Saturday, July 21, 2007

In Spring Valley, NY:
A suburban village will have to pay what could amount to thousands of dollars in additional wages and taxes for apparently illegal workers who labored on a public project, a state Labor Department spokesman said.

The men, who were recruited by the village mayor, were paid $10 an hour to prepare a rundown building for demolition. The state's prevailing rate for the work is about $40 per hour, including taxes, Labor Department spokeswoman Chris Perham said Friday.

Perham said the Spring Valley village government would have to pay the difference. But she said the Labor Department would not pursue civil or criminal charges against Mayor George Darden because the incident was a first offense.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Though some businesses may protest the new AZ immigration-employment measures, much of the public seems more supportive, according to this story--at least some law makers say so.
Plans are afoot in Ohio to introduce a new bill targeting "illegal immigrants" and those who hire them:

Representative Combs will introduce a bill in the next legislative session that would crack down on illegal immigrants and those who hire them.

In addition, the bill would authorize Ohio's attorney general to seek from the government, federal police powers for local law enforcement.

"Well, we can't wait for the federal government," said Sheriff Jones at the press conference.

"What we're saying is we've got a bill here," said Rep. Combs. "We're gonna do what we can and we're gonna stand up in Ohio and push all we can and ask the federal government to be a partner with Ohio, so we can do the job."

Sheriff Jones and Rep. Combs say it would be a bi-partisan bill.

More on this bill here. This bill would, among other measures, affect laws about the transportation of the "undocumented":
Combs’ bill also would make concealment and transportation of illegal immigrants a felony. It also would require contracting businesses to withhold state income taxes “at the top marginal rate” from any subcontractors who fail to verify their employees are working legally.
A new Quinnipiac poll suggests that Sen. Martinez (R-FL) may still be suffering in public opinion polling as a result of his prominent support of the "grand bargain": his approval rating has fallen to 36% and his disapproval rating has risen 4 points over the last month or so to 38%. Only 49% of Republicans approve of the job he's doing; 48% of Republicans approve of the job that Florida's Democratic senator Bill Nelson is doing.
Forbes reports on how some business owners are getting anxious over the new Arizona employer sanctions law for the hiring of "undocumented immigrants":
The law, which goes into effect Jan. 1, makes it a crime to knowingly hire illegal immigrants and requires businesses to verify the employment status of their workers. Anyone could put an employer under scrutiny by immigration authorities with a simple phone call, and that makes employers nervous.

"What if I have a falling out with someone? They can come in now and point out one of my employees and say 'Check that guy out. I think he's illegal,'" said Pavlikowski, who owns three Burger King restaurants in Flagstaff.

WaPo has some more comments on the Senate's game of chicken on Iraq:
Moving to other Iraq proposals, Schumer said, while Republicans were blocking the Democrats' first choice, would have provided Republicans with a safe haven from taking the tough stance that is required to end the war.

"It would delay them coming on board, because they would say [to their voters], 'See, I'm trying to do something,' " Schumer said.


Yet, at the same time, Democratic war opponents are agitating for party leaders to push aggressively to bring troops home. Sen. Richard J. Durbin (Ill.) explained the leadership's rationale this week. "Was it worth it? I think it was. Now the Senate's on record. Many senators who've gone home and said they're opposed to the war voted to continue the war. They'll have to answer to the voters."
But Sen. Biden might not like the chicken game as much:
The Salazar-Alexander plan is an example of the sort of bridge measure that could lure Republicans to break from Bush -- a process some Democrats have noted is probably going to be a gradual process. "They need something to jump onto first," said Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a presidential candidate.
Meanwhile, Republicans and some Democrats are pushing back and complaining about the "rudeness" of Reid's tactics--and hinting that, as Sen. McCain put it,
By not passing the defense authorization bill, we are abandoning our men and women in the military. By not passing this legislation we are not allowing a pay raise; modernizing our soldiers’ military equipment; nor are we passing the wounded warriors legislation, which we all know is vitally needed to care for our wounded veterans.
Meanwhile, the NYT describes the current Senate condition as a "food fight" (without the food).

UPDATE: President Bush is pushing back, too.
While a lot of attention has been paid to the failure of the Collins amendment (which would protect tipsters of suspicious terrorist activity from being sued in civil court) 57-39 (the measure needed 60 votes to overcome a point-of-order claim), there were some other interesting votes on amendments to the education bill on the Senate floor yesterday, as well.

The Senate rejected on a point of order an amendment by Sen. Ensign (R-NV) that would "ensure that individuals are not able to receive Social Security benefits as a result of unlawful activity." This measure failed 57-40. Four Republicans opposed this measure: Hagel, Lugar, Specter, and Voinovich. Thirteen Democrats supported it: Baucus, Bayh, Conrad, Dorgan, Harkin, Klobuchar, Landrieu, Lincoln, Nelson (NE), Pryor, Rockefeller, Tester, and Wyden. The Senate also rejected 55-40 an amendment by Cornyn (R-TX) that would attempt to provide "relief for shortages in employment-based visas for aliens with extraordinary ability and advanced degrees and for nurses."

The Senate also rejected on a point of order the Coleman (R-MN) amendment that would prevent the FCC from re-instituting the "Fairness Doctrine." This amendment was blocked 49-48. Every Republican (with the exception of Brownback, who did not vote) voted in favor of this amendment; Bayh (IN) was the only Democrat to vote in favor of it. We'll have to see what that means....

[Correction: I originally forgot Landreiu--added her and got to 13. Sorry about that.]
An interesting story about how an immigrant wins compensation from his employer for work done without pay (it seems as though this immigrant is or was in the US without legal authorization). His former employer complains about the dangers of hiring the "undocumented":
"We give these guys jobs and they don't want to pay taxes; and when immigration comes and fines us $2,500 a day, they run over the fence and get away scot-free," Vincent Alessi complained after the appearance, adding that he fired Garcia only because he could not produce his Social Security card. "What I don't understand is how come they are illegal and can do a court proceeding in this country and my taxes are paying for it."
The plaintiff is more hopeful:
His hands clasped respectfully behind his back, he listened as the judge issued a settlement of $665 for 95 hours of work -- not the amount he had sought, but a victory nonetheless, he said.

"I am happy to get something because it was hard work running all day and it is my right to be paid," said Garcia in Spanish, after thanking a team of attorneys from the Legal Aid Society who assisted him. "Now I want to help others know they have a way of getting justice too."

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Human Rights Watch has filed, along with the Stanford Law School’s Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, a brief to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights arguing that the deportation of legal immigrants for certain criminal convictions is a violation of human rights. More on this here.
Via Drudge, Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff lays out plans to build part of the wall along the southern border.
Meanwhile, Rep. Tancredo (R-CO) offers his own--perhaps unconventional--effort to end the imprisonment of border patrol agents Ramos and Compean:
US Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colorado) today announced plans to offer an amendment to an annual spending bill that would prevent the Bush Administration from using any funds to enforce the judgment or sentences imposed by a federal judge in the case of U.S. vs. Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean. If adopted, the amendment would force the release of the two former Border Patrol agents whose case has been the focus of national news for several months.
The justification for this amendment? Tancredo's office says:
Article I of the U.S. Constitution provides Congress with absolute authority over all spending matters. By blocking the use of any funds to enforce the guilty verdict, or to impose the egregious sentence handed down in the Ramos case, Tancredo's amendment would have the effect of freeing the two agents from federal custody.

Interestingly, this approach is not unprecedented:
He [Tancredo] cited a previous example in 2005 in which the House approved an amendment that prevented the administration from using any funding to enforce a court decision barring the display of the Ten Commandments in a public building. Like that amendment, Tancredo's proposed amendment complies with House rules.
To my mind, this amendment could pose some interesting separation-of-powers questions, and this process of denying funding for the incarceration of certain individuals would seem essentially to be a way for Congress to grant de facto pardons (or at least commutations). It certainly raises some executive v. legislative power questions and could have far-ranging implications. Of course, I don't know how much congressional support Tancredo will be able to muster for this measure...
Via the AP, President Bush again reiterated his disappointment with the failure of the passage of the "grand bargain," raising the possibility of a labor shortage without a sufficient number of "guest workers." He's also keeping his options open with regard to a pardon/commutation for Ramos and Compean:

At a town-hall style meeting, Bush also rebuffed a question about whether he would consider pardoning two Border Patrol agents in prison for the cover-up of the shooting of a drug trafficker in Texas.

``No, I won't make you that promise,'' Bush told a woman who asked about a possible pardon. Many Republicans in Congress have said the men should not have been convicted and have criticized the federal U.S. attorney for even prosecuting the agents.

``I know it's an emotional issue but people need to look at the facts. These men were convicted by a jury of their peers after listening to the facts'' as presented by U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton, said Bush. Bush called Sutton a friend.


When Bush was asked about whether he would consider pardoning the two border patrol agents, he seemed briefly taken aback.

``I'm not going to make that kind of promise in a forum like this, obviously,'' he said. ``I'm interested in facts. I know the prosecutor very well, Johnny Sutton. He's a dear friend of mine from Texas. He's a fair guy. He is an evenhanded guy and I can't imagine, well, you know. ...''

To the woman, Bush said, ``You've got a nice smile but you can't entice me (into) making a public statement'' on the controversy.

Some reports say that some in Congress are considering allowing potentially over 170,000 "extra" green cards to become available for highly skilled workers over the next few years:

The discussions in Congress have begun because of recent revelations about the green-card program. U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) has said that 10,000 of the 140,000 green cards allocated for employment-based applicants were never used last year, in part because the department lacked the resources to process applications. That outraged would-be immigrants and their advocates, because an estimated 500,000 people are waiting for their green cards, and any green cards that go unused contribute to a longer wait.

The discussions now beginning in Congress are over whether the USCIS can go back and allocate green cards that have gone unused in previous years. The total number that are left over from the past 10 years is estimated to be as many as 170,000. If the proposal moves forward, those green cards would likely be used over several years rather than in a single year.
This story asserts that the support of Sen. Durbin (D-IL) could be crucial in getting such a measure passed through Congress; his office has not revealed his position on this policy.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Random speculation: Is part of Reid's gambit in withdrawing the defense bill and limiting amendments part of a game of senatorial chicken? Reid's been pretty careful about keeping half-way amendments (amendments urging a change in policy for the administration without requiring any withdrawal) from getting on the floor during this debate--at least as long as the Levin-Reed forced troop withdrawal was on the table. After all, as this Washington Post story observes:

Matzzie said his group's [] efforts are concentrated on "forcing the entire Republican Party to look over the side of the cliff" at the political consequences of continuing to stand by Bush. Antiwar groups are focused in particular on Senate Republicans up for reelection next year.

"Ultimately, we end the war by creating a toxic political environment for war supporters like the Republicans in the Senate," Matzzie said.

So could one attempt to create this "toxic environment" be denying uncertain Republicans the use of half-way measures, which would allow them to vote to "change course" without forcing withdrawal? By only allowing them to vote on Levin-Reed-style withdrawal amendments, Reid can attempt, if they continue to vote against such withdrawals, to bash them over the head with the claim that they continue to support only "stay the course." Of course, that tactic isn't completely consensus-building, but how much does Reid care about "bipartisan consensus" and how much does he care about forcing withdrawal and scoring political points to force this withdrawal?
Of course, this game of chicken could backfire politically--especially if the public begins to believe that the president's new Iraq policy is working. It could also backfire tactically for Reid (assuming he really does value a withdrawal over seeming temporary political advantage): his dualistic approach (withdrawal v. stay the course) could stiffen certain undecided Republicans' necks and prod them to stand with the president still--while a more consensus-based approach could slowly guide undecided Republicans in the direction of supporting forced withdrawal. This approach could also be a very bad idea in practice for the US and its foreign policy aims, and maybe forced withdrawal could be very bad policy in terms of facts on the ground in Iraq. But we're covering Capitol Hill politics here--let's not get too concerned with facts on the ground (who knows how much they figure into various political calculations)!
Of course, there's another side to this cliff, too, and the Republicans are beginning to emphasize that. By denying a vote on the Defense bill, Reid is also denying a vote on, as Sen. Cornyn puts it,

  • A 3.5 percent across-the-board pay raise for all uniformed service personnel effective January 1, 2008.
  • Authorization to provide $4 billion for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected, or MRAP, vehicles to protect our service members from Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • Authorization to provide over 25 critically important bonuses and special pays set to expire at the end of this calendar year (e.g., enlistment and reenlistment bonuses and health care professional incentive pays).
  • The Dignified Treatment of Wounded Warriors Act, which addresses support programs for wounded combat veterans and their families in a comprehensive manner, including numerous initiatives to address traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) specifically. This was unanimously adopted by amendment to the bill.
  • Authorization of new hiring and bonus authorities to assist the Department in recruiting and retaining needed health and mental care professionals.
  • Authorization to add $2.7 billion for items on the Army Chief of Staff’s Unfunded Requirements List, including
    • $775.1 million for reactive armor and other Stryker requirements,
    • $207.4 million for aviation survivability equipment,
    • $102.4 million for combat training centers, and
    • Funding for explosive ordnance equipment, night vision devices, and machine guns.
  • Authorization of $50 million in supplemental educational aid to local school districts affected by the assignment or location of military families
  • Authorization of payment of combat-related special compensation to service members who are medically retired due to a combat-related disability.

So we almost have two games of chicken here. And who knows who's going to win!
(Of course, all this speculation could become meaningless at any moment--depending on when/if/how Reid plans to bring this bill back...)

Update 6/20: WaPo has some more comments on this game of chicken:
Moving to other Iraq proposals, Schumer said, while Republicans were blocking the Democrats' first choice, would have provided Republicans with a safe haven from taking the tough stance that is required to end the war.

"It would delay them coming on board, because they would say [to their voters], 'See, I'm trying to do something,' " Schumer said.


Yet, at the same time, Democratic war opponents are agitating for party leaders to push aggressively to bring troops home. Sen. Richard J. Durbin (Ill.) explained the leadership's rationale this week. "Was it worth it? I think it was. Now the Senate's on record. Many senators who've gone home and said they're opposed to the war voted to continue the war. They'll have to answer to the voters."

But Sen. Biden might not like the chicken game as much:
The Salazar-Alexander plan is an example of the sort of bridge measure that could lure Republicans to break from Bush -- a process some Democrats have noted is probably going to be a gradual process. "They need something to jump onto first," said Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a presidential candidate.
Meanwhile, Republicans and some Democrats are pushing back and complaining about the "rudeness" of Reid's tactics--and hinting that, as Sen. McCain put it,
By not passing the defense authorization bill, we are abandoning our men and women in the military. By not passing this legislation we are not allowing a pay raise; modernizing our soldiers’ military equipment; nor are we passing the wounded warriors legislation, which we all know is vitally needed to care for our wounded veterans.
Meanwhile, the NYT describes the current Senate condition as a "food fight" (without the food).
Sen. Cornyn (R-TX) and Sen. Feinstein (D-CA) write a letter to President Bush asking him to commute the sentences of imprisoned border agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean. The text of the letter:

Dear President Bush:

On October 19th of last year, former Border Patrol Agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean were sentenced to 11 years and 1 day, and 12 years, respectively, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas for the events surrounding their attempt to apprehend a drug trafficker who was delivering 743 pounds of marijuana valued at $1.2 million.

Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a fact-finding hearing on this case. That hearing confirmed the concerns raised by many members of the public: that this penalty levied on these Agents is excessive and that they deserve the immediate exercise of your Executive clemency powers.

We believe that this is a case of prosecutorial overreaching, and to allow Agents Ramos and Compean to serve over a decade in prison would represent a serious miscarriage of justice.

Apart from the legal issues pending on appeal, the hearing highlighted the many additional irregularities in this prosecution which warrant clemency, including:

  • Aldrete-Davila, the star witness, was transporting an enormous quantity of drugs when Agents Ramos and Compean tried to apprehend him,
  • Aldrete-Davila tried to flee from the border agents three times, got into a physical altercation with one of the agents and subsequently lied when first asked about the events;
  • Aldrete-Davila selectively provided information to prosecutors, and refused to reveal his drug source, and he even refused to provide the names of his friends who had considered forming a “hunting party” in Mexico to randomly shoot border patrol agents in revenge for his injuries. This was a direct breach of Aldrete-Davila’s immunity agreement and jeopardized the lives of front line border patrol agents.
  • Despite the fact that this incident occurred while Aldrete-Davila was transporting 743 pounds of marijuana, the prosecution gave him a border crossing pass that allowed him to enter the U.S. legally, without notifying U.S. authorities and without supervision;
  • There is evidence that while using this pass Aldrete-Davila entered the United States on 10 occasions in the eight months, and on at least one occasion he was wholly unsupervised;
  • There is evidence that during one of these crossings Aldrete-Davila entered the United States and again transported a large quantity of marijuana – perhaps as much as 750 pounds;
  • There is evidence that this second transportation of drugs occurred on the eve of his admission to a United States Military hospital for treatment that the prosecutor specially arranged. If true, this means he used his immunity to further harm the United States – yet nothing was done to revoke his immunity and prosecutors continued to treat him as a “victim”;
  • We know that the jury was barred from hearing any evidence about Aldrete-Davila’s second drug load and instead, the prosecutor was able to argue in closing statements that Aldrete-Davila had run from border agents just because he wanted to get home.
  • In addition, the prosecutors chose to charge the agents under 18 U.S.C. 924(c) despite the fact that such a charge carries a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence, despite the fact that an early evaluation of the case lead prosecutors to offer plea deals that would have produce much lower sentences, and despite the fact that Section 924(c) should be used as an enhancing charge against drug dealers and individuals who commit violent crimes;
  • The prosecutors brought 12 counts against Agents Ramos and Compean; there was not a need to add the 924(c) firearms offense.
  • These were Border Patrol Agents in good standing before this event, with no criminal records.
  • Finally, even U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton has conceded that concerns about the fairness of the sentence are legitimate.

Given these facts, we believe clemency is warranted for Agents Ramos and Compean. Agents Ramos and Compean have now been in prison for more than six months. Agent Ramos has been physically assaulted while serving his term and the Agents’ request to remain out of prison while their appeal was pending was denied by the Fifth Circuit. Both agents will remain incarcerated for many more months, even if their conviction is ultimately thrown out – unless action is taken quickly.

While this case has generated strong emotions on both sides, we do not believe that justice will be served by Agents Ramos and Compean spending over a decade in prison. We urge you to commute their prison sentences immediately.


Dianne Feinstein
John Cornyn

Arizona businesses are coordinating a public relations campaign against the state's recently passed employer sanctions bill. The federal government extends the deadline for certain applications for green cards this year.
Reid offers a deal: majority votes on Salazar-Alexander, Warner-Lugar, Byrd-Clinton, and Nelson-Collins in exchange for a majority vote on Levin-Reed, but McConnell objects.
Reid says he's going to "lay aside" the Defense authorization bill for now.
Levin-Reed amendment fails 52-47.

Collins (R-ME) ends up backing Levin-Reed withdrawal. Reid changed to vote "no" for procedural reasons.
Sen. Collins (R-ME) may be on the fence on voting for the Levin-Reed withdrawal amendment, according to the NYT. Still, backers of the amendment are doubtful they'll reach the 60-vote threshold.
Does LULAC support a return to the "Fairness Doctrine"? This report on the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) convention suggests the possibility:
Domingo Garcia of Dallas, the national co-chairman of LULAC's civil rights commission, said that he has asked U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to reintroduce the "Fairness Doctrine" in Congress to call for balanced coverage of controversial issues.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Don't get too comfortable on those cots! The Politico outlines Reid's plan for quorum calls, which will have Senators come to the floor to show their presence: count on one around 12-12:30 am and one at 3:00 am or so. And the Sergeant of Arms may be pulling them out of bed: after the quorum call at midnight or so, Reid may then ask the Senate to vote on a measure that would instruct the
Sergeant at Arms "to request, and, when necessary, to compel" any absent senators to attend.

Reid made a similar motion earlier this evening, which failed by a 44-47 margin. Nine senators did not vote on that motion: Sens. Joe Biden (D-Del.), Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), Trent Lott (R-Miss.), Barack Obama (D-Ill.), and Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.). Johnson has been on medical leave from the Senate since the start of the session.

UPDATE: Reid now talks about another vote to occur around or after 5:00 am. Cloture vote on Levin-Reed withdrawal amendment looks set for 11:00 am.
In a Politico story asserting that various members of the GOP caucus have "rallied" to the president on Iraq (for the moment at least--and the present "slumber party" seems to have soured some institutional-type Republicans on any cooperation with Reid for a forced withdrawal), Sen. Smith (R-OR), one of the three R cosponsors of the Levin-Reed withdrawal amendment (Hagel and Snowe are the others--and backers of this amendment are doubtful they'll get any more R supporters), makes an interesting assertion:
"I'd ballpark it at a dozen," Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) said when asked how many Republicans are ready to break with the president over Iraq but have not done so publicly. Smith is one of three Republicans who have signed on as co-sponsors of the Levin-Reed plan, which is scheduled to come up for a vote Wednesday after a rare all-night session of the Senate.

Smith said he didn't "want to name names" but said this was "what I hear in the (Republican) cloakroom."
Rumors, rumors!
The Corner has a good roundup of information on the Ramos-Compean imprisonment hearing--as does the Houston Chronicle. Kate O'Beirne reports that not "a single Senator endorsed [prosecutor] Sutton's view of the case." And the NRO staff links to Cornyn's (R-TX) opening statement. After the hearing, Sen. Feinstein (D-CA) decided, according to WND, to ask President Bush to commute the sentences of the border agents. Reps. Hunter and Rohrabacher (both R-CA) both support legislation to grant a congressional pardon to the border agents (and both would support a presidential pardon of the men). Sen. Feinstein is also considering that legislation.
Botswana deals with its own immigration pressures.
Sen. Alexander (R-TN) has also come out in support of legislation banning the re-implementation of the "Fairness Doctrine." See also this.
Along with fellow Virginia county Prince William, Loudoun County may pass a measure limiting the ability of "undocumented immigrants" to access some county services.
Malkin has post up about how Majority Whip Durbin (D-IL) plans to re-introduce the provisions of the "DREAM Act" as an amendment to the present Iraq funding bill. Sen. Hagel (R-NE) and Sen. Lugar (R-IN) are co-sponsors of this amendment. Other sponsors include Bayh, Obama, Lieberman, Leahy, Boxer, Feinstein, Clinton, Menendez, Feingold, Kerry and Cantwell. Durbin lays out the provisions of this measure:

What I tried to do several years ago was to write a law to take into consideration these young people. It is called the DREAM Act. The DREAM Act was a part of this comprehensive immigration reform bill. Here is what it says: If you came to the United States before the age of 16, if you have lived in this country for at least 5 years, if you graduate from high school, and then if you will complete either 2 years of college or 2 years of service in the military, we will give you an opportunity for legal status in America.

Durbin also claims that the Pentagon has helped with the drafting of this legislation. In his discussion of this measure, he praises the "diversity" of non-citizen soldiers and says how their numbers could be use to ensure that the military has enough soldiers.
An interesting Politico story about some of the press strategies of Republicans and Democrats over the next few days--particularly about the proposed "all-nighter."
Via the Washington Times, Sen. Webb (D-VA) proposes another winner in the seeming failure of the "grand bargain": freshman Democratic senators:

Sen. James H. Webb Jr. says a new political power emerged in the Senate during the immigration debate: a group of freshman Democrats who bucked the chamber's leaders and sided with American workers, and who now turn their attention to bringing accountability to the war in Iraq.

"On the immigration bill, that was where the first clear announcement of independence occurred, sitting there talking among ourselves about what had happened out in the campaign trail," the Virginia Democrat told editors and reporters yesterday at The Washington Times, explaining how he and many other Democrats balked at the bill written by Republican and Democratic leaders.

Indeed, five of the nine freshman Democrats (if you include Sanders, who caucuses with the Democrats) voted against cloture: Brown (OH), McCaskill (MO), Sanders (VT), Tester (MT), and Webb (VA). These 9 freshmen are now proposing an amendment to the Iraq funding bill that would create a "Commission on Wartime Contracting."

Webb also criticizes the administration's record of enforcement:

He said Congress should not wait until 2009 to tackle the security side, and said they need to put money into the pipeline now, even though he doesn't see much enthusiasm in the Bush administration for enforcing laws such as employer sanctions.

"They can enforce it right now. They don't even need any more money," he said.

Could the Coleman-DeMint-Thune amendment be coming back? Last week, an objection blocked Sen. Coleman's (R-MN) attempt to introduce the amendment, which would prohibit the FCC from re-instituting the "Fairness Doctrine," and thus kept the amendment from being debated and voted on. But Coleman's people, according to CNS, have hope that they can try to attach this amendment to the Defense bill again:
a spokesman for Coleman told Cybercast News Service that Fairness Doctrine opponents are "actively seeking" ways to reintroduce it this week.

"I think there's still an opportunity to do it on [the Defense authorization bill], so we might bring it back up," spokesman LeRoy Coleman said. "It was blocked once [but] hopefully we can have a debate.
Partisan Disillusionment?: An interesting point from some of the latest Rasmussen numbers:

Among unaffiliated voters, the GOP now has a modest edge on two issues—National Security and Immigration. On National Security, unaffiliated voters prefer the GOP by a 44% to 37% margin. On Immigration, the unaffiliateds prefer Republicans by a narrow 32% to 27% margin (41% don’t trust either party on the Immigration issue).

The immigration issue highlights Republican disaffection with their own party. Just 62% of Republican voters prefer the GOP on Immigration. Twenty-five percent (25%) of Republicans don’t have a preference for either party.

So the GOP has been gaining in independent support on immigration, but it seems as though both independents (41%) and Republicans (25%) show significant dissatisfaction with both parties. I wonder what the Democratic numbers are...

Monday, July 16, 2007

Sen. Grassley (R-IA) proposes an amendment to Iraq bill that would require federal government departments and agencies to use the Basic Pilot Program and require all Department of Defense contractors to use this program to check the eligibility of employees. Grassley says that about 400 federal agencies are already using this program. Cites a number of examples of individuals working "illegally" working for Defense contractors and having access to sensitive areas--including naval ships and military bases.
However, Grassley says that this amendment, because of parliamentary reasons, will not come up for a vote now.
Interesting debate going on now on the Senate floor between Sen. Warner (R-VA) and Sen. Durbin (D-IL) about the influence of Iran on the ground in Iraq and congressional power to regulate the military affairs on the ground in Iraq. Sen. Warner is currently sponsoring a resolution that will "update" the president's power to act in military affairs in Iraq. Warner seems very skeptical of effects of Levin-Reed withdrawal amendment on the ground and says that he cannot support it.
Keeping Things "Fair": On Friday, the attempt (led by, among others, Sen. Coleman) to add an amendment limiting the ability of the FCC to reinstitute the "Fairness Doctrine" to the current Iraq funding proposal was stopped for the moment by an objection. An interesting exchange between Sen. Coleman (R-MN) and Minority Whip Sen. Durbin (D-IL), who is sympathetic to the "Fairness Doctrine," on this issue. Newsbusters has a transcript of the exchange (though it's a little muddled). Telling part of that exchange (as transcripted--emphasis added):

[Mr. Coleman] But I'm disappointed that the other side of
the aisle will not give us an opportunity for a full debate on this issue. In
fact, I think -- I want all sides to be heard. What I don't want and where the
fundamental disagreement is for the regulatory power of government to sit in judgment as big brother, to oversee and take stock with pencil and pad and take notes, well, we had Sean Hannity over here and now we've got to get somebody on the left over there. Balance should be heard but we have a marketplace that provides that opportunity.
We have folks who support the Senator from Illinois's perspective. We have folks who support my perspective. Sometimes we're the same. But for government to dictate, that's the concern. That's why the -- that's why the F.C.C. Got rid of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987. It's why the Supreme Court has raised questions about the necessity of the fairness doctrine. I don't think it's constitutional. We haven't got to that question.
Mr. Durbin: Would the senator yield for a question?
Mr. Coleman: I would yield to one further question.
Mr. Durbin: I'm sorry to interrupt you but I really wish that
through the commerce committee or the appropriate committee of jurisdiction, we
can really get into this question. But the senator is arguing that the
marketplace can provide. What is the senator's response if the marketplace fails
to provide? What is the marketplace does not provide opportunities to hear both
points of view? Since the people who are seeking the licenses are using
America's airwaves, does the government, speaking for the people of this country, have any interest at that point to step in and make sure there is a despair balanced approach to the -- a fair and balanced approach to the information given to the American people?
Mr. Coleman: Mr. President, I'll respond to the final question here. Very clear disagreement here. The government does not -- does not -- have the responsibility.

Via The Hill: last week, the House added a provision (sponsored by House Republicans) to a housing bill that would require "recipients of public housing assistance to provide proof of legal residency, such as a Social Security card or passport." The measure passed 233-186, and the bill itself passed 383-83. According to the Charleston Gazette, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) proposed the measure on the House floor.