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Oversight: What a Democratic Congress Means

Why did we fight so hard to gain a Democratic Congress in the last election? Why did we stress the importance of the D next to a candidate's name? This is why:

President Bush should expect tougher oversight of the war on terrorism and a closer look at his administration's policies on torture and other human rights issues, the incoming chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said Wednesday.

. . . Leahy said he would also deal with what he says are the administration's human rights abuses by creating a new subcommittee focused on legislation on such issues as torture and detainee treatment. Democratic Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois will chair the new panel, Leahy said.

. . . Leahy also talked tough about President Bush's ``signing statements,'' in which the president has laid out which parts of laws he has just signed that he will follow and which he might not.

. . . Leahy, who was chairman of the committee in 2001-2002, said the return of Democratic control would mean a period of ``restoration, repair and renewal'' after what he termed years of the Bush administration's virtually unchecked power to hunt for terrorists even within U.S. borders. ``This administration has been less and less willing to let us know what they are doing,'' Leahy said. Bush's warrantless wiretapping program and the government's secretive terrorism risk assessments of Americans traveling abroad merit a closer look by his panel, Leahy said.

The separation of powers. Checks and balances. The Founders were very smart.

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Howard Dean Calls for New Election in Florida House Race

Howard Dean took up Cristine Jennings' cause today, calling for a new election in the Florida House race:

State officials certified Buchanan as the winner by just 369 votes. But Jennings claims that touch-screen voting machines in Sarasota County malfunctioned in the U.S. House District 13 race and possibly cost her the election.

More than 18,000 Sarasota County voters who marked other races didn't have a vote register in the House race, a rate much higher than the rest of the district.

'There are 18,000 people who may have voted, and we don't know what happened to their votes. You can bet that if the Republicans were 500 votes short they'd be calling for a new election, and they'd be right,' Dean said.

This is the seat formerly held by Katherine Harris. The winner has been declared to be Republican Vern Buchanan.

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Pelosi Names Reyes to Head Intelligence Committee

It's official. House speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi has named former Border Patrol agent and current Congressman Silvestre Reyes to head the House Intelligence Committee.

What's his background?

Known as "Silver" to friends, Reyes was drafted into the Army and served during 1966-68 as a helicopter crew chief and gunner. His service included 13 months in Vietnam.

He rose through the ranks during 26 years of service in the Border Patrol, leaving as a senior law enforcement official in Texas in 1995. He won his seat in Congress the next year.

What will the agenda be?

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Hastings Won't Chair House Intelligence Committee

It's official. Alcee Hastings is out of the running for Chair of the House Intelligence Committee. Nancy Pelosi doesn't want him.

Reportedly, despite the support of the "Blue Dog Democrats," Jane Harman is out as well.

That leaves, according to McClatchy news reporters:

Reps. Silvestre Reyes of Texas, Sanford Bishop Jr. of Georgia and Norm Dicks of Washington state. Reyes has the edge, Pelosi allies indicated. He was a 26-year agent and supervisor with the U.S. Border Patrol before his 1996 election to Congress, and currently is a senior member of the Intelligence panel.

Who are the "Blue Dog Democrats?" A group of 44 centrist Democrats in the House.

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Pelosi May Bypass Both Harman and Hastings

Nancy Pelosi's pick for House Intelligence Chair has generated a lot of discussion. The two front-runners were Jane Harman and Alcee Hastings (discussed here.)

Michael Isikoff of Newsweek reports today that Pelosi is now considering two others for the position:

One is Rep. Norm Dicks, a onetime strong Iraq-war backer who has since joined ranks with Murtha and now wants a phased troop withdrawal. The other is Rep. Silvestre Reyes, a quiet Texas lawmaker and former Border Patrol official who opposed the Iraq war from the outset. The aforementioned leadership aide notes that Reyes may now have the upper hand for "political" reasons: the Hispanic Caucus is angry because it has no members in the new House leadership or chairing major committees. Pelosi appears to be "leaning toward" Reyes, the aide says, but "the truth is, nobody knows what she is going to do."

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Pelosi Right To Take Time

Matt Stoller and I are really seeing eye to eye today:

I'm getting quite irritated at the immediate reaction among white male liberal DC kewl kidz (and Maureen Dowd) to discern catty motives on the part of Nancy Pelosi. Digby's noted it before, but it's not stopping. Look at the first two paragraphs in an email that Josh Marshall reprints on Pelosi and the Intelligence Committee from a reader called 'RY'. . . . Left out of the whole nasty and myopic rant is any possibility that Nancy Pelosi might want someone who can chair the Intelligence Committee who can do a good job running the Intelligence Committee. . . . Nonsense aside, the single most important thing Pelosi can do is find a a good Intelligence Chair and make sure he or she has the political capital to fix the mess this country is in. Doing so could require time to find a compromise candidate, or to work with the CBC or Blue Dogs to assuage egos or horse-trade other committee assignments. That's what leaders do. It doesn't always happen fast . . .

And I SUPPORT Harman for Intel Chair. This handwringing from DC Gasbag types is simply idiotic. The Pelosi record will be established by the next two years, not the next two days or the next two weeks. The idiocy is at high levels from the Pundits these days.

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FL-13: More Evidence of Ballot Design Issues

From the Miami Herald:

The same electronic ballot design flaw implicated in more than 18,300 Sarasota nonvotes might have caused problems for South Florida voters in two well-publicized Cabinet races. Both Broward and Miami-Dade counties recorded more than 34,000 nonvotes in their elections for attorney general and chief financial officer, according to election results from each county's Supervisor of Elections office. The problem was worse in precincts with many older voters. In both counties, the two Cabinet races appeared at the bottom of a voting screen with the higher-profile race for governor and lieutenant governor -- a contest in which seven sets of candidates nearly filled the screen. All races on the page were listed under a general heading.

QED in my estimation. Not software issues is Sarasota - ballot design issues.

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FL-13: Who Is To Blame?

This will be an unpopular post with my Democratic brethren. It is about who is to blame for frustrating the voters' intent in the House race in Florida's 13th Congressional district (Katherine Harris's old seat). While it seems absolutely clear most voters wanted the Democrat Jennings, that votes did not register for her is mostly the fault of Democratic Party officials and the Jennings campaign imo. Today Paul Krugman writes:

Reporting by The Herald-Tribune of Sarasota, which interviewed hundreds of voters who called the paper to report problems at the polls, strongly suggests that the huge apparent undervote was caused by bugs in the ES&S software. About a third of those interviewed by the paper reported that they couldn’t even find the Congressional race on the screen. This could conceivably have been the result of bad ballot design, but many of them insisted that they looked hard for the race. Moreover, more than 60 percent of those interviewed by The Herald-Tribune reported that they did cast a vote in the Congressional race — but that this vote didn’t show up on the ballot summary page they were shown at the end of the voting process.

I must say, as a fan of Paul Krugman, I find this passage to be incredibly well - NOT good. Fully a third interviewed said they could not find the race on the screen. not surprising when one considers the ballot design in the FL-13 race on the ESS machines. The Fl-13 race ballot is clearly flawed in design. The Sentinel reporting shows a third of those reporting problems as having not seen the race. This is not strong thinking by Paul Krugman. More.

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Hoyer Beats Murtha for House Majority Leader

It's over. Steny Hoyer will be the House Majority leader.

Hoyer was elected on a vote of 149-86.

The AP is reporting it as a snub to Nancy Pelosi.

Update: Arianna weighs in.

don't shed any tears for Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi. Even though her guy lost, this was still a big win for her. A victory for taking a stand -- and for her leadership. Because that's what real leaders do, they take stands. They listen to their hearts and follow their gut. If you only jump into the fights you're sure you can win -- notches in the W column that will look good on your political resume -- you're a hack, not someone who can move the party and the country forward. It's not about trying to have a spotless record; it's about knowing which battles are worth fighting, whatever the outcome.

It bodes well for Pelosi that was willing to spend her political capital right off the bat -- especially on the issue that will define her time at the helm. Far too many modern politicians save their political capital until it's lost all its value.


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Republicans Choose Senate Leaders: Lott's In

Senate Republicans have chosen their leaders. The top gun will be Mitch McConnell, followed by Trent Lott.

Democrat Harry Reid was chosen by Dems yesterday to be Senate Majority Leader.

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The New Senate Judiciary Committee Lineup

From Sen. Harry Reid's office, here is the 2007 lineup of Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee members:

CHAIR: Leahy Kennedy

The new members are Ben Cardin of Maryland and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.

I can't say I'm thrilled about Whitehouse. He's a former U.S. Attorney (appointed by Clinton) and state Attorney General, in other words, a law and order guy. He's strong on gun control and prosecuting gang members.

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Murtha For Majority Leader

I was not that engaged with the House Majority Leader battle. Don't get me wrong, I preferred Murtha, both for the unity he has with Speaker-to-be Pelosi but also for his brave stance on Iraq. But if Hoyer was returned to the position, I would not have cried about it. Hoyer has his problems, but we're a Big Tent party.

But this from Fred Hiatt and the WaPo Editorial Board bothered me immensely:

On the merits, Mr. Hoyer is by far the better choice for the job. He is a moderate and highly capable legislator whose selection would reinforce Ms. Pelosi's announced commitment to govern from the center. Mr. Murtha's candidacy is troubling for several reasons, beginning with his position on the war in Iraq. A former Marine, Mr. Murtha deserves credit for sounding an alarm about the deteriorating situation a year ago. But his descriptions of the stakes there have been consistently unrealistic, and his solutions irresponsible.

If this election is going to be about Iraq and WaPo's idea of centrism, then Murtha MUST win. WaPo has been wrong wrong wrong every step of the way on everything. BTW, when has WaPo ever issued endorsements in House leadership races? Never, that's when. Incredibly poor decision by WaPo.

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