Monday, December 3, 2007

chairman conyers nails bush-cheney spin on bill priorities: december 3, 2007

not surprising -- just
disheartening -- the protect
america act is an odious, liberty-
stealing piece of garbage, and the
democratic alternative offers a distinct
improvement. but bush will have none
of it -- consequently, both chair-
man conyers, and senator leahy issued
separate, but similarly-toned statements,
about the continued bush-cheney mis-
characterizations of their respective
legislative efforts, on national
security, particularly -- take a look:

December 3, 2007

This morning, in discussing his legislative priorities, President Bush suggested that Democratic alternatives to the Protect America Act would restrict tools for the men and women of the U.S. intelligence community and characterized Congressional unwillingness to grant amnesty to telecommunications carriers as "obstruction. . ."

I am disappointed that the President did not point out specific areas in which our foreign intelligence capabilities could be improved. Instead, he merely repeated his insistence on amnesty for telecommunications companies that may have allowed surveillance of their customers without court authorization. The President has not made the case for how retroactive immunity from lawsuits or prosecution would improve our intelligence-gathering capabilities going forward. While criticizing Congress as obstructionist for not acceding to his demands, he continues to keep us and the American people in the dark about what his staff and the telecom companies did that might require such immunity. That is not negotiation, that is a lecture. . .

and here a bit from each of
sen. leahy's two statements:

. . .I urge the Republican Senator who has a hold on the bill to extend temporary judgeships around the country, S.1327, to remove this hold so that we can provide the relief needed in our federal judiciary in Kansas, Ohio, Nebraska, California, and Hawaii. Enacting court security legislation will likewise require the relinquishing of a Republican hold. Another matter stalled since this summer by a Republican hold has been the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act, S.535. I have made statements to the Senate about these consensus measures before. I hope that with the year rapidly ending, the Republican Senator holding up these worthwhile matters will reconsider the opposition and allow bills supported by an overwhelming, bipartisan majority of the Senate to pass. . .

A number of other measures reported by the Judiciary Committee have been delayed by Republican holds, too. If it is not possible to move these measures this month, I urge the Senate to take up and pass these bills when it begins its second session in January. One such bill is the War Profiteering Prevention Act, S.119, which was reported by the Committee in April. It would provide a significant new tool for federal law enforcement to combat the scourge of war profiteering, and it is needed now more than ever, given the ongoing reports of rampant fraud, waste and abuse in Iraq. . .

. . .We have proceeded with significant bipartisan legislation on privacy, press shield, patents, FOIA, public corruption, and crime. Currently we are working together to improve the FISA legislation about to be considered by the Senate by exploring whether we can adopt an amendment that will increase accountability through the procedural device of substitution, rather than a blanket grant of retroactive immunity for the warrantless wiretapping of Americans that took place from 2001 through 2007. Senator Specter and I joined to seek to restore the great writ of habeas corpus but, despite support by a majority of the Senate, we were stymied by a Republican filibuster. Likewise, we have joined to achieve majority support for voting rights for the District of Columbia only to be blocked this year by another Republican filibuster.

I hope that as we enter these last few weeks of the year, we are allowed to make progress on the matters I have outlined here today and that the obstruction that has stalled our further progress will not be continued. Let us move forward together in the best interest of the American people. Any Senator can prevent action on an item in these waning days of the session. There is no secret or magic about that. The question for Senators this month is whether they are willing to put aside minor differences and partisan agendas to join with us in making progress and moving forward.

~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~

. . .With great fanfare, in the days before the congressional Thanksgiving recess, the White House made a show of releasing the names of a score of nominees. That “announcement” was mostly bluster. So, for example, today -- more than two and a half weeks after the grand announcements -- Mark R. Filip has not been nominated to be the Deputy Attorney General, Kevin O’Connor has not been nominated to be the Associate Attorney General, and Gregory Katsas has not been nominated to be the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Civil Division at the Department of Justice. Nor have we received their questionnaires, their FBI background information or their ethics reports.

Indeed, we only this week received the questionnaires for the President’s nominations to head the important Civil Rights Division and the Tax Division at the Department of Justice, more than two weeks after those nominations were announced.

Further, with respect to United States Attorneys and United States Marshals vacancies, we have not seen the cooperation or expedition that I would have liked. We finally received the questionnaires and FBI background information on three U.S. Attorney nominees just yesterday. I have asked Committee staff to review these matters quickly and will ask Senators to consider the nominations of Diane J. Humetewa to be U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona, Gregory Brower to be the U.S. Attorney for the District of Nevada, and Edmund Booth to be U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia as promptly as possible and, if possible, as soon as this Thursday morning. I note that Ms. Humetewa and Mr. Brower are being named as replacements for two of the outstanding U.S. Attorneys who were fired on December 7 last year as part of the ill-advised partisan plan that, when we investigated, led to the resignations of Attorney General Gonzales and so many others who were involved. Paul Charlton and Daniel Bodgen should not have been fired and are stilled owed an explanation and apology by this Administration.

I will make progress when I can. I had hoped to hold a confirmation hearing on the nomination of Mark Filip to be the Deputy Attorney General, the second-highest official at the Justice Department, as soon as next Wednesday. I felt I could only proceed to do so if we received the paperwork and the nomination by yesterday in order to allow Senators an opportunity to prepare for the hearing on an expedited basis. Without those materials it would be ill-advised and far too rushed to proceed next week. Depending on when we receive the overdue materials, we may still be able to hold a hearing before this session ends, but time is fleeting.

This Administration has known since at least May 14, 2007, when the former Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty announced that he was resigning, that there was to be a vacancy in this important position. Yet even after he proceeded to resign, there was no one named. That was more than four months ago.

When the Administration prevailed upon Craig Morford to serve as the Acting Deputy Attorney General, I wrote to the White House counsel to ask whether Mr. Morford would transition from being named the acting to being the President’s nominee. That was back in July. I was trying back then to move forward and to put effective leadership in place. For my efforts, I was essentially told to mind my own business and that they would tell me who would be the new Deputy Attorney General when they decided who would be nominated to be the next Deputy Attorney General. I thank Mr. Morford for his service, for his willingness to answer the call when the Department was in complete disarray and for the personal sacrifices he has been called upon to make by being separated from his family for months and months.

By not providing the nominations to the highest-ranking vacancies within the Justice Department and not providing the basic background materials needed to review such nominations before the Thanksgiving recess, the Administration has once again foreclosed the opportunity to have these nominees considered by the Senate and in place this year. They will now necessarily carry over into the next session. That is unfortunate and unnecessary. . .

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