Senate

Illegal immigrants suspected in over 30 border fires during a five-year period

November 24, 2011

“People entering the U.S. illegally from Mexico are believed responsible for more than one-third of human-ignited wildfires in Arizona over a five-year period, according to a government report that could stoke congressional debate over illegal immigration.”

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Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) introduces legislation to limit the ‘checked bag fees’ that airlines can charge

November 22, 2011

“Too much carry-on luggage toted by other passengers recently emerged as the No. 1 complaint of air travelers, and with the Thanksgiving travel crush underway, Congress might consider limiting the bag fees that airlines can charge.

Those per-bag fees that airlines have been charging for checked luggage have led passengers to push the carry-on limits, slowing down airport security checkpoints and creating a mad scramble to lay claim to overhead bins once people board.

“Many airlines consider checking a bag not to be a right, but a privilege — and one with a hefty fee attached,” said Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), who has introduced legislation that would “guarantee passengers one checked bag without the financial burden of paying a fee, or the headache of trying to fit everything into a carry-on.””

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Republican Senators request additional information from the Justice Department on Justice Kagan’s previous work on ObamaCare while in the position of Solicitor General

November 19, 2011

“Top Republican senators said late Friday the Justice Department has been stonewalling their request for more information on Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, and said her previous work as solicitor general “may satisfy both requirements for recusal” from the upcoming health-care case.

The senators, led by Minority Leader McConnell, are demanding Attorney General Holder comply with requests for more documents about Justice Kagan’s role in planning the administration’s defense, and said unless he provides the information it could undermine confidence in the court’s eventual ruling on the case.

“President Obama chose to nominate a member of his administration to the Supreme Court knowing it was likely that, if confirmed, she would be in a position to rule on his signature domestic policy achievement,” said the four senators.”

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Congress slashes funding for Obama’s national high-speed rail project

November 18, 2011

“The House and Senate voted today to eliminate most of the $8 billion that President Obama sought next year for his vision of nationwide high-speed rail.

Republicans trumpeted what they said was the death of the president’s six-year, $53 billion plan, saying the future of fast trains lies along the Northeast Corridor. The funding was eliminated in a deal with Democrats on a spending bill for the Transportation Department and other agencies. The measure cleared the House by 298-121 and the Senate by 70-30 on its way to Obama’s desk.

The Associated Press points out, however, that “billions of dollars still in the pipeline will ensure work will continue on some projects. And it’s still possible money from another transportation grant program can be steered to high-speed trains.”"

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White House threatens to veto 2012 National Defense Authorization Act over provisions mandating military custody for some terrorism suspects & preventing the President from transferring detainees out of Guantanamo Bay

November 17, 2011

“The White House Thursday threatened to veto the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act because of a series of provisions within the bill that mandate military custody for some terrorism suspects and prevent the administration from transferring detainees out of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

“Any bill that challenges or constrains the President’s critical authorities to collect intelligence, incapacitate dangerous terrorists, and protect the Nation would prompt the President’s senior advisers to recommend a veto,” the White House said in a statement.

The language over detention, which has divided Democrats on Capitol Hill, sets up a clash between the Congress and the White House over a bill that authorizes $526 billion for the Defense Department budget.”

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Nine ‘Giants of the Internet’ (AOL, Mozilla, eBay, Twitter, Facebook, Yahoo, Google, LinkedIn, Zynga) pay for full-page ads in major newspapers against the PROTECT IP and Stop Online Piracy Acts

November 17, 2011

“Internet giants have taken to the pages of The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and the Washington Times, to fight back against SOPA, the Internet censorship bill.

Nine giants of the Internet — Google, eBAy, AOL, Facebook, Yahoo, Zynga, LinkedIn, Mozilla and Twitter — placed a full-page ad in The New York Times as part of their efforts to fight back against the “Stop Online Piracy Act” (SOPA) and the “PROTECT IP Act.””

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Senate Armed Services Committee pushes Defense Bill with detainee provisions the White House opposes

November 17, 2011

“Setting up a showdown with the White House, a Senate panel pushed ahead Tuesday with a sweeping defense bill that would require military custody of terrorist suspects and limit government authority to transfer detainees.

The Democratic-led Armed Services Committee approved the revised legislation over objections from Obama administration officials and opposition from several senior Democratic senators who argue that the bill would tie the president’s hands in the war on terror.

Weeks of talks between the administration and Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the panel’s chairman, and Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the top Republican, led to some changes in provisions on handling detainees, but they were not sufficient to overcome White House concerns.

“Issues which have been raised I believe have been addressed,” said Levin, who indicated that the Senate could consider the measure this week. He insisted that “there are all kinds of misconceptions” about the detainee provisions.”

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Republican Leaders in Congress seek support for $250 billion increased tax revenue over 10 years

November 17, 2011

“Republican leaders have started laying the groundwork to persuade GOP lawmakers to support a compromise on a tax increase, an issue that has deadlocked a congressional “super committee” pressed to come up with a deficit-reduction plan by next week.

GOP leaders presented to their rank-and-file members a scenario under which Republicans would agree to $250 billion in new tax revenue over the next 10 years, largely by limiting itemized deductions for upper-income households.

In return, Democrats would agree to undertake a revamp of the tax code next year that would freeze top income tax brackets and others at their current levels — rather than allow them to rise at the end of 2012.

Some House Republicans expressed support for the idea after a closed-door briefing from GOP leaders, led by Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas, the Republican co-chairman of the congressional super committee.”

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Revisions to a Congressional Spending Bill classify pizza as a vegetable

November 16, 2011

“Revisions to a spending bill Tuesday would classify pizza as a vegetable and pits school lunch reformers against conservatives who say government should keep its fork to itself.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest blasted Congress in a release saying it’s more interested in protecting prepackaged and frozen food industries than protecting children’s health.

“Pizza should be served with a vegetable, not count as one,” nutrition director Margo Wootan said.

Congress is pushing back against the Obama administration and its Agriculture Department bill that limits the use of starches like potatoes, cuts sodium and boosting whole grain in school lunches.

A final version of the bill released late Monday cuts out the reforms based on the 2009 recommendations of the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences.”

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Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MS): If we can reduce the adult onset of diabetes by 10% we can solve our $15 trillion debt problem

November 16, 2011

Video

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TSA puts off the safety study of full body scanners

November 16, 2011

“Several safety reviewers who initially advised the government on the scanners said they had concerns about the machines being used, as they are today, on millions of airline passengers.

At a Senate hearing after the story ran, TSA Administrator John Pistole agreed to a request by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, to conduct a new independent study of the health effects of the X-ray scanners.
But at a Senate hearing of a different committee last week, Pistole said he had since received a draft report on the machines by the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general, or IG, that might render the independent study unnecessary.

“My strong belief is those types of machines are still completely safe,” Pistole said. “If the determination is that this IG study is not sufficient, then I will look at still yet another additional study.””

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President Obama: U.S. budget talks could disrupt holiday plans

November 16, 2011

“”It is great to be home, great to feel that Aloha spirit,” Obama told a fundraiser in his native state of Hawaii, where he had spent the weekend hosting world leaders at an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.

Obama said his wife Michelle and their two daughters would return to Hawaii soon for their traditional Christmas vacation trip but said his own plans hinged on whether Washington could break a deadlock on key pieces of legislation.

“We’ll see if Washington gets its business done, so I can get here as well. But that’s always a challenge,” Obama said.”

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Senators introduce two pieces of legislation to stop insider trading in Congress

November 15, 2011

“A bill to stop “insider trading” in Congress is gaining momentum with two new Senate supporters.

Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., today introduced the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act of 2011, which would prohibit members or employees of Congress, as well as executive branch employees, from using nonpublic information obtained through their public service for investing or any attempt at personal financial gain. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., is introducing a slightly different version of the legislation on Wednesday.

Like everyone else, members of Congress are subject to current insider trading laws. However, current insider trading laws do not apply to nonpublic information about current or upcoming congressional activity — that’s because members of Congress aren’t technically obligated to keep that information confidential.”

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Speaker Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Reid meet Tuesday after the Supercommittee is deadlocked

November 15, 2011

“Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) met Tuesday, a sign they might take a larger role in deficit talks, congressional aides say.

The supercommittee is tasked with finding at least $1.2 trillion in deficit cuts by Nov. 23. Failure to reach a deal would trigger across-the-board cuts of the same amount divided evenly between discretionary and security spending.

In a closed-door briefing Tuesday, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), the Republican co-chairman of the panel, said divisions among Democrats are standing in the way of an agreement. He told his colleagues the GOP had put multiple offers on the table that Democrats had yet to accept.

Boehner told reporters that the GOP offer was “fair,” referring to a $1.2 trillion proposal by supercommittee member Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) that included $300 billion in new tax revenue.”

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Solyndra: The Department of Energy asked us to postpone layoff announcements until after the midterm elections

November 15, 2011

“The new e-mails about the layoff announcement were released Tuesday morning as part of a House Energy and Commerce committee memo, provided in advance of Energy Secretary Chu’s scheduled testimony before the investigative committee Thursday.

Solyndra’s chief executive warned the Energy Department on Oct. 25, 2010, that he intended to announce worker layoffs Oct. 28. But in an Oct. 30, 2010, e-mail, advisers to Solyndra’s primary investor, Argonaut Equity, explain that the Energy Department had strongly urged the company to put off the layoff announcement until Nov. 3. The midterm elections were held Nov. 2.

“DOE continues to be cooperative and have indicated that they will fund the November draw on our loan (app. $40 million) but have not committed to December yet. They [pushed] for us to [announce] the consolidation to employees and vendors [on] Nov. 3rd – oddly they didn’t give a reason for that date.””

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