Saturday, September 29, 2007

Legislative Update VIII

Rep. Mark Udall (who is running for U.S. Senate out in Colorado) will be introducing a resolution in the House of Representatives on Monday condemning Rush Limbaugh for his "phony soldiers" remark. For those unaware, Limbaugh slandered troops who have spoken out against the war as somehow "phony" and less than good, conservative persons in the military, I guess. Since Republicans took delight in forcing a vote on condemning MoveOn.org's "General Betrayus" ad, Udall is hoping to put them on record in regards to Rush's idiotic comment. No word yet on whether the Democratic leadership will bring it to a vote, but I would think there would be support for it.

Rep. Henry Waxman, the chairman of the House oversight committee, says that aides to State Department Inspector General Howard Krongard threatened two investigators with retaliation, including losing their jobs, this week if they cooperate with a congressional probe into Krongard's office.

While the House has passed all 12 appropriation bills for the upcoming fiscal year, the Senate has only gotten to four (but will finish before the end of the year). To keep the government running, both chambers passed a "stopgap" spending measure to fund everything at current levels (the Senate also voted to increase the national debt limit - an unfortunate but necessary move). However, President Bush has threatened to veto many of the appropriation bills put forth by Congress, so we will have to see what happens.

The Senate approved the conference report for the Water Resources Act, 81-12, the first of its kinds in seven years that improves the country's water infrastructure. The House approved it before the August recess, so the bill now goes to President Bush. If he signs it, it will be law; if he vetoes it, the Congress will hold a vote to override the veto.

On Tuesday, the House voted 397-16 to slap new energy sanctions on Tehran and brand its Revolutionary Guard a terrorist group (which the Senate later concurred with in a "Sense of the Senate" resolution)).

The Senate will vote Monday on the 2008 defense authorization bill which has seen many amendments related to the Iraq war, hate crimes, etc. Late Thursday, the Senate by voice vote adopted a string of amendments that would streamline the system for granting asylum to persecuted Iraqis, especially those whose lives are threatened because of their work for U.S. troops or government agencies, establish a wartime commission on contracting, allocate $24 billion for vehicles to protect soldiers from roadside bombs, and establish controls over arms delivered to Iraq’s military in order to reduce the odds they will fall into insurgents’ hands. Bush has threatened to veto the bill.

The House will vote on a bill next week that would regulate conduct of government contractors overseas in response to mounting outrage over recent killings of Iraqi civilians by employees of Blackwater USA. The bill would make all U.S. contractors in combat zones, not just those working for the Pentagon, subject to criminal prosecution in U.S. courts in addition to defining the role of civilian security contractors in Iraq, mandating basic background screening and establishing rules of engagement for their operations. Rep. John Hall has also introduced legislation that would freeze the number of private security contractors operating in Iraq by prohibiting federal agencies from entering into contracts that would increase the number of private security contractors in Iraq above the number present in Iraq on September 1, 2007. In addition, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is working on a bill to strengthen the oversight role of executive branch inspectors general in foreign conflict zones. While there is an inspector general for Iraq, there is not one for Afghanistan.

Last, but not least, the House will also soon return to legislative attempts to change Iraq war policy: One fairly non-controversial bill would ban “war profiteering," to be passed on the fast-track suspension calendar early next week. That will be followed by a vote on a bill that calls for President Bush to report regularly on his administration’s plans for withdrawal from Iraq which is expected to pass with Republican support and without the "Out of Iraq" Democratic caucus that considers something that will provide political cover for Republicans when it doesn't do anything to end the war. Then would come a bill, yet to be written, ordering the administration to undertake a “diplomatic surge” similar to the Iraq Study Group recommendations bill.

The next big battle over the course of the war will be over the White House’s $190 billion supplemental funding request for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which may not come to the floor until perhaps early next year. Democrats in the House and Senate both have said they want to scrub it of non-related provisions and may break it up into smaller installment. In any case, expect some sort of war policy amendments to be offered as the timetable was on the last request.

1 comment:

Xanthippas said...

Limbaugh is such an idiot. He obviously believes he can get up on the radio and just say or do whatever he wants without thinking, and a millions of idiots will buy it. Resolution notwithstanding, he's right. There are probably millions of people who think that soldiers who don't support the war are "phony" soldiers, even as they're fighting and getting killed just like "real" soldiers.