoke with Fox News, "it became clear that it might succeed."

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While Obama's Bush tax cuts deal stews in the Senate, Democrats in the House are kickstarting a last-ditch effort to pass a repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" before the lame duck session ends. House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer [D, MD-5] and Rep. Patrick Murphy [D, PA-8] are introducing a stand-alone repeal bill today that will be identical in wording to the Senate's stand-alone bill (S. 4023), and they plan on bringing it to a vote in the House Wednesday before they move on to the tax cuts.

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