CD005: Lame Ducks Return

During another slow week in Congress, Jesse Jackson Jr. resigns, Nydia Velazquez (NY) ignores a subpoena, the Department of Homeland Security gets investigated, the Senate fights about filibusters, and the Trans-Pacific-Partnership is confirmed as real, secret, and scary.

Bills Signed Into Law:

HR 2606: Fast tracks Rockaways gas pipeline for Transcontinental Gas Pipeline Company (Transco)

S 1956: Prohibits airlines from participating in EU cap & trade program.

Jesse Jackson Resignation
– Hasn’t been seen since June and didn’t campaign but still won his seat
– Is under investigation for allegedly trying to buy Barack Obama’s vacant Senate seat in 2008.

Nydia Velazquez (NY) sent a letter to Congress saying she is going to ignore a subpoena
– No information available on the court case she is involved in or why she is ignoring the subpoena.
– Represents Brooklyn, Lower Manhattan, Queens.
– Has been serving for 20 years – Top contributor is Goldman Sachs (she’s on the financial services committee)
– Got the vast majority of her 2012 money from large individual donors (rich people) and secret PACs (almost half a million)
– Voted for bailouts and against auditing the Fed

HR 5913: Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Accountability Act- passed the House 11/27

– Independent panel to do an assessment of DHS because its creation was and remains high risk.
– DHS was a creation of the Bush administration in 2002
– 22 agencies were merged = dysfunctional government
– FEMA – issued huge contracts with little to no oversight after Katrina.
– TSA – hundreds of employees have been arrested for thefts.
– Immigration & Border Patrol- employees arrested for accepting bribes.
– Federal protective service – short staffed and not performing their duties sufficiently.

– Senate also passed S. 1998: tells DHS to keep financial records for an audit next year

HR 6429: STEM Jobs Act- passed the House 11/30
– Legislation backed by Apple, Oracle, Cisco, & Adobe
– Makes it easier for foreign students graduating with degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math to get visas
– Limits the number of visas for regular families
– Eliminates the diversity visa program that gives visas to people from more random countries
– Won’t be become law; Obama administration is opposed

Filibuster Change in Senate
– Filibuster = Objection that postpones a bill from coming up for a vote.
– One strategy is endless debate: Senate rules allow Senators to speak as long as they wish unless 60 Senators vote to shut them up (cloture).
– Another strategy is an individual Senator placing a hold; if 60 votes aren’t there to over-ride the hold, the bill is blocked from a vote.
– Changes to Senate rules can be done by a simple majority but only on the first day of the session in January.
– Most likely change: the next Congress might require the blocker to stay on the floor and defend their objection.
– 1960’s: No Congress had more than 7, 2000’s: Avg over 100 in each of the last 3 Congresses

Trans Pacific Partnership
– A trade deal being crafted in secret with the cooperation of 600 corporations.
– Will manage 40% of all global trade (according to Secretary of State Clinton).
– Congressional representatives have been denied access to TPP negotiations and documents.
Next round scheduled for next week (Dec. 3-12) in Auckland, New Zealand