Capitol Hillbillies

Senate’s failure on immigration reform

Senate opponents did more than just vote against immigration reform. They voted in favor of letting a serious situation get even worse.

An attempt to stop debate on the controversial measure and bring it to a final vote, where passage was by no means certain, fell 14 votes short of the 60 needed. Without the Senate going first, the House won’t even try.

That means another attempt at immigration reform probably won’t come until sometime after the 2008 election.

Senate kills Bush’s immigration bill

The Senate meted out a severe blow to President George W. Bush Thursday, blocking a landmark immigration reform seen as one of his last, best hopes for a legacy-boosting second term victory.

In a stunning defeat for the bid to grant a path to citizenship for 12 million illegal immigrants, Senators voted 53 to 46 against keeping the bill alive, likely ending congressional action on the divisive issue before 2009.

Move to cut off Cheney’s funds falls short

The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday narrowly defeated a Democratic amendment to deny funds to operate Vice President Dick Cheney’s office next year in a feud over his handling of classified documents.

By a vote of 217-209, the House defeated legislation designed to rebuke Cheney for refusing, over objections by the National Archives, to comply with an executive order that set government-wide procedures for safeguarding classified national security information.

Senate subpoenas Bush, Cheney records

The Senate subpoenaed the White House and Vice President Dick Cheney’s office Wednesday, demanding documents and elevating the confrontation with President Bush over the administration’s warrant-free eavesdropping on Americans.

Separately, the Senate Judiciary Committee also is summoning Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to discuss the program and an array of other matters that have cost a half-dozen top Justice Department officials their jobs, committee chairman Patrick Leahy announced.

Leahy, D-Vt., raised questions about previous testimony by one of Bush’s appeals court nominees and said he wouldn’t let such matters pass.

NRA outsmarts opponents once again

For the first time since taking control of Congress, gun-control Democrats are taking on the National Rifle Association. The NRA seems to be nipping the effort in the bud.

At issue is whether Congress should loosen restrictions on local law enforcement agencies’ ability to gain access to gun-purchasing data to trace the movement of illegal guns around the nation.

Immigration bill faces crucial test

Conservative Republican senators and a handful of Democrats are trying to put a final knife in President Bush’s plan for legalizing millions of unlawful immigrants.

A broad immigration bill, embracing what critics call amnesty, survived a series of unfriendly amendments Wednesday. Supporters pointed to the bill’s tighter borders and workplace rules to keep it alive.

Rise of the ‘silent center’

There were no trumpets and no drums. No crowds cheering, no paparazzi scrambling. This was, after all, the U.S. Senate. And it was, after all, almost 8 p.m. Monday, and the prime-time TV news was over and tomorrow’s front pages were largely set.

So the last thing on the minds of the few strays roaming the Senate floor and yawning in the public and press galleries above was that they were about to witness a genuine profiles-in-courage moment in a capital city that has become all profile and no courage.

The silent center was speaking out at last.

More Republicans walk away from Bush

Republican support for the Iraq war is slipping by the day. After four years of combat and more than 3,560 U.S. deaths, two Republican senators previously reluctant to challenge President Bush on the war announced they could no longer support the deployment of 157,000 troops and asked the president to begin bringing them home.

“We must not abandon our mission, but we must begin a transition where the Iraqi government and its neighbors play a larger role in stabilizing Iraq,” Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, wrote in a letter to Bush.

Voinovich, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, released his letter Tuesday — one day after Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, the panel’s top Republican, said in a floor speech that Bush’s strategy was not working.

GOP Senator says Bush’s war is failing

Sen. Richard Lugar, a senior Republican and a reliable vote for President Bush on the war, said that Bush’s Iraq strategy was not working and that the U.S. should downsize the military’s role.

The unusually blunt assessment Monday deals a political blow to Bush, who has relied heavily on GOP support to stave off anti-war legislation.

It also comes as a surprise. Most Republicans have said they were willing to wait until September to see if Bush’s recently ordered troop buildup in Iraq was working.

“In my judgment, the costs and risks of continuing down the current path outweigh the potential benefits that might be achieved,” Lugar, R-Ind., said in a Senate floor speech. “Persisting indefinitely with the surge strategy will delay policy adjustments that have a better chance of protecting our vital interests over the long term.”

An incredible double standard

“Do as I say, not as I do” appears to be the credo of some good-government groups, whose reluctance to reveal their contributors could help scuttle congressional ethics reforms.

Watchdog groups Public Citizen, Common Cause and Democracy 21 — which have been some of the most energetic forces for “open” government, campaign-finance reform and tough ethics rules — are now fighting to keep their own donor lists secret.