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Conrad's Budget Plan - Too Good to be True?

March 15, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

Democratic budget makers are trying to do it all in this years budget -- increase spending, eliminate the deficit, and extend tax cuts. Kent Conrad (D-ND) (pictured at right), Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, will bring his draft of the fiscal year 2008 budget resolution to a mark up vote in his committee today. According to The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), this draft will serve in the budgeting process as "a vehicle that allows the Congress to set and enforce over...

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After three failed attempts, the Senate has finally voted to begin a debate on Iraq. However, the progress made today may only be symbolic. The same roadblocks that stalled the previous debates are going to show up again this time, just a little further down the line. The Senate passed the cloture vote this morning to begin debate with an overwhelming majority (89-9). The bill in question, which is co-sponsored by Joe Biden (D-DE) and Carl Levin (D-MI), sets a "target date" of March 2008 for ...

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While the House of Representatives is meeting for Sunshine Week to vote on some pro-transparency legislation, the war supplemental, a bill to provide funds for the Iraq war and a timeline for troop withdrawal, will be making its way through what is possibly the least transparent of all Congressional institutions: the committee process. Committees make final adjustments to bills before they reach the House floor. They have the ability to alter a bill, add to it, or scrap it entirely. It is ...

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This Week On Capitol Hill: Sunshine!

March 12, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

Sunshine Week has officially begun! Momentum to make the government more transparent has been continually building up, and this week is a time for all of the energy surrounding issues of corruption, transparency, and accountability to come to the forefront. Bloggers, activists, watchdog groups, libraries, non-profits, schools and members of Congress are coming together this week with efforts to further the cause of creating a more open government. Here are some of the more official efforts t...

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OpenCongress on NPR's "On The Media"

March 11, 2007 - by David Moore

Earlier today, "On The Media" from National Public Radio aired a segment about the launch of OpenCongress. They interviewed Sunlight Foundation technology advisor Micah Sifry about the site, and we're very pleased: the piece is as an excellent summary of our mission to help make Congressional information more accessible to the public. You can listen to the segment about OpenCongress on the site of On The Media. Click the link to "listen" just under the description: "If you’re wondering what...

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Post-Pelosi Debacle, C-SPAN Liberalizes

March 9, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

C-SPAN announced yesterday, in this press release, that they are adopting a new copyright policy: >C-SPAN is introducing a liberalized copyright policy for current, future, and past coverage of any official events sponsored by Congress and any federal agency-- about half of all programming offered on the C-SPAN television networks--which will allow non-commercial copying, sharing, and posting of C-SPAN video on the Internet, with attribution. This comes after a controversy involving the Spe...

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Senate 9/11 Bill Snagged Once Again

March 8, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

Yesterday, Senators approved an amendment to make the collective bargaining rights, given to TSA officers in the 9/11 bill, "waiveable" in emergency security situations. The Senators who voted for this amendment did so primarily to make the overall bill, which implements the unfinished recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, more palatable to the President, who is threatening a veto. With that issue partially resolved, a couple more seem to have come up. Subscription-only Congress Daily: ...

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Shopping For War Supplemental Votes

March 8, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

As the Democratic Leadership approaches a conclusion on how to address the issue of Iraq in the war supplemental funding bill, rumors, about unrelated funding that might be included in it, abound. The rumored additional funds may secure more votes for the bill, but they may also cause the President to veto it, citing its exorbitant cost. It could end up costing over $110 billion. This supplemental bill was originally intended to provide $93.4 billion in additional funds for the wars in Iraq ...

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Representative Steve Israel (D-NY) has a feeling that the division among House Democrats over how best to move forward with a plan for Iraq, which has been a highly discussed subject in the past week, may be reuniting around a new plan by David Obey (D-WI). Israel speaking to, subscription-only, Congress Daily after the Democratic caucus meeting that was held earlier this evening: >"I think you're getting fewer members demanding extremes and more trying to find a sensible compromise," Is...

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USA Today Redesigns To Help You Get Involved

March 6, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

Craig Newmark tipped us off on USA Today's new Legislative Action Center. It's got some nice features that make it easier for people to get involved with pending legislation. For example, you can look up letter campaigns that you can easily sign onto by issue area, elected official, or state locality. If you look up elected officials (that's them on the right, pledging to work on your behalf) on the national, state, or local level, either by zip code or last name, you can see an abridged dir...

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9/11 Bill Takes a Leap Towards Oblivion

March 6, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

The Senate just voted to table the amendment by Jim DeMint (R-SC) that would strike the provision giving collective bargaining rights to TSA officers in S.4, a bill to implement the unfinished recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. To clarify, a vote to table a motion is a vote to leave it behind, unapproved. The vote found 51 in favor of tabling the amendment. 46 voted against tabling it, and three Senators did not vote. The vote was divided almost perfectly along party lines, with only ...

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Fired U.S. Attorneys Tell All

March 5, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

Today, four subpoenaed U.S. attorneys who have been fired by the Bush administration in the last three months will undergo questioning in two separate congressional hearings. David Iglesias, Carol Lam, Bud Cummins, and John McKay will testify about the conditions surrounding their dismissals -- first, before the Senate Judiciary Committee at 10 AM, then again before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law at 2 PM. At the house hearing, the four prosecutors will be ...

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Tipping Point Approaches for Two Giant Issues

March 4, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

In Congress this week, the Senate and House of Representatives will be at opposite ends of highly controversial legislation. By the end of the week, when the Senate hopes to put S.4, a major Homeland Security bill to implement the unfinished recommendations of the 9/11 commission, to a final vote and the House Appropriations Committee begins to take up President Bush's $100 billion-plus supplemental war funding request, Congress will be holding a couple of the most important issues of our time i...

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In the Senate, a week of debate on S.4, a bill to implement the unfinished recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, is coming to and end. More work remains to be done, but a lot has been accomplished in this past week in the way of fine-tuning the bill and perfecting its provisions for ideal efficacy. For example, amendments to create a Rural Policing Institute, expand the reporting requirement on cross border interoperability, and to specify the criminal offenses that disqualify an applicant fr...

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The House of Representative is beginning debate on the second piece of labor-related legislation considered this week in Congres, despite presidential veto threats on both. The bill being debated in the House is H.R.800, the Employee Free Choice Act. The bill would remove the requirement that union elections be held by a secret ballot vote, a voting process similar to the one we use when voting for elected officials. Under the current rules, once 30% of a group of workers sign an authori...

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