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Dealing WIth Libya

June 3, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

House Republicans have finally decided on how to deal with the growing discontent over that pesky, probably unconstitutional war in Libya. They're going to put the Dennis Kucinich [D, OH-10] withdrawalresolution that they pulled from the floor earlier in the week because it might have passed back on the calendar for a vote Friday. But they're also going to hold a vote on a new, non-binding resolution, from Speaker John Boehner [R, OH-8], that criticizes that Obama for not go through the proper channels in authorizing the war and requiring him to provide Congress with detailed info about the rationale behind getting involved. The strategy: give anti-war and constitutionalist Reps. something meaningful to vote for, but also give middle-of-the-road Reps. a way to allow Obama to continue his war but still be able to tell their constituents that they voted against it.

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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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Dems' Oil Subsidy Bill is Unconstitutional

May 17, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Senate Republicans may be using a faulty argument about gas prices going up if we end oil subsidies as an excuse for protecting some of their biggest corporate donors, but Democrats don't seem to be taking the issue much more seriously. By bringing up a bill to end subsidies and effectively increase the corporate tax rate on U.S. oil companies, they're only setting up a campaign talking point, not doing actual policy work. The bill is flat-out unconstitutional, and they know it.

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New Rules For a New Senate

December 27, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

After raw support, the most precious commodity in the Senate is time. All of you who have been following Congress with us are probably well aware of this. The rules of the Senate allow a single senator to express their opposition to a bill and, even if it is supported by the other 99%, force the chamber to spend up to 90 hours debating it before they can take a vote. This is why common-sense proposals, like requiring senators to file their campaign finance disclosure electronically rather than by snail mail (i.e. S. 482). Everyone wants this kind of stuff to pass, but because it's easy to threaten to shut down all other activity in the Senate for 90 hours, they often get blocked by a senators who want to use them as vehicles for attaching their own, often more controversial, pet issues.

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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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McCain and Lieberman's Nightmarish Detention Bill

March 13, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

One of Congress's most notoriously hawkish duos, Sen. John McCain [R, AZ] and Sen. Joseph Lieberman [I, CT], recently introduced legislation in response to President Obama's decision to try Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Christmas Day airplane bomber, in a criminal court. Their proposal, which they are calling the Enemy Belligerent Interrogation, Detention and Prosecution Act, would empower the U.S. military to arrest anyone, U.S. citizen or otherwise, who is suspected of terrorist associations and detain them indefinitely, without right to a trial.

Here's my analysis with links to specific sections of the actual bill text and a few excerpts of key sections.

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Budget Reconciliation and the Constitution

March 4, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

As the Democrats solidify their plans to use the budget reconciliation process to amend the health care bill, a new argument is bubbling up among Republicans -- that what they are attempting to do is unconstitutional. But, in using budget reconciliation to finish health care the Democrats are squarely within the bounds of congressional rules that were established on a bipartisan basis using constitutionally given powers.

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Filibuster Reform

February 12, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

After three-and-a-half years of record obstructionism, Sen. Tom Harkin [D, IA] has introduced legislation to reform the Senate's filibuster process.

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Are You a "Natural Born" Citizen?

July 27, 2009 - by Avelino Maestas

There's been a lot of discussion on OpenCongress of late regarding natural born citizens, and whether President Barack Obama meets the criteria. But a few months ago, another piece of legislation also ruffled some feathers: the Birthright Citizenship Act of 2009 (H.R. 1868). Our summary of the legislation says, "This bill would eliminate birthright citizenship for children born to undocumented immigrants in the United States. Current U.S. law automatically recognizes any person born on American soil as a natural born citizen."

This description was challenged by several readers, who argued there are very specific circumstances required for “natural born” classification.

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