Saturday, February 09, 2008

Congress passed economic stimulus package, FISA stalemate continues

The House and Senate gave final approval yesterday to an economic stimulus package that basically rushes 2009 tax rebates to taxpayers this year in order to stimulate economic growth (so don't be surprised at a smaller return on your taxes next year). The Senate's 81-16 vote came after more than a week of political logjam. Eventually, Democrats dropped their demand that rescue proposal offer jobless benefits, heating aid for the poor and tax breaks for the home building and energy industries. The GOP blocked those ideas, but agreed to add $300 rebates for older people and disabled veterans to a $161 billion measure the House passed last week. The House then voted 380-34 to approve the Senate ad-ons. President Bush is expected to sign it into law.

The plan adds $168 billion to the deficit over two years, but is intended to provide cash for people to spend in an effort to boost the economy. It works thusly:
The legislation would deliver rebates — $600 for individuals, $1,200 for couples — to most taxpayers, plus an additional $300 per child. Individuals making up to $75,000 a year and couples earning up to $150,000 would get the full rebate, with those making more than that or too little to owe taxes getting smaller checks. People who paid no income taxes but earned at least $3,000 — including through Social Security or veterans' disability benefits — would get a $300 rebate.
Meanwhile, efforts to extend or change the FISA update passed last year giving the Bush administration expanded wiretapping powers remained complicated. The current law expired on February 16th. The Senate is expected to pass a six-year overhaul on Feb. 12th, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has filed a 15-day extension to give time for the House and Senate to complete reconciliation. From
The expiring law allows the executive branch to conduct surveillance of foreign targets without a warrant, even when that foreign target is communicating with someone in the United States. The secret court created by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act has limited authority to approve some of the procedures used to conduct such spying.

The pending Senate overhaul would strengthen the FISA court’s authority to approve those procedures. It also would grant retroactive legal immunity to companies being sued for their alleged cooperation in the administration’s warrantless surveillance program.>The House bill would place more restrictions on the government’s spying powers and would not grant retroactive immunity. House and Senate aides began negotiating this week over a final version, in anticipation of the Senate bill’s passage.

House Intelligence Chairman Silvestre Reyes , D-Texas, said Thursday that the topic of immunity has not been discussed yet because key House members only recently received access to legal documents from the administration that selected senators saw last year.
The question is now: will House Dems fold on retroactive immunity?

1 comment:

Torrance Stephens bka All-Mi-T said...

The need to make sure veterans get the best health care. Caspar Weinberger started all this mess. its a shame, hats what the commentary i wrote about tried to express Return to sender