Democrats Plan Series of Votes on Ethics Reform
“Despite divisions among Democrats over how far to go in revising ethics rules, House leaders plan a major rollout of an ethics reform bill early next year to demonstrate concern about an issue that helped defeat the Republicans in the midterm elections.
“But they will do it with a twist: Instead of forwarding one big bill, Democrats will put together an ethics package on the House floor piece by piece, allowing incoming freshmen to take charge of high-profile issues and lengthening the time spent on the debate. The approach will ensure that each proposal — including banning gifts, meals and travel from lobbyists as well as imposing new controls on the budget deficit — is debated on its own and receives its own vote. That should garner far more media attention for the bill’s components before a final vote on the entire package.” (WaPo)Democrats Think Big on Oversight
“Senate Democratsâ plans to significantly beef up the chamberâs oversight of the Bush administration will go well beyond intelligence-gathering activities and President Bushâs prosecution of the Iraq War to include investigations into the Medicare program, alleged censorship of scientists, climate change and potential manipulation of energy markets, according to aides and lobbyists.
“Although much attention has been paid to how the Senate will oversee the White Houseâs efforts to combat terrorism and to win the Iraq War, the planned increase in oversight of domestic agencies could have a much larger impact on both K Street and the 2008 elections.” (Roll Call)
Judge Rejects Claims for NSA Documents
“The National Security Agency is not required to release details about its secret wiretapping program, a federal judge said Monday.
“The People for the American Way Foundation, a liberal advocacy group, sued to obtain records under the Freedom of Information Act. The group sought to find out how many wiretaps were approved and who reviewed the program….
“The NSA denied the request for documents, saying the records would jeopardize national security. The advocacy group argued that the law can’t be used to protect the government from disclosing details about illegal programs.” (AP)
Winner Declared in Florida House Race
“State officials Monday certified Republican Vern Buchanan won the House seat being vacated by Republican Rep. Katherine Harris [R-FL], though the loser immediately sued for a new election, arguing that touch-screen voting machines had malfunctioned.
“Democrat Christine Jennings contested her 369-vote loss in the 13th District, asking a judge to order a new election because of problems in Sarasota County, where more than 17,000 voters who cast ballots in other races Nov. 7 failed to vote in the congressional contest.” (AP)
6 Imams Removed from Twin Cities Flight
“Six Muslim imams were removed from a US Airways flight at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on Monday and questioned by police for several hours before being released, a leader of the group said….
“A passenger initially raised concerns about the group through a note passed to a flight attendant, according to Andrea Rader, a spokeswoman for US Airways. She said police were called after the captain and airport security workers asked the men to leave the plane and the men refused….
“The six Muslim scholars were returning from a conference in Minneapolis of the North American Imams Federation, said [Omar] Shahin, president of the group. Five of them were from the Phoenix-Tempe area, while one was from Bakersfield, Calif., he said.” (AP)
Reno Files Challenge to Terror Law
“Former Attorney General Janet Reno and seven other former Justice Department officials filed court papers Monday arguing that the Bush administration is setting a dangerous precedent by trying a suspected terrorist outside the court system.” (AP)
Military Documents Hold Tips on Antiwar Activities
“An antiterrorist database used by the Defense Department in an effort to prevent attacks against military installations included intelligence tips about antiwar planning meetings held at churches, libraries, college campuses and other locations, newly disclosed documents show.
“One tip in the database in February 2005, for instance, noted that âa church service for peaceâ would be held in the New York City area the next month. Another entry noted that antiwar protesters would be holding ânonviolence trainingâ sessions at unidentified churches in Brooklyn and Manhattan.
“The Defense Department tightened its procedures earlier this year to ensure that only material related to actual terrorist threats â and not peaceable First Amendment activity â was included in the database.” (NY Times)
Sick Detainee Can’t Leave Guantanamo
“The U.S. military is not required to send a Guantanamo Bay detainee to a civilian hospital for medical treatment, a federal judge said yesterday, leaving the prisoner to choose between having a heart procedure performed at the military base or not at all.
“Saifullah A. Paracha, a 59-year-old multimillionaire Pakistani businessman and television producer, argued that the procedure was too risky to be handled anywhere but in a cardiac unit. He asked to be transferred to a hospital in the United States or Pakistan.
“The procedure, called cardiac catheterization, is used to detect heart problems such as blockages. A doctor inserts a plastic tube into a vein and slides it into the heart or nearby coronary arteries to measure blood pressure or oxygen levels.
“If something goes wrong, Mr. Paracha’s attorney said, doctors could need to perform emergency heart surgery.” (AP)
GOP Keeps Team, Promises Changes
“Despite efforts by a small band of House Republicans last week to convince their colleagues that a change in leadership was important, if not critical, to winning back a majority in 2008, the House Republican Conference overwhelmingly sided with the status quo Friday and handed landslide victories to Minority Leader-elect John Boehner [R-OH] and Minority Whip-elect Roy Blunt [R-MO].
“Both leaders recast themselves in their campaigns and argued they would be agents for change in the 110th Congress, committing to return the Republican Party to its roots of fiscal conservatism and reform and to battle the new Democratic majority tooth and nail.” (Roll Call)
Former Patronage Chief Sentenced to 46 Months
“Although the sentence was lighter than it could have been, U.S. District Judge David Coar was sharply critical of Robert Sorich, saying Sorich sat at the top of a corrupt operation….
“Codefendant Timothy McCarthy, who also worked at the intergovernmental affairs office, was sentenced to 18 months in prison. He got a break after meeting with the government eight times â five times before his trial and three times after his conviction. McCarthyâs lawyer, Patrick Deady, said that if McCarthy pleaded guilty he would lose a pension he built up after 20 years.” (Chicago Sun-Times)
Marine Claims He Was Denied Attorney
“A Marine charged with helping to kidnap and murder an Iraqi civilian said Monday that government officials violated his basic rights when they interviewed him about the incident — claims military prosecutors denied.
“Lance Cpl. Robert B. Pennington, 22, made the allegations as part of an effort to discredit some of the key pieces of evidence against him: statements he gave in which prosecutors say he admits wrongdoing.
“Pennington testified at a hearing Monday that when Naval Criminal Investigative Service agents interviewed him after the April 26 death of Hashim Ibrahim Awad, they threatened him with the death penalty and told him it would be a mistake to ask for an attorney.” (AP)
NYC Rights Group Criticizes Saddam Trial
“Human Rights Watch said Monday that former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was not given a fair trial, claiming in a report that attorneys and judges undermined the legitimacy of the process by staging repeated walkouts and failing to uphold standards of international law.
“In a 97-page report, the group called the guilty verdict ‘questionable’ and said the Iraqi High Tribunal was not equipped to handle such a complex case. The document was based on observation of the trial and interviews with court officials, lawyers and other key parties, the group said.
“On Nov. 5, the court sentenced Saddam and two other senior members of his regime to death by hanging for ordering the execution of nearly 150 Shiite Muslims from the Iraqi city of Dujail following a 1982 attempt on Saddam’s life.” (AP)