Bob Geiger

Notes From The Senate All-Nighter

Here's some miscellaneous notes as I watch Senate Republicans try to say something other than the rubber-stamp talk they've been spitting out for years -- along with a count of how many times they use the same old cynical phrases.

Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX)

Desperate Buzzphrase Count:

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No Joy This Fourth of July

"A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people." ~ Declaration of Independence

I've always enjoyed the Fourth of July.

It's summer, it's a festive holiday about celebration -- not mourning or remembrance -- and, as a military Veteran, it has been a time to feel good about whatever miniscule role I've played in maintaining our country's strength and freedom.

But I'm going to skip the barbeques and just go to work today. I do this because the state of my country under the reign of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and their entire cabal of crooks and non-patriots, leaves me with a feeling so hollow and barren that I simply cannot use drinking a beer, eating a hot dog or watching fireworks as a soothing balm.

With Bush's effective pardon of Scooter Libby on Monday, he has once again acted on behalf of the American people with no regard for what the people actually want. Poll after poll has shown that Americans still cling to a belief in equal justice under the law and that letting Libby off the hook on perjury and obstruction of justice charges in the outing of a covert CIA agent is horribly wrong. But that doesn’t stop Bush from doing whatever he damn well pleases to help his cronies and appease his political benefactors.

The overwhelming majority of the country now also knows the truth of the Iraq occupation and made clear in the last election what is expected of our leaders in ending that disaster. The American people know that the White House cooked the intelligence books to make a bogus case for war against a country that posed no threat whatsoever to the United States and by far most Americans want us out of Iraq as soon as possible.

It is the same thing with the way most of us feel about the promise held in the science of stem cell research and the huge nationwide support for raising the federal minimum wage, which have both been fought tooth and nail by Bush and the Republican party.

No matter how we the people want to be governed or how we decide we want our country to look, Bush sticks stubbornly to what he wants, to what he mandates and what he decides in his delusional world of absolute power and authority over all he surveys.

GOP Gives Employee Free Choice Act Fear-and-Smear Treatment

For anyone remotely paying attention, the Republican party playbook was remarkably minimalist and straightforward for the three or four years after America was attacked on September 11, 2001. Whenever Congressional Republicans got into a jam on almost any issue or found themselves legislatively backed into a corner, they would grab a microphone and yell "9/11, 9/11, 9/11" over and over again. Screaming "terrorists" or "al-Qaeda" repeatedly also worked pretty well until last November when voters saw the emptiness in all of that and tossed them out on their asses.

But apparently the GOP believes their prevailing mind-game of keeping Americans in a constant state of fear and anxiety can also translate into other venues and they're proving it lately with the Employee Free Choice Act (S.1041), which will be front and center in the Senate today.

S.1041, which is cosponsored by 46 Senators, is really pretty simple. It amends the National Labor Relations Act to allow employees to unionize in a more streamlined way if they choose and establishes stronger penalties for violations of the rights of workers seeking to form unions or negotiate first contracts.

Sounds like a good deal, right? The bill would make it easier for workers to get a living wage and decent benefits and, hey, this is America and everything, so who in the world would have a problem with that?

You guessed it -- the same crew that worked like crazy to keep the minimum wage at $5.15 an hour for the rest of our lives or until a Democratic Congress came to town and got a raise passed.

But what's interesting -- or not, if you're accustomed to watching the Republican party's fear-and-smear approach -- is how much concern GOP Senators suddenly seem to have for workers and how afraid they are that employees will lose their right to unionize via secret ballots. And of course, Republicans love to raise the possibility that these poor workers will also be subject to intimidation by big bad union bosses, hell-bent on forcing them into higher wages and better benefits.

Feingold-Reid Bill to End War Coming Back to Senate

Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) announced on Wednesday that he will continue his efforts to bring American troops home from Iraq and that he and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) will once again bring the Feingold-Reid bill to the Senate floor as an amendment to the upcoming Defense Department authorization legislation, which is expected to be considered by the end of June.

The Feingold-Reid measure, which received 29 votes when it was first raised last month, would require troops in Iraq to be redeployed by March 31, 2008, after which funding for ongoing military operations, with three narrow exceptions, would end.

“Congress took a step backwards last month when it gave President Bush a blank check to continue his open-ended mission in Iraq,� Feingold said. “We need to keep the pressure on the President and supporters of his disastrous Iraq policy, and the way to do this is by voting on legislation that will end the mistake in Iraq."

"We should not wait until September to change course, as some have suggested, and we should not be satisfied with proposals that sound good but won’t actually end the war. The way to end this disastrous war is to pass the Feingold-Reid legislation to safely redeploy our troops. No more Americans should die unnecessarily for a war that has over-burdened our military and weakened our national security.�

Is GOP Senator Kit Bond a Liar or Just Plain Stupid?

Lost in the coverage Monday of Senate Republicans blocking the no-confidence vote on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, was a silly little speech given by Kit Bond (R-MO) about the Iraq war, the Democratic response to the quagmire and, as the Congressional Record labeled it, "Media Bias" in reporting on the American occupation.

Bond covered all the usual Republican bases, saying that Congress should not oppose the war because "it is critical that we not fall into this trap set by al-Qaida" and that withdrawal resolutions tell "the Sunni terror cells and the Shia militias that America's political will is wavering."

Blah, blah, blah.

But this time, Bond, who recently returned from a trip to Iraq that I'm sure included John McCain-like protection and carefully-selected photo opportunities, said that what he's seen in Iraq compared to recent media coverage at home tells him that the horrible liberal press is once again doing its hate-America thing.

"We had the opportunity to meet with the commanding officers and troops on each location," said Bond of his trip. "On the floor of the Senate I spoke to you about witnessing firsthand some of the progress being made. Since I have seen so little coverage of that progress, I think progress bears repeating."

Bond then gave a glowing report of how well things are going on the ground in Iraq.

"The new plan, the counterinsurgency plan, is showing initial signs of progress. Violence in al-Qaim, Haditha, Hit, Ramadi, and Fallujah has dramatically decreased due to local leaders now siding with coalition forces pursuing al-Qaida in Iraq," declared Bond. "In Baghdad, U.S. and Iraqi security forces are clearing and holding some of the most dangerous areas, and sectarian violence has decreased."

So I decided to go to one of the prime sources of liberal media bias, the place where I'm sure we'll see a real slant against how peachy things are going in Iraq -- Stars and Stripes military newspaper.

Weaselly Theater On Senate Immigration Vote

I want to tell you a story about the shifty way that things sometimes work in the United States Senate and how much slips under the radar of a corporate media far more interested in Paris Hilton's jail-induced crying jag than informing Americans on how their government actually operates.

We saw a tsunami of amendments to the immigration-reform bill that died in the Senate last week -- when Democrats were unable to overcome a Republican blockade of the measure -- and one bill that many casual observers missed was offered by James "Ice-Age" Inhofe (R-OK) who once again wasted Senate time by pushing a bill to make English the "officially language" of the United States.

First things first: Inhofe is a true waste of oxygen in the Senate. When he's not denying the existence of climate change and stopping just short of wearing a sandwich-board decrying global warming as a liberal plot, he's looking for new and improved ways to divide the country over whatever nonsensical issue his short attention span has momentarily hooked into. So the fact that he offered S.Amdt 1151 to "declare English as the national language of the Government of the United States" should not shock anyone -- in fact, he's offered the same measure in the past.

And it probably won’t surprise some of you to find that offsetting legislation -- where one bill can immediately negate another -- is sometimes brought to a vote on the Senate floor. It happens a lot when one party offers a bill and the other proposes one of their own to kill it or neutralize the effect the opposition's legislation would have.

That's what happened last week, when Inhofe brought forward his cracker-barrel bill that would make it difficult for people for whom English is a second language to understand critical government forms like court documents and Senator Ken Salazar (D-CO) proposed his own measure that would totally neuter the English-only bill if it should pass.

Senate Democrats and Iraq Vets Agree on Habeas Corpus

Senator and presidential candidate Chris Dodd (D-CT) had a great column on the Huffington Post Thursday, in which he discussed his Restoring the Constitution Act (RCA) and the need to revive America's moral authority in the world, while beginning the process of repairing a U.S. Constitution torn to shreds by the Bush administration.

"One of the saddest days in my 26-year career in the Senate occurred last fall when the Congress passed the Military Commissions Act (MCA), allowing evidence obtained through torture to be admitted into evidence, denying individuals the right to counsel, the right to invoke the Geneva Conventions," wrote Dodd. "What is at stake is whether America stands for what is right or what is wrong - whether we stand for justice that secures America or vengeance that weakens us. What is at stake is the rule of law, America's moral authority and their vital connection to America's security."

Dodd's legislation would fully repeal the MCA by, among other things, restoring the writ of habeas corpus for individuals held in U.S. custody -- which means that nobody can be held in prison indefinitely without charges based on the discretion of the Bush administration -- and sharpening the definition of "unlawful enemy combatant" to include only individuals who directly participate in active combat against the United States, and those actively involved in the attacks against us on September 11.

It also mandates that the U.S. go back to adhering to Geneva Convention obligations because, as Dodd wrote "…America has always stood for something more and our ability to lead reflected it. Based on our moral leadership, we were able to forge alliances and respect around the world, that in turn helped to secure the nation."

Latest intelligence report yet another smoking gun on Bush

When Army Chief of Staff, General Eric Shinseki appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee on February 25, 2003 to discuss preparations for a possible invasion of Iraq, he was asked by Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) to estimate the size of a successful occupation force after victory.

"Something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers are probably a figure that would be required," said Shinseki, a highly-decorated officer with almost four decades of service, including extensive combat duty in Vietnam. "We're talking about a post-hostilities control over a piece of geography that's fairly significant, with the kinds of ethnic tensions that could lead to other problems."

"It takes a significant ground force presence to maintain a safe and secure environment, to ensure that people are fed, that water is disturbed, all the normal responsibilities that go along with administering a situation like this."

Shinseki was immediately jumped by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. Rumsfeld said publicly that Shinseki was "far off the mark" in his prediction, while Wolfowitz called his views "wildly off the mark" and said, "I am reasonably certain that they will greet us as liberators, and that will help us to keep requirements down."

The Village Voice even reported that a "senior administration official" said that Shinseki's estimate was "bullshit from a Clintonite enamored of using the army for peacekeeping and not winning wars".

General Shinseki "retired" shortly thereafter, in June 2003, and it is widely speculated that he was forced out for contradicting Bush's take on what would be required by the Army in Iraq. Shinseki has confirmed only that he was indeed forced into retirement, while withholding comment about any specifics.

Which makes the report issued by the Senate Intelligence Committee before the Memorial Day holiday even more interesting because Prewar Intelligence Assessments About Postwar Iraq (PDF) shows not only that Shinseki was right about troop levels, but also -- as if more evidence is needed -- that the Bush administration ignored critical pre-war intelligence in their rush to invade Iraq.

Please go to to read the rest of this story.

American Legion attacks on Edwards sicken this Veteran

It's always been kind of sad for me that, ever since my discharge from the military in the mid 70s, the best thing I've been able to say about the American Legion is that their restaurant makes the best damn steak I can get in my tiny Nebraska hometown. Other than that small bit of merit, the organization has done nothing but embarrass me with their rote, pro-war positions and, over the last few years, how they seem to care far more about people burning the American flag than they do about troops being used as cannon fodder and Veterans being neglected in V.A. hospitals.

I thought I hit peak disgust with their twisted brand of patriotism in 2005 when the group's last national commander, Thomas Cadmus, gave a speech at the Legion's national convention in which he called for an end to all "public protests" and "media events" against the Iraq war. The convention delegates then voted to use whatever means necessary to "ensure the united backing of the American people to support our troops and the global war on terrorism."

"The American Legion will stand against anyone and any group that would demoralize our troops, or worse, endanger their lives by encouraging terrorists to continue their cowardly attacks against freedom-loving peoples," Cadmus told convention delegates.

I know when I was sworn into the U.S. Navy, I made a pledge "to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States of America" and it was apparent to me in 2005 that the American Legion had forgotten that the oath we all took was intended to protect exactly the rights they threatened to destroy with un-American stances like that.

And it looks like they haven't changed a bit in two years.

Now they're after Senator John Edwards and his presidential campaign for creating a web site in which Edwards submits that the best way to observe the upcoming Memorial Day, might be to take a stand designed to limit the number of newly-dead Americans we mourn at 2008's observance.

The Saturday Cartoons

This work published with the express consent of the artist. Please go to to see many more great cartoons from this week in politics.

My conversation with John Kerry

Senator John Kerry (D-MA) was in New York City on Monday to promote This Moment on Earth, the book on a new environmentalism that Kerry wrote with his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry. The 2004 Democratic presidential nominee spent almost 30 minutes with me discussing his book and the factors that drove him to push for greater public recognition of the dangers caused by global climate change.

We also touched on other issues including the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings this week on the Justice Department scandal, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's trip to Syria, the Democratic drive to withdraw U.S. troops from the Iraqi civil war and why Dick Cheney just can't stop lying to the American people about Iraq and terrorism.

I met with the relaxed and friendly Senator Kerry before his appearance on The Colbert Report on Monday. Here, along with some audio clips, is that interview.

Bob Geiger: With the passion you have and the voice you've had on the Iraq war and issues like health care for all American children, what is it in the last two and a half years, since the presidential election, that prompted you to write this book, at this time?

John Kerry: During the campaign in '04, everywhere we went, I raised environmental issues, every state I went to, we did environment events, from clean coal technology in West Virginia to hog farms in Iowa to wind farms in Minnesota to coastal erosion in Louisiana, I mean, you name it. And people didn’t seem to connect the dots as much as we thought they should and at the end of the campaign there was a feeling somehow -- there was even an article written 'Is Environmentalism Dead?' -- and it was in response to that that we wanted to redefine that environmentalism has been shoved a little bit into a corner until recently and now it's beginning to break out again, thank heavens.

But mostly, this was an effort to try to connect the dots for people, so they began to see environmentalism not as caring less about the economy and caring less about jobs and caring less about health about education and security -- they're all linked. And that environmentalism is those things and more. And we wanted to show people, other people around America who get it, who aren't your typical environmentalist -- like a Marine who's taking care of the rivers down in North Carolina or the rancher out in New Mexico who was a Bush organizer who's fighting to preserve her land.

There's a lot of folks out there who understand what's at stake who are doing amazing things to change the direction of the country. We wanted people to know about it and see it and give a new sense of what it means to care about the environment.

Bush dishonors war dead by using their families

George W. Bush gave another White House speech on Monday in which he again misled the American people on the Iraq war and, at the same time, moved to new depths in his penchant for using the troops and their families as cheap props to eke out another sliver of faith in his failed policies.

I'm sure White House staffers don't tell these families how their anguish is to be used and Bush didn’t waste much time yesterday before harnessing that grief to bolster his disastrous non-strategy in Iraq. The family of Michael Carlson, who died in Iraq two years ago, was present and Bush lowered the ethical bar still more by using the Carlson family -- and even a poem about being a soldier that Michael had written in high school -- to goad Congressional Democrats into accepting his ridiculous stay-the-course policy.

Here's Bush:

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The Sunday cartoons

This work published with the express consent of the artist. Please go to to see many more great cartoons from this week in politics.

Dodd challenges all presidential candidates to lead on ending war

Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT), a candidate for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, gave an amazing speech last night in Iowa that discussed America's place in the world, the need to rebuild United States prestige in the wake of the George W. Bush presidency and the imperative to exit the Iraq civil war far sooner than later.

"Our policy is not only failing to make Iraq more secure. By sapping our military of its strength and America of its leadership in the world, the Bush/McCain policy has made America less secure," said Dodd of the ill-advised troop surge that has shown no results. "The hour is late. It is time to begin putting our country on a more secure path. The moment has arrived for leadership that stands up and announces without equivocation that prolonging this war will not make us more secure – ending it will."

Dodd, who was the first presidential candidate to endorse the Feingold-Reid bill to force Bush to withdraw all American troops from the Iraq quagmire by cutting off all funding for that effort in 2008, called on all other candidates to show similar leadership and announce support for the measure.

"Tonight, I am calling on all the candidates in this race to join me in clearly standing up to the President once and for all by stating their support for the Feingold-Reid legislation that sets a firm timetable to end this war by March 31st, 2008," said Dodd. "After more than 3,200 lives lost, tens of thousands wounded and $400 billion spent, it is time to bring an end to a war that at every turn has failed to make America safer."

Feingold-Reid bill to end war formally introduced

Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI), on behalf of cosponsor Harry Reid (D-NV) and many other Democratic supporters, went to the Senate floor yesterday and formally introduced the Feingold-Reid bill which, if George W. Bush vetoes the Iraq-withdrawal plan that will hit his desk in the coming weeks, will push the issue further by forcing a troop withdrawal by March of next year.

The bill would end funding specifically for the failed Iraq effort, forcing the president to redeploy American troops elsewhere where, according to Senator Feingold, they can actually begin to defend the country against terror threats.

“The President says he will veto legislation already passed by the Senate that both funds the troops and responds to Americans’ demands for an end to the Iraq war,� Feingold said. “Since the President refuses to change his failed Iraq policy, that responsibility falls on Congress. By setting a date after which funding for the President’s failed Iraq policy will end, we can give the President the time and funding he needs to safely redeploy our troops so we can refocus on the global terrorist networks that threaten the lives of Americans.�

And Feingold made clear on the Senate floor yesterday that Bush and the Republican Congress must understand that, by stranding U.S. forces in Iraq indefinitely, they are expressly defying the will of the American people.

Senator Whitehouse steps up on Feingold-Reid

Many freshmen U.S. Senators are so busy getting their new offices and legislative operations together and generally laying low as newcomers that they either don’t get or don’t create the opportunity to propose grand measures or take important stands on large issues. Rhode Island Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse, who unseated Republican Lincoln Chafee in November, is clearly not content to be in that mold.

Whitehouse announced yesterday that, in addition to fully supporting the Feingold-Reid bill that will force George W. Bush to withdraw from Iraq by cutting off funding for the ill-advised war, he will sign on as a cosponsor of the legislation.

"The American people voted for a new direction in Iraq, but this President just isn't listening," said Alex Swartsel, Communications Director for Senator Whitehouse. "Senator Whitehouse will cosponsor the Feingold-Reid bill to keep putting pressure on the administration to change course and start bringing our troops home from Iraq."

Bush to recess-appoint Swift-Boat scumbag Fox

In a move that should disgust all and surprise nobody, the White House announced today that George W. Bush will recess-appoint Sam Fox, who gave $50,000 to the Swift Boat Liars to help finance their 2004 smear of John Kerry, to be the new U.S. Ambassador to Belgium.

The nomination was withdrawn last week, when it became clear to Bush that Fox, who was instrumental in derailing Kerry's presidential bid, did not have enough votes in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to be confirmed.

A recess appointment allows a president to fill vacancies while the Congress is on a break, even if the nominee has already been expressly or implicitly rejected by the Senate.

The announcement on the White House web site was buried in a flurry of other activity and said simply this:

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Pelosi simply being a good parent to Bush

When my young son comes to the point on Saturdays when he's supposed to do his chores -- and believe me, he's hardly in a forced-labor camp -- he sometimes needs adult guidance in how to get the job done. He complains, he procrastinates, he gets overwhelmed by the tasks at hand until I step in and provide direction. Hey, he's nine years old.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is doing much the same thing with George W. Bush when it comes to his presidential responsibilities.

Pelosi has come under fire from the White House for her trip to Syria to meet with the country's leaders and to observe the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, which have been all but ignored by the Bush administration.

“As recommended by the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan delegation led by Speaker Pelosi intends to discuss a wide range of security issues affecting the United States and the Middle East with representatives of governments in the region, including Syria,� said Pelosi Spokesman Brendan Daly last week.

And nobody is saying that dealing with Syria, from which the U.S. withdrew its ambassador in 2005, is an easy thing to do. We're not exactly what anyone would call fast friends with Damascus and the hard work of negotiating with enemies or potential enemies is not for the weak or intellectually lazy. Sadly, Bush is both of those things.

Feingold-Reid bill presents another Democratic gut check

When Ned Lamont whipped Joe Lieberman in the Connecticut Senatorial primary in August and became the Democratic party's nominee for U.S. Senate, I began a campaign of contacting the offices of Democratic Senators and seeing how fast they would be willing to go on the record and support Lamont over the Bush-hugging Lieberman.

Some pledged support for Lamont quickly, while others took a while to come around to the earth-shattering notion of being a Democrat and actually supporting the Democratic nominee. And some failed the gut-check entirely and chose to support Lieberman -- who, at that point, had abandoned the Democratic party -- over Lamont, who had won the support of Connecticut's Democrats fair, square and convincingly.

This one should be easier.

Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI), with the strong support of Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), will come back from the Senate recess next week and propose legislation that will challenge any veto made by George W. Bush on the war-funding bill that's just passed both houses of Congress. The Senate and House measures include provisions calling for a complete withdrawal of American troops from Iraq by March and September of 2008, respectively, and Bush has promised to veto whatever legislation he gets that contains language about bringing the troops home.

The Feingold-Reid measure matches the bill that just passed the Senate by ordering Bush to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq within 120 days of enactment but will up the ante considerably by putting Bush on notice that funding for the war will stop in less than one year.

Dumb stuff Republicans say on the Senate floor

It's been a raucous and contentious week in the United States Senate, with Democrats trying to save the lives of American troops by pulling them out of an increasingly-violent civil war and Republicans doing everything in their power to keep our men and women in Iraq until hell freezes over. But you can always count on the folks on the GOP side of the aisle to provide a tiny bit of unintentional comic relief or, at the very least, to spew some things that just make you say "huh?"

Here's the line-up for this week:

Lamar Alexander (R-TN): And why do you think your crew was dubbed the "do-nothing" Congress?

Alexander took to the Senate floor this week to accuse Democrats of wasting time by doing -- gasp! -- oversight of the Justice Department in the Alberto Gonzales scandal… "The Democrats are making political hay out of these firings at a time when the Senate should be focused on Iraq, terrorism, health care costs, excessive federal spending, energy independence and keeping our brainpower advantage so we can keep our good jobs here instead of seeing them move overseas."

Yes, indeed. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) needs to take a page out of former leader Bill Frist's book and focus on the really important stuff like Terry Schiavo-like medical cases, flag burning and gay marriage, rather than all the things that Alexander hypocritically accuses Democrats of ignoring.

Oh, and Senator Alexander, while this may come as a major shock to you, it's kind of the Senate's responsibility to look into stuff like a corrupt Justice Department.

Democrats propose national sick leave bill

Joined by 22 other members of the Democratic caucus, Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) has introduced legislation that will provide some degree of paid sick leave for all Americans and force employers to allow workers to take a minimal amount of time off to care for themselves or a sick child.

"As members of Congress, we don't lose our pay or risk our jobs if we stay home because of illness. But millions of our fellow citizens are not so fortunate," said Kennedy, in introducing the legislation late last week. "Every parent knows what it's like to care for a sick child, and every child knows the importance of a parent taking care of them when they are ill. Yet, every day, countless Americans find their paychecks or even their jobs at risk when illness strikes."

The Healthy Families Act (S.910) will provide all American workers who work an average of at least 20 hours per week or 1,000 hours per year, up to seven paid sick days that can be used for "an absence resulting from a physical or mental illness, injury, or medical condition of the employee."

The legislation, which is being introduced in the House of Representatives by Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), also permits the use of the sick days for caring for a child, parent, spouse and -- get ready for anti-gay howling from the Religious Right on this one -- "any other individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship."

The Democratic Iraq-withdrawal resolution explained

When Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced the unified Democratic bill last week that would force George W. Bush to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq on a strict timeline, it was the culmination of many discussions among Senate Democrats to pull together one piece of legislation that would make everyone at least a little bit happy.

And Reid appears to have done that with S.J. Res. 9, the United States Policy in Iraq Resolution of 2007.

For something so important to the lives of so many people, the legislation -- which is binding upon Bush and will have the force of law -- is remarkably simple and straightforward. Its main premise is that the circumstances in place when Bush was granted authorization (in 2002) to attack Iraq -- even if those circumstances were fictitious -- have changed significantly and that the original resolution is effectively expired. It also states that American troops "should not be policing a civil war."

The meat of the resolution comes in the next part, which says that Bush must "commence the phased redeployment of United States forces from Iraq not later than 120 days after the date of the enactment of this joint resolution, with the goal of redeploying, by March 31, 2008, all United States combat forces from Iraq…"

9/11 families demand GOP stop blocking Commission recommendations

Painfully aware of the avalanche of irrelevant amendments that Republicans have put forth in an attempt to stall or derail the 9/11 Commission recommendations from getting a Senate vote, families of those who died on September 11 have sent a harshly-worded letter to Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), demanding that the GOP put national security before politics.

"As family members who lost loved ones on 9/11, we support full implementation of the 9/11 Commission recommendations. We are writing out of grave concern that your recent introduction of highly provocative, irrelevant amendments will jeopardize the passage of S.4.," said the letter, which was signed by key members of the groups Voices of September 11th and Families of September 11. "It is inconceivable that anyone in good conscience would consider hindering implementation of the 9/11 Commission recommendations, delaying much-needed homeland security improvements. We strongly disagree with these divisive procedural tactics."

The letter was signed by Voices of September 11th President Mary Fetchet who lost her 24-year-old son, Brad, in the New York City attacks and Carol Ashley, whose daughter Janice, 25, died in World Trade Center Tower One. Signing from Families of September 11 were Beverly Eckert, whose husband, Sean Rooney, died in Tower Two and Carie Lemack, whose mother, Judy Larocque, was aboard one of the hijacked flights.

Obama steps up for wounded troops

In the wake of the scandal surrounding the conditions endured by some Veterans at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) introduced two pieces of legislation last week to create a more suitable level of care for wounded troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Obama introduced, S. 713, the Dignity for Wounded Warriors Act, legislation written to "ensure dignity in care for members of the Armed Forces recovering from injuries," which has been referred to the Senate Armed Services Committee for review.

"Last week, the Nation learned of the serious problems at Walter Reed Army Medical Center including decaying, cockroach-infested facilities and an overwhelmed patient-care bureaucracy," said Obama in introducing his bill last week. "As described in a series of articles in the Washington Post by Dana Priest and Anne Hull, wounded soldiers are returning home from the battle in Iraq only to face a new battle to get the care and benefits they have earned."

The Democratic presidential candidate's legislation is already cosponsored by 23 Senators, with only three of those -- Kit Bond (R-MO), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) -- coming from the Republican side of the aisle.

Obama's legislation would fix conditions at outpatient VA residence facilities by setting higher standards -- such as stipulations that recovering soldiers' rooms will be as good or better as the best standard rooms for active-duty troops -- and increasing administration accountability. The bill also provides for expedited repair of maintenance problems in the facilities and, as Obama put it last week, "zero tolerance for pest infestations."

Dumb stuff Republicans say on the Senate floor

OK, folks, it's Friday, it's been a long week in the United States Senate and I've decided to bring some amusement into your lives by showing you some dumb things that Republicans said this week on the Senate floor. Nothing big… Nothing momentous…. Just enough to make you say "huh?"

DeMint Makes Theodore Roosevelt Spin In Grave

Or, one Chickenhawk uses Roosevelt's words to praise another Chickenhawk… Here's ultraconservative Jim DeMint (R-SC) getting all verklempt while giving a stirring floor speech about the "war on terror" and how George W. Bush stands alone in his heroic world vision -- and invoking Teddy Roosevelt to praise the man who brought us the Iraq quagmire:

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Akaka demands investigation into suicide of Iraq war veteran

I reported on Wednesday about Jonathan Schulze, the 25-year-old Iraq war Veteran from Minnesota, who committed suicide after being denied immediate treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder at two Veterans Administration medical facilities.

Fortunately, Democrats are now in charge of the Congress and action is already being taken.

Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI), the Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, is looking into the incident and sent a letter this week to VA Acting Under Secretary for Health, Dr. Michael Kussman. In the letter, Akaka asked for an expedited analysis of the events preceding Schulze's death, as well as a description of what actions the VA is taking to ensure that delays for vital mental health care do not occur in the future.

Young Marine Dies Of PTSD - And Neglect

He died earlier this month at the age of 25 -- not in Iraq, but back home, in Minnesota.

He died of wounds received during his seven-month tour of duty in Iraq, wounds different from the ones that earned Schulze two purple hearts. This young man died of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, of wounds to the soul and not the flesh. He died because the government that was there to send him far away to fight in 2004 wasn't there for him when he got home.

Schulze had a harrowing time in Iraq, spending time in the heated battles of Ramadi in April, 2004. While he was there, 35 Marines in his unit were killed, including 17 of them in just 48 hours of combat.

The young Marine was wounded twice in battle but returned home to...

GOP stalls on minimum wage to avoid Iraq votes

The majority of Senate Republicans filibustering and delaying the passage of a new minimum wage law may be heartless, but they're not dumb. They know that bumping the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour is enormously popular with the American people and they're also aware that it passed by huge numbers in the House of Representatives, with 80 Republicans voting in favor of helping the working poor.

So why the stalling? Why put off the inevitable with over 100 nonsensical amendments, while already voting once against ending debate on a clean minimum wage bill?

Well, folks, it's kind of like the Seinfeld episode, where George Costanza knows his girlfriend is about to break up with him so he just ducks her -- breaks dates, pretends he's not home, doesn’t answer the phone, reasoning that if he can stall her by not being available, she can’t break up with him.

Except in this case, the Republicans figure that if they can keep the Senate occupied indefinitely with an open-and-shut thing like a minimum wage increase, they can avoid the thing they fear most -- having to vote on any of the myriad Iraq-war resolutions waiting in the wings.

"Tuesday, we'll have a vote and, you know, they may defeat cloture just like they did on the ethics thing," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), at a joint press conference with Ted Kennedy (D-MA) on Friday. "They know that they're on the wrong side on this issue. And we're going to not let them forget it."

"If they defeat cloture on minimum wage, they think we're going to bring this right back? Oh, no we're not. We're going to move to another subject they don't like to talk about: escalation of the war in Iraq… they know when minimum wage is finished, we're going to Iraq."

GOP tries to kill minimum wage

Senator Wayne Allard (R-CO), evidently convinced that he was beating a dead horse by continuing his quest to ban flag-burning and discriminate against gay people, announced this month that he would not seek reelection in 2008 and the thought of having so little time left to screw the working poor from a comfy U.S. Senate seat must have just been eating him alive.

Allard, who has voted against a minimum wage increase more often than Fox News smears Barack Obama, went for broke this week and introduced a bill that would have eliminated the Federal Minimum Wage entirely and left the wage rate for the lowest-paid workers to each state.

In Kansas, this would mean that workers would revert to the state-mandated minimum wage of $2.65 per hour, which is currently superseded by the federal minimum of $5.15.

"In its current form, the bill attempts to blindly blanket the Nation with a new Federal minimum wage without regard to unique economic conditions of each individual State," said Allard in fighting the proposed $2.10 increase in the federal minimum wage. "Less Government intervention, at all levels, enables the private sector to attract, recruit, and retain the best possible employees and reward increased productivity and responsibility with higher compensation."

Anti-McCain-Doctrine legislation for dummies

It gets hard to keep track of all this stuff, doesn’t it?

When we have a President of the United States doing so many things wrong, for so long and we finally get a Democratic Congress that will actually take their oversight responsibilities seriously, well, the bills start flying faster than Dick Cheney can say "go f*** yourself" to Senator Patrick Leahy.

So let me clear up what's happening in the Senate where, at press time, we have three pieces of legislation that seek to neuter George W. Bush's ability to escalate the Iraq war.

Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) has introduced one bill, currently cosponsored by seven Senators, to remove any funding for sending additional troops to Iraq. The legislation proposed by Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) doesn't mention money, but cuts right to the chase by simply mandating that any new troop deployment for Iraq must be approved by Congress.

Then there's the Biden-Hagel-Levin resolution, introduced on Wednesday, that more or less tells Bush that Congress is against escalating the war but, as a non-binding resolution, does not compel the president to cancel sending 22,000 more troops to Iraq.

The best way to make sense of this is to cut to (quite literally) the bottom line of these bills to see what Congress is really trying to say.

Webb does more for troops in one day than Allen did in years

Keeping a promise he made on the campaign trail in 2006, Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) did more for the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan on his first day in the Senate than the man he ousted, George Felix Allen, did in the entire previous Congress.

Going unnoticed in the frenzy of Democrats assuming control of Capitol Hill and George W. Bush seeking to plunge the country deeper into the Iraq quagmire, Webb introduced the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2007, legislation that will provide the newest Veterans with educational benefits like those received by men and women who served in the three decades following World War II.

"As a veteran who hails from a family with a long history of military service, I am proud to offer this bill as my first piece of legislation in the United States Senate," said Webb, in introducing his bill last week. "The G.I. bill program was designed to help veterans readjust to civilian life, avoid high levels of unemployment, and give veterans the opportunity to receive the education and training that they missed while bravely serving in the military."

Webb, a former Secretary of the Navy and a highly-decorated Vietnam Veteran, introduced his legislation to provide enhanced benefits to those serving in the military since September 11, 2001. It will replace the Montgomery G.I. Bill, to which military personnel must contribute -- while earning a low active-duty salary anyway -- and which only provides financial support of up to $800 per month for educational expenses, which may not cover the cost of a full college education.

The Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act will pay for Veterans' tuition, books, fees, and other training costs, while also providing a monthly stipend of $1,000 for living expenses, thus making it much more possible for a large number of Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan to actually be able to complete a college education and build a better life.

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