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Earmark Disclosure in (Temporary?) Recession

March 26, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

All of the recent scrambling to define exactly what an earmark is may be leading to less transparency in their disclosure. The Wall Street Journal is reporting on an accusation by Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) (pictured at right, foreground) that the Appropriations Committees, and presumably their Democratic Chairman, are twisting the arm of the Congressional Research Service in order to help them cover up wasteful spending: >Nothing highlighted Congress's spending problem in last year's election...

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In case you missed it, the war supplemental passed in the House of Representatives by a vote of 218-212 today. The bill provides $124.1 billion, mostly for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, while setting benchmarks for the Iraqi government and a timeline for a U.S. troop withdrawal. Only two Republicans crossed the aisle to vote for the bill. When the House voted in mid-February on a non-binding resolution disapproving of President Bush's surge plan, 17 Republicans voted for it. Having cast...

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Budget Vote-a-Rama in Full Swing

March 23, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

Don't bother watching the Senate session on C-SPAN 2 today. Senators have begun wading through a seemingly endless stream of amendments in what is referred to as, "vote-a-rama." All day, the Senate will be casting roll call votes on amendments to the fiscal year 2008 Budget Resolution, one after another, without any debate. So, to avoid all the milling about and name calling on the Senate floor today, you may as well keep track of the results as they roll in and are posted online. The budge...

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Iraq Debate Moves Blindly Forward

March 22, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

Weeks of speculation about Democratic unity will be answered by the end of the day tomorrow. The House of Representatives is embarking on a debate, and eventually a vote, on the war supplemental, which funds the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan while setting a March 2008 date for troop withdrawal to begin and a date of September 2008 for the withdrawal to be completed. When the House, in mid-February, passed non-binding legislation that simply expressed disapproval of President Bush's plan to dep...

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Are Democrats Being "Sidetracked" by Iraq?

March 21, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

The Washington Times is writing that Congressional Democrats are "0 for 6" because their agenda has been "sidetracked" by the Iraq war. Whether it is proper for the Iraq war to take center stage in Congress is a matter of opinion -- a new poll suggests that Congress' job approval rating is down because of their failure to do anything substantive about the war. Regardless, the article gives a convenient rundown of where some of the other major issues of the Democratic platform stand at this poin...

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A new poll, indicating that the Democratic Congress' job approval is slipping, may be responsible for Democratic party Progressives and House Democratic Leaders changing their tunes. >In a March 11-14, 2007, national poll -- 28% of Americans approve of the job being done by Congress and 64% disapprove. This marks a substantial change from January and February, with approval down nine points and disapproval up nine points. The report goes on to suggest that Iraq is the likely reason: >I...

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Whether or not you like the bill, you have to be impressed by how precisely the Democratic leadership has crafted the war supplemental to get the maximum support of House Democrats. Right now, it is looking like the vote on the bill, which is scheduled for Thursday, may be decided by a margin of only a couple of votes. The bill's support swells, from its base with the Democratic centrists, outwards in both directions, collecting some votes from both the left and right of the Democratic pol...

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Feinstein Offers a Remedy For the Purge

March 19, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

The past couple weeks of investigation into the firing of eight U.S. attorneys, for what appear to be political reasons, are boiling down to concrete legislative action in the Senate. Debate will begin today on S.214, a bill introduced by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) (pictured at right, questioning the fired attorneys), titled the Preserving United States Attorney Independence Act of 2007. Yesterday on Meet the Press, Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) stated what he sees as the problem with...

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Lawmakers Fear New Ethics Rule

March 16, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

Today is the deadline, as set forth by David Obey (D-WI) for members of the House to submit their earmark requests to the Appropriations Committee. However, some lawmakers suddenly have cold feet. They are stumped by a new rule which requires that they sign off on their requests, certifying that neither they nor their spouse has a "financial interest" in it. The new rule was passed in the first 100 hours of legislative business as part of the House ethics package. But, according to Minori...

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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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