In remarks kicking off today's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., made a defiant call for Congress to "be bold" and "act" on gun violence.
"Too many children are dying," she said. "We must do something."
Giffords, who survived a gunshot to the head two years ago during an assassination attempt that left six people dead, read slowly but forcefully from prepared remarks, and acknowledged that "speaking is difficult."
"But I need to say something important. Violence is a big problem," she said. "It will be hard. But the time is now. You must act. Be bold. Be courageous. Americans are counting on you."
Meanwhile, while the Senate listened to testimony, there was another mass shooting at a Phoenix, Arizona office complex. One person was killed.
I have high hopes for Sen. Al Franken, who never stops fighting for the things he believes in. How refreshing that a freshman Senator refuses to shut up and sit down, instead putting himself in the forefront of progressive fights:
Republican senators and conservative jurists found themselves on the defensive after Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) blasted "conservative activism" on federal courts.
Franken, in a major speech Thursday evening before the American Constitution Society, sought to set the stage for a summer confirmation battle in the Senate over President Barack Obama's pick, Elena Kagan, to join the Supreme Court.
The first-term senator launched a full-throated attack on originalism, the judicial philosophy often upheld by conservatives as an example for model nominees for the federal courts.
"Originalism isn’t a pillar of our constitutional history. It’s a talking point," Franken said, adding a jab at Chief Justice John Roberts for his famous comparison between judges and baseball umpires during Roberts's confirmation hearings.
"How ridiculous," Franken said. "Judges are nothing like umpires."
The Senate is set to take up the Kagan nomination in the Senate Judiciary Committee, on which Franken serves, later this month.
With the battle over Kagan and other judicial nominees having stalled in the Senate, Franken also took a moment to castigate GOP filibusters of Obama's court picks.
"The Republican obstruction that is standing between you and the work you’ve agreed to do for your country is unacceptable. And we will continue to fight it," Franken said, apologizing to Goodwin Liu and Dawn Johnsen, the president's picks for a circuit court spot and director of the Office of Legal Counsel, respectively, who were both in the audience.
The Senate Republicans are like willful children: "You can't make me!" They obstruct, for obstruction's sake and here's a perfect example from Right Wing Watch:
If you need any more proof that Senate Republicans' sole mission at the moment is to prevent anything from happening in their chamber of Congress, look no further than the fact that today the Senate had to seek cloture on the nomination Barbara Milano Keenan to fill a vacancy on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, resulting in a vote of 99-0.
That's right - not one Republican senator spoke against her qualifications, record, or views or voted to prevent her nomination from receiving an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor ... and yet still they filibustered, forcing Democrats to seek a cloture vote in order to move ahead, simply because they are committed to obstructing the governing process in every way possible.
Last year’s total was the fewest judicial nominees confirmed in the first year of a Presidency in more than 50 years. Those 12 Federal circuit and district court confirmations were even below the 17 the Senate Republican majority allowed to be confirmed in the 1996 session. After that presidential election year, Chief Justice Rehnquist began criticizing the pace of judicial confirmations and the partisan Republican tactics.
Among the frustrations is that Senate Republicans have delayed and obstructed nominees chosen after consultation with Republican home state Senators. Despite President Obama’s efforts, Senate Republicans have treated his nominees much, much worse.
I noted when the Senate considered the nominations of Judge Christina Reiss of Vermont and Mr. Abdul Kallon of Alabama relatively promptly that they should serve as the model for Senate action. Sadly, they are the exception rather than the model. They show what the Senate could do, but does not. Time and again, noncontroversial nominees are delayed. When the Senate does finally consider them, they are confirmed overwhelmingly. Of the 15 Federal circuit and district court judges confirmed, twelve have been confirmed unanimously.
That is right. Republicans have only voted against three of President Obama's nominees to the Federal circuit and district courts. One of those, Judge Gerry Lynch of the Second Circuit, garnered only three negative votes and 94 votes in favor. Judge Andre Davis of Maryland was stalled for months and then confirmed with 72 votes in favor and only 16 against. Judge David Hamilton was filibustered in a failed effort to prevent an up-or-down vote.
The obstruction and delay is part of a partisan pattern. Even when they cannot say “no,” Republicans nonetheless demand that the Senate go slow. The practice is continuing. This is the 17th filibuster of President Obama's nominees. That does not count the many other nominees who were delayed or are being denied up-or-down votes by Senate Republicans refusing to agree to time agreements to consider even noncontroversial nominees.
There literally is no end to the extent by which Republican politicians will lie, distort, and manufacture statements in their efforts to disrupt, deny, and destroy the Obama administration's attempts to govern. At today's Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on 9/11 trial, the Fort Hood shooter, and terrorism, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) decided to flip-flop on the designation of the Gitmo detainees. Are they "unlawful enemy combatants" or are they "prisoners of war"?
SESSIONS: The enemy, who could of been obliterated on the battlefield on one day, but was captured instead does not then become a common American criminal. They are first a prisoner of war, once they're captured. The laws of war say, as did Lincoln and Grant, that the prisoners will not be released when the war - until the war ends. How absurb is it to say that we will release people who plan to attack us again?
Sessions seems to be saying that because these detainees were captured by the military, they have become prisoners of war and should not be released - even if found not guilty or after serving a prison term (assuming less than a life sentence) - until the "war on terror" is over (which, under a Republican point of view, will never be over). But on the other hand, SecDef Don Rumsfeld and the other fun-loving bunch of Bushites were very firm about NOT calling them "prisoners of war" because they were not supposed to get rights under the Geneva Convention (or any other form of legal writs - see waterboarding, justification of).
In fact, as one of the commenters at the TPM post notes, there was public law developed to explicitly designate any non-US citizen who was accused of supporting terrorism or acting against the United States as a terrorist as being eligible for military commissions.
I thought like you until I read this, from the Military Commissions Act: "‘(e) Geneva Conventions Not Establishing Private Right of Action- No alien unprivileged enemy belligerent subject to trial by military commission under this chapter may invoke the Geneva Conventions as a basis for a private right of action."
This discussion becomes quickly complex with legal passages as a debate over whether the military tribunals should take KSM or if the federal court system has adequate jurisdiction. But it's just so interesting how Republican politicians adroitly jump back and forth as to the question of the detainees' status to how it best fits their argument of the day - are we talking about Geneva convention rights, or are we talking about the process of legal courts?
"I guess when the Right/GOP can say, print (Palin's myth filled book), promote anything without any accountability by the Beltway Press, the GOP has no need for intellectually honest consistency in their claims."
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill Thursday that would renew portions of the USA Patriot Act in an effort to address administration concerns about protecting terrorism investigations.
But several Democrats and civil liberties advocates said the legislation would do little to strengthen privacy protections. And some Republicans said the bill, despite amendments worked out with the administration, would still unduly burden investigators.
By a vote of 11 to 8, the committee sent to the Senate floor a measure that would extend until 2013 three surveillance provisions set to expire Dec. 31. They would allow investigators to use roving wiretaps to monitor suspects who may switch cellphone numbers, to obtain business records of national security targets, and to track "lone wolves" who may be acting alone on behalf of foreign powers or terrorist groups.
The bill would also slightly tighten the legal standard for the FBI's issuing of administration subpoenas known as national security letters (NSLs), which allow the bureau to obtain phone, credit and other personal records, and which the Justice Department inspector general has said are subject to "serious misuse."
Oh, I feel much better now, knowing it will be "slightly" more difficult for the feds to abuse constitutional rights.
This is certainly good news. I don't know if it has a snowball's chance in hell of passing, but you never know:
Senators Chris Dodd (D-CT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Russ Feingold (D-WI), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) announced today that they will introduce the Retroactive Immunity Repeal Act, which eliminates retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies that allegedly participated in President Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program.
“I believe we best defend America when we also defend its founding principles,” said Dodd. “We make our nation safer when we eliminate the false choice between liberty and security. But by granting retroactive immunity to the telecommunications companies who may have participated in warrantless wiretapping of American citizens, the Congress violated the protection of our citizen’s privacy and due process right and we must not allow that to stand.”
Senator Leahy, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said, “Last year, I opposed legislation that stripped Americans of their right to seek accountability for the Bush administration’s decision to illegally wiretap American citizens without a warrant. Today, I am pleased to join Senator Dodd to introduce the Retroactive Immunity Repeal Act. We can strengthen national security while protecting Americans’ privacy and civil liberties. Restoring Americans’ access to the courts is the first step toward bringing some measure of accountability for the Bush-Cheney administration’s decision to conduct warrantless surveillance in violation of our laws.”
“Granting retroactive immunity to companies that went along with the illegal warrantless wiretapping program was unjustified and undermined the rule of law,” Feingold said. “Congress should not have short-circuited the courts’ constitutional role in assessing the legality of the program. This bill is about ensuring that the law is followed and providing accountability for the American people.”
Sen. Ben Nelson said Wednesday he has not decided whether he will vote to confirm Sonia Sotomayor's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Nelson said he'll delay his decision until next week's scheduled Senate vote.
"I accept her judicial philosophy of fidelity to the law," Nelson said during a telephone conference call from Washington. Nelson said he also believes Sotomayor is committed to supporting settled judicial precedent.
But, he said, he needs to "convince myself she won't be an activist" on the court. "I need an opportunity to review a few things," the Democratic senator said.
On September 22, 2005 - before the Senate Judiciary Committee's confirmation hearings for John Roberts had even been completed - Sen. Ben Nelson stated on the floor of the U.S. Senate:
"Only time will tell where Judge Roberts will come down on the prevailing legal matters that come before the Roberts Court. I can only take him at his word that he will approach his role on the court without a pre-determined agenda, without activism, and with only the intention to balance the scales of justice for all Americans.....
I will vote to confirm Judge John Roberts as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court."
Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska on Tuesday became the first Democrat to announce he will vote to confirm Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito. Nelson, one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress, said in a statement that he had made up his mind to support Alito "because of his impeccable judicial credentials, the American Bar Association's strong recommendation and his pledge that he would not bring a political agenda to the court."
Now, not to be undone by the Nelson gasbag is Max Baucus, the man who wants to undermine health care reform.
Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said Thursday he hasn’t made up his mind on whether he will vote to confirm Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor.
Baucus this summer has infuriated liberals on and off Capitol Hill by working to strike a deal with Republicans on healthcare reform. A “no” vote on Sotomayor would be adding fuel to the left’s fire at the Finance Committee chairman.
Baucus on Thursday twice told The Hill he is undecided on next week’s floor vote on Sotomayor.
Talk about slapping their president in the face. If Goober Graham said he's voting for Sotomayor then what is their hesitation except from a narcissistic ego trip to get more ink from the media. I wonder if Nelson is a racist or just hates women or both since he gave his vote to two white men so easily.
Dave N.: According to Ian Millhiser at ThinkProgress, all of this waffling by Senate Dems -- which includes Alaska's Mark Begich -- is a result of pressure from the National Rifle Association, which indeed promised it would work to stop the Sotomayor nomination very early on; the NRA's Wayne LaPierre went on Glenn Beck and promised that if Sotomayor didn't agree to every jot and tittle of their agenda, they would denounce and oppose her. This is why so many Republicans grilled Sotomayor with questions about the Second Amendment.