President Obama is expected to sign a three-month extension of three provisions of the USA Patriot Act after Congress easily passed the measure, despite spirited opposition from congressional Democrats and a significant portion of the constitutionalist wing of the Tea Party movement.
As calls for cuts in the defense budget increased, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates knew what he would have to do: throw the cutters a bone, and then dig in against any further reductions. By admitting that he could shave $78 billion out of the defense budget over the next five years, Gates then went to work defending any further suggested incursions into the future spending plans by the military-industrial complex.
One of the most notable developments since Republicans assumed control of the House of Representatives in January is the shift in congressional attitudes toward the United Nations. While not yet considering or proposing legislation that would effectively end U.S. membership in the internationalist body, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla., photo, left) has proposed a number of bills that would end American taxpayer funding for several United Nations agencies and departments.
The Reign of the Czars, at least in the executive branch of the U.S. government, may be near an end. Congressman Steve Scalise (R-La.) offered an amendment that would block funding for the various "czars" — policy advisers appointed by the President who did not have to face formal confirmation by the U.S. Senate, and who cannot be impeached by the House of Representatives. The amendment (to the continuing resolution which keeps the federal government operating) passed the House February 17 by a vote of 249 to 171.
The Obama administration’s $53-billion high-speed rail proposal, which has attracted a host of critics in the midst of a $14 trillion federal debt crisis, has been quickly rejected by at least three Governors in states where rail projects were already on the drawing table.
A bill to protect pregnant women and their unborn children introduced in the South Dakota legislature was set aside, temporarily at least, on February 17 after critics and pro-abortion groups created an uproar claiming it could have legalized the killing of abortionists.
A pre-born infant may not be a legal person under current law, but some New Hampshire legislators want pre-borns who are killed by someone other than their mothers and their mothers' physicians classified as homicide victims. A bill in the New Hampshire House would allow criminal prosecution of persons whose actions result in the death of an "unborn child." It would make the death of the unborn an additional crime in cases where a pregnant woman is assaulted, for example, or is hit by a drunk driver. The bill exempts actions taken by the pregnant woman or her physician, however, so abortions would not be affected. Still, testimony at a public hearing in Concord on February 17 showed the usual division on the abortion issue, with abortion opponents supporting the measure and "pro-choice" advocates fearful of the implications of a bill that describes an "unborn child" as someone between conception and birth.
On February 17, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel, seated in Charleston, South Carolina, dismissed a lawsuit filed by Jose Padilla against Defense Secretary Robert Gates, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and other Bush administration officials for their participation in violating his constitutional rights.
The Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) has once again found itself embroiled in controversy, as two of its agents were discovered stealing $39,000 from passengers’ checked luggage, and were charged Wednesday. A law enforcement source reports that TSA agents Couman Perad and Davon Webb both admitted to looting a total of up to $160,000 from a variety of passengers in a period of several months at New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, and that the two agents committed the theft of $39,000 on January 30, the same day the investigation into their theft began. According to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, as reported in the New York Post:
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has taken sharp exception to President Barack Obama's criticism of the Republican Governor's proposed emergency legislation that would limit collective bargaining agreements affecting most public employees. Obama called the plan an "assault" on unions. Walker has said the legislation is made necessary by the state's runaway deficit. The governor told Fox News Friday morning that the President would be well advised to concentrate on budget and deficit problems in Washington, D.C. rather than Madison, Wisconsin.
In what could become the mother of all Big Bird battles, or Armageddon for the Aardvark, congressional supporters of public television labored into literally the eleventh hour Wednesday night to save the federal subsidy for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. But eliminating that subsidy, which supporters say is vital to maintaining programs of the Public Broadcasting System, remains part of legislation being pushed by House Republicans to cut no less than $61 billion from the federal budget for the current fiscal year, which began last October 1.