Issue 474, September 15, 2006
House passes earmark reform
On Thursday, the House passed an internal rules change aimed at adding transparency to the earmarking process in spending and tax legislation. Objections from some on the Appropriations Committee had cast doubt earlier in the week about whether or not the rules change would have enough support to pass. But even with some Appropriators voting against it, the measure passed comfortably by a vote of 245-171. The new rule will require that Members' names be attached to the special projects they request in all spending and tax bills. By adding a layer of transparency and accountability, I'm hopeful we'll see fewer wasteful and unnecessary pork projects added to legislation.
House votes to strengthen border security
The House passed The Secure Fence Act of 2006 (H.R. 6061) this week by a vote of 283-138. The bill provides for more than 700 miles of two-layered reinforced fencing along the southwest border with prioritized placement at critical, highly populated areas. It also mandates that the Department of Homeland Security achieve and maintain operational control over the entire border through a "virtual fence" that deploys cameras, ground sensors, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and integrated surveillance technology. The bill is in response to a series of field hearings and site visits held over the summer in which lawmakers found widespread weaknesses along our borders. The outdated security measures currently in place along our southwest border are unacceptable in a post-9/11 environment, and this bill will provide a much needed improvement.
House Committee approves terrorist prosecution bill
On Wednesday, the House Armed Services Committee approved a bill creating a new judicial process to prosecute terrorists captured in the ongoing global war on terror. The Military Commissions Act passed with bipartisan support by a vote of 52-8. The legislation creates a new system to fully and fairly prosecute terrorists, while protecting American troops who are fighting the war on terror. This action comes on the heels of President Bush's announcement that 14 top terrorist operatives, including the masterminds behind 9/11, have been moved to the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and are awaiting prosecution. The full House is expected to vote on the bill next week.
Congress marks anniversary of 9/11 attacks
On Monday, the nation marked the fifth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 innocent civilians. Congress was in session on that day five years ago, when reports of a fourth plane headed toward Washington caused a hurried evacuation of lawmakers and staff. As the world now knows, there was indeed another plane coming toward Washington that day, likely aimed at either the Capitol Building or the White House. But the brave passengers of that flight fought back against their hijackers, and the plane ultimately crashed in a Pennsylvania field. On Monday, Members of Congress gathered together on the Capitol steps to commemorate those who lost their lives on 9/11. Following remarks by House and Senate leaders, the lawmakers joined together in singing "God Bless America," just as they did five years ago in an historic show of unity.
Quote of the Week
"I wouldn't worry about it. You're not in season."
- Vice President Dick Cheney, during an appearance on NBC's Meet the Press. Moderator Tim Russert had asked Cheney if he should be relieved that he hadn't brought his shotgun to the show.