Monday, July 31, 2006

When the going gets tough, Chuck sits down. It was nice to see Chris Dodd out in front and in opposition to John Bolton, but now the NY Sun is reporting that Chuck says that a filibuster is "unlikely."

The Sun says Schumer

supported an effort last year to block Mr. Bolton's nomination from gaining a full Senate vote, but he confirmed that he is considering changing his position.

New York's senior senator said he was weighing Mr. Bolton's backing of Israel against his unwillingness to work with other countries at the United Nations. "There's a good part of Bolton. He's been a staunch and very good defender of Israel," Mr. Schumer said on CNN's "Late Edition." "There's a bad part of Bolton. He seems to have a ‘go it alone' attitude at a time when we need the nations of the world on our side. We've seen that in Iran and North Korea."

Mr. Schumer said he had not made a final decision on which way to vote and that a lot of Democrats were also contemplating their position.

Can anyone say AIPAC?

Friday, July 14, 2006

Okay, so Chuck's been doing better on curbing Presidential excesses, but he's apparently gone all triangulate on an issue that is a no-brainer--stem cell research.

Jonathan Singer at passes on a quotation from the subscription only web site run by The Hill:

Schumer says stem-cell bill will harm Dems at the polls

Democrats say next week's Senate vote on research into embryonic stem cells -- and a promised White House veto -- will cut into their advantage on the campaign trail, particularly in Midwestern states.

"Our polling data shows this is a very prescient issue in Missouri," Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Thursday.

"It's not just in Missouri," he continued, naming Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan as other states where the issue would help Democratic candidates.

The wingnut position on this issue is both without merit and illogical. Even Nancy Reagan recognizes the benefits of this research. And the wingnuts themselves have proven that they really don't believe that embryos and fetus are people. The SD ban of abortion does not punish women at all for getting an abortion, and sentences doctors not to a life sentence without parole, but a maximum of five years. They clearly don't regard a fetus as the same thing as a five-year-old when it comes time to actually pass legislation.

There is no call from the wingnut camp to close down fertility clinics or to ban fertility drugs. Both the clinics and the drugs lead to "excess" embryos which are removed in the interest of both the pregnant woman and the child she hopes to have. Moreover, fertility clinics would generally be the source for the embryos used in the research. So the issue is nonsensical--these excess embryos will be produced nonetheless. The only question is whether to destroy them or to make some progress in treating syndromes that are currently untreatable, like Alzeimer's disease.

There's absolutely no reason to run and hide on this issue. It can be explained clearly, forthrightly even in Missouri. Nobody with a lick of sense is going to support a Republican argument that says that it's okay to discard embryos, but not okay to use them to advance medical science's treatment regimes for degenerative diseases.

This issue epitomizes Russ Feingold's remark that too many Senators are in their foxholes, afraid to take a position on anything they regard as controversial. Even when the right position on an issue is crystal clear, even when the wingnuts are clearly wrong, there's Schumer cowering behind his pollsters instead of representing the people who elected him.

And what the heck does "prescient" mean in this context?

Glenn Greenwald passes on a reminder from Marty Lederman, to support Schumer's S.2468, which puts the question of the legality and Constitutionality of Bush's warrantless wiretapping directly onto the Supreme Court's docket. While Schumer is no Feingold, in general, he has been doing an effective job in pointing out the illegality of the President's actions.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

On June 30th, Senator Schumer sent a letter (pdf, via LawCulture) to the Justice Department. It asked the DoJ to review the status of the Administration’s warrantless wiretapping activity, given that the Hamdan decision eviscerated the justification for the use of data gathering activity expressly placed under the jurisdiction of the FISA court. He says this in the letter:

The reasoning of Hamden, however, calls into question the sweep of the AUMF and raises questions about the legal justifications for the NSA program contained in the DOJ memorandum. In Hamdan, for example, the Administration argued that the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) read together with the AUMF authorized a plan for trying suspects before special military tribunals. The majority specifically rejected this reasoning, however, concluding that “there is nothing in the text or legislative history of the AUMF even hinting that Congress intended to expand or alter the authorization set forth in Article 21 of UCMJ.” Hamdan may also bear on your Department’s argument that the President’s Article II powers can override a lawfully enacted statute like FISA.

In light of Hamdan, then,. the issue of whether the President exceeded his lawful authority in approving the NSA surveillance program is an open question now more than ever.

The DOJ response (pdf, same source) essentially repeats the argument that the Court expressly rejected—that the President’s war making powers override Congressional power as defined in Article I of the Constitution.

He also spoke out clearly and strongly on Tuesday’s Hamdan hearing, opening with the following remark:

The Hamdan decision in my judgement shows that the administration's bull in a china approach is actually impeding the war on terror. And so that leads to my first question. I'm glad that the administration finally stands ready work with us. You say: "We'd like to see congress act quickly to establish a solid statuatory basis for the military commision process." That kind of testimony has an Alice in Wonderland quality because where have you been for the last four or five years? (my transcription, video at YouTube)

He then asks the same question he raised in his letter, and he wants to know that a review of the violations of the FISA law are also being reviewed. He gets the same kind of evasive non-answer that is the standard executive branch response to substantive questions asked of this Administration. Glenn Greenwald has repeatedly pointed out that reasserting the powers given to Congress by the Founders is going to be a long struggle. It's important that Senators from both parties speak out--and to have one of our two Democratic neo-cons raising the issue is a step in the right direction.