Senate Bill Doubles Immigration to 40 Million in 20 YearsMay 31, 2006 21:55 The Senate passed legislation last week that Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) hailed as "the most far-reaching immigration reform in our history." You might think that the first question anyone would ask is how much it would actually increase or decrease legal immigration. But no. After the Senate approved the bill by 62 to 36, you could not find the answer in the news columns of The Post, the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. Yet the estimates do exist and are fairly startling. By rough projections, the Senate bill would double the legal immigration that would occur during the next two decades from about 20 million (under present law) to about 40 million.
One job of journalism is to inform the public about what our political leaders are doing. In this case, we failed. The Senate bill's sponsors didn't publicize its full impact on legal immigration, and we didn't fill the void. It's safe to say that few Americans know what the bill would do because no one has told them. Indeed, I suspect that many senators who voted for the legislation don't have a clue as to the potential overall increase in immigration.
Class B Dog And Cat Dealers Are No Friends To The AnimalsMay 31, 2006 21:36 In the shadowy world of Class B dog and cat dealers, an animal’s life can be harsh and unrelenting. Animals may suffer from crowded and unsanitary conditions, poor food, and insufficient water. Veterinary care may be nonexistent. They may not even survive their time in a Class B dealer’s hands.
So who are Class B dog and cat dealers? They're brokers who acquire animals from a variety of sources—including "pounds," flea markets, and newspaper ads—and then sell them to research institutions or veterinary schools. Class B dealers are regulated under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), which mandates minimum care and handling standards for animals in a variety of environments. But these dealers, putting profits before pooches, are regularly cited for violating the AWA and have long been a cause for concern for many.
Con-Game ConservatismMay 30, 2006 15:27 I have long argued that President George W. Bush and his greedy and arrogant gang are not conservatives. Sure, they like to call themselves that and see political advantage in using the label. But the truth is, the Busheviks' only real ideology is gaining and keeping power to protect and enhance their wealth.
They repeatedly reject traditional conservative principles and beliefs to pursue the narrowest of interests at the expense of the common good. They routinely assault the Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights.
Bush claims more executive authority than any other president in our history and treats the separation of powers as a quaint theory no longer practical in 21st-century America. He often rules by fiat and says he can defy acts of Congress. Bush claims some decisions he makes and actions he takes are not subject to judicial review.
Bush's spending is out of control and he's made the nation's fiscal health a basket case. He finances tax cuts with debt, weakens the dollar and drives up interest rates. With the prescription drug benefit, he created the largest new federal entitlement program since Medicaid. Bush has used tariffs on steel and lumber products to protect select industries and drive up the prices consumers pay for basic products. The benefiting industries were in states with key electoral votes.
Bush Signs Funeral Protest BanMay 30, 2006 15:23 President Bush marked Memorial Day by signing a bill that keeps demonstrators from disrupting military funerals.
Before heading to Arlington National Cemetery for a wreath laying and speech, Mr. Bush signed the "Respect for America's Fallen Heroes Act."
It was passed mainly in response to a Kansas church group that has staged protests at military funerals around the country.
The group says the deaths in Iraq and elsewhere show that God is angry over U.S. tolerance of gays.
The law prevents protests within 300 feet of the entrance of a national cemetery.
Even as Mr. Bush signed the bill, members of the Kansas group stood about 300 feet from the entrance to Arlington.
Senate OKs Hayden To Revive CIAMay 26, 2006 17:38 As expected, U.S. Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden won confirmation Friday to be the next director of the CIA.
The U.S. Senate confirmed Hayden by an overwhelming vote of 78 to 15. More than twice as many Democrats in the Senate voted for the confirmation than voted against it.
The vote was another victory for the White House in what has been a rebound on security issues on Capitol Hill over the past two weeks. President George W. Bush's proposals on border security, while widely criticized, have also been welcomed by many experts as a balanced and overdue response to dealing with the issue.
The vote was also a testimony to the credibility that Hayden brings to the post. He was expected to face a difficult time in his confirmation hearings because of USA Today's revelations about greatly expanded secret phone surveillance by the National Security Agency while he ran it. The story ran only a few days before his confirmation hearings started.
But Hayden, a veteran of congressional testimony and questioning, impressed senators of both parties on the Senate Intelligence Committee and that success, along with his stellar record running the NSA and as Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte's chief deputy over the past year, won him easy approval.
Senate Passes Immigration Bill With Many Hidden BombsMay 26, 2006 14:05 The Senate approved a wide-ranging overhaul of immigration laws Thursday, voting 62-36 to bolster security at the Mexican border and to grant many illegal immigrants a path toward citizenship.
But the inclusion of that path sets the stage for a battle with the House of Representatives, which passed a stricter bill in December.
Several senators said after the vote that President Bush's participation in the political maneuvering will be key to crafting a compromise.
"I believe we can do it," Sen. Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican, told reporters. "I believe the president will put a very heavy shoulder to the wheel."
President Bush commended the Senate on its work in "passing bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform."
House Panel Votes For Net NeutralityMay 25, 2006 20:26 A bill that seeks to prevent broadband providers from offering an exclusive high-speed lane for video and other services has taken a step closer to becoming law.
By a 20-13 vote Thursday that partially followed party lines, the House Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would require broadband providers to abide by strict Net neutrality principles, meaning that their networks must be operated in a "nondiscriminatory" manner.
All 14 Democrats on the committee--joined by 6 Republicans--supported the measure, while 13 Republicans opposed it.
That vote is a surprise victory for Internet companies such as Amazon.com, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo that had lobbied fiercely in the last few months for stricter laws to ensure that Verizon, AT&T and other broadband providers could not create a "fast lane" reserved for video or other high-priority content of their choice.
Human Events Online - Immigration Bill Is Worse Than You Think By Sen. Jeff SessionsMay 25, 2006 17:00 Sen. Jeff Sessions (R.-Ala.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, offered a devastating analysis on the Senate immigration bill in a speech delivered on the Senate floor on Tuesday, May 23. Sessions pointed to shocking elements of the bill that were hidden deep in its text. These include, for example, that the employers of illegal aliens would be given an amnesty for cheating on their taxes, and that under the terms of the law the government would for all practical purposes have to take an illegal alien’s word for it that he has been in the country illegally long enough to qualify for an amnesty.
Sessions also pointed to some of the tremendous hidden costs of the bill, including the $500 billion in additional welfare payments it will cost American taxpayers in the period 10 to 20 years after its passage.
Senators who vote for the bill today cannot credibly claim later they were unaware of the elements and consequences that Sen. Session’s outlined in this speech.
Fannie Mae To Pay $400 Million In Fines - New York TimesMay 23, 2006 18:57 Fannie Mae has agreed to pay $400 million in fines as part of a settlement with the federal government for manipulating earnings to allow senior executives to receive rich bonuses.
Accusing former Fannie Mae executives of operating an "arrogant and unethical" corporate culture, federal regulators condemned the mortgage giant today for inflating its earnings to reward senior mangers with rich bonuses.
"Senior management manipulated accounting, reaped maximum, undeserved bonuses and prevented the rest of the world from knowing," James B. Lockhart, acting director of the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, said in a statement.
In a report issued today, the federal agency put much of the blame on Fannie Mae's senior most managers, namely its former chief executive, Franklin D. Raines, who received $52 million in bonuses from 1998 to 2003 because of what was perceived at the time to be legitimate earnings growth.
Search Of Capitol Hill Office Creates Another StormMay 23, 2006 18:53 Lawmakers gathered on the House floor Monday evening to vote on veterans benefits, but that's not what caused most of the buzz. Nor was the corruption probe of Rep. William Jefferson (D) of Louisiana the leading topic of conversation.
No. More than reports of videotaped bribery and cash hidden in his home freezer, the scuttlebutt centered on the fact that the FBI had, for the first time, searched a congressional office.
Is Congress missing the point - or is there a serious constitutional issue at stake here?
The constitutional concern runs deep and across party lines. "When I first saw [reports of the search], I thought: 'Wonder if the federal government needs to be reined in,' " said Rep. Zach Wamp (R) of Tennessee.
Halliburton, Bechtel Could Be Factors In Border Security Plan - Top Stories - Msnbc.ComMay 22, 2006 15:15 Two big and controversial corporate names -- Halliburton and Bechtel -- could benefit from mammoth increases in federal spending on border security.
Federal and state efforts to bolster porous border security include plans for increased security infrastructure, expanded use of technology, including radar. Other plans include construction of more prison beds, and additional law enforcement operations, security roads and improved employment verification systems and ports of entry.
That will mean billions of dollars in border-related contract opportunities for defense, technology and other government contractors. A substantial number of border security contracts are expected to go to major contractors -- including big infrastructure, construction and contract management experts such as Halliburton Co. and Bechtel Corp.
Free Press Not Really Free?May 22, 2006 15:10 Appearing on the ABC's News program This Week, Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez says he believes any reporter printing classified information should be prosecuted, citing an obligation to national security.
The nation's chief law enforcement officer added there is justification for using telephone records to track down reporters' sources when investigating leaks, but added that such tracking would not be done randomly.
"There are some statutes on the book which, if you read the language carefully, would seem to indicate that that is a possibility," Gonzales said, referring to prosecutions. "We have an obligation to enforce those laws. We have an obligation to ensure that our national security is protected."
Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said she assumed that the attorney general was referencing the 1917 Espionage Act, which she said has never been used to prosecute journalists who were providing information to the public.
"I can't imagine a bigger chill on free speech and the public's right to know what it's government is up to — both hallmarks of a democracy — than prosecuting reporters," Dalglish said.
Number Of U.S. Inmates Rises 2 PercentMay 22, 2006 15:10 Prisons and jails added more than 1,000 inmates each week for a year, putting almost 2.2 million people, or one in every 136 U.S. residents, behind bars by last summer.
The total on June 30, 2005, was 56,428 more than at the same time in 2004, the government reported Sunday. That 2.6 percent increase from mid-2004 to mid-2005 translates into a weekly rise of 1,085 inmates.
Of particular note was the gain of 33,539 inmates in jails, the largest increase since 1997, researcher Allen J. Beck said. That was a 4.7 percent growth rate, compared with a 1.6 percent increase in people held in state and federal prisons.
Prisons accounted for about two-thirds of all inmates, or 1.4 million, while the other third, nearly 750,000, were in local jails, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
More Frivolity: Senate Votes English As 'National Language'May 19, 2006 21:48 After an emotional debate fraught with symbolism, the Senate yesterday voted to make English the "national language" of the United States, declaring that no one has a right to federal communications or services in a language other than English except for those already guaranteed by law.
The measure, approved 63 to 34, directs the government to "preserve and enhance" the role of English, without altering current laws that require some government documents and services be provided in other languages. Opponents, however, said it could negate executive orders, regulations, civil service guidances and other multilingual ordinances not officially sanctioned by acts of Congress.
More Nuclear Power, Bush Says; No Oil Drilling, Pelosi InsistsMay 19, 2006 18:50 Politicians of all stripes agree that the United States would benefit from a reduced dependence on foreign oil. But that's where the agreement ends.
On Thursday, President George W. Bush said the nation "must start building nuclear power plants." He described them as a "key part of a clean, secure energy future."
Bush spoke on the same day that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi warned, "We cannot drill our way to energy independence."
In a videotaped address to a gathering of nuclear energy executives meeting in San Francisco, President Bush said construction of new nuclear power plants will help the nation maintain its economic leadership and boost its energy security.
"Our economy is creating new jobs. It is also creating new demands for energy ... By expanding our use of nuclear power, we can make our energy supply more reliable, our environment cleaner and our nation more secure for future generations," Bush told nuclear energy executives.
Outsourced IBM Workers To Get Unemployment BenefitsMay 19, 2006 04:32 The federal government says a former IBM programmer whose job in New Jersey was outsourced to Canada is eligible to apply for the same employment benefits typically extended to manufacturing workers who lose their jobs to lower-cost offshore competition.
Under a ruling handed down by the Department of Labor, the former IBM staffer—who helped develop billing software for businesses—can seek benefits under the Trade Adjustment Act. The Act provides for extended unemployment payments, federally funded retraining, and relocation allowances for workers hit by foreign competition. In the past, IT workers have been shut out from claiming TAA benefits.
In a written ruling dated May 11, DOL official Elliot Kushner noted that "a shift in production of software like, or directly competitive to, that produced at the subject facilities to Canada contributed to the total or partial separation of a significant number or proportion of workers at the subject [IBM] facilities" in New Jersey.
Vote In House Seeks To Erase Oil WindfallMay 19, 2006 04:30 In an attempt to revoke billions of dollars worth of government incentives to oil and gas producers, the House on Thursday approved a measure that would pressure companies to renegotiate more than 1,000 leases for drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.
The measure, approved 252 to 165 over the objections of many Republican leaders, is intended to prevent companies from avoiding at least $7 billion in payments to the government over the next five years for oil and gas they produce in publicly owned waters.
Scores of Republicans, already under fire from voters about gasoline prices, sided with Democrats on the issue. Eighty-five Republicans voted to attach the provision to the Interior Department's annual spending bill. The measure would require adoption by the Senate, which is less reflexively supportive of the energy industry than the House, and will almost certainly provoke intense opposition from oil and gas producers.
Bush's Demanding Billions More in Border Spending... But...May 18, 2006 17:27 Adding muscle to the push for President Bush's immigration plan, the White House demanded Wednesday that Congress move $1.9 billion for border surveillance equipment to pay for new Border Patrol agents and detention facilities.
The Bush administration also dispatched top political adviser Karl Rove to lobby lawmakers to support comprehensive legislation that includes a guest worker program and the chance of earned citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants.
The Senate worked Wednesday toward passage of such an overhaul bill, though the administration's backroom negotiations ran into snags.
For one thing, some senators were rankled by the shift of the $1.9 billion, which was originally budgeted for new vehicles, aircraft, helicopters and boats for the U.S. Border Patrol and Coast Guard.
CA State Officials Chafe At Bush's Plan For GuardMay 18, 2006 17:25 California's highest-ranking officials were reacting with displeasure and exasperation Wednesday to President Bush's plan to use thousands of National Guard troops to support border patrols and curb illegal immigration.
State Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata (D-Oakland) said he would move to freeze $38 million in California Guard funding that could be used for border patrols. And he ordered legislative hearings on the Bush border proposal, giving Democrats another public forum in which to criticize it as a distraction from the Guard's primary role in disaster relief.
"I do not want to spend any money at all, invest a dime, into anything that weakens our ability to respond to a state disaster when it comes," Perata said.
For his part, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was demanding answers — to a host of questions — from Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who briefed him Wednesday. The governor had spent 45 minutes on the phone with Bush senior advisor Karl Rove on Monday about the plan. But after both conversations, the governor complained about being left in the dark.
In a letter Tuesday night to Chertoff, Schwarzenegger called the border security plan a "logistical nightmare" and asked several questions: Who determines when troops come home? What criteria would determine whether their mission was successful? And how would California handle the "staggering" job, as Schwarzenegger put it, of providing support for the thousands of troops who will be cycled into the border region for two-week rotations?
"Think about it," he said Wednesday after a Sacramento speech. "Every two weeks we will rotate out the National Guard? That's like starting a heart surgery and having the whole team of doctors and nurses leap up after every five minutes and switch. How are you going to be successful with that? I have a lot of concerns with it.
House Passes $2.8 Trillion Budget PlanMay 18, 2006 17:23 House GOP leaders had to further dilute President Bush's austere 2007 budget plan in order to push it past the finish line early Thursday.
It long ago had been shorn of Bush initiatives such as curbs on Medicare spending or new incentives for health savings accounts. But conservative GOP House leaders had to make further concessions to mollify party moderates in order to win a 218-210 vote around 1 a.m. EDT.
Moderates won promises for modest increases in spending on education, health and other social programs, though it's not certain voters will see them before the November elections.
For GOP leaders, passage of the $2.8 trillion Republican plan avoided the embarrassment of not being able to pass the budget blueprint through the House for the first time since legislative budget rules were put in place in 1975.
Study Guide For U.S. Citizenship Test Omits Freedom Of PressMay 17, 2006 20:32 A set of flashcards designed to help applicants for U.S. citizenship learn basic civics has become one of the most popular items sold by the Government Printing Office.
But the $8.50 flashcards — which contain questions and answers from the actual citizenship exam — won't help immigrants learn much about the role of the press in American democracy.
Question 80 asks, "Name one right or freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment." The answer lists freedom of speech, religion, assembly and the right to petition the government — but omits freedom of the press.
"What I find ironic is that a device designed to help immigrants understand what our democracy is all about would intentionally or unintentionally fail to mention what the framers of our constitution considered the 'bulwark of liberty,' which was the press," says Paul McMasters, ombudsman for the First Amendment Center.
N.C. National Guardsmen Prepare For FutureMay 17, 2006 01:14 Monday night, President Bush announced he is sending 6,000 National Guardsmen to help secure the United States border with Mexico.
National leaders hope that will prevent people from illegally entering the country.
North Carolina has seen thousands of National Guardsmen called to active duty and deployed to fight in the war on terror. They are no longer just weekend warriors.
“The type of soldier coming up now is a totally different generation then when I came in. It’s not a part time job anymore,” said Sgt. 1st Class Scott Cambridge, a North Carolina National Guardsman.
A Border-Tightening Congressman Has Immigrants In His Own BackyardMay 15, 2006 20:37 A three-man crew of immigrant laborers had just finished the lawn work at the yellow house: grass trimmed, flower beds neatened, sidewalk edged and swept.
Don Hogan Charles/The New York Times
Representative Peter King.
The workers said they did not know the homeowner personally, but the one driving the landscaping truck, Elmer Martinez, 34, said that he must be someone important because of the brass plaque on the front door.
"Congressman Peter T. King," the plaque reads, "3rd District, New York."
It is the modest home in Seaford of Representative King, a co-sponsor of legislation that would make felons of millions of illegal immigrants, tighten security and support the building of a wall along parts of the Mexican border. The bill, called the 2005 Border Protection, Anti-Terrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act, has been passed by the House but not by the Senate.
State Of A Changed Union: Bush's Five YearsMay 15, 2006 19:25 See this for an interesting disucssion of how the country has changed during the last 5 years under George W. Bush as president.
Bush To Call On Guard To Bolster BorderMay 15, 2006 16:03 President Bush is sending thousands of National Guard troops to bolster patrols along the Mexican border, a move designed to win support for immigration reform from get-tough conservatives in his party.
Bush, in a speech to the nation Monday, is proposing to use the troops in a supportive role to the Border Patrol while it builds up its resources to more effectively secure the 2,000-mile line between the U.S. and Mexico, White House spokesman Tony Snow said.
Snow said the effort would use only "a very small percentage of the Guard," which numbers about 400,000 members around the country. White House officials say it would involve fewer than 10,000 Guardmen.
In a signal of the high stakes on the issue, Bush was to make the announcement at 8 p.m. EDT, in a rare prime-time speech from the Oval Office. He planned to follow up the address with a visit Thursday to the border, in Yuma, Ariz., to further press his case.
Diebold Voting Systems Critically FlawedMay 15, 2006 15:08 Michael Shamos remembers that the call came late at night, during the last week of April.
The call - from election watchdog BlackBoxVoting.org - described a critical vulnerability in Diebold Election Systems' touchscreen voting systems that could allow any person with access to a voting terminal the ability to completely change the system code or ballot file on the system. As a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University and adviser to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on electronic voting, Shamos realized that, at the very least, a workaround for the flaw needed to be in place by Pennsylvania's next election - at the time, less than three weeks away.
"This one is so bad, that we can't do just nothing," Shamos told the state's election officials at the time. "Any losing candidate could challenge the election by saying, 'How do I know that the software on the machine is the software certified by the state?'"
Late Thursday, BlackBoxVoting published a redacted version of a paper describing the design flaw in Diebold AccuVote TSX and TS6 touchscreen election systems. Because of the seriousness of the flaw, the full report detailing the issue has only been distributed to a limited group of computer scientists, state and federal election officials, and security groups.
"We have elections every single week this month, and there is no way to do meaningful remediation at this point," said Bev Harris, founder of BlackBoxVoting.
CIA Official's Home, Office SearchedMay 12, 2006 19:08 Law enforcement officials executed search warrants Friday on the house and office of CIA's outgoing executive director as part of an investigation into corruption involving agency contracts, the FBI said.
The CIA's third ranking official, Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, has been under investigation by the FBI, IRS, Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the CIA's inspector general and the U.S. attorney's office in San Diego, said FBI spokeswoman April Langwell in San Diego.
Under a sealed warrant, officials searched Foggo's Virginia home and his office at the CIA's Langley, Va., campus, Langwell said. She could provide no other details.
The FBI and other agencies have been investigating whether Foggo improperly intervened in the award of contracts to a San Diego businessman and personal friend, Brent Wilkes, who has been implicated in a congressional bribery scandal.
"The agency is cooperating fully with the Department of Justice and the FBI," she said. "Agency leaders outside of the (inspector general's office) were informed just prior to the execution of the search warrants, in keeping with standard law enforcement procedures."
Frist Hails Reopening Of Immigration Reform Debate - Breaking NewsMay 11, 2006 19:54 U.S. Senators Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), Mel Martinez (R-Fla.), Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) today released the following joint statement regarding the unanimous consent agreement to bring comprehensive immigration reform legislation back to the Senate floor Monday:
“Under the unanimous consent agreement reached today, the Senate will resume the immigration debate next week. Senate Republicans are united in their commitment to an open and full debate on multiple amendments - just as we have done on other bills of this magnitude like bankruptcy and class action reform.
“We are willing to put differences aside so we can get on with the important work to be done securing our borders and grappling with the 12 million illegal immigrants currently living in our country. We are also in agreement that efforts to curtail the debate prematurely will only derail this process. We call on Senate Democrats to allow an open debate and votes on this complex and challenging issue.”
Scraping To Fill The Shelves Of The G. W. Bush LibraryMay 10, 2006 19:52 The Bush Library? Can you imagine? The guy doesn't read anything except the back of cereal boxes... and he gets library? What is this country coming to?!?!
Hold To The Deadline?May 10, 2006 19:47 The Medicare prescription drug benefit has managed to unite the country. Nearly everyone denounces it.
The seniors eligible for it grumble about the complexity of premium-and-benefit spreadsheets – and those are the lucky ones who can compare plans at their leisure on the Internet. The rest are bombarded by mailings from insurance companies, which leave them feeling as if they’re comparing apples to oranges to bananas to celery to corn. Or they can call a toll-free Medicare helpline, except some who do complain that they feel rushed in that choice. And when investigators for the federal Government Accountability Office placed 500 phone calls to the help line, about a third of those calls yielded bad information. When the phone helpers were asked which drug plans were most appropriate and least expensive for an individual, only 41 percent of the answers were accurate.
Liberals have been at most grudging accomplices in the drug benefit plan since it was enacted in 2003. First, it leaves many seniors paying thousands of dollars each for prescriptions. It’s an unnecessarily complicated blending of government and private programs. Because it is administered through dozens of competing private insurance plans, they complain that the drug benefit doesn’t leverage the full clout of the federal government to obtain drug discounts. That could mean lower costs for seniors or the government or both.
And conservatives have choked on the plan from the start.
Bush Warns Of Prescription Plan DeadlineMay 10, 2006 03:26 U.S. President George Bush, making a reminder of a signup deadline for a Medicare prescription drug plan, heard from some people seeking extensions.
Bush visited Florida to talk about the prescription drug benefit plan his administration has supported. The deadline to sign up for the program, which started taking enrollees in November, is Monday. Some 20 million people have signed up but there are an estimated 7 million people who are eligible who haven't signed up.
Some Democrats and some participants in Bush's question-and-answer session Tuesday would like to see the deadline pushed back.
"Deadlines are important," Bush countered. "Deadlines help people understand there's finality and people need to get after it, you know?"
US Debt Ceiling to $10 Trillion?May 09, 2006 22:05 A $2.7 trillion budget plan pending before the House would raise the federal debt ceiling to nearly $10 trillion, less than two months after Congress last raised the federal government's borrowing limit.
The provision -- buried on page 121 of the 151-page budget blueprint -- serves as a backdrop to congressional action this week. House leaders hope to try once again to pass a budget plan for fiscal 2007, a month after a revolt by House Republican moderates and Appropriations Committee members forced leaders to pull the plan.
Leaders also hope to pass a package of tax-cut extensions that would cost the Treasury $70 billion over the next five years. They would then turn Thursday to a $513 billion defense policy bill that would block President Bush's request to raise health-care fees and co-payments for service members and their families.
GOP Forges $70B Tax Cuts DealMay 09, 2006 22:03 Republicans in Congress reached agreement Tuesday on a $70 billion measure to extend tax breaks for investors and prevent more middle-income families from being hit by a tax aimed at the wealthy.
The bill would hand President Bush one of his top tax priorities, a two-year extension of the reduced 15 percent tax rate for capital gains and dividends, currently set to expire at the end of 2008. Republicans credit the tax cuts, enacted in 2003, with boosting economic growth and creating many jobs.
The measure also would keep 15 million families from being hit this year with the alternative minimum tax, which was designed to make sure the wealthy paid taxes but is ensnaring more and more middle-income families because it is not indexed for inflation.
Senators Further Scrutinize Court NomineeMay 09, 2006 19:57 The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a rare second hearing for judicial nominee Brett Kavanaugh today, spurred by Democrats who have focused on the power of the court he would join and his background.
"This is a nomination for the second-highest federal court in the country," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., invoking the popular depiction of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He said he wants to ask Kavanaugh, who was associate White House counsel from 2001 to 2003 and is now staff secretary, about his role in recently disclosed policies of interrogation of terrorism suspects and domestic spying without court warrants.
The D.C. Circuit, one of 12 regional federal appellate courts, is commonly regarded as second only to the U.S. Supreme Court and a steppingstone to the high court.
Pain at the PumpMay 08, 2006 02:30 General contractor Tom Chargin is not a happy camper and, in fact, won't be taking his family on the yearly camping getaway any time soon.
"Let's just say our ski vacation in Aspen has been curtailed," laughs the father of two pre-schoolers.
Chargin, a resident of Gilroy, runs a small company and crew that specializes in remodeling and additions - jobs that take them to all points in the South Bay, including Hollister, Santa Cruz and San Jose. To get to his clients, Chargin drives a one-ton diesel truck loaded with materials and tools. And the cost of diesel fuel is hammering his business.
"My business is dying because I can't afford gas," Chargin said, speaking from a remodel job in Santa Cruz. "My workers are whining for more money because of their gas cost, but the bids are already set."
Many hard-hit motorists and small business owners lay the blame on the greed of big oil corporations. But Chargin places it at the Bush administration's doorstep.
Task For CIA's Next Chief: Push Bush's AgendaMay 08, 2006 02:28 The replacement of Porter Goss as head of the Central Intelligence Agency appears rooted in one presidential objective: to coordinate and streamline America's various intelligence agencies to "stop the terrorists before they strike."
Mr. Goss, who said Friday he would step down as CIA director after 19 months at the helm, reportedly defended the CIA's status quo too strenuously. In so doing, he ran afoul of John Negroponte, director of national intelligence who oversees 16 intelligence-related agencies, by balking at demands such as one to transfer several CIA senior counterterrorism officers to the newly created National Counterterrorism Center, which reports to Mr. Negroponte.
As a consequence, President Bush is likely to choose a CIA director more acquiescent to his streamlining goal - which may lead to a narrower role for the CIA. He is expected to tap, as early as Monday, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, a deputy to Negroponte and the former director of the National Security Agency (NSA).
Fact: Republicans Want To Raise Your TaxesMay 05, 2006 05:23 In his latest column, Paul Krugman of the New York Times points out that covering every American with Medicare would be cheaper than America's current health care system. No doubt that those who profit from the current system will label him a communist, a socialist who wants the government to pick your doctor, or a traitor. Such labels are a price of speaking the truth these days.
Deal Halts Soda Sales In SchoolsMay 03, 2006 16:24 The nation's largest beverage distributors have agreed to halt nearly all soda sales to public schools, according to a deal announced Wednesday by the William J. Clinton Foundation.
Under the agreement, the companies have agreed to sell only water, unsweetened juice and low-fat milks to elementary and middle schools, said Jay Carson, a spokesman for former President Bill Clinton. Diet sodas would be sold only to high schools.
"Soft drink companies have been marketing what we call liquid candy in high schools and some middle schools for many years now, and that's certainly contributes to the childhood obesity epidemic, Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said on CBS News' The Early Show. "It will be great to get rid of them."
Portsmouth Must Lead Way To A Better EnvironmentMay 03, 2006 16:22 When it comes to the need for smarter environmental policies and the insatiable addiction to keeping our fossil fuel economy at high-growth peaks, the headlines are not encouraging.
And make no mistake about it - the connection between oil prices likely topping $75 a barrel for the foreseeable future and the reports of polar ice caps melting in record amounts couldn’t be more obvious.
When it comes to the energy crisis and global warming, President Bush relies on ever more bizarre tunes of denial. Charitably put, they collectively mirror the "What, me worry?" adolescent philosophy of Mad magazine - drill for more oil everywhere, pray for miracle technologies to save the day and wait for the final scientific verdict on global warming.
The reality is one predicted almost three decades ago by President Jimmy Carter: Economically and environmentally, we are headed for a reckoning, and we’re in the midst of a race that could have catastrophic consequences if we don’t start making the right choices now. Carter called dealing with the transition away from a fossil fuel economy "the moral equivalent of war."
Bush Challenges Hundreds Of LawsMay 03, 2006 15:04 President Bush has quietly claimed the authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office, asserting that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution.
Among the laws Bush said he can ignore are military rules and regulations, affirmative-action provisions, requirements that Congress be told about immigration services problems, ''whistle-blower" protections for nuclear regulatory officials, and safeguards against political interference in federally funded research.
Legal scholars say the scope and aggression of Bush's assertions that he can bypass laws represent a concerted effort to expand his power at the expense of Congress, upsetting the balance between the branches of government. The Constitution is clear in assigning to Congress the power to write the laws and to the president a duty ''to take care that the laws be faithfully executed." Bush, however, has repeatedly declared that he does not need to ''execute" a law he believes is unconstitutional.
States Sue Over Bush Administration Fuel-Economy StandardsMay 02, 2006 21:05 California is among 10 states that filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the Bush administration over new federal fuel-economy standards on SUVs and light trucks, alleging that they ignore the effects of emissions on global climate change and the environment.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, contends that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has failed to consider the environment and fuel conservation when adopting fuel economy standards for SUVs and light trucks. By not requiring better fuel-economy standards for the vehicles, the lawsuit alleges that the environment is ultimately being hurt.
Brought to you by Cingular "With gas prices skyrocketing, we must substantially increase fuel efficiency in new vehicles, not only to protect the pocketbooks of working families, but also to reduce vehicle emissions that contribute to global warming," said Attorney General Bill Lockyer in a prepared statement. "These rules fail that test by not requiring enough from the auto industry. The Bush Administration once again has missed an opportunity to promote new technology, fuel economy and conservation by issuing fuel economy goals that are status quo."
The states contend that the new fuel efficiency standards are drawn in a way that they encourage car manufacturers to make larger, less fuel-efficient vehicles that produce more emissions than smaller vehicles. Ultimately, the environment suffers, they argued.
Social Security Financial Health DecliningMay 02, 2006 14:36 Social Security and Medicare trustees say the financial condition of the government's two biggest benefit programs deteriorated slightly over the past year.
That assessment on Monday prompted Democrats and Republicans to hurl familiar charges at each other in a repeat of last year's pitched battle over what to do about Social Security.
Democrats accused the Bush administration of overstating the problems in the two programs as a way of getting Congress to enact draconian benefit cuts, while Republicans said Democrats were refusing to face serious funding shortfalls.
Republicans Scuttle Tax Plan After OutcryMay 02, 2006 14:35 Senate Republicans have hurriedly abandoned a broad tax proposal opposed by the oil industry and business leaders, another sign of their struggle to come up with an acceptable political and legislative answer to high gasoline prices.
Senator Bill Frist, the majority leader, said Monday that he had decided to jettison the provision, which would have generated billions of dollars by changing the way businesses treat inventories for tax purposes. Instead, he said the Senate Finance Committee would hold hearings on the plan later in the year so that the "pluses and minuses of the provision can become well-known."
The retreat came after a torrent of objections from business leaders and their advocates, who typically view Republicans in Congress as allies. They complained that they had been blindsided by the inclusion of the proposal as a central element of the Republican leadership's energy package late last week.
The centerpiece of the leadership's proposal - a $100 rebate check to compensate taxpayers for higher gasoline prices - continued to receive a rough reception as well. Members of the public have been telephoning and writing to ridicule the idea, and even Republican lawmakers are finding fault.
EPA Is Sued Over Carbon EmissionsMay 01, 2006 20:16 A coalition of states, cities, and conservation groups is challenging the Bush Administration’s decision not to limit carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants and industrial facilities across the nation.
The Clean Air Act requires that the Environmental Protection Agency review and revise emission standards for new stationary pollution sources every eight years to ensure that they protect public health and the environment.
In February, EPA issued new source performance standards but declined to regulate carbon dioxide, the principal greenhouse gas blamed by scientists for global warming. The agency argues the Clean Air Act does not authorize it to regulate emissions to reduce global warming and maintains there are not enough scientific data to support such a move.
But in lawsuits filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., the petitioners assert that EPA has clear authority under the law to set limits on emissions linked to global warming.
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