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Congress Workin' on the Weekend: Energy, FISA Reform, Defense Appropriations, and Earmarks Aplenty
Up all night.
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Update 1:13am Eastern. House is adjourned until Sept. 4.

Update 12:55am Eastern. Final vote on defense dept. FY 2008 spending bill now taking place. The bill passes.

Update 12:08am Eastern 8/5. You can go here for the House clerk’s log of floor proceedings.


If you’re a fellow C-SPAN geek like me, you’re watching the House in session on a Saturday night. Lots of action tonight. Right now, the defense appropriations bill is being debated. Jeff Flake is on the floor lambasting the 1,300 earmarks in the bill: “There’s an earmark in here for a ‘cold-weather hand protection system.’ We’re givin’ an earmark to a private company to sell gloves!”

The first one Flake is challenging is an amendment to restore the parade ground at the Presidio. Jack Murtha, of course, opposes Flake’s move.

Flake challenges Murtha to identify the sponsor of the Presidio earmark. Murtha won’t say. Flake names the sponsor: It’s the Speaker of the House.

“Why are we earmarking defense money for this? The taxpayers deserve a little better than this…It just seems wrong.” Flake mocks the euphemisms used in earmarks. Holds up a pen and says it would be referred to as a “stenographic polymer communications device” (or something like that) if it were in an earmark.

11:22pm Eastern. GOP Rep. John Campbell goes after two earmarks–one sponsored by Jack Murtha for the Sherwin Williams paint company and another for something called the “Swimmer Detection Sonar Network.” Campbell recounts when a military contractor approached him for an earmark. Campbell asked the contractor: “Does the military really want this? How do I know you’re the best supplier? How do I know the millions you are asking for is the right price?”

Murtha defends the sonar network earmark and invokes the Cole bombing. Campbell points out there are three other systems in place already. The new earmark hasn’t had the proper scrutiny.

Jeff Flake debunks Murtha’s claims that earmarks are competitively bid and that taxpayers have rights to technology developed/funded by earmarks. An earmark by definition is a sole-source contract.

Flake challenges another earmark for the “Atmospheric Water Harvesting Project.” Why are we singling out one company?

And Flake goes after a multi-million-dollar earmark for Concurrent Technology Corporation (CTC), a nonprofit technology innovation center that Murtha created years ago with tens of millions of dollars worth of earmarks. Murtha blusters in defense.

See here for background.

11:50pm Eastern. Flake blows the whistle on a $3 million earmark for a charter school, “Lewis Center for Educational Research.” The school has tons of corporate support. Why is this in the defense appropriations bill? GOP Rep. Jerry Lewis, a king of earmarks, defends the charter school earmark without giving any good reason for siphoning off defense appropriations funding for it. More here.

The anti-earmarkers are losing, but it is educational and useful to see each one of these brought to light and put on the record.

Rise and be counted: Get behind Porkbusters here.



Rep. Pete Hoekstra’s office sends the following on the passage of GOP-backed FISA modernization: “Congress voted Saturday to change the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act following months of pressure by House Republicans to eliminate a loophole in the law that was allowing terrorists and foreign adversaries to evade surveillance. Because FISA has not been modernized and made technology neutral, the law was extending legal protections enjoyed by Americans to enemy agents and the same radical jihadists who have pledged to attack America because of our Constitutional freedoms.”

“The House concurred with a Senate bill that is nearly identical to legislation introduced by Hoekstra on Wednesday to fix FISA. (AP coverage here; NYTimes coverage here). More:

U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., the top Republican on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, voted to approve FISA legislation that protects civil liberties for Americans while denying them to radical jihadists and agents of rogue nations, like North Korea, Iran, Cuba and Venezuela.

“We have taken a major step forward for the safety of our nation,” Hoekstra said. “The FISA law was meant to protect the rights of Americans, not shield the activities of our nation’s enemies. As a result of this action, America’s adversaries will no longer have the protection of our laws to hide their plots.”

…The bill, which now goes to the president, eliminates the court order requirement for surveillance to collect foreign intelligence on foreign targets outside the United States. It provides a means to authorize and compel assistance to the government from third parties to aid in gathering intelligence information on targets outside the United States. It also provides for FISA Court review for those procedures and reporting to Congress. The bill also provides a liability defense for those who provide assistance to the U.S. Intelligence Community, under authority of the bill, to protect America from attack. The bill keeps intact all current protections for the civil liberties of Americans and eliminates the FISA law’s unintended extension of those rights to non-U.S. citizens.

Also passed today: A Democrat-pushed rewrite of energy policy “that strips $16 billion in tax incentives away from Big Oil and puts it toward renewable energy sources like wind and solar power.”

Republicans called it a “no-energy bill” because it lacks new drilling incentives, and they derided the new emphasis on renewables as “green pork.” The White House threatened to veto the bill on concerns that it could boost energy prices.

House Republican leader John Boehner said the bill “cuts the lifeblood of our economy off at the knees by increasing taxes to pay for green pork projects,” referring to billions of dollars of “energy conservation bonds” that would finance renewable projects.

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Ideology • Tags: FISA, Politics