Issue 476, September 29, 2006
Congress sends terrorist tribunal bill to President's desk
After working out an agreement between the House, Senate, and White House, Congress passed S.3930, the Military Commissions Act and sent it to the President for his signature. This legislation establishes a system of military tribunals to try alien enemy combatants who have engaged in or supported terrorist activities. The act ensures that terrorists have basic legal rights, including the right to counsel, the right to obtain evidence and witnesses, and the right to appeal a guilty verdict. Suspected terrorists have the right to be present at all legal proceedings, and no evidence may be presented to the jury unless it is also provided to the accused terrorist. The substantive findings of classified evidence will be admissible in an unclassified form, but the classified evidence itself is protected and is privileged from disclosure to accused terrorists if the disclosure of the information would be detrimental to national security. The act also protects our military and intelligence personnel by codifying violations of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention. Currently, the article's vague provisions are open to a variety of interpretations, potentially rendering American personnel liable to prosecution without just cause. This is a win for our national security, and I look forward to the President signing into law in the coming days.
President signs spending transparency bill
On Tuesday, President Bush signed the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 into law. This legislation calls on the Office of Management and Budget to oversee a new website through which the public can readily access information about grants and contracts provided by federal government agencies, except for those classified for national security reasons. The huge size of the federal bureaucracy can be daunting to those attempting to figure out the many grant, loan, and assistance programs available. This bill helps citizens navigate that bureaucracy and adds a layer of accountability to government.
House votes to protect minors
On Tuesday, the House passed S. 403, the Child Custody Protection Act, by a vote of 264-153. This bill makes it a federal crime to transport a minor across state lines to have an abortion with the intent of evading parental consent or parental notification laws in the minor's home state. The bill also requires abortion providers in interstate abortions to provide notification of the minor's decision to her parents or legal guardian 24 hours before the abortion is performed. This simply promotes parental involvement in one of the most important health decisions a minor girl may ever make. Parental consent forms are required for school field trips to museums - it's unthinkable that minors should be allowed to undergo a potentially dangerous medical procedure without their parents' knowledge or consent.
House passes defense spending measure
This week, the House passed the fiscal year 2007 Department of Defense Appropriations Act, ensuring that our brave men and women in uniform will have the resources they need to fight the war on terror and protect us here at home. Among other things, this bill provides full funding for a 2.2 percent military pay raise, $1.9 billion for new improvised explosive device countermeasures to protect our troops on the ground, almost $23 billion to ensure Army and Marine Corps troops are fully equipped with updated and refurbished equipment, $9.4 billion for ballistic missile defense, and $1.542 million for the Chemical and Biological Defense Program.
Quote of the Week
"No question about it."
- Rep. Charlie Rangel's (D-NY) response when asked this week whether across-the-board tax increases would be considered if the Democrats gain control of the House in November. Rangel would likely Chair the tax-writing committee if Democrats controlled the House.