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Four New Features to Help You With Your Issues

August 16, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

Today we are pleased to introduce four new features on OpenCongress that will make it easier for you to track and share information about what's happening in Congress with the issues that matter most to you. A Widget For Your Issue Our new issue areas widget lets you customize your blog or website with a concise overview of what's happening in Congress with the issue that matters most to you. OpenCongress bills are already classified into more than 4,000 issue areas (i.e. Labor, Immigratio...

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Campaign Funds With a Side of Filet Mignon

August 14, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

The ethics bill that Congress passed just before leaving for recess adds a lot of new restrictions to lobbyist-lawmaker relations. But lobbyists are a shrewd bunch and it didn't take long for them to identify the loopholes in the bill that they can use to cozy up to Congressmen: >Lobbying laws are separate from campaign finance laws, and the new ban on meals and gifts applies only to lobbying laws. That means the legislation does not rein in fundraising events, so lobbyists and their client...

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Easier, Cheaper, Faster Government Information

August 14, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

This major tweaking to one of our most important government transparency laws got lost in the whirlwind of legislation that Congress approved just before leaving for recess: >A bill to make the Freedom of Information Act more responsive has picked up momentum in Congress. > >Senate legislation -- sponsored by Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and passed by voice vote just before the chamber left for recess -- includes provisions to allow anyone who provi...

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Making Money and Making it Cheap

August 10, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

Nothing inspires creative thinking like new restrictions: >House Democrats have sponsored legislation to change the metal content of coins, outraged that it costs a dime to make a nickel. > >House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass., and Domestic and International Monetary Policy Subcommittee Chairman Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., are sponsors of the bill that would give authority to the Treasury Department to change the composition of coins issued by the U.S. Mint to less expensiv...

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Congress Is On Vacation, Democracy Isn't

August 9, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

Frustrated by what you've seen from Congress lately? When they return from recess in September, Congress will face more critical votes on some of the biggest issues -- the Iraq war, health care for children, amending the FISA bill, among others. Now is the perfect time to get in contact them and let them know what you, as voting constituents, want them to do. (Yes, Hill staffers are still at their offices in D.C. and as ready as always to take your calls). The War in Iraq In September, ...

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A Match Made in Heaven

August 8, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

via Bloomberg News: >Iowa Senator Charles Grassley said he intends to link his proposal to boost taxes on publicly traded buyout firms to a fix of the alternative minimum tax, a pairing that may make it harder for opponents of the measure to vote against it. > >"This is going to come when we deal with the alternative minimum tax,'' Grassley, a Republican, said in an interview in Sidney, Iowa yesterday. He said the bill deals with "issues of equity and fairness.'' > >The strategy would part...

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Just What the Doctor Ordered

August 7, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

Senate Democrats may gain a slight edge when they return from the August recess. It has been rumored that Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD), who suffered a life-threatening brain hemorrhage in December, will be coming back to work on Capitol Hill in September. The latest news adds some validity to the rumors: after spending eight months recovering in Virginia, Johnson is finally well enough to head back home to South Dakota. In the seven months that Congress was in session without Johnson, Democr...

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Expanded Wiretapping Forever

August 7, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

When Congress approved a bill last week that expanded President Bush's powers to spy on Americans without a warrant, the only palliative was that it would expire after six months. Congress will try to re-negotiate then and if they are able to require the President to seek a warrant, he will be ready to pull another trick from his sleeve that makes it easy for him to get wiretapping warrants for just about anyone. In May I wrote: >This is suspicious. Just a few days after the House of Repr...

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Lobbyists Shook Up Over Ethics Bill

August 6, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

The fact that lobbyists are getting nervous about having information about their work made public is a good indication that we really do need to know more about what they are doing. Last week, Congress passed the Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act of 2007, a bill that has sent "a ripple of fear through K Street." >It comes amid signs that federal prosecutors are taking a newly aggressive approach to corruption cases — including treating campaign contributions as potential bribes....

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If You Can't Impeach 'Em, Censure 'Em

August 6, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Representative Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) announced this morning that they have introduced resolutions to censure President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Censure is a procedure that is used to reprimand a public official without implying any legal consequences. It is one of the only ways Congress can formally distance themselves from the administration without moving to impeach, a proposal that has long been considered "off...

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Pork Barrel Pride

August 5, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

The Democrats' new rules for earmarks haven't put an end to pork barrel spending, but hopefully they have eliminated the worst parts. When they took over Congress in January, Democrats changed the rules so that lawmakers would have to attach their names to any chunk of federal money that they wanted set aside for their pet projects. This kind of congressional spending, known as earmarking, snowballed under Republicans' ten years of control; there was a steady increase from about 3,000 earmarks ...

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Senate Sinks Bush's BattleSCHIP

August 3, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

The Senate is just setting them up and knocking them down. Earlier on Thursday, they passed a groundbreaking lobbying and ethics reform bill by a landslide 83-14 vote. Then late last night, this: >The U.S. Senate on Thursday overwhelmingly approved legislation [S.1893] that would raise tobacco taxes to pay for expanding a children's health program, shrugging off a veto threat from President George W. Bush who wants a more limited plan. > >The Senate voted 68-31 for the bill that would prov...

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Reauthorization of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP) withstood a true ordeal in the House on Wednesday, but difficult times still lie ahead. After a long day of strained debate, the House approved the reauthorization bill, H.R.3162, by a near party-line vote of 224-197 -- four Republicans broke rank to vote for its passage. The bill provides a funding increase of $50 billion over five years, which will allow about 5 million uninsured children to gain health care coverage. ...

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Who's Telling the Truth About S-CHIP?

August 1, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

During the House and Senate debates to reauthorize the State Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP) today, Democrats and Republicans called upon distinctly different rhetorical devices. The bill would provide more money for the program than it currently receives -- $50 billion more over five years in the House version and $35 billion in the competing Senate version. While congressional Democrats consider this increase an opportunity to provide a healthy start to every child in America, R...

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Conyers' Cryptic Commitment

July 30, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

As Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, John Conyers (D-MI) has the power to begin the process of impeaching President Bush or Vice President Cheney whenever he wants. And with the impeachment movement steadily gaining inetria, everybody has been watching him to see if he's going to act. He has spoken publicly about impeachment on several occasions lately, but deciphering the meaning of his words so far has proven to be a difficult task. Last week I wrote about a then-unconfirmed rumo...

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