Saturday 29 September 2007

The week ahead

Will we know this week if there is to be a General Election in Britain? If Gordon Brown wants polling day to be 25th October he must announce it by Tuesday. If he wants 1st November or later he can hold off an announcement this week. The Tory Party Conference in Blackpool will be interesting to watch! Will Brown steal the limelight? Will the Tory Party put on a show of unity and resolution?

Coverage of the Conference can be found at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/bbc_parliament/ and the Conservative Party's webpages cover

The agenda: https://conservativepartyconference.com/admin;jsessionid=69C430CF21A415432E10A32D92C231BE?service=direct&context=DelegateType/wrap.menuLink&sp=register_wrap&sp=235765&sp=S&sp=agenda

Conservative Coverage: http://www.conservatives.com/tile.do?def=conference.2007.home.page

In the United States the Senate resumes consideration of H.R.1585, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 on Monday - which happens to be the first day of fiscal year 2007-08.

The House of Representatives has 23 suspension bills and the following bills which are subject to a rule

H.R. 3246 - Regional Economic and Infrastructure Development Act of 2007
H.R. 2740 – MEJA Expansion and Enforcement Act of 2007
H.R. 928 – Improving Government Accountability Act
H.R. 3648 - To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to exclude discharges of indebtedness on principal residences from gross income

Continuing Resolutions

As mentioned in an earlier post, Congress frequently has to pass 'Continuing Resolutions' to ensure there is legal authority for the Government to spend money after the start of a new fiscal year when the appropriation bills have not been passed in time. (the alternative is a government shutdown on October 1st). Congress hassed passed CRs every year since 1997.

Definition on Senate website - Legislation in the form of a joint resolution enacted by Congress, when the new fiscal year is about to begin or has begun, to provide budget authority for Federal agencies and programs to continue in operation until the regular appropriations acts are enacted.

Senator Jim DeMint has proposed legislation (S.2070 - http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c110:S.2070:) the “Government Shutdown Prevention Act” bill, which if passed would put a CR in place automatically so long as individual appropriations bills remain outstanding. Roll Call comments "That could lift some of the pressure on Members to pass massive omnibus bills that have received little scrutiny."

Friday 28 September 2007

Where has "Voter Confidence..." Gone?

There have been a number of updates on HR.811 (Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2007) this month - but we still await its appearance on the floor of the House of Representatives. Roll Call reported this week (Morning Business - Steven T Dennis) -

The paper ballot bill remains in the legislative freezer in the House, and the odds of sending anything to the president that will take effect before the 2008 elections seem almost nonexistent.

“Obviously that has generated a lot of concern from states and local officials,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) of the legislation, which calls for a voter-verified paper trail in next year’s presidential election. “I met with them and we’re trying to work on this,” he said. Hoyer noted that the Senate is unlikely to pass any bill this year.

“As a practical matter, Sen. [Dianne] Feinstein [D-Calif.] said she’s not going to pass a bill until next year and it’s not going to take effect until 2010,” Hoyer said. “That being said we want to pass the bill as soon as possible but we want to make sure we have the votes.”

Thursday 27 September 2007

Election Fever

Speculation continues that a snap General Election may be called by the British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. Unlike the US, General Elections are not on fixed dates. The Queen dissolves Parliament and announces the date when the new Parliament will first meet. The usual practice is that she acts on the advice of her Prime Minister (there has been academic speculation as to whether, in certain circumstances, she can refuse - such as when a defeated PM in a hung parliament asks for an immediate second election before his likely successor is appointed). Dissolution is automatic on the fifth anniversary of the first meeting of a parliament - so Gordon can pick a date between now and mid May 2010.

So will Gordon take advantage of Labour's current lead in the opinion polls (and the troubles the Tories are in)? We'll see. For further coverage see http://politics.guardian.co.uk/labour2007/story/0,,2178308,00.html

Wednesday 26 September 2007

How They Voted

How do MPs and Peers rate for rebelliousness and attendance?

The website http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/ is a useful indicator. Do be careful - the assumptions behind the statistics are open to debate - and the site indicates how the figures are arrived at. It's not perfect - but as I stated above a useful indication is given.

By copying the tables into excel it is possible to sort the data so provide 'league tables' of rebelliousness and attendance.

Tuesday 25 September 2007


Expect a stormy day in the House of Representatives today. After a heavy workload of debate and postponed votes on suspension bills, the House will consider the State Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2007. President Bush has already threatened to veto this measure which, amongst other things, will increase tax on cigarettes to raise funds to provide health insurance for children.

For background material visit


Sunday 23 September 2007

The Week Ahead

The House of Representatives aims to deal with many pieces of legislation in the coming week. There are 19 bills due for consideration under the suspensions procedure on Monday - the first being a bill "Encouraging participation in hunting and fishing..."

On Tuesday there should be 12 suspensions bills. Bills which are subject to a rule (from the Rules Committee) are
State Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2007

H.J.Res.___ - Making continuing appropriations for the fiscal year 2008

H.R. 2693 – Popcorn Workers Lung Disease Prevention Act

H.R. 3567 - Small Business Investment Expansion Act of 2007

H.R. 3121 - Flood Insurance Reform and Modernization Act of 2007

The "Continuing Resolution" (Making continuing appropriations for the fiscal year 2008) is needed because the new fiscal year begins on 1st October, and unless a CR is passed Government agencies will not be funded - because the full Appropriations bills have not yet been passed and signed into law.

In the Senate proceedings on the Defense Appropriations Bill will continue and at 3.00pm (8pm UK) attention will turn to H.R. 1495, the Water Resources Development Act.

In Britain the Labour Party Conference will take place in Bournemouth.

Saturday 22 September 2007

Congress and the Internet

Apologies for the brief break in Washminster's daily service - caused by my flight back from Washington DC; a pile of work which awaited me - and a little jet lag. I had the opportunity to take a look at Congress close up while I was in the City. Normally I use the internet as a tool to keep up with congressional activities. It is remarkable how the internet has transformed our ability to follow Congress (and the work of legislatures around the world).

It is now possible to watch both Houses live (Live Streams on http://www.c-span.org/); read the Congressional Record http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/dailydigest; download legislation being considered http://thomas.loc.gov/home/bills_res.html - as well as read reports in the Washington Post http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/politics/congress/?nid=roll_congress; Roll Call http://www.rollcall.com/ and the Hill http://thehill.com/.

The Congressional Research Service have produced a paper on Congress and the Internet which is available at http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/secrecy/RL34148.pdf

Wednesday 19 September 2007

Virginia Elections

If you live in the UK you might imagine that there are no elections in the USA this year. An impression caused by the emphasis on the Presidential election and Congressional elections of 2008 in the media. In fact, because the US has a greater number of levels of elected officials (Federal; State; County etc) every November has at least some elections, somewhere.

In Virginia the General Assembly has elections on November 6th 2007. Senators elected that day will serve until 2011, whilst Members of the House of Delegates serve for a two-year term.

These elections will be watched with interest. The retirement of Republican John Warner will make the US Senate seat an open race. The strength of the two parties in this years State elections will be watched carefully. At the moment the party strengths are

Senate: Republicans 23; Democrats 17

House of Delegates: Republicans 57; Democrats 40; Independents 3.

For more information on the election process visit the Virginia State Board of Elections http://www.sbe.virginia.gov/cms/and for details of candidates (and their websites) visit http://www.vote-va.org/BallotCandidates.aspx?Election=20071106OVA000000ALL

The photograph above is of the State Capitol in Richmond. The building was designed by Thomas Jefferson.

Tuesday 18 September 2007

Senate Retirements

Next year, as in every even year, one third of the Senate seats are up for election. The Democrats will be defending 12 seats, whilst the Republicans must defend 22.Observers of US Congressional elections have long recognised the strength of the "incumbency factor". While a few sitting members may be defeated (as happened in 2006), being in office gives a tremendous advantage in an election. [It is usually easier to raise money; there is greater name recognition and constituency service enables a sitting member to build more relationships with electors]. When a member retires, the seat is known as an 'open seat', and the liklihood of a change in the party holding the seat increases significantly. This factor is less pronounced in UK General Elections - though there is some evidence of it increasing in recent years.

The fact that there are three senior Republicans who have announced their retirement at the 2008 elections, has therefore excited observers. Senators John Warner (Virginia); Chuck Hagel (Nebraska) and Wayne Allard (Colorado) are the three retirees. 2008 could be an interesting year!

Monday 17 September 2007

House Office Buildings

The names of Senate Office buildings were discussed in last Friday's post. On the House of Representatives side there are a number of buildings, but the most prominent - all on Independence Avenue are Cannon, Longworth & Rayburn. The three are linked together by a long tunnel beginning at Cannon (the most easterly, to Rayburn, the largest and most westerly. Capitol Hill slopes downwards from Cannon to Rayburn. A subway train links Rayburn to the Capitol building itself.

The Rayburn Building is named after Sam Rayburn, Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1940 to 1961 (with brief interuptions as Minority Leader when the Republicans took the House in 1947-49 and 1953-55). He was a powerful Speaker who used his personal influence with members, relying less on the activities of his whips. His 'Board of Education' where Representatives (and Senator Lyndon Johnson) would gather for poker, bourbon, and a frank discussion of politics, was key to his power. "Mr Sam" was the only person who issued the highly prized invitations to these meetings, held most frequently in a basement room close to the House chamber.

The Architect of the Capitol writes "The design of the building is a modified H plan with four stories above ground, two basements, and three levels of underground garage space. A white marble facade above a pink granite base covers a concrete and steel frame. One hundred sixty-nine Representatives were accommodated in three-room suites, with modern-for-the-time features such as toilets, kitchens, and built-in file cabinets; nine committees were also moved to this building. Amenities include a cafeteria, first aid room, Library of Congress book station, telephone and telegraph room, recording studio, post office, gymnasium, and facilities for press and television." [The picture above is Rayburn photographed from the Capitol]

The Cannon Building is named after Speaker Joe Cannon. He was probably the most powerful Speaker in House history - having personal control of almost all House appointments, but eventually his powers were reduced after a revolt by Representatives in 1910. He represented Illinois as a Republican. This is the oldest Building, completed during Cannon's speakership (1908).

The Longworth Building sits between Cannon and Rayburn, and is much smaller - but houses the gift shop and a canteen - where "Freedom Toast" is available. This delicacy is known elsewhere as French toast, but legislation was passed to change the name in the cafeteria as a response to the french government's opposition to US plans for the invasion of Iraq. CNN reported in 2003 - "This action today is a small, but symbolic effort to show the strong displeasure of many on Capitol Hill with the actions of our so-called ally, France," said Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, the chairman of the Committee on House Administration. Ney, whose committee has authority over the House cafeterias, directed the change, after colleague Walter Jones, R-North Carolina, circulated a letter suggesting such a move." Nicholas Longworth was the 43rd Speaker of the House of Representatives serving from 1925 to 1931. He was a Republican from Ohio and had married Alice Roosevelt, President Theodore Roosevelt's daughter in 1906.

Sunday 16 September 2007

Conference Season in the UK

The political conference season began last week with the Trade Union Congress (TUC) Conference, which Prime Minister Gordon Brown addressed. The major political parties begin with the Liberal Democrats. This year they meet in Brighton. Each party has an annual conference, normally held in a seaside town (although Labour broke with recent tradition last year by meeting in Manchester). They return to the seaside next Sunday in Bournemouth. The Tories will meet the week after that in Blackpool.

Websites of the party conferences are to be found:

Saturday 15 September 2007

Minton Tiles

Further to earlier posts, I understand that historians in the House of Representatives have discovered letters between those responsible for decorating the Capitol Building and those with similar responsibilities in the Palace of Westminster discussing their contemporary use of the tiles.

The Week Ahead

Both Houses at Westminster are still in recess. The Liberal Democrats have their conference in Brighton, on the English South Coast. For more details visit http://www.libdems.org.uk/conference/

After a week dominated by Iraq, and the testimonies of General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker - the two Congressional Houses return from their brief holidays.

In addition to 16 suspension bills the House expects to consider the following

H.R. 1852 - Expanding American Homeownership Act of 2007 (Rep. Waters – Financial Services)
H.R. 2761 – Terrorism Risk Insurance Revision and Extension Act of 2007 (Rep. Capuano –
Financial Services)
H.R. 811 - Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2007 (Rep. Holt – House
H.R. 2881 - FAA Reauthorization Act of 2007 (Rep. Oberstar – Transportation and Infrastructure)

The Senate will resume its consideration of the Defense Authorization bill on Monday. Business later in the week is less easy to predict than for the House, because of the nature of the Senate - which doesn't allow the more rigid timetabling that is possible in the House

Friday 14 September 2007

The names of Office Buildings

Apart from the Palace of Westminster itself, there are a number of office buildings which form the 'parliamentary estate'. Many have rather unexciting names - 1 Parliament Street; 4 Millbank, 7 Millbank etc. Portcullis House is named after the symbol of the House of Commons. The Norman Shaw buildings are named after the architect Richard Norman Shaw who build them.

In Washington, the office buildings are named after famous members. In the Senate the main office buildings are named after

Richard B Russell - the oldest of the office buildings was named after the Democrat Senator from Georgia. He was a founder and leader of the Conservative Coalition, which controlled Congress from the late 1930s into the 1960s. He was a prominent supporter of strong national defence and served as a very powerful Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee then the Senate Appropriations Committee. He died in 1971

Everett Dirksen - A Republican Senator between 1950 and his death in 1969. He was Senate Minority Leader. His role was crucial in the successful passing of civil rights legislation.

Philip A Hart - Democratic Senator from Michigan, Hart served from 1959 to his death in 1976. His nickname was 'the conscience of the Senate'.

Thursday 13 September 2007

Experience Required?

With over 20 months to go before George W Bush is due to relinquish power to his successor, the selection of the next President is already well under way. What experience is required?

Many of the current contenders either are members of, or have served in the US Senate (Hillary Clinton; Barack Obama; John Edwards; Joe Biden; Chris Dodd; Mike Gravel; Fred Thompson; John McCain; Sam Brownback). In the 1960s the candidates of both parties, & therefore the Presidents, had senatorial experience (John F Kennedy 1960; Lyndon Johnson 1964; Barry Goldwater 1964; Richard Nixon 1960, 1968; Hubert Humphrey 1968) - but there have been no Presidents who have served in the Senate since. However there have been a number of losing candidates! (Mondale; Gore; Kerry)

Tuesday 11 September 2007

The Burning of Congress by the British

Yesterday Congress commemorated the anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11. It is widely believed that the Congress Building itself was a target - but Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania before it reached Washington DC.

The Congressional building was successfully attacked in 1814 - by the British. Troops marched on Washington - and burned a number of key buildings including the Capitol and the White House, a fact that is retold to any British visitor when they are taken on a tour. The Library of Congress has a webpage dedicated to the attack - http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/today/aug19.html

HR 811 Postponed

CQ reports that plans to consider HR 811 this week have been postponed. The delay will be until September 17th at the earliest.

The decision of the people is final!

Both the UK and US would claim that the above statement reflects the making of law in each country. In the UK the representatives of the people sitting at Westminster have the final say. The doctrine of 'Parliamentary Sovereignty' means that (to paraphrase Dicey) - Parliament can pass ANY law it wants; No Parliament is bound by its predecessors - and no Court can question what Parliament has done.

In the US the Supreme Court can strike down laws passed by Congress. The argument is that the US system of government and the rules which govern it, were created and agreed by the people when the US Constitution. Amendments may be made to that Constitution by the people, if and when they want to. (Sovereignty rests with them). In the meantime Congress may only legislate in accordance with the rules set down - by the people - in the Constitution.

Sunday 9 September 2007

The week ahead

Again, only Congress will be sitting in the week ahead. Tuesday will be the anniversary of 9/11, and there will be Remembrance ceremonies on Capitol Hill. The Senate is expected to finish legislative business by Wednesday, and the House is not sitting on that day. Neither chamber is expected to be in session Thursday or Friday.

Saturday 8 September 2007

Electronic Voting - in Britain

Voting in British elections is simpler than in the USA. For one thing there are no registration drives before an election - every household is sent a form annually - which must be filled in, on pain of a fine (I sent mine in yesterday). It is the responsibility of the local authority to ensure that the 'electoral register' is as complete as possible. Having said that there are concerns about the number of people who, for one reason or another, are not on the register.

Elections are less complex. British voters generally one have one election at a time - the election of their MP, or for the district council, or the county council. In the last three General Elections there have been County Councils elections on the same day - so many voters will have had to complete two ballot papers (each vote for an elected position requires a separate ballot paper). Some people even had three or four ballot papers to fill in - if there was a district by-election (special election in US parlance) and/or a contested parish council election. That's the most complex it can get. No list of different positions to be filled, so no need for voting machines to punch holes!

In Britain a candidate is voted for by placing an 'X' next to that persons name (there are now some elections where a proportional or other variant system requires placing numbers by candidates names to signify preference). With the exception of some rare pilot trials, you vote by writing on a piece of paper.

Information about the process and rules of elections in the UK can be found at http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/

Electronic voting - the subject of controvery in the US - see the recent blogs on H.R.811 - is also under discussion in the UK. The Hansard Society has its 3rd e-Democracy Conference on November 8th. One of the workshops is entitled "Electronic voting: an unnecessary risk?"

Details of the conference can be found at http://www.headstar-events.com/edemocracy07/programme.php

Friday 7 September 2007

HR 811 - Update

Roll Call reports that H.R.811 "the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2007" had run into trouble in the Rules Committee. That committee is responsible for setting out how a particular bill will be considered in the Chamber - deciding the conditions for debate and whether amendments can be taken. There is an excellent explanation of how these 'special rules' work at http://www.rules.house.gov/POP/specialrule_is.htm

The Committee met on Wednesday, but adjourned without a Rule being agreed. Roll Call report that "Slaughter said Thursday that the bill was being reworked to address Member concerns, and said it could come to the committee as early as Friday morning and to the House floor on Monday."

An unfortunate phrase to use

Senator McConnell, in a guest column in Roll Call of 7th September argues "We can do all this, but only if we put aside the partisanship that marked the first eight months of this session. It’s time, in other words, for both parties get back to basics." It was a choice of words that no British politician would have used - because of the trouble it landed Prime Minister John Major in during the troubled final years of Conservative Government.

In 1993 Major used the phrase 'back to basics'. He always claimed that it had a wider meaning, but the British press chose to interpret it in the sense of 'family values' - and felt Major had given them the green light to expose personal scandals. As the BBC website comments "In 1993, the Major government - perhaps fatally - launched the 'Back to Basics' campaign. It was notorious for its high moral tone and sparked intense media interest in MPs' private lives.

Environment Minister Tim Yeo let the side down almost immediately after a tabloid exposé in January 1994 revealed he had fathered an illegitimate child by Conservative councillor Julia Stent... PPS David Ashby also quit after admitting that he shared a hotel bed with another man.
Minister for Aviation and Shipping, the Earl of Caithness, then resigned after the suicide of his wife, who shot herself in despair at his relationship with another woman. In February 1994, PPS Hartley Booth, Methodist lay preacher and grandson of the founder of the Salvation Army, quit after a "friendship" with a Commons researcher. Government Whip Michael Brown succumbed in May 1994 after a storm over tabloid allegations of a homosexual affair with a 20-year-old student
." The ultimate revelation was that Major himself had had an affair with Edwina Currie.

So when I saw the headline in Roll Call, I was a little surprised to see that unfortunate phrase used. In view of some of the current troubles plaguing Senate Republicans - the Larry Craig and David Vitter issues - perhaps another choice of words would have been happier.

Thursday 6 September 2007

New York Times Editorial on Voting Machines

An editorial in today's New York Times backs H.R. 811


Congressman Rush Holt's Office has issued the followed

Fundamental Provisions of H.R. 811

The Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2007

· A voter-verified paper ballot must be produced for every vote cast beginning with the November 2008 elections.
· Paper-based voting systems (including thermal reel-to-reel systems and systems accessible to voters with disabilities that also used or produced a paper ballot) used in 2006 can be used until 2012; only systems that used no paper ballots at all must be replaced or upgraded by November 2008. Durable, scannable, accessible paper ballots must be used by 2012.
· Upgrade requirements mean that, by 2012:
o where ballot marking devices are used, they must be able to deposit the ballots “automatically” into a “secure container” for mobility access, and
o where direct recording electronic machines (DREs) are used, a mechanism must be provided that allows disabled voters to privately and independently verify the contents of the paper ballot printed by the DRE printer.
· The paper ballot is the vote of record in all recounts and audits, as a check on electronic tallies.
· In 2008, all voters are entitled to vote by paper ballot if the voting machine in their jurisdiction is broken, and in 2010 and after, for any reason.
· Routine random audits must be conducted by hand count in 3% of the precincts in all Federal elections, and 5% or 10% in very close races (but races decided by 80% or more need not be audited).
· Wireless devices, Internet connections, uncertified software and undisclosed software are banned in voting and tabulating machines.
· $1 billion in funding is authorized for system replacement and upgrading in FY 2008, with additional upgrades authorized in FY 2009.
· $100 million each fiscal year is authorized to fund the audits.
· An arms-length relationship is established between test labs and voting machine vendors.The bill is silent on re-authorizing the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) and does not address military and overseas balloting.

John Brademas Center Videos

The John Brademas Center for the Sudy of Congress is part of New York University. It is named after its founder, John Brademas - a member of Congress for 22 years who served as the Majority Whip in 1977-81. On its website are a number of videos made as part of its "Reflections Project" - interviews of retiring members of Congress. These include interviews with Tom DeLay; Tom Daschle and Henry Hyde. There is some very interesting material there and transcripts are also available. The videos can be found at http://www.nyu.edu/brademas/resources/video.archive.html

Wednesday 5 September 2007

Minton Tiles

One of the many delights in the Palace of Westminster are the Minton tiles. Herbert Minton was a friend of Pugin, and worked with him on the decoration of the Palace when it was rebuilt after the devastating fire of 1834. These floor tiles, are described by the British Museum -

"The inlaid technique (also misleadingly known as 'encaustic') can be traced back to the Middle Ages: a design is impressed into a clay blank and then filled with liquid clay (slip) of another colour. The colour scheme was usually buff and red.

Pugin worked in collaboration with the Minton factory to successfully revive the inlaid technique, introducing such new colours as blue, white and green. The motifs are taken from medieval sources but Pugin achieved remarkable originality in his clear designs. In the case of 'sandwich' tiles such as these, a layer of coarse clay is sandwiched between two layers of much finer clay, then used as the blank. This method reduced shrinkage in the firing, and was more economical."

Minton tiles can also be found in Congress, Senator Mitch McConnell, when he was Majority Whip, placed on his website a description of the Majority Whip Office Suite - "Each room in the suite also features historic "Minton tile" used throughout the north and south extensions. The richly colored and patterned tiles were made by Minton, Hollins and Company of Stoke-upon-Trent, Staffordshire, England. The company made over 1,000 square feet of tile for the Capitol."

A History of Minton tiles - and some wonderful photographs can be found at http://www.tile-heaven.co.uk/mintons-01.htm.

Tuesday 4 September 2007

H.R. 811 Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2007

As mentioned in yesterday's post, the House of Representatives is due to consider this week H.R. 811. 'mark mywords' has added his comments to this blog, and they are worth reading.

The Bill was introduced on 5th February this year, and considered by the Committee on House Administration (Elections Subcommittee). Three hearings were held during which 29 witnesses gave evidence and were questioned. There was also a voting machine forum on March 15, 2007, which gave Members of Congress and their staff an opportunity to learn more about voting systems first-hand.

The Congressional Research Service summary of the Bill says it "Amends the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) to revise requirements for the audit capacity of voting systems, particularly those for a permanent paper record.

Requires the voting system to require the use of or produce an individual, durable, voter-verified paper ballot of the voter's vote, created by or made available for inspection and verification by the voter before the voter's vote is cast and counted. Requires the voting system to provide the voter with an opportunity to correct any system-made error in the voter-verified paper ballot before it is permanently preserved."

The Bill has its critics - Some argue that it remains a flawed bill -

A supportive and detailed analysis can be found at the website of Electronic Frontier Foundation: http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/archives/005308.php

Your comments are welcome here.

Monday 3 September 2007

After Labor Day

The first Monday in September is Labor Day in the United States, the traditional last day of the summer holidays - after which the new political season begins. On Tuesday Congress will return.

The House of Representatives meets at 2pm for legislative business, which will include 7 bills under the suspension process - one of which (H.Res.552) calls on the Government of the People's Republic of China to remove barriers to United States financial services firms doing business in China. On Wednesday & Thursday the House will meet at 10.00am and on Friday at 9.00 for legislative business. There are a further 14 suspensions bills and the Native American Housing Assistance & Self-Determination Reauthorization Act of 2007 (H.R.2786); Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2007 (H.R.811) and the Patent Reform Act of 2007 (H.R.1908) - each of which will be subject to a Rule laid down by the Rules Committee.

In the Senate Chamber at 1pm, the Appropriations Bill for Military Construction; the Department of Veterans Affairs and related Agencies will be considered. At 2.30pm it will proceed to executive session to consider the nomination of Jim Nussle, a former Congressman, to be the Director of the OMB (Office of Management & Budget). Senate committees also return - with a closed hearing of the senate Armed Services Committee examining issues relating to the treatment of detainees. The first hearing on this summers disaster in a Utah mine will begin at 10.30 on Wednesday, and is being conducted bt the Labor, Health & Human Services, Education & Related Agencies subcommittee of Appropriations.

The UK Parliament has another 5 weeks before it returns, but the party conference season is about to begin.

Sunday 2 September 2007

Washminster Returns

Washminster is back! After a pleasant stay in South Devon (where the weather was pleasant - and I enjoyed a few pasties and icecreams), I am back to work and Washminster returns on a daily basis.

During my stay I visited Plymouth and the site from which the Pilgrim Fathers finally left England on the Mayflower. Being the major port on the South West coast many others left from the same spot - including the settlers of the Roanoake colony in 1585 http://www.nationalcenter.org/ColonyofRoanoke.html

So what's being happening during Washminster's absence? I've spent this morning reading the New York Times and Washington Posts of the last week.

Alberto Gonzales has finally announced his resignation as US Attorney General. We have learnt that the Justice Department is to investigate whether his sworn statements to Congress were "intentionally false, misleading or inappropriate".

Larry Craig, Senator for Idaho, has also announced his resignation, after a sex-related arrest. Another champion of family values goes down!

Unrelated to any scandal, Senator John Warner has announced that he will not stand for re-election in 2008. This well liked Senator, who was Navy Secretary, Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a Senator for 30 years (and former husband of Elizabeth Taylor) - will be missed. His decision not to stand also opens an interesting contest next year in the Commonwealth of Virginia - no doubt a story Washminster will be returning to.

Concerns about the dates of the primaries and caucuses have increased - with most of the democratic contenders signing a 'Four-State Pledge', promising not to campaign in states holding primaries before the traditional first-states of Iowa; New Hampshire; Nevada and South Carolina. There are threats to cut delegates from Florida & Michigan who are planning to break the 'protected window' which ensures that no other state can select delegates before 5th February (which itself will become 'Super-Duper Tuesday' as states rush to hold their primaries on that date).

A bill to mandate the screening of veterans (sometimes refered to as the suicide prevention bill) is being held up by a single Senator, Tom Coburn (Rep-Oklahoma) because he fears that the medical records might be used by other agencies to deny some veterans from obtaining firearms.

Over 50 members of Congress have visited Iraq over the summer - on Congressional Delegations (known as 'Codels'). For more details visit http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/26/world/middleeast/26visits.html?th&emc=th

So now we know!