Thursday, March 08, 2007

NEW CONGRESS BATTLING HIDDEN PATRIOT ACT PROVISION: THE WAR OVER US ATTORNEY FIRINGS

"To replace seven United States attorneys all at once is not exactly a discreet thing to do." --GOP Sen. Arlen Specter today, wishing-aloud that the Bush administration had been more "discreet."


WASHINGTON D.C.--It's on. Congress is looking to end provisions in the last renewal (hopefully the last ever) of the Patriot Act added at the tail-end of the do-nothing 109th Congress. The battle is over presidential powers and their encroachment of the authority and powers of Congress. It's obvious there has been overstepping here by the Executive branch, and the remedies are being considered in a bipartisan-thrust today.

As a start, lawmakers are revisiting a last-minute provision added to last year's reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act at the request of the Justice Department. It gives the president authority to replace a US attorney without going back to the Senate for confirmation. At the time, no lawmaker noticed. But dramatic testimony Tuesday from fired attorneys, who appeared only after Congress began issuing subpoenas, is fueling a push to strike the provision.
(Christian Science Monitor, 03.08.2007)

Did I say I was impressed with this new Congress? I'll say it again: I'm impressed. Congress and the Executive are coequal branches of government in our system--our Constitution. The 109th Congress and the Bush administration has violated the Constitution of the United States by including this one sentence provision in the last renewal of the Patriot Act. This is a step towards forcing George W. Bush and his entire administration out-of-office, and we have ample-time to do it in.

Democrats are proposing a bill that will eliminate this provision permanently. Even Senator John Kyl (R-Az) is supportive. This actually extends back to February 16th of this year when the bill was first-proposed, but Kyl fears that federal courts will get the power to appoint US Attorneys rather than the president. This places him squarely in the Bush/Cheney camp on presidential powers:

The battle over seven dismissed U.S. attorneys took a sharp partisan turn yesterday, with Senate Republicans vowing to hold up a bill revoking the Justice Department’s power to indefinitely appoint prosecutors until Democrats give ground on amendments. Democratic leaders attempted to pass the U.S. attorneys bill unanimously, citing GOP support for reversing a provision in last year’s Patriot Act that has allowed Justice to remove the seven attorneys — several in the midst of public corruption cases — without sending the Senate new nominees.
(TheHill.com, 02.16.2007)

But events have changed the context of February, with the testimony of the former US Attorneys, most-particularly that of David C. Iglesias. This is forcing-the-hand of the GOP in the Senate, and leaving them no real alternative except to follow the changing-winds. As usual, the GOP wants amendments that gut or impair the bill, and the Democratic-majority hasn't been having it. This bill likely would have passed with bipartisan-support in February were it not for senators like Kyl, and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky).

But what is so bizarre about all of this is that GOP senators are claiming they didn't know the provision was in the legislation. Perhaps we could ask Dennis Hastert this, because somebody inserted-it into the language of the bill. The question is this: what is the name of this individual? Name please! We know it originated from the Bush administration--the likely-culprit being Vice President Cheney. We could have a hint in Kyl: he's the one blocking the new bill that will remove the provision.

Christian Science Monitor's Scoop: http://news.yahoo.com/s/csm/20070308/ts_csm/aattorneys

TheHill.com: http://thehill.com/leading-the-news/u.s.-attorney-bill-stalls-amid-gop-objections-dem-threats-2007-02-16.html

A Great Arizona Blog (I pity him living-amongst such idiots. I can relate...) : http://liberaldesert.blogspot.com/2007/03/servant-must-eat-masters-cooking.html