United States News Digest
Senator Byrd Compares 'Nuclear Option' to Hitler's 'Enabling Law'
In a devastating attack on the drive by the Republican majority to suppress any opposition to the Bush-Cheney agenda, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) warned in a March 2 Senate speech against the threat of fascism in America, comparing GOP attempts to change Senate rules to eliminate the filibuster, to the "Enabling Law" that created the Hitler dictatorship.
The filibuster, said Sen. Byrd, Congress's leading Constitutional scholar, is fundamental to the Senate's role as a check on the Executive branch. From the speech:
"Historian Alan Bullock writes that Hitler's dictatorship rested on the constitutional foundation of a single law, the Enabling Law. Hitler needed a two-thirds vote to pass that law, and he cajoled his opposition in the Reichstag to support it.... Hitler never abandoned the cloak of legality; he recognized the enormous psychological value of having the law on his side. Instead, he turned the law inside out and made illegality legal. And that is what the nuclear option seeks to do to Rule XXII [the filibuster]...
"Employing the nuclear option, engaging a pernicious, procedural maneuver to serve immediate partisan goals, risks violating our nation's core democratic values and poisoning the Senate's deliberative process...
"[T]he American spirit, that stubborn, feisty, contrarian, and glorious urge to loudly disagree, and proclaim, despite all opposition, what is honest and true, will be sorely manacled....
"If we start, here, in this Senate, to chip away at that essential mark of freedom, here of all places," Sen. Byrd concluded, "in a body designed to guarantee the power of even a single individual through the device of extended debate, we are on the road to refuting the Preamble to our own Constitution and the very principles upon which it rests."
Army Recruiting Down by More Than 27%
The U.S. Army signed up 5,114 recruits in February, 1,936 fewer than its goal of 7,050. The last time the Army missed a monthly target was in May 2000. The February shortfall is all the more worrisome as it comes when the Army is trying to lure recruits with the largest enlistment bonuses it has ever offeredup to $20,000 to some recruits willing to sign on for four years, while the Pentagon is also adding thousands of recruiters for the Army and other military branches. Doug Smith, a spokesman for U.S. Army Recruiting Command, at Fort Knox, Ky., noted that the Army has already used up many of its "delayed entry" recruitspeople who agree to sign up, but whose enlistment is delayed until later, for their convenience, or that of the Army.
The Marine Corps also reports that it missed its monthly target in January for the first time in nearly ten years, but did meet its February goal.
David Segal, a military sociologist at the University of Maryland, who follows personnel trends, told USA Today March 3, that the Army's February numbers reflect the extraordinary demands on U.S. ground forces and the uneasiness many Americans feel about the war in Iraq.
House Votes To Expand Faith-Based Bribes
On March 2, the House approved a bill, by a 224-200 vote, that would allow faith-based groups to receive Federal job-training money while hiring workers only of a particular faith. Democrats opposed the measure, saying it's discrimination. "This provision is offensive, ugly, wrong," declared Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass). "It is a slippery slope from here on out, and I fear this is just the beginning."
Meanwhile, prominent Democratic Party figure Donna Brazile warned that the aggressive Republican drive to recruit black votes through black church leaders, "should be cause for alarm" for Democratic leaders.
Abramoff Target of Interagency Probe
In its March 1 lead article, The Hill, which is distributed to every Congressional office, announced that the Justice Department has subpoenaed records from the GOP lobby group, the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy (CREA), founded by Grover Norquist (Americans for Tax Reform), and former Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton.
The targets of the investigation are Jack Abramoff, the architect of Texas Republican Rep. Tom DeLay's political money machine, and Abramoff's partner Michael Scanlon, a former chief aide to DeLay, who are both under investigation for their dealings with Native American tribes' gambling operations. The interagency task force investigating Abramoff and Scanlon includes the FBI, the IRS, the Public Integrity Section of the DoJ, and the Interior Department's Inspector General. The pattern described by The Hill, is that Abramoff squeezed tribes that had hired him for work on their gambling casino operations, to give money to CREA; the money was attributed to interest in environmental concerns, but investigators believe it was only because CREA was "close to the Interior Department," and would be useful in arranging favorable decisions for Abramoff's interests.
EIR and New Federalist have previously exposed the dirty dealings of Abramoff, including his business links to organized crime.
Both Dem and GOP Governors Oppose Bush Medicaid Cuts
Even Republican Gov. Bob Taft of Ohio said, during a meeting of the National Governors Association in Washington on March 1, that there was united opposition to President Bush's proposed $60 billion Medicaid cut in the budget ("we've made it clear we oppose that"). Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle (D) said, "What they are saying to the states is, 'We're going to cut you and give you more flexibility,' and the flexibility is, you can cut people off."
White House spokesman Scott McClellan called the $60 billion cut a "plan for moving forward on strengthening Medicaid" (the same line he and Bush use for stealing Social Security) by "eliminating loopholes and accounting gimmicks." The governors complained that Bush had put forward no details, just the $60 billion cut, leaving nothing to find agreement on. Even Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, former national chair of the Republican Party, said the governors felt that "the budget was driving policy rather than policy driving the budget."
Myers Nomination Running Into a Brick Wall
Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa), who is trying to avoid the "nuclear option" threatened by Majority Leader Bill Frist and Vice President Dick Cheney a change in Senate rules that would bar the filibusterhoped he could reach some compromise on William Myers, nominated by President Bush for a seat on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, whom he considered the least controversial of the Federal judicial nominees. As the hearing opened March 1, Specter said he had 58 votes, "within hailing distance" of the 60 needed to stop a filibuster. Myers is one of several judges blocked by the Democrats in the 108th Congress whom Bush has re-nominated for consideration by the 109th Congress.
However, the Washington Post reported on March 2, that Specter's effort is losing ground. Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo), who, as Attorney General in Colorado in 2004, had strongly recommended Myers to the U.S. Court of Appeals, and whom Specter was counting on, has now written a letter to President Bush asking him to withdraw Myers' name, along with all the others who have been re-submitted.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), whom Specter also counted on, issued a scathing attack on Myers' environmental record, during the hearing. A showdown on the filibuster is now likely on the Myers nomination.
New Homeland Security Plans Meet Skepticism
The Department of Homeland Security's plans to implement a pay-for-performance system in place of the 50-year-old General Schedule, as well as other measures, were the subject of close examination by the House Government Reform Committee's Subcommittee on Federal Workforce and Agency Operation March 2. The subcommittee's ranking Democrat, Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill) ridiculed the notion that most of the reforms had anything to do with national security, which has been the justification all along for the changes, which were authorized in the legislation that created DHS, and which the Department is now attempting to implement.
"These regulations are not fair, not credible, not transparent," he said. "They reflect DHS's and the Bush Administration's desire to have unchecked authority over the civil service." He warned that the proposals risk taking the Federal government back to the time of Andrew Jackson, "when the entire workforce faced replacement after each election."
Judge Slaps Down Bush in Padilla Case
A Federal judge in South Carolina granted the habeas corpus petition filed by Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen who has been held as an "enemy combatant" in a military prison for over two years. The judge, Henry Floyd, who was appointed to the bench in 2003 by President George W. Bush, ruled March 1 that the President does not have the authority to detain a U.S. citizen who was arrested on U.S. soil, indefinitely, without bringing charges against him.
The government has argued that the President's inherent Constitutional powers as Commander-in-Chief in wartime allow him to detain Padilla indefinitely as an "enemy combatant." The judge strongly disagreed, saying that only Congress can authorize such detentionsnot the Presidentand also that only Congress can suspend habeas corpus. To rule otherwise, he said, "would not only offend the rule of law and violate this country's Constitutional tradition, but it would also be a betrayal of this Nation's commitment to the separation of powers that safeguards our democratic values and individual liberties."