Tag Archives: Congress

PRIVACY‬ / Obama’s ‎DNI‬ Spy Chief Reverses Course. Now Favors NSA‬ Reform aka the ‘USA Freedom Act’

Bill4DogCatcher.com(NextGov) The ‘USA Freedom Act’, originally introduced by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner last year, would end the government’s ability to collect bulk metadata of phone records and usher in a series of new privacy and transparency measures designed to prevent abuses at the nation’s intelligence agencies. It would bar the government from retaining metadata—the numbers and time stamps of calls but not their actual content—and instead require phone companies to keep those records, which would be given to intelligence agencies after the government earned approval for data searches from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Read full story.

Rhetorical question:
So does this mean that they found a loophole?

THE USA FREEDOM ACT (from Rep. Sensenbrenner’s webpage)

Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ending Eavesdropping, Dragnet Collection, and Online Monitoring Act
H.R. 3361/ S. 1599
Purpose: To rein in the dragnet collection of data by the National Security Agency (NSA) and other government agencies, increase transparency of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), provide businesses the ability to release information regarding FISA requests, and create an independent constitutional advocate to argue cases before the FISC.

End bulk collection of Americans’ communications records

• The USA Freedom Act ends bulk collection under Section 215 of the Patriot Act.
• The bill would strengthen the prohibition on “reverse targeting” of Americans—that is, targeting a foreigner with the goal of obtaining communications involving an American.
• The bill requires the government to more aggressively filter and discard information about Americans accidentally collected through PRISM and related programs.

Reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court

• The USA Freedom Act creates an Office of the Special Advocate (OSA) tasked with promoting privacy interests before the FISA court’s closed proceedings. The OSA will have the authority to appeal decisions of the FISA court.
• The bill creates new and more robust reporting requirements to ensure that Congress is aware of actions by the FISC and intelligence community as a whole.
• The bill would grant the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board subpoena authority to investigate issues related to privacy and national security.

Increase Transparency

• The USA Freedom Act would end secret laws by requiring the Attorney General to publicly disclose all FISC decisions issued after July 10, 2003 that contain a significant construction or interpretation of law.
• Under the bill, Internet and telecom companies would be allowed to publicly report an estimate of (1) the number of FISA orders and national security letters received, (2) the number of such orders and letters complied with, and (3) the number of users or accounts on whom information was demanded under the orders and letters.
• The bill would require the government to make annual or semiannual public reports estimating the total number of individuals and U.S. persons that were subject to FISA orders authorizing electronic surveillance, pen/trap devices, and access to business records.

National Security Letters

• The USA Freedom Act adopts a single standard for Section 215 and NSL protection to ensure the Administration doesn’t use different authorities to support bulk collection. It also adds a sunset date to NSLs requiring that Congress reauthorize the government’s authority thereby ensuring proper congressional review.

Read More about The USA Freedom Act


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U.S. Appropriations Committee Republicans Urge 2-year U.S. Budget Deal

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers and 12 other Republicans on the panel have called on budget negotiators to agree to spending levels for two years by Dec. 2 so Congress will be able to pass annual spending bills and avoid another government shutdown. The lawmakers warned in a letter that if an agreement on spending caps is not reached, it could result in another shutdown. In the letter, to House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, they wrote, "If a timely agreement is not reached, the likely alternatives could have extremely damaging repercussions."

Bill4DogCatcher sez: Yes, this would be a brilliant idea in many ways. It would move the budget wars beyond the 2014 elections, letting us focus on running government, and it would give us a better budget tool for stable funding of federal programs. We should consider going permanently to a two year budget cycle, with the funding cycle falling on odd years so that we keep this part of government out of the hair-on-fire election years.

FULL STORY U.S. Chamber of Commerce

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Fiscal Cliff Negotiations – Why Obama and Boehner Won’t Agree Anytime Soon – Maybe Not At All

ABOUT that Fiscal Cliff — The Daily Beast has summed up nicely the chances of a deal:

“There is a growing sense among Republican policy wonks and senior lobbyists that the chances of getting any kind of meaningful deal on the deficit between now and the end of the year are drifting toward zero.” Daily Beast, Dec 4th.

Speaker Boehner held a press conference on Friday, December 7th, to discuss where negotiations are currently going, which you can watch below.

The real takeaway from this press conference is not that negotiations are going badly — although that is what the video portrays — but that there is little that can be put on the table to actually negotiate with.

At this point, Speaker Boehner is facing a challenge within the GOP to oust him for even talking seriously about some of the ideas on the table. Earlier this week he received a letter signed by more than 100 conservative activists that threatened to work against him and any other GOP member that supported any attempt to raise taxes and/or to curb tax deductions and such. Boehner is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t.

American Majority Action (AMA) launched a #FireBoehner campaign, and numerous other conservative and Tea Party groups have joined the effort to toss Boehner as House Speaker. For that to work requires that just 16 members of the Republican Party drop support for Boehner in January which will take away enough votes to prevent his return as the House Speaker, opening the way for a new Speaker.

So as you watch the press conference video above, please ignore Speaker Boehner blasting the president. The two of them could probably reach a deal quickly if left to work things out together. Boehner is just echoing talking points at this point as he tries to work out some deal acceptable to his own party.

There is also criticism that Obama is not responding seriously to Boehner’s proposals. This is undoubtedly true but also just rhetoric. There is no GOP plan with specifics or any plan that can get enough GOP votes to pass even if we were to adopt the Boehner’s GOP plan ‘as is’. So reality is that President Obama is really left to negotiate with himself because any deal made at the moment is not a viable deal at all.

Things don’t get negotiated from the center. If I were Obama, I would ignore any ‘plan’ that didn’t have specifics and a guarantee of X votes to go with that plan. Speaker Boehner really needs to negotiate the Fiscal Cliff within his own party before he can expect the president to make a deal that the GOP won’t honor.

Speaker Boehner is an honorable man. Life must seem crazy for him at the moment. I wish him well and hope that he can strike a deal which really does cut national expenses and find ways to pay for whatever else remains as obligated debt. The Constitution gives that challenge to the Congress not to the president — so before we make any progress it is the Congress that has to come to terms first, and Republicans pretty much own the House which is where it all starts.

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Fiscal Cliff Alert Status for 2012.12.05: Condition Red

When it comes to the Fiscal Cliff, we all have much to lose.

The CBO projects that going over the cliff means that the economy takes a nosedive during 2Q 2013 and unemployment will easily break 9% by early 3Q 2013.

Should we go down the Fiscal Cliff path then 2013 will be a year of random misery as different parts of the economy adjust to magical movement of money, or lack thereof, in the marketplace. Ours is a marketplace addicted to subsidized money on both the left and the right, whether it be cheap credit cards, zero percent loans to large banks, defense spending or social spending, grants, shared underwriting of public programs or tax credits and deductibles for private investments.

Neither side is close to blinking. Neither side is close to have a ‘deal’ that their own party can support.

Negotiation on avoiding the Fiscal Cliff will go all the way to the 11th hour … and perhaps no deal will come about. More probable than just being possible at the moment.

President Obama has a strong hand for shooting down many aspects of what the GOP wants, although the GOP does not have any actual plan that is supported both within the House and the Senate as of yet. So criticism that Obama has rejected the GOP plan are largely empty words — there is no GOP plan that the GOP itself has endorsed that can provide a guaranteed 51%+ supportive vote in either the House or in the Senate.

And yet President Obama’s challenge is that he needs a deal that the GOP House will approve, and so far there is no real Democratic plan on the table that can provide a guaranteed 51%+ supportive vote in either the House or in the Senate.

The only two people that have a written plan are Simpson-and-Bowles … and neither the Dems nor the Reps are embracing it.

Today’s Risk Level of going over the edge: Condition Red

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Congress and Political Parties – They all vote in lockstep. Right?

Congress is an immoveable force where the majority of members vote as solid blocs. Fact or Fiction?

>> Check out the difference between Democrats in the House between the two Congresses.

All votes are averages across X number of congressional bills

111th Congress

>> House sample size: 1654 Bills
>> Senate sample size: 688 Bills

% = the number of times that House/Senate members voted as a majority for a bill.

Dems / House: 81% of bills / majority of the party members voted ‘yes’
Reps / House: 65.7% of bills / voted as ‘yes’ bloc

Dems / Senate: 63.5% of bills / majority of the party members voted ‘yes’
Reps / Senate: 57.3% of bills / voted as ‘yes’ bloc

112th Congress

>> House sample size: 1549 Bills
>> Senate sample size: 433 Bills

Dems / House: 52.7% of bills / majority of the party members voted ‘yes’
Reps / House: 56.6% of bills / voted as ‘yes’ bloc

Dems / Senate: 67.9% of bills / majority of the party members voted ‘yes’
Reps / Senate: 60.5% of bills / voted as ‘yes’ bloc

Source: Washington Post Congressional Votes Database, http://projects.washingtonpost.com/congress/112/

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Rand Paul – Giving up your rights when you support the Patriot Act

You may not like all of his positions, but Rand Paul does a great job of outlining why the Patriot Act is unAmerican and unhealthy for our republic.

The Patriot Act sounds good as long as it is ‘our guys’ looking for the ‘bad guys’, unless ‘our guys’ are out and the other guys are in.

When there is no accountability then there will be abuse. 9/11 happened because it happened. Terrorists found a weak spot and struck. There is no reason that we should give up indefinitely our rights.

Rand Paul: If you are not going to protect the entire Bill of Rights then you aren’t going to have any of it.

To protect my own rights I need to protect your rights, and you need to protect mine — even when we don’t like each other.

>> “If you have nothing to hide then you have nothing to fear.” … Not. UnAmerican. Period. I am not guilty until proven innocent. Neither are you.


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Independents Gaining Momentum As More Americans Reject Party Politics

By Bill Golden
Bill4DogCatcher.com and JeffersonConservative.com

My prediction is that there will be 5-6 independent senators in the U.S. Congress by 2014, many or most will be former Republicans.

These are the Republicans that are generally conservative in nature but centrist in their ability to work with others on that great playground that we call American politics — where rules are usually for the other guy.

Independents will have major impact in 2012 based on their ability to provide critical votes; there should be at least 3 if not 4 independent senators within Congress.

Those parties that do not move to the middle will find their efforts defeated within these critical few votes.

Outside of the senate, independents are picking up some momentum across the country. Recent successful ballot initiatives like California’s no political party primary referendum will help speed up the success of independents and independent-minded members of political parties as voters will no longer have to pick the lesser of two evils (on most days).


From this morning’s USAToday:

“Independents gain favor in governors’ races”


There are more signs of centrists stirring as national politics remain sharply polarized, a factor some candidates cite for leaving or being pushed from their old allegiances. Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who became an independent candidate for the Senate when the GOP seemed certain to nominate Tea Party favorite Marco Rubio, now leads the three-way field. In California last month, voters approved a constitutional amendment to make primaries open and non-partisan, a measure intended to boost moderate contenders.

“One of the things we’re seeing this year is a voter revolt against the extremes in both parties and a desire to find candidates who can be elected from the middle and who can govern from the middle,” says Eliot Cutler, a former Carter administration official who is running as an independent for governor of Maine.

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