Congress: Corruption as Usual

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Some appalling things are happening this week in Congress every voter should be aware of.

The first item is the Wilson FISA reform measure. This is a bill fashioned by the White House, which Democrats and a few Republicans fear would virtually eliminate FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court), by removing the power of the president regarding electronic surveillance from oversight and restraint by Congress and the Judiciary. Last minute language changes in the so called reform, would create a perpetual state of emergency, and allow the president to wiretap anyone, anywhere, without a warrant, court review, or observance of Congressional restraint while operating in that state of emergency. Emergencies are defined so broadly that an attack by terrorists on our troops in Iraq or Afghanistan would open a 45-day state of emergency.

Obviously, with attacks on our troops daily, this means under this new proposed legislation, we would be in a perpetual state of emergency for years, if not decades, to come. This will destroy the checks and balances the Constitution established between the branches of government. An authoritarian government is one unchecked by any other branches of government or the people. This so called reform would establish authoritarian rule in the White House, not just for this President, but for all who follow him, in the area of surveillance of both Americans and foreigners.

This proposal passed on the Senate side on a party line vote. The House version by Rep. Heather Wilson, R - N.M., stalled yesterday when The House Judiciary Committee suddenly canceled a vote on the bill due to tense negotiations between GOP leaders who endorse it, and the administration, which says it places too many restrictions on the program. Take note, what is holding up this bill is not its undermining of the Constitutional checks and balances, but, to what extent they should undermine the Constitutional checks and balances.

Here is Washington Post writer Weissman's take:

The bill, set for Judiciary Committee consideration today, [now yesterday] would have forced the administration to seek a warrant for surveillance within 60 days and bolstered consultations with Congress on the program. But last-minute changes pushed by senior Republicans may allow warrantless surveillance to largely continue without those controls. Instead, House Republican leaders brought their bill in line with legislation agreed to by the White House and the Senate, which would allow but not require the administration to submit the program to a secret court for a constitutional review.

Republicans are undermining the Constitution and seeking to back authoritarian rule of the President during this war on terror, which may take decades to fight. Americans can and will be wiretapped under this bill without court review and without Congress' ability to check the President's (NSA, FBI, CIA) use of the authority.

Second item: earmark reform. What we taxpayers would call pork spending reform. However, it isn't reform at all. Republicans are putting forth legislation that sounds like reform of how earmarks are handled. One would expect such reform to thwart the corruption and waste of our tax dollars on pork projects and eliminate conflicts of interest. But, this bill is all show for the elections, and no reform. Amendments to the bill which would have made it a true reform bill, were blocked by the Rules Committee. As the bill stands, contracts may continue to be issued to companies run by, or which employ, relatives of Congresspersons.

The bill permits large campaign donors of Congresspersons to receive contracts from the earmark spending of Congress. The bill will continue to permit contracts awarded to companies whose wealthy industry lobby groups have contributed heavily to Congresspersons, even when those lobby groups contain Congressperson family members in their employ. Nothing in this so-called earmark reform bill, would have impeded the "bridge to nowhere" in Alaska, which became a scandal some months back. This bill is a sham designed to allow Congress to say they have done something about corruption and pork spending without actually having changed it at all. Democrats have tried to offer amendments, which would eliminate many of these corrupt conflicts of interest. They were denied by the Rules Committee to receive a vote.

A glaring example of such corruption was highligthed this week as reported in the Washington Post:

The head of a Pentagon-funded research organization has resigned after the group's trustees concluded that his simultaneous service on the boards of two defense contractors was contrary to its conflict-of-interest policies.

Asked to resign from the corporate boards, retired Adm. Dennis C. Blair chose instead to leave his positions as president and trustee of the Institute for Defense Analyses, a nonprofit company that has long provided the Defense Department with independent technical advice on large weapons systems.

Third Item: Fortunately for America, the President's bill to allow the CIA to torture prisoners, has met fierce divisions amongst Republican Congressional leaders and is temporarily stalled. Anne Flaherty of the Associated Press writes in her article, Negotiations on Terror Legislation Snag, "The White House and three powerful GOP senators reached an impasse Wednesday over a Bush administration plan to allow tough CIA interrogations, underscoring election-season divisions among Republicans on the high profile issue of security."

If politicians say they are accomplishing good things for America, don't believe it. The good things they refer to are naming post offices and bridges after past presidents and famous people. The national debt, quarter trillion plus annual deficits, corrupt tax dollar transfers amongst politicians and their friends and families, absence of real election reform, ethics reform, lobbyist reform, or efforts to solve the looming Social Security and Medicare crisis coming upon us fast, all contradict their statements about how much good they are doing for America.

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This page contains a single entry by David R. Remer published on September 14, 2006 11:03 AM.

Freedom and 9/11 Remembrances was the previous entry in this blog.

Take My Liberty, Just Give me Security. is the next entry in this blog.

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