Thursday, October 11, 2007

Maybe, Just Maybe.....

...the Democrats are starting to get their acts together:

Item 1 - House panel backs Internet tax ban extension:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. congressional committee on Wednesday endorsed legislation that would extend a moratorium on state Internet access taxes for four years.

The U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to endorse extension of the Internet tax ban after defeating Republican amendments that would have either extended the prohibition further or made it permanent, a committee spokeswoman said.
Curiously, I'm behind the Republicans on this one, but what the hey...we all know they did that to prevent the original bill from being approved, thus allowing states to impose a tax on Internet access.

Item 2 - House backs bill to end private tax collections:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to end a Republican-backed program allowing private debt collectors to pursue tax debts owed to the federal government.

The House voted 232-173 for a bill ending the program enacted in 2004 by the then Republican-led Congress.

Democrats, who now control Congress, and unions opposed the program, saying it was a costly way to collect tax debts that could more efficiently be collected by Internal Revenue Service employees.
This one is close to my heart at the present time. It's a lot easier for me to negotiate with the IRS, believe it or not, than with a private tax collection agency, simply because the tax collection agency has a threshold where it will no longer make a profit on any tax I might owe. The IRS has no such bottom line, and so I might be able to discount anything I owe them.

Since I'm currently being audited, this is a relief to me.

Item 3 (and the biggie) - House Democrats defy Bush, approve spy bill:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Defying President George W. Bush, Democrats voted on Wednesday to bolster civil liberties safeguards in his anti-terrorism spying program and refused to shield phone companies from pending lawsuits.

Just hours after Bush warned Democrats they would be rolling back efforts to protect the United States, the House of Representatives Judiciary and Intelligence committees approved legislation to ensure congressional and court oversight of the surveillance of suspected enemy targets.

The party-line votes by the two panels were 20-14 and 12-7, respectively.
FINALLY, a spine begins to emerge from the fetal soup that Pelosi et co have been stewing in!

Mind you, there's a contingency, almost blackmail, to the bit about the phone companies:
Bush insisted the new bill "must grant liability protection to companies who are facing multibillion dollar lawsuits only because they are believed to have assisted in the efforts to defend our nation."

Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan replied: "The president's remarks today raise further questions about how the administration might have pressured or induced telecommunications companies to participate."

House Democrats say they will not consider retroactive immunity unless the White House hands over records of detailing what the companies did. The House bill would protect the firms from future lawsuits, but not from pending ones.
In other words, "Bush? Your cronies are on the chopping block unless you start ponying up material in our investigations."

Based on how this administration is responding and cooperating with Congress, you begin to get the sense they feel Nixon didn't fight hard enough to create the imperial Presidency and that Ronald Reagan was a wimp.

Of course, those two men labored under the apparent delusion that the Constitution was more than a piece of parchment hung on the wall of the Skull & Bones frat house.

Item 4 - House panel OKs Armenian genocide resolution:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. House committee approved on Wednesday a resolution calling the 1915 massacres of Armenians genocide, brushing aside White House warnings that it would do "great harm" to ties with NATO ally Turkey, a key supporter in the Iraq war.

The House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee approved the resolution 27-21. It now goes to the House floor, where Democratic leaders say there will be a vote by mid-November. There is a companion bill in the Senate, but both measures are strictly symbolic and do not require the president's signature.
OK, this one I might have a bit of a problem with, not for the sentiment expressed (it's pretty clear Turkey owes Armenians an apology and acknowledgement of the slaughter, at the very least), but for the timing:
ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey's prime minister will ask parliament next week to authorize a military push into north Iraq to fight Kurdish rebels amid Turkish anger on Thursday at a U.S. vote branding Ottoman Turk killings of Armenians genocide.

Analysts say a large Turkish cross-border incursion remains unlikely, but Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's government will seek authorization for it after a public holiday which ends on Sunday, a ruling party member told Reuters.[...]

Ankara says 3,000 rebels from the outlawed separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) are based in northern Iraq from where they stage deadly attacks into Turkey.
We need to prevent this, somehow, and hobbling Bush and Condoleeza Rice with this wet towel that Erdogan can smack them around with is probably not helpful.

Too, Turkey is a vital pipeline into Iraq for munitions, troops, and fuel. Pissing them off is effectively cutting funding for the troops, which while a noble goal, needs to be done some other way, more directly, instead of this passive aggressive bullshit featuring a staunch Muslim ally.

So, we'll score yesterday's session a B+, with plenty of room for improvement, but its clear they've started to take their jobs seriously.