In the rush before their August recess, Congress has been very busy. Here’s a quick rundown of some of their work, including important victories, battles and polls this week.
Victory for John Doe
The “John Doe” law to shield terrorist tipsters from nuisance lawsuits, initially rejected by the House, has been successfully added to September 11 legislation.
Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Bernie Thompson (D.-Miss.), strongly opposed the bill authored by Rep. Peter King (R.-N.Y.), a ranking member of the same committee.
“I do not support the attempt by my colleagues to shield from liability anybody and everybody who decides to make a claim against someone alleging terrorist activity,” Thompson said. King previously threatened not to sign the final conference report of the bill unless the John Doe provision was included.
Border Security Not Germane to Homeland Security
Republicans, led by Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), introduced an amendment to the fiscal year 2008 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill Wednesday that would provide $3 billion for border fencing and prohibit “sanctuary city” policies, which forbid local law enforcement from enforcing federal immigration laws.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) then raised a point of order against the amendment on grounds it was not germane to the underlying bill. Reid claimed the amendment would “re-legislate immigration” and “take away basic rights that people have, people who are American citizens.” Reid’s point of order passed 52-44.
Sen. Thad Cochran (R.-Miss.), Sen. Ted Stevens (R.-Ala.) and Sen. George Voinovich (R.-Ohio) crossed party lines to help Democrats defeat the amendment. Three senators seeking their party’s presidential nomination did not vote on the point of order: Sam Brownback (R.-Kans.), Hillary Clinton (D.-N.Y.) and John McCain (R.-Ariz.) Sen.Tim Johnson (D.-N.D.), who is recovering from brain hemorrhage, also did not vote on the measure..
A Judiciary Flip on SouthwickWhen the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously voted to confirm Judge Leslie Southwick to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, Sen. Dick Durbin (D.-Ill.), Sen. Patrick Leahy (D.-Vt.) and
Chairman Leahy flipped last month. In mid-June he said he’d like President Bush to nominate an African-American to the post instead of Southwick. "
Last week, committee member Feingold issued a temporary hold on Southwick’s nomination because of objections he had with two opinions Southwick had signed,but did not author, while serving on the Mississippi Court of Appeals.
In one of the decisions, Southwick agreed use of a racial slur is not grounds for firing a state employee although slurs are “always offensive” and “inherently derogatory.” The other discussed a decision to grant child custody to a heterosexual father instead of a child’s bisexual mother. Both opinions were available before the Judiciary Committee vote.
In mid-June, chairman Patrick Leahy (D.-Vt.) said he would prefer that President Bush nominate an African-American to the post instead of Southwick. "Mississippi has never had an African-American on the circuit even though it has the largest African-American population of any state," Leahy said.
Now, Durbin is claiming he didn’t have enough information about Southwick at the time he supported him in the Judiciary committee vote. Durbin went to the Senate floor Wednesday morning and said that he “came to the Southwick nomination with no advanced knowledge of the man or anything he had done.”
In July 20 press conference, Senate Minority Leader said whatever controversy was being made over Southwick’s confirmation was “manufactured.” He said Democrats “looked at 7,000 cases he participated in and found two they didn’t like the outcome of, neither of which he wrote.”
Polling on Iraq War Baffles NYT
Two separate polls have confirmed something inexplicable to the New York Times: that support for the initial invasion of Iraq has increased over the last two months.
A national telephone poll conducted July 9-17 by CBS and the New York Times with 1,554 adults asked, “Looking back, do you think the United States did the right thing in taking military action against Iraq, or should the United States have stayed out?” Forty-two percent said it was the right thing to do. Fifty-four percent said the U. S. should have stayed out.
A similar poll, conducted last May, asked the same question. Then, 35 percent said taking military action in Iraq was the right thing to do and 61 percent said the United States should have stayed out.
Janet Elder, editor of news surveys and election analysis at the New York Times, said the change was “counterintuitive.” Because the newspaper didn’t believe it was possible more Americans now support the initial invasion than did two months ago, their staff conducted a duplicate poll a week later.
“We had a poll finding we could not explain,” Elder wrote Wednesday. Another nationwide telephone poll was conducted July 20-22 with 889 adults had nearly identical results. Once again, 42 percent said taking military action in Iraq was the right thing to do. Three percent less than those polled the previous week, or 51 percent, said the United States should have stayed out.
Elder wrote the poll didn’t help the New York Times “understand a lot more about what was driving the change” but, she added, “We had confidence in the results.”