Friday, June 26, 2009

Legislative Update XVIII

On a 219-212 vote, the House of Representatives passed a historic climate change and energy bill (an earlier, a EPA funding bill). You can read about its major provisions here. Many have said it doesn't go far enough in cutting greenhouse gas emissions and certainly a lot of lobbyists got their hands on it, but given its very narrow passage here and the fact that it must also get 60 votes in the Senate, it's clear that this is the best bill we could get and at least it's a start. I say we celebrate any triumph over the global warming deniers and for energy reform.

The House also passed a $44 billion spending bill Wednesday that awards the Homeland Security Department a 7 percent budget increase, with money for more border patrol agents and for anti-piracy efforts off the coast of Somalia. The bill requires the department to conduct threat assessments for the terrorist suspects being held in Gitmo. It also requires that the department ensure that detainees are placed on its "no-fly" list and denied an array of immigration benefits, including admission into the United States and refugee status.

After lots of stalling from the GOP, the Senate finally confirmed Harold Koh as the legal adviser of the U.S. Department of State. Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher was confirmed as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security. A special election will be held for her house seat. The Senate also confirmed Julius Genachowski as head of the Federal Communications Commission and Robert McDowell for a second FCC term.

The Senate passed a sweeping aid package for Pakistan that must now be reconciled with the House version. The chamber also passed a resolution calling on President Obama to pardon black heavywight champion Jack Johnson who was sent to jail for having a romantic relationship with a white woman. And the Senate accepted the House's articles of impeachment against federal judge Samuel Kent, who has resigned. Six Democrats and six Republicans, led by Sen. Claire McCaskill, will gather evidence for Kent's Senate prosecution, but a trial is not set to begin for several weeks.

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