Keith Ellison on Homeland Security
Proponent's Argument for voting Yes:
[Rep. Blackburn, R-TN]: This bill gets the Federal Government--and Federal taxpayers--out of the business of buying radio programming they do not agree with. This is a bill that is long overdue. Regardless of what you think of NPR, its programming or statements by its management, the time has come to cut the umbilical cord from the taxpayer support that has become as predictable as an entitlement program. Much has changed in the media landscape since the wiretaps, to seek certain business records, and to gather intelligence on lone terrorists who are not affiliated with a known terrorist group. The Patriot Act works. It has proved effective in preventing terrorist attacks and protecting Americans. To let these provisions expire would leave every American less safe.
Opponent's Argument for voting No:
[Rep. Conyers, D-MI]: Section 215 of the Patriot Act allows a secret FISA court to authorize our government to collect business records or anything else, requiring that a person or business produce virtually any type record. We didn't think that that was right then. We don't think it's right now. This provision is contrary to traditional notions of search and seizure which require the government to show reasonable suspicion or probable cause before undertaking an investigation that infringes upon a person's privacy. And so I urge a "no" vote on the extension of these expiring provisions.
SUPPORTER'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING YES:Rep. CONYERS: Earlier this year, in the Protect America Act, PAA, amendments were made to FISA, giving the Government enhanced flexibility to collect foreign intelligence information. But the broad scope of the authority without up-front court approval raised grave concerns about the need for more safeguards of innocent Americans' communications. The RESTORE Act improves upon the PAA by providing a series of checks and balances while still allowing maximum flexibility. The RESTORE Act does not require individual warrants when persons are abroad, but it is firm that a FISA warrant is required to obtain communications of people in the US.
OPPONENT'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING NO:Rep. KING of N.Y.: Electronic surveillance is one of the strongest weapons in our arsenal. The real enemy is al Qaeda and Islamic terrorism, not our own government working so hard to protect us. The PAA updated FISA and struck the appropriate balance between protecting our citizens from terrorist attacks and protecting our civil liberties. Today's bill, the RESTORE Act, marks an undeniable retreat in the war against Islamic terrorism. It limits the type of foreign intelligence information that may be acquired and actually gives foreign targets more protections than Americans get in criminal cases here at home.
LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Bill passed, 213-197.
SUPPORTER'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING YES:Rep. REYES: This legislation goes a long way towards strengthening oversight of the intelligence community, which the President seems to consistently want to fight. That's why the President vetoed it. He wants the authority to do whatever he wants, in secret, with no oversight or authorization or without any checks and balances. Well, I don't agree. The Constitution gives us a role in this process. We do have a say in what the intelligence community does. That's why we need to override this veto.
OPPONENT'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING NO:Rep. HOEKSTRA: This bill fails to give the intelligence community the tools that it needs to protect the American people from radical jihadists. The debate on this authorization bill is not about a single issue, [waterboarding], as some would have you believe. It is about the need to ensure that we give the right tools to our intelligence professionals in this time of enhanced threat.
LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Veto override failed, 225-188 (2/3rds required)
A modified version, S.2011, failed in the Senate; it called for amending FISA to provide that a court order is not required for the electronic surveillance of communication between foreign persons who are not located within the US for collecting foreign intelligence information, without respect to whether the communication passes through the US or the surveillance device is located within the US.
Opponents recommend voting NO because:
Sen. LEVIN: Both bills cure the problem that exists: Our intelligence agencies must obtain a court order to monitor the communications of foreigners suspected of terrorist activities who are physically located in foreign countries. Now, what are the major differences? Our bill (S2011) is limited to foreign targets limited overseas, unlike the Bond bill (S1927), which does not have that key limitation and which very clearly applies to US citizens overseas. Our bill does not. Now, if there is an incidental access to US citizens, we obviously will permit that. But the Bond bill goes beyond that, citing "any person." It does not say a "foreign person." We avoid getting to the communications of Americans. There you have to go for a warrant.
Proponents support voting YES because:
Sen. LIEBERMAN: I will vote for the Bond proposal (S1927) because we are at war, & there is increased terrorist activity. We have a crisis. This proposal will allow us to gather intelligence information on that enemy we otherwise would not gather. This is not the time for striving for legislative perfection. Let us not strive for perfection. Let us put national security first. We are going to have 6 months to reason together to find something better.
Proponents support voting YES because:
In Iraq, we were told we needed Halliburton to get a contract without any competition because they were the only ones who know how to put out oil well fires. So they got a contract on a cost-plus basis even though they had a history of overcharging the taxpayers. And then later we found out that they didn't do anything about putting out oil well fires in the first Gulf war; it was Bechtel, not Halliburton. Contractors were given special treatment by not having healthy competition.
In dealing with Hurricane Katrina, and we have seen the same mistakes again: No-competition contracts; cost-plus contracts. We have seen what the result has been: Wasted taxpayer dollars. This bill requires that if there is an emergency to give a contract, give it. But then have bidding within a year.
Opponents support voting NO because:
We support transparency and accountability in decision-making, but this bill asks for audit reports that are only advisory. To provide those to Congress not only gives you too much information, a lot of it can be misleading and can increase the number of contract disputes.
When you are fighting a war, you need to move quickly. You don't give a 6-month appeal to the folks that lose the competition. You don't give small business set-asides because there is one thing you don't have, you don't have time.
Establishes a Department of Peace and Nonviolence, which shall be headed by a Secretary of Peace and Nonviolence appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate. Sets forth the mission of the Department, including to:
Introductory statement by Sponsor:
Rep. KUCINICH: HR808 gives the promise of transforming our country and the world. It is now supported by 52 Members of the House of Representatives, and it is supported by groups who yesterday came to Washington representing 45 States. Last night, nearly 1,000 people came to the George Washington University campus to hear about the Department of Peace and the hope that it brings for America.
If you were to look at the House Clerk's desk, just around the corner, you will see engraved right into the desk, the word "peace." Peace is a foundational principle of this Congress and of this country, and the bill gives it a chance to have an animating power in our civic life by addressing the issues of domestic violence, spousal abuse, child abuse, violence in the schools, racial violence, all of those concerns we have both domestically and internationally.
Full Faith in Veterans Act of 2008 - To accept as sufficient proof of service-connection of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) alleged to have been incurred in or aggravated by active military service a diagnosis of PTSD by a mental health professional, together with a written determination that such disorder is related to the veteran's service, if consistent with the circumstances, conditions, or hardships of such service, notwithstanding that there is no official record of such incurrence or aggravation during such service. Requires the Secretary to resolve every reasonable doubt in favor of the veteran. Allows PTSD service-connection to be rebutted by clear and convincing evidence. Requires the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to:
Veterans Suicide Study Act - Directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs conduct a study to determine the number of veterans who have committed suicide between January 1, 1997, and the date of the enactment of this Act. Congress makes the following findings:
Repeals current Department of Defense policy [popularly known as "Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell"] concerning homosexuality in the Armed Forces. Prohibits the Secretary of Defense, and the Secretary of Homeland Security with respect to the Coast Guard, from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation against any member of the Armed Forces or any person seeking to become a member. Authorizes the re-accession into the Armed Forces of otherwise qualified individuals previously separated for homosexuality, bisexuality, or homosexual conduct.
Nothing in this Act shall be construed to require the furnishing of dependent benefits in violation of section 7 of title 1, United States Code (relating to the definitions of 'marriage' and 'spouse' and referred to as the 'Defense of Marriage Act').
Congressional Summary:Smarter Approach to Nuclear Expenditures Act: Prohibits using funds in 2014 or thereafter:
Opponent's argument against bill: (Twitchy blog, "Who said what?", twitchy.com): North Korea has evidently been conducting nuclear device tests, and the timing couldn't be better, of course, as President Obama is expected to call for a reduction in nuclear arms tonight in his State of the Union address. Mass. Rep. Ed Markey is totall
Congressional summary:: Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ending Eavesdropping, Dragnet-collection, and Online Monitoring Act or the USA FREEDOM Act:
Opponent's argument against (Electronic Frontier Foundation): The bill only addresses a small portion of the problems created by NSA spying. It does not touch problems like NSA programs to sabotage encryption standards; it does not effectively tackle the issue of collecting information on people outside of the US; and it doesn't address the authority that the government is supposedly using to tap the data links between service provider data centers, such as those owned by Google and Yahoo. The bill also does not address excessive secrecy; it won't deal with the major over-classification issues or the state secrets privilege.
Opponent's argument against (J. Kirk Wiebe, former NSA Senior Intelligence Analyst interview with TheRealNews.com): It's window dressing. Stopping bulk collection is a good step, but the only thing that's going to fix this is direct access into NSA's databases by an independent group of hackers, techie types, people like Snowden who know how to get into a network and look at things and verify that the data they're collecting and what they're doing with it complies with the Constitution. The NSA has essentially operated illegally--unconstitutionally--for 60% of its existence.
A bill to restore habeas corpus for those detained by the United States; to the Committee on the Judiciary.
Sen. SPECTER. "I introduce this legislation, denominated the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act. Last year, in the Military Commissions Act, the constitutional right of habeas corpus was attempted to be abrogated. I say "attempted to be abrogated" because, in my legal judgment, that provision in the Act is unconstitutional.
"It is hard to see how there can be legislation to eliminate the constitutional right to habeas corpus when the Constitution is explicit that habeas corpus may not be suspended except in time of invasion or rebellion, and we do not have either of those circumstances present, as was conceded by the advocates of the legislation last year to take away the right of habeas corpus.
"We have had Supreme Court decisions which have made it plain that habeas corpus is available to non-citizens and that habeas corpus applies to territory controlled by the US, specifically, including Guantanamo. More recently, however, we had a decision in the US District Court applying the habeas corpus jurisdiction stripping provision of the Military Commissions Act, but I believe we will see the appellate courts strike down this legislative provision.
"The New York Times had an extensive article on this subject, starting on the front page, last Sunday, and continuing on a full page on the back page about what is happening at Guantanamo. It is hard to see how in America, or in a jurisdiction controlled by the United States, these proceedings could substitute for even rudimentary due process of law."
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Newly-elected Democrats taking office Jan.2015:
AZ-7: Rep.-Elect Ruben Gallego
CA-11:Rep.-Elect Mark DeSaulnier
CA-31:Rep.-Elect Pete Aguilar(R⇒D)
CA-33:Rep.-Elect Ted Lieu
CA-35:Rep.-Elect Norma Torres
FL-2: Rep.-Elect Gwen Graham(R⇒D)
HI-1: Rep.-Elect Mark Takai
MA-6: Rep.-Elect Seth Moulton
MI-12:Rep.-Elect Debbie Dingell
MI-14:Rep.-Elect Brenda Lawrence
NE-2: Rep.-Elect Brad Ashford(R⇒D)
NJ-12:Rep.-Elect Bonnie Coleman
NY-4: Rep.-Elect Kathleen Rice
PA-13:Rep.-Elect Brendan Boyle
VA-8: Rep.-Elect Donald Beyer
Seated in special elections 2013-2014:
AL-1: Bradley Byrne(R)
IL-2: Robin Kelly(D)
LA-5: Vance McAllister(R)
MA-5: Katherine Clark(D)
MO-8: Jason Smith(R)
NJ-1: Donald Norcross(D)
SC-1: Mark Sanford(R)
VA-7: Dave Brat(R)
Newly-elected Republicans taking office Jan.2015:
AR-2: Rep.-Elect French Hill
AR-4: Rep.-Elect Bruce Westerman
AL-6: Rep.-Elect Gary Palmer
CA-25:Rep.-Elect Steve Knight
CA-45:Rep.-Elect Mimi Walters
CO-4: Rep.-Elect Ken Buck
FL-26:Rep.-Elect Carlos Curbelo(D⇒R)
GA-1: Rep.-Elect Buddy Carter
GA-10:Rep.-Elect Jody Hice
GA-11:Rep.-Elect Barry Loudermilk
GA-12:Rep.-Elect Rick Allen(D⇒R)
IA-1: Rep.-Elect Rod Blum(D⇒R)
IA-3: Rep.-Elect David Young
IL-10:Rep.-Elect Robert Dold(D⇒R)
IL-12:Rep.-Elect Mike Bost(D⇒R)
More newly-elected Republicans taking office Jan.2015:
LA-5: Rep.-Elect Ralph Abraham
LA-6: Rep.-Elect Garret Graves
ME-2: Rep.-Elect Bruce Poliquin(D⇒R)
MI-4: Rep.-Elect John Moolenaar
MI-8: Rep.-Elect Mike Bishop
MI-11:Rep.-Elect Dave Trott
MN-6: Rep.-Elect Tom Emmer
MT-0: Rep.-Elect Ryan Zinke
NC-6: Rep.-Elect Mark Walker
NC-7: Rep.-Elect David Rouzer(D⇒R)
NH-1: Rep.-Elect Frank Guinta(D⇒R)
NJ-3: Rep.-Elect Tom MacArthur
NV-4: Rep.-Elect Cresent Hardy(D⇒R)
NY-1: Rep.-Elect Lee Zeldin(D⇒R)
NY-21:Rep.-Elect Elise Stefanik(D⇒R)
NY-24:Rep.-Elect John Katko
OK-5: Rep.-Elect Steve Russell
PA-6: Rep.-Elect Ryan Costello
TX-4: Rep.-Elect John Ratcliffe
TX-23:Rep.-Elect Will Hurd
TX-36:Rep.-Elect Brian Babin
UT-4: Rep.-Elect Mia Love(D⇒R)
VA-10:Rep.-Elect Barbara Comstock
WA-4: Rep.-Elect Dan Newhouse
WI-6: Rep.-Elect Glenn Grothman
WV-2: Rep.-Elect Alex Mooney
WV-3: Rep.-Elect Evan Jenkins(D⇒R)
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