Friday, June 22, 2007

How It Works

The Senate is going to re-introduce the immigration bill next week by using a procedure that will bring it directly to the floor without having to subject it to committee hearings. At that point there will be floor debate on the bill. A motion will then be made to close off debate so that the bill can be voted on. Closing debate is called "cloture," and it requires 60 (out of 100) votes. Once debate is closed the bill itself will then be voted upon. It takes only 51 votes to pass.

Some Republican senators who want the bill to pass but who don't want to anger their constituents by voting for it are likely to cover themselves by voting for cloture and then voting against the bill. Since it'll be harder to get cloture than to pass the bill they can tell their constituents that they voted against the bill when in fact, by voting for cloture, they almost guaranteed that the bill would pass the Senate, even without their vote.

If the bill succeeds in the Senate it will then go to the House of Representatives where it will be voted upon (there's no cloture in the House). If it passes it will then be sent to the President's desk where he will sign the bill into law.

The Senate cloture vote is projected to be very close and the following Republican senators are still uncommitted:

  • Richard Burr (N.C.)
  • Kit Bond (Mo.)
  • Gordon Smith (Ore.)
  • Thad Cochran (Miss.)
  • Norm Coleman (Min.)
  • Orrin Hatch (Utah)
  • and Bob Bennett (Utah).

You can contact your senators to urge them to vote against cloture by going to this site which lists their phone numbers and e-mail addresses.

To read more about why senators should oppose this bill go here to read Congressman Dr. Dave Weldon's (R-FL) excellent critique of it.


Do As I Say Not As I Do

Senator Reid just introduced an amendment to the energy bill to raise CAFE standards for all cars, trucks and SUVs to 35 mpg by 2020. One might think that Senator Reid is concerned about conserving energy, but then there was this photo in the June 21st Roll Call:

That's Sen. Reid getting out of a Chevy Suburban he had just driven across the street to a meeting on energy efficiency.

Some men lead by example. Then there's Senator Reid.


Who Is an Enemy Combatant?

John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute is no touchy-feely liberal looking for an excuse to discredit the Bush administration. He's an evangelical Christian whose organization has fought a lot of legal battles against the ACLU and others on behalf of religious, church, and parental rights. So when Whitehead sounds the tocsin alerting us of an impending loss of liberties as a result of current Bush administration policies, the twenty five percent or so of the country that still supports the President should sit up and listen:

The fabric of our nation is unraveling, and our freedoms are hanging by a thread.

In a world where the president has the power to label anyone, whether a citizen or permanent resident, an enemy combatant and detain that person indefinitely without trial, no liberty exists and everyone is potentially an "enemy combatant."

According to the Bush Administration, Ali Saleh Kahlah Al-Marri is such a person.

This legal alien, residing in Peoria, Ill., with his wife and children, was attending college when he was swept up by government agents. He was held in a military prison for four years without ever being charged with a crime. And for the first 16 months of his imprisonment, this man's family was not even allowed to see him, speak to him or reassure themselves that he was alive and well.

Because Al-Marri is not a U.S. citizen, the government denied him basic constitutional protections such as the right to hear the charges against him, consult an attorney and appear before a judge to determine if, in fact, he is guilty of anything. To some people, this is as it should be. But that's not the way things are supposed to work here in America. Even the worst criminals in American history, from flesh-eating Jeffrey Dahmer to terrorist bomber Timothy McVeigh, were afforded an attorney and a trial.

This issue is bigger than Al-Marri. It's even bigger than the Bush Administration and its so-called war on terror. The groundwork is being laid for a new kind of government where it will no longer matter if you're innocent or guilty, whether you're a threat to the nation or even if you're a citizen. What will matter is what the president-or whoever happens to be occupying the Oval Office at the time-thinks. And if he or she thinks you're a threat to the nation and should be locked up, then you'll be locked up with no access to the protections our Constitution provides. In effect, you will disappear.

Read the rest of this essay at the link.

There may be more to this story than what Whitehead has included here. Indeed, in such cases there often is, but nevertheless, it should give us pause that a legal resident has been imprisoned for four years without having charges brought against him. It's one thing to hold prisoners taken on the battlefield as POWs and to treat them differently than citizens. It's quite another to hold a legal resident in the way al-Marri has been detained. I am all for the use of whatever means the law does not explicitly prohibit for apprehending those who pose threats to the United States, but if someone who is in this country legally is taken into custody they have the right to hear the charges against them and to be granted legal representation and ultimately a trial. If we deny these rights to legal residents it won't take much for some future president to deny them to citizens, and then we will have ceased to be the United States of America.