Fast Track trade bill clears procedural hurdle, headed for passage in the Senate

The Senate voted on Thursday to end debate on fast-track trade legislation, handing a significant victory to President Obama and moving the bill a step closer to passage. Senate takes key step toward passing fast-track for Obama:

Screenshot from 2015-01-25 15:31:49Senators voted 62-38 on the bill, which will allow the president to send a sweeping Asia-Pacific trade deal to Congress for an up-or-down vote, and prevent the deal from being amended by Congress.

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Thirteen Democrats in total voted to end debate on a measure that badly divided Obama from his party.

Sens. Patty Murray (Wash.), Maria Cantwell (Wash.) and Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.) were among the final Democratic yes votes.

[The other Democrats who voted to end debate were Sens. Tom Carper (Del.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Chris Coons (Del.), Mark Warner (Va.), Michael Bennet (Colo.), Tim Kaine (Va.), Bill Nelson (Fla.) and Ron Wyden (Ore.), the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee.]

They appeared to vote after Cantwell secured an agreement from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to allow a vote in June on renewing the Export-Import Bank’s charter.

The bank, which has come under criticism from conservative Republicans, helps finance U.S. investments meant to increase trade, and has been supported in the past by Boeing.

Senate Republicans say votes on amendments and final passage of fast-track are unlikely before Friday. They are hoping to wrap up the trade package Friday afternoon.

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Competing USA Freedom Act vs. USA Patriot Act extension votes this weekend

aquabuddhaWhen last we checked in on Senator Aqua Buddha, Rand Paul (R-KY), he was conducting a not-really-a-filibuster of the USA Patriot Act extension, which was not the bill under consideration on the Senate floor at the time.

As filibusters go, it was not a serious effort, and it only accomplished pushing back the Senate’s calendar into Saturday. Paul’s filibuster wraps up after more than 10 hours .

So the take away from Aqua Buddha’s stunt is that: (1) he is not seriously committed to the constitutional and civil liberties principles that he claims to represent; (2) he did it only to draw attention to himself and his presidential campaign, and to raise campaign funds off of it (he sent out a fundraising email before his stunt began); and (3) Aqua Buddha is just a grifter like his old man, the village idiot Ron Paul, shaking down the rubes and relieving them of the money in their pocket. Grifting is the Paul family business.

So where do things stand with the USA Patriot Act provisions set to expire at the end of the month?

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U.S. District Court upholds Tucson’s electoral system

TucsonBack in April I posted about Republicans sue to overturn City of Tucson electoral system, once again. A hearing on the motion for preliminary injunction to prevent the City of Tucson from going forward with this year’s mayor and council races using the electoral system that the Tucson City Charter has mandated since 1929 was held a couple of weeks ago.

Yesterday, to no one’s surprise, U.S. District Judge Cindy Jorgenson denied the motion for  preliminary injunction ruling in favor of the City of Tucson, and once again upheld the electoral system that the Tucson City Charter has mandated since 1929.  Order (.pdf):

VI. Conclusion

Consideration of Plaintiffs’ claims of a denial of the right to vote under the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution, the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the Arizona Constitution, and the Free and Equal Elections Clause of the Arizona Constitution is appropriate under a rational basis [standard of] review. The important regulatory interests of Tucson justify the reasonable, nondiscriminatory restrictions placed by Tucson upon the First and Fourteenth Amendment rights of voters.

Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED:

1. The Motion for Preliminary Injunction (Doc. 3) is DENIED.

2. Plaintiffs’ claim of a dilution of the right to vote as stated in Count II is DISMISSED.

3. Judgment is awarded in favor of Defendants and against Plaintiffs as to Plaintiffs’ claim of a denial of the right to vote under the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution (Count I), the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the Arizona Constitution (Count III), and the Free and Equal Elections Clause of the Arizona Constitution (Count IV).

4. The Clerk of Court shall enter judgment and close its file in this matter.

The filing deadline for mayor and council candidates is next Wednesday, May 27, 2015 at 5:00 p.m. Election law attorney Rick Hasen has identified a consistent theme in court actions, which he calls the “Purcell principle” after the 2006 Supreme Court case Purcell v. Gonzalez: Lower courts should be very reluctant to change the rules just before an election, because of the risk of voter confusion and chaos for election officials. How to Predict a Voting Rights Decision. This is a guiding principle in any election law appeal.
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A Hero’s Salute on Memorial Day Holiday

pimaairspacemuseum

The 2015 A Hero’s Salute will be held at the Pima Air & Space Museum

May 25th at 3:00PM

6000 E Valencia Rd, Tucson, AZ 85706

$20/person

Ticket price includes admission to the A Hero’s Salute event AND Pima Air and Space Museum

A HERO’S SALUTE

Join us as Arts Express honors the brave men and women from Southern Arizona who have served, as well as those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. This uplifting and inspirational Memorial Day tribute recognizes our military,first responders, public servants, and all those who have placed themselves before others.

The program will feature the Arts Express Singers and Brass Quintet, along with inspirational speakers. Conducted by Dr. David Ashcraft, Co-Artistic Director of Arts Express.

More info and to buy tickets: http://www.arts-express.org/a-heros-salute/

 

Senate filibuster of USA Patriot Act extension underway

Last week, the House overwhelmingly approved by a vote of 338-88 the USA Freedom Act, which would prevent the NSA from collecting metadata about the phone numbers people dial and when their calls are placed. House overwhelmingly passes USA Freedom Act, Senate GOP opposed.

NSA-SpyingThe Septuagenarian Ninja Turtle, Mitch McConnell and other Senate Republicans oppose the USA Freedom Act and are pushing to pass a “clean” extension of the Patriot Act, including Section 215, which the NSA uses to justify its phone records program.

But the Second Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled bulk collection of phone records is not authorized by Section 215 of the Patriot Act. Second Circuit rules NSA bulk collection of phone records is illegal. “In a 97-page ruling (.pdf), a three-judge panel for the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [unanimously] held that a provision of the USA Patriot Act known as Section 215 cannot be legitimately interpreted to allow the bulk collection of domestic calling records.” So what the Turtle Man and GOP senators want, the court has already ruled is illegal.

The Hill reports, Republicans in showdown over NSA spy program:

Sen. Mitch McConnell on Tuesday said he would allow a vote on legislation overhauling the nation’s surveillance programs, which could give him more leverage in the fight over the National Security Agency’s future.

The move means the Senate will vote this week on the USA Freedom Act — but it does not guarantee its passage.

While the bill was overwhelmingly approved in a 338-88 House vote last week and is backed by the White House and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) both oppose it.

So do a number of other hawkish Senate Republicans who argue it would endanger national security by preventing the government from holding metadata collected from phone calls.

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Congress to kick the can down the road (again) on highway funding

HighwayCongress will agree to a short-term extension of highway funding before it expires at the end of the month, kicking the can down the road again, so to speak.

It is the 33rd short-term extension in recent years. The New York Times suggests that this will set up an epic battle over infrastructure later this summer; doubtful.

Until Tea-Publicans agree that we need to raise taxes to pay for long overdue infrastructure improvements — something they are religiously opposed to — their tactic of robbing Peter to pay Paul (revenue neutral budgeting) will simply pit one interest against another, leading to gridlock. House Approves Short-Term Financing for Highways:

The House on Tuesday approved a two-month extension of funding for transportation projects, setting up what could be a defining fight over money for highways and other infrastructure this summer after years of stopgap measures.

The extension, which passed in a 387-to-35 vote with one member voting present, would maintain funding for the Highway Trust Fund through July 31. The bill now goes to the Senate, which has just two legislative days left before a scheduled weeklong Memorial Day recess. The transportation program’s spending authority is set to expire during that break, on May 31.

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