Congress’ new terrorism rules leave open questions

From Sac Bee:

After a bruising battle in Congress, the Obama administration retained the right to investigate and try suspected terrorists in civilian courts. But officials say newly enacted legislation raises a host of questions that will complicate and could harm the investigation of terrorism cases.

During a struggle that began last May and ended this past week in a compromise defense bill, the administration waged an uphill fight against a majority of Republicans and some Democrats trying to expand the role of the military while reducing the role of civilian courts in the fight against terrorism.

It was the latest effort by conservatives to keep open the U.S. military prison facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to place terrorism suspects in indefinite detention and to designate military commissions as the preferred alternative to civilian courts for meting out justice.

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Photo courtesy of DVIDSHUB, flickr

House GOP leaders want new payroll tax cut bill

From Sac Bee:

Top House Republicans rebelled Sunday against a bipartisan, Senate-approved bill extending payroll tax cuts and jobless benefits for two months.

The House GOP defiance cast uncertainty over how quickly Congress would forestall a tax increase otherwise heading straight at 160 million workers beginning New Year’s Day. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said it could be finished within two weeks, which suggested that lawmakers might have to spend much of their usual holiday break battling each other in the Capitol.

A day after rank-and-file House GOP lawmakers used a conference call to spew venom against the Senate-passed bill, Boehner said he opposed the legislation and wanted congressional bargainers to craft a new, yearlong version.

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Is anyone really buying Holder’s excuses on Fast & Furious?

From Hot Air:

To answer Mike Hashimoto, the DMN’s editorial writer, no.  That, however, hasn’t kept them from sticking with their stonewall strategy:

“What we still don’t know — what Attorney General Eric Holder with great determination will not say — is who in Washington signed off on this awful idea of letting straw purchasers cart off armloads of high-powered weapons, headed to Mexico. The stated plan was to track them to the cartels, which worked out about as well as one might expect. Hundreds of guns disappeared and now are turning up at crime scenes on both sides of the border.

Holder last week had another bob-and-weave session with a congressional committee, managing to reveal as little as possible. However, he did let us know that while Justice did dump hundreds of emails in response to a subpoena, none were addressed to him or had been sent by him. And that he has a personal email account, along with his government account. And that lying isn’t the same as not telling the truth, depending on one’s “state of mind.”

You’ve seen people who did it and didn’t in your life. Is this how an innocent person behaves? Is it plausible that the attorney general of the United States had no idea what was going on in Arizona within his own shifting time parameters?”

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Keystone climbdown leaves Obama supporters scratching their heads

From the Hill:

President Obama put two conditions in end-game talks on extending the payroll tax holiday.

He wanted to pay for the extension with a surtax on millionaires, and he made clear that the Keystone XL oil pipeline should be kept out of the legislation.

“Any effort to try to tie Keystone to the payroll tax cut I will reject,” the president said. “So everybody should be on notice.”

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Republicans about to become an afterthought in Capitol

From Oakland Tribune:

Now that Gov. Jerry Brown has decided to take his tax hike initiative directly to the voters, will Republicans have a role to play in the Legislature in 2012?

Or will they be relegated to little more than a cranky but irrelevant presence in the Capitol, holding fast to their anti-tax ideology but with little to show for it?

Increasingly marginalized with dwindling statewide registration numbers, Republicans have already lost leverage on the budget and may soon lose it on taxes if new district lines leave them short of a simple one-third minority.

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Photo courtesy of jglazer75, flickr

Planned Parenthood foiled by HHS Secretary; girls 16 years and younger need prescription

From LA Times:

In a surprise development that riled some and pleased others, the emergency contraceptive drug Plan B One-Step — popularly called the morning-after pill — will remain available for girls 16 and younger by prescription only.

The Food and Drug Administration had earlier announced its intentions to permit sale of the drug over-the-counter for all ages, but on Dec. 7, Health and Human Services SecretaryKathleen Sebelius overruled that decision.

Predictably, reproductive health advocates cried foul over the development, and proponents of conservative family values hailed it.

Photo courtesy babblingweed, Flickr

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House Will Likely Modify Senate Extenders Package

From Roll Call:

The House will likely modify or send to conference a Senate-passed bill to temporarily extend jobless benefits and the payroll tax cut when the chamber returns Monday, prolonging a session already well past its target end-date.

The chamber will also vote on the Senate-passed version of the bill, according to the office of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. The Virginia Republican’s office sent a release Saturday night indicating that votes are possible on Tuesday as well.

The move would force Senate leaders, who have already compromised to pass a two-month extension of a payroll tax cut, unemployment insurance benefits and a patch to payments for doctors who treat Medicare patients, to take the issue up yet again.

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Photo courtesy of Rob Crawley, flickr


Prisoner shifts leave murderers better off than nonviolent criminals

From North County Times:

California’s violent criminals and sex offenders might have much more comfortable stays behind bars than those convicted of less-serious crimes, though they are serving similarly long sentences —- because of a new law aimed to relieve prison overcrowding and save the state money.

The disparity is a consequence of Gov. Jerry Brown’s massive prison realignment, which sends nonviolent offenders to county jails instead of state prisons to serve their sentences. The law is an attempt to comply with a recent U.S. Supreme Court order to reduce the number of inmates at California prisons during a state budget crisis.

Those convicted of nonviolent felonies such as grand theft or drug charges in San Diego County have less space for recreation, can speak with visiting friends and relatives only from behind glass, and have no access to the state’s more extensive job-training programs for prisoners.

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San Diego council balance hangs on one election

From SD Union-Tribune:

Businessman Ray Ellis has stepped down as board chairman of San Diego’s pension system, setting the stage for a City Council run against incumbent Sherri Lightner.

The race won’t get nearly the same publicity as the campaign for San Diego mayor, but the outcome in the city’s toniest district could decide which political party holds the majority on a new nine-member City Council.

If Lightner wins, Democrats will almost certainly continue to hold a majority on the council as they have for the past decade. Four of the nine districts are considered safe havens for Democrats so the party only needs to win one of the “swing” seats to hold sway.

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California Dream Act’s opponents gather signatures

From LA Times:

In the parking lot of a closed Pasadena restaurant, a handful of tea party volunteers huddled under a tent to escape a sudden downpour of rain.

They were there to gather signatures to repeal AB 131, or the California Dream Act, which gives illegal immigrants access to state financial aid at public universities and community colleges. The rain smudged their signs, they were shouted at by a driver who called them racist, and the turnout was lower than they’d hoped.

But they were undaunted. On their side were a radio campaign and a small number of determined folks who arrived steadily despite the weather.

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