Domestic Policy

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  5 Western States Announce Effort To Reduce EmissionsFebruary 27, 2007 09:33 Five Western states, including California, announced an agreement Monday to create a regional effort to lower greenhouse gas emissions that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger touted as illustrating "the power of states to lead our nation addressing climate change."

But officials with the governors of the other states -- Arizona, New Mexico, Washington and Oregon -- indicated that they were not close to adopting the same kind of strong global-warming law that California has in place. The states have largely unenforceable goals to reduce greenhouse gases, and with Arizona and New Mexico still considering building the kind of high-polluting power plants that California forbids, it was unclear how much impact the agreement would have.

One environmental advocate, V. John White of the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies, noted the announcement "may be more sizzle than steak."

  U.S. Government Illegally Censoring Speech At Border, Groups Tell CourtFebruary 26, 2007 12:08 The American Civil Liberties Union today filed a new motion in federal court seeking to strike down a provision of the Patriot Act that allows the United States government to deny entry to foreign scholars because of their political views. The law, known as the “ideological exclusion” provision, violates the right of Americans to hear constitutionally protected speech, charged the ACLU.

Today’s motion comes in a lawsuit filed in January 2006 by the ACLU and the New York Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the American Academy of Religion, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and PEN American Center.

“The Bush administration is using immigration law to stifle speech that is a legitimate and critically necessary part of political and academic debate,” said Jameel Jaffer, Deputy Director of the ACLU’s National Security Program and lead attorney in the case. “It is frankly absurd that foreign scholars are being barred from the country simply because they have criticized U.S. policies in Latin America or the Middle East or taken other political positions that the Bush administration disfavors.”

The groups say that the ideological exclusion provision violates the First Amendment rights of Americans by preventing them from engaging in face-to-face dialogue and debate with foreign scholars whose speech the government disfavors. While the provision is nominally aimed at those who “espouse or endorse terrorist activity,” the provision’s terms are vague, sweeping and manipulable and could readily be used to exclude foreign scholars who study controversial matters such as terrorism and the concept of “jihad” in Islam, according to the ACLU. In fact, the State Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual interprets the provision to apply to those foreign nationals who have voiced “irresponsible expressions of opinion.”
  Bush Budget Proposal Called SetbackFebruary 26, 2007 10:01 President Bush's plan to cut $1.5 billion in domestic discretionary spending next year was apparently just the tip of the iceberg. His five-year proposal would slash these programs by $114 billion, according to a new analysis.
The largest cuts would come in 2012, when domestic discretionary programs would be cut $34 billion, or 7.6 percent, below the 2007 funding level, adjusted for inflation, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Meanwhile, Bush has called for permanent extension of tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003 that are worth $317 billion in 2012 alone.

Connecticut would lose more than $377 million in federal aid over that five-year period, according to the nonprofit think tank.

The president's budget would shift billions of dollars in costs on to Connecticut and other states, forcing them either to raise taxes to compensate for the lost federal funds or scale back key public services, according to Connecticut Voices for Children.

While those earning $1 million or more a year would get hundreds of thousands in tax breaks, low-income families who receive assistance for child care or heating bills would be harmed, said Douglas Hall of Connecticut Voices for Children.

"The Bush administration's budget is telling us that maintaining our investments in education, child care, the environment, and community development are less important than tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans."
  States Beat Washington To Renewable EnergyFebruary 25, 2007 16:47 In Texas, home to some of the world's biggest oil companies, you might think the case for renewable energy would be tough to make. As it happened it was tough, but not impossible.

It was simply a case of showing that technologies like massive wind turbines and solar roof shingles would do the job with costs that were in line with power generated from fossil fuel, said Jim Marston, of the Texas office of Environmental Defense, an advocacy group.

Texas is one of more than 20 states which, lacking a lead from central government in Washington and spurred by mounting evidence of the threat of global warming, have pressed ahead with their own measures to boost renewable energy use and curb emissions of carbon dioxide, held largely responsible for pushing up world temperatures.

President George W. Bush, having rejected the ground-breaking Kyoto Protocol on curbing carbon dioxide on the ground that the U.S. economy could not afford it, in January acknowledged the challenge of climate change in his State of the Union address and spoke of new technologies and alternative fuels as possible solutions.

  Soldiers At Walter Reed Deserve BetterFebruary 25, 2007 09:50 Wounded — and by wounded, I mean missing arms, legs, eyes, heads caved in, all wounds that will be visible for the rest of their lives — soldiers have been left to sleep in rooms with mice and mildew, substandard in every respect, at Walter Reed Medical Center. Just so we are clear — this is happening in Washington D.C., less than ten miles from the White House. This is happening to soldiers who were blown apart in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Politicians and generals of every ilk have been visiting our great soldiers at Walter Reed during this war and making all these grand statements about caring, love, sacrifice and — my favorite — the best medical care money can buy. Well, apparently that pays for rats and lousy treatment.
  Bush'S Threats Against Iran Are Pushing Up Oil PricesFebruary 23, 2007 09:00 President Bush's tough talk with Iran, like his rhetoric prior to invading Iraq, is racheting up oil prices around the world and picking the pockets of American motorists.

"Whenever the U.S. says things that make a military conflict with Iran seem more likely, the price of oil rises, strengthening Iran's regime rather than weakening it," writes James Surowiecki in the February 19-26 issue of The New Yorker magazine.

For example, during the second half of last year, the price of oil plunged nearly 30 per cent, "a disaster for an economy as dependent on oil revenue as Iran's," Surowiecki observed, noting Iran pumps almost 4-billion barrels daily and sells half of it abroad.

But when Bush dispatched a second aircraft-carrier group to the Persian Gulf and declared U.S. troops will detain or kill any Iranians found helping Iraq's insurgents, "oil prices started to rise, jumping 20 percent in just two weeks," Surowiecki said, putting an extra $20-million a day in Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's pocket.

The recent oil price surge is driven by a jump in what oil traders call the "risk premium," a costly add-on buyers are willing to pay if they think oil fields might be shut down in the future, say, owing to conflict. They're willing to pay more for oil now to guarantee they'll have oil when they need it. "That's why, in the run-up to the Iraq war, oil prices jumped more than 50 per cent," Surowiecki recalled.

(According to the Associated Press, a barrel of light, sweet crude for April delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange February 21st was pegged at $58.58. This translates into about $2.50 for a gallon of gas in Florida.)
  Education, Environment Would Suffer Under Bush Budget, MD Study FindsFebruary 22, 2007 21:39 Education, clean water programs, low-income home energy assistance and other key programs will suffer under the president's proposed 2008 budget, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found in an analysis released Wednesday.

The budget would cut $31.5 million in funding for elementary and secondary education in Maryland in 2012, according to the center's report.

Additionally, in 2008 the new budget would trim $10.7 million from Environmental Protection Agency clean water programs in Maryland, as well as cut $6.6 million from low-income home energy assistance, according to the center. The reductions are relative to the funding level in 2007 adjusted for inflation.

The president's proposed budget is not fiscally responsible, said Sharon Parrott, one of the study's authors.
  Ethics Questioned In Oil Lobbyist DealFebruary 22, 2007 00:36 House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for stricter oversight of ethical standards in government Wednesday, a week after an Associated Press report that a Bush administration official bought a $980,000 vacation home with an oil company lobbyist.

Pelosi called it unacceptable that Sue Ellen Wooldridge, a former top environmental prosecutor at the Justice Department, would buy a South Carolina beach house with Donald R. Duncan, the top Washington lobbyist for ConocoPhillips, and then approve consent decrees with the company.

Duncan bought a half-share, and Wooldridge and her companion, former Deputy Interior Secretary J. Steven Griles, each bought quarter shares in the Kiawah Island, S.C., home, property records show. Griles is the highest-ranking Bush administration official facing possible criminal charges in the Jack Abramoff corruption probe.

Nine months later, Wooldridge approved legal agreements with Duncan's company. One of the agreements delays cleanups at some of the company's refineries that the government had required as part of a $525 million settlement. The company says Duncan was not part of those negotiations.
  Court: Detainees Can't Challenge CasesFebruary 20, 2007 09:05 I can't even believe this. This is truly a travesty of justice. Didn't Bush just say this week that American ideals should apply to everyone?

Guantanamo Bay detainees may not challenge their detention in U.S. courts, a federal appeals court said Tuesday in a ruling upholding a key provision of a law at the center of President Bush's anti-terrorism plan.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled 2-1 that civilian courts no longer have the authority to consider whether the military is illegally holding foreigners.

Barring detainees from the U.S. court system was a key provision in the Military Commissions Act, which Bush pushed through Congress last year to set up a system to prosecute terrorism suspects.

The ruling is all but certain to be appealed to the Supreme Court, which last year struck down the Bush administration's original plan for trying detainees before military commissions.
  Bill Would Put FDA In Charge Of Tobacco ProductsFebruary 19, 2007 10:44 Anti-smoking congressional leaders filed bipartisan legislation Thursday to give the Food and Drug Administration control over tobacco products, something health advocates have long sought.

The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act would force cigarette makers to disclose contents and let the FDA regulate toxin and nicotine limits. Tobacco products that companies want to advertise as "safer" would have to get FDA approval and the FDA could restrict marketing, particularly advertising aimed at children.

The bill would also:

• Stop illegal sales of tobacco products to children;

• Ban candy- and fruit-flavored cigarettes;

• Prohibit the use of terms such as "light," "mild," and "low-tar" and allow only scientifically proven health claims;

• Require bigger and more informative warning labels.

  Bush Seeks Money To Double Oil ReserveFebruary 18, 2007 22:29 President Bush wants Congress to pony up $168 million next year to fund his proposed expansion of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

As part of his strategy to bolster the nation's energy security, Bush has called for doubling the storage capacity of the nation's emergency oil stockpile.

Created in the wake of the Arab oil embargo to help cushion the U.S. economy against a major oil supply disruption, the petroleum reserve currently holds 691 million barrels of crude, enough to handle the nation's oil needs if imports were shut off for 55 days.

The money in the budget would pay to construct additional storage capacity.
  House Republicans Defend Bush In Oil Royalty ErrorFebruary 16, 2007 15:45 House Republicans on Friday sought to deflect blame off the Bush administration for not acting earlier to fix faulty oil drilling contracts that could cost the government billions in lost royalty fees, saying former President Bill Clinton's administration was at fault for issuing the leases.

The dispute centers around drilling contracts the Interior Department gave oil companies in 1998 and 1999 to search for crude in the Gulf of Mexico. The contracts accidentally omitted language that would have ended a waiver of royalties for the companies if the price of oil exceeded about $38 a barrel, as it has in the current market.

  Trade Deficit Rises To Record $763.6BFebruary 13, 2007 12:06 The U.S. trade deficit set a record for the fifth straight year in 2006, reflecting a huge jump in America's foreign oil bill and a record imbalance with China. The year ended with the December deficit increasing more than had been expected.

The Commerce Department reported Tuesday that the gap between what America sells abroad and what it imports rose to a record $763.6 billion last year, a 6.5 percent increase from the previous record of $716.7 billion set in 2005. For December, the deficit rose a bigger-than-expected 5.3 percent to $61.2 billion.

The Bush administration attributed the string of deficits to the United States outpacing other countries in terms of economic growth. Officials said that President Bush would continue to pursue a strategy of opening foreign markets to U.S. goods rather than erecting protectionist barriers to keep out imports.

"Our focus is on growing our exports, growing our economy, reducing our unemployment and keeping inflation in check," Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said in an interview from New Delhi, India.

But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats sent Bush a letter urging him to work with Democrats to craft a new trade strategy to deal with the exploding deficits.
  U.S. Environment Agency's Rules Cut Benzene, Other Air Toxics For Cars, Fuel, ContainersFebruary 10, 2007 14:29 Toxic fumes from gasoline, motor vehicles and fuel containers would be cut significantly under new U.S. government rules the Bush administration developed under legal pressure from environmental groups.

The new requirements, to go into effect between 2009 and 2011, would reduce toxic emissions of benzene and other pollutants from passenger vehicles by 80 percent in the next two decades, the government said.

The Environmental Protection Agency said the new rules would toughen benzene standards for gasoline, require cleaner-starting engines in cold temperatures and tighten fuel container standards to reduce the evaporation of harmful fumes.

"Americans love their cars. By clearing the air from tons of fuel and exhaust pollution, President Bush and EPA are paving the road toward healthier drivers and a cleaner environment," said EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson.

The new rule meets a court order that EPA require refineries to meet an average 0.62 percent benzene fuel limit by 2011, down from the current average of 0.97 percent. The proposal also would create a trading program that would allow refineries to buy emissions credits to meet the new limit, rather than install emissions controls.
  US biofuel program harmful for environmentFebruary 08, 2007 14:06 The large scale biofuel program president Bush announced in his State of the Union, could do the environment more damage than good, critics say.

Ethanol should replace imported fossil fuels and thus reduce the dependence of import. Bush wants to reduce fuel usage by 20 % in 2017. This is equivalent to three quarters of the current import from the Middle East. The president wants to reach this target by making vehicles more fuel efficient and by dramatically increasing the ethanol production, to five times the current target.

Although Bush mentions research into production of ethanol from wood chips and grasses, ethanol in the US is currently produced from corn. Analysts have calculated that Bush's 10-year target would require more corn than the total amount the US currently grows. Already the reservation of 20 % of the US corn for fuel purposes has quadrupled the price of tortilla (from corn) in Mexico and led to food riots.

In contrast to ethanol from sugar cane, ethanol from corn hardly helps to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, critics say. A report from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology last June showed that emission gains were virtually cancelled out by the energy needed to produce the fertilisers and to convert the crops into ethanol.
  Bush Budget Slashes Environment, Funds Nuclear DevelopmentFebruary 07, 2007 22:21 President George W. Bush today sent Congress a $2.9 trillion budget package for the fiscal year starting in October that includes big increases for defense spending, cuts in conservation programs and assumptions that tax revenues will increase and that the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge will be leased for oil and gas development.

Yet the administration said reducing U.S. dependence on petroleum imports and expanding incentives for clean energy technologies are central to the President's energy budget proposal.

President George W. Bush meets with his Cabinet at the White House Monday to introduce his FY 2008 Budget. (Photo by David Bohrer courtesy The White House)
As part of $24.3 billion funding request for the Energy Department, the president is asking Congress to provide $2.7 billion to accelerate research into power generation technologies based on coal, nuclear energy and renewable sources, as well as the development of efficient vehicles and biofuels.
"This budget builds on our commitment to strengthen our nation’s energy security by diversifying our energy resources and reducing our reliance on foreign sources of energy," said Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman.

But while the newly elected Congress now controlled by Democrats generally supports reducing dependence on foreign oil and increases in renewable energy sources, some parts of the president's budget are in for a rough ride.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada today took aim at the budget's half-billion dollar proposal to develop the nation's only high-level nuclear waste repository already approved by the President for Yucca Mountain, Nevada 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

  House Rolls Out Energy Plan That Takes On RoyaltiesFebruary 06, 2007 11:52 House Democrats unveiled an energy package Friday designed to slap down scores of oil and gas companies that have been pumping crude in the Gulf of Mexico royalty-free.

The new majority party in the House plans to push through a bill next Thursday aimed at producers that have refused to renegotiate flawed lease agreements. The bill hits them with sizable new fees or forbids them from leasing any more acreage in federal waters.

"Energy companies may have been able to get away with ripping off the American public with their royalty-free leases while Republicans were in control, but those days have come to an end," said Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y.

Tapping into public frustration over continued high fuel prices, Democrats also plan to bar oil and gas companies from enjoying a tax deduction that would effectively reduce their corporate tax rates; complicate the largest oil companies' ability to write off exploration expenses; and repeal language relieving producers from paying royalties on ultra-deep gas produced in shallow waters.

  Bush Seeks Money To Double Oil ReserveFebruary 06, 2007 11:49 How does Mr. Bush plan to handle the additional price pressure on oil that filling additional reserve will cause?

President Bush wants Congress to pony up $168 million next year to fund his proposed expansion of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

As part of his strategy to bolster the nation's energy security, Bush has called for doubling the storage capacity of the nation's emergency oil stockpile.

Created in the wake of the Arab oil embargo to help cushion the U.S. economy against a major oil supply disruption, the petroleum reserve currently holds 691 million barrels of crude, enough to handle the nation's oil needs if imports were shut off for 55 days.

The money in the budget would pay to construct additional storage capacity.

The administration already plans to fill the reserve to its capacity of 727 million barrels by the end of fiscal year 2008, using oil paid by producers in lieu of cash royalty payments.
  Bush Budget Trims Health Care FundsFebruary 05, 2007 15:10 Health care providers would get smaller pay increases when caring for the elderly, poor and disabled under President Bush's budget plan submitted to Congress on Monday.

The recommendations, if adopted, would trim Medicare spending by $66 billion over five years. That means the health care program for seniors would grow at a 6.7 percent clip rather than a 7.6 percent rate, budget officials said.

Bush also calls for reducing Medicaid spending by about $25 billion over five years, which would just slightly dent the more than $1.2 trillion the federal government will spend on health care for the poor over the next five years. Congress would have to sign off on about half of the proposed Medicaid savings, while the remainder are regulatory changes that administration will pursue.

  Bush's 3-Trillion-Dollar Budget Boosts War SpendingFebruary 05, 2007 11:04 US President George W Bush is asking Congress for nearly 3 trillion dollars in his budget for fiscal year 2008, with about one-quarter earmarked for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the defence budget, according to news reports on the document to be released Monday.

With the exception of defence, which would get a 10 per cent boost, overall spending increases would be limited to 1 per cent for 2008, less than enough to keep up with last year's inflation rate of 2.5 per cent. Bush is calling for a balanced budget by 2012.

Expenditures for public health care - Medicare for senior citizens and Medicaid for the poor - would be reduced by 80 billion dollars, shifting more of the burden of health for the needy to the individual states, Cable News Network reported.

The 716-billion-dollar defence segment of the budget includes 245 billion dollars for fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan and 481 billion dollars to cover the 10 per cent increase in regular Pentagon spending for 2008.

The defence request includes funds to increase the size of the Army by more than 13 percent to 547,000 and the Marine Corps by 15 percent to 202,000 over four years, Bloomberg news service reported.

Bush has been criticized for funding the wars through special requests to Congress in an effort to keep the appearance of the budget smaller. But the war funding for 2008 is being included in the new budget request, senior administration officials were quoted as saying.
  Bush Budget Projects A Surplus By 2012February 04, 2007 21:49 If Bush's predictions about the economy are as good as his predictions about the Iraq war...

The budget that President Bush will submit to Congress today shows the federal deficit falling in each of the next four years and would produce a $61 billion surplus in 2012, administration officials said. But to get there, Bush is counting on strong economic growth, diminishing costs in the Iraq war and tight domestic spending to offset the cost of his tax cuts.

Democrats yesterday criticized the five-year budget plan as overly optimistic, and predicted that extending the tax cuts past their 2010 expiration date would dig the nation deeper into debt rather than produce a budget surplus. Republicans countered that the tax cuts are critical to maintaining a healthy economy and that a balanced budget is not possible without them.

"Raising taxes . . . won't help balance the budget -- it will slow the economic growth that is creating the new jobs of tomorrow and increasing revenue to the federal government," House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) wrote in an essay distributed yesterday by his office. "Keeping our economy strong and promoting fiscal responsibility will get the job done. Raising taxes won't."

Republicans hope to make the tax cuts a central feature of this year's budget debate, the first in which Bush will present his request to a Democratic Congress. Both the White House and Democratic leaders have vowed to eliminate the federal deficit by 2012, but Democrats have signaled their intention to do it in part by targeting tax breaks for corporations and taxpayers earning more than $500,000 a year.
  Bush Budget To Seek Cuts For Medicare, MedicaidFebruary 03, 2007 18:26 In a bid to balance the federal budget in five years, President Bush will seek cuts in several key programs. But the spending blueprint he sends to Congress on Monday leaves room for some sweeteners, according to administration officials.

Under the Bush plan, grants for college students would rise after remaining stagnant for three years, and some parts of the No Child Left Behind Act would receive additional funding.

There would be new money to spur the manufacture of hybrid cars and production of ethanol. And a new farm bill would give farmers $1 billion more a year than the current law.

At the same time, Bush will ask for substantial cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, the government's main healthcare programs.

The Pentagon budget, including a detailed request for war funding in 2008, will hit $623 billion, according to a senior Defense official. That total includes $481 billion for the military's normal annual budget, a 10% increase over this year's spending.

  President Needs To Explain Balanced-Budget PledgeFebruary 03, 2007 00:14 President George W. Bush presented a long wish-list in his State of the Union address, full of stuff that's going to cost America lots of money.

Before explaining his spending plans, the president talked about fiscal discipline. He promised to eliminate the federal deficit in five years and "do so without raising taxes."

But he left out a small detail, namely how he plans to accomplish this.

He did suggest one useful idea: stopping lawmakers from including pet projects, called earmarks, in the federal budget without proper debate or oversight. President Bush said earmarks total $18 billion annually.

But it's going to take a lot more than $18 billion to accomplish what the president proposes to do at home and in Iraq.

And even the president and Congress are starting to realize that they can't keep running the country by saddling our children and grandchildren with massive debt.
  Last Year, Exxon Made $4.5 Million An HourFebruary 02, 2007 15:04 It was a hard act to follow, but Exxon Mobil managed an encore.

After ringing up the biggest annual profit in U.S. corporate history in 2005, Exxon Mobil on Thursday announced that it topped that number in 2006. Riding the wave of high crude-oil and gasoline prices, and despite depressed fourth-quarter earnings, the company reported a $39.5 billion profit, up more than 9 percent from the previous year.

Its revenue of $377.6 billion exceeded the gross domestic product of all but 25 countries.

Exxon Mobil's vice president for public and governmental affairs, Kenneth Cohen, made a spirited defense of the company's record. "Yes, the earnings are certainly large," Cohen said. "But so are our capital expenditures, and so are the challenges for the industry to find and produce the energy ... we need to keep the economy humming."

The same forces that drove up oil prices could push them down in other years, he added. "The industry is huge, and the company is huge. But it's cyclical," he said.

Not everyone is applauding the performance, though. Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., called the profits "outlandish" and took the opportunity to blast the Bush administration.
  Judge rejects government motion, allows Wiccan lawsuit to proceedFebruary 02, 2007 09:26 A federal lawsuit filed by Wiccans against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will proceed despite a request by the VA that it be put on hold for perhaps as much as a year.

The lawsuit, filed in November, accuses the VA of coming up with “excuse after excuse” for more than nine years for not putting the Wiccan symbol on grave markers of veterans who were members of that religion. The department does not allow Wiccan religious symbols on veterans’ headstones in national cemeteries.

The VA argued in a motion filed Jan. 19 with the U.S. District Court in Madison that the lawsuit should be put on hold while the department finalizes a new rule governing symbols on gravestones. That process could take as long as 12 months, but the agency will make a decision on the Wiccan request within a month after the new rule is issued, the government’s motion said.

The Wiccans’ attorney objected, arguing that nothing requires the VA to finalize its rules within a year or to take up the Wiccan request at all.
  House Judiciary Hearing Examines Presidential Signing StatementsFebruary 01, 2007 11:33 The American Civil Liberties Union today commended the House Judiciary Committee for holding its first hearing of the 110th Congress to examine President Bush’s use of presidential “signing statements.” Since taking office, President Bush has issued such statements affecting more than 750 laws, often claiming a right to not enforce laws passed by Congress.

“When Congress sends a law to the president for signature it is not asking for his comments. The Constitution doesn’t provide for the president to cherry pick which laws – or which parts of the laws – he will enforce. The Founding Fathers of our country designed a system that works when Congress writes the laws and the president implements them,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “The president needs to respect the separation of powers.”

Article II of the Constitution clearly states the president “shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” In most cases, President Bush’s signing statements have said he will refuse to enforce part of a law because it conflicts with his extraordinary claims of executive authority. The statements have covered numerous issues, including a congressional ban on the use of torture, affirmative action rules, protection for the integrity of scientific research and whistleblower protections. Such steps, the ACLU noted, defy the constitutional powers of Congress, and undermine the system of checks and balances.

In December 2006, President Bush issued a signing statement regarding H.R. 6407, the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006. The act reiterated the decades-long prohibition on opening First Class mail of domestic origin without a warrant. An existing regulation allows for the opening of mail without a warrant only in narrowly defined cases where the Postal Inspector believes there is a credible threat that the package contains dangerous material like bombs. The president's signing statement suggests that he is assuming broader authority to open mail without a warrant.

  Panel To Probe Signing StatementsFebruary 01, 2007 11:31 New House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., used his first oversight hearing Wednesday to say that he is launching an investigation into President Bush's possible abuse of presidential-signing statements.

Democrats and some Republican lawmakers have accused Bush of conducting an imperial presidency by using bill-signing statements to declare that he will interpret legislative provisions his way and will ignore some terms.

``That conduct threatens to deprive the American people of one of the basic rights of democracy: the right to elect representatives who determine what the law is, subject only to the president's veto,'' Conyers said as he opened a hearing on signing statements. ``That does not mean having a president sign those laws, but then say that he is free to carry them out or not, as only he sees fit.''

Though some influential Republicans, such as Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, have railed against Bush's signing statements, several House Judiciary Committee Republicans balked Wednesday, describing Conyers' hearing and vow as political fishing expeditions.

``One has the distinct feeling that this is really a policy debate,'' said Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, the committee's ranking Republican. ``If critics of signing statements agreed with the president on policy, we simply would not be here today.''

I think a lot of Hitler's supporters would have used the same argument...
  Colorado Governor Directs State To Establish Preferred Drug ListFebruary 01, 2007 11:30 Colorado Governor Bill Ritter today signed his first executive order and directed the state to establish a Preferred Drug List for the purchase of prescription pharmaceuticals for Medicaid clients.

Ritter said establishing the list will save taxpayers 2 percent to 5 percent on the bulk purchase of Medicaid pharmaceuticals.

“At a minimum, we believe we can save $1.6 million a year,” Ritter said during a signing ceremony at the state Capitol surrounded by dozens of supporters and lawmakers.

“A Preferred Drug List allows us to leverage our buying power to obtain lower prices for pharmaceuticals. The savings can then be re-invested back into delivering valuable health-care services to more people,” the governor said. “This is a great example of how we can operate government more efficiently and cost effectively.”

Joan Henneberry, executive director of the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, said she expects the list will be established by Jan. 1, 2008.