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This page is an archive of articles presented on the Current News page of the USConstitution.net site. On this page are articles that were posted in 2007.
12/13/07 Bush vetoes another children's health insurance bill
Calling it a virtual duplicate of a bill he vetoed just two months ago, President Bush today vetoed another children's health insurance bill sent to him by the Congress. The bill added $35 billion to the SCHIP program over five years, $30 billion over the amount Bush said he would support. Though the bill passed both houses of Congress with wide margins, they were not large enough to support a veto override.
12/10/07 Supreme Court allows judges to use discretion in sentencing
The Supreme Court today, in a strong 7-2 vote, ruled that judges can use their discretion when sentencing those convicted of crimes involving crack cocaine. Under current sentencing guidelines, the sentence for crimes involving crack cocaine are harsher than those for powder cocaine, sometimes decidedly so. It also decided, by the same majority, that a suspended sentence given to a former dealer of the drug Ecstasy, who had gone on to live a lawful and respected life, was also proper. The decision cleared up confusion left by the court when it said that appellate courts could review sentences for reasonableness, but left the reasonableness test too vague.
11/19/07 Senate seeks to stifle recess appointments
Stung by recent defeats of bills that sought to place a timetable on withdrawal from Iraq, the Democratic majority has decided to stifle any attempts by the President to use the recess appointment power by remaining in session during the traditional Thanksgiving break. The Senate recessed on Friday, but plans to hold a pro forma session on Tuesday. In that session, no business will be conducted and it is likely only one member will appear. Such sessions are authorized by the Constitution at Article 1, Section 5. The short session will be enough to officially keep the Senate in session, making a recess appointment impossible. The full Senate is not scheduled to return until December 3. To prevent an official recess, pro forma sessions will have to be held at least once every four days until the full Senate returns.
11/09/07 Mukasey confirmed by Senate
Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey was confirmed by a divided Senate today, on a vote of 53-40. Mukasey had come under fire in the Judiciary Committee because of his failure to clearly acknowledge that water boarding, an interrogation method that simulates drowning, is torture.
11/08/07 Bipartisan support leads to veto override
The Senate today voted 79-14 to override President George Bush's veto of the Water Resources Development Act. The House had previously voted to override the bill by a vote of 361-54. The bill became law as soon as the Senate vote result was announced. The override was the first in Bush's presidency.
10/28/07 Date for Iowa caucuses set
Iowa Democrats today decided to join their Republican counterparts and agreed to hold their caucus on January 3, 2008. New Hampshire, traditional site of the first primary in the race, has not yet set the date for its election.
10/04/07 Craig rescinds resignation
After an unsuccessful attempt to withdraw his guilty plea for disorderly conduct, Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) decided today to rescind his previously announced resignation from the Senate. He also made it clear that while he would not be resigning, he would also not be seeking reelection.
09/01/07 Craig announces resignation
Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) announced today that he will be resigning his seat in the Senate on September 30. Craig had been stung by the recent revelation of his arrest and guilty plea after he was arrested in an airport bathroom, by the release of the arrest report and a recording of the arrest interview, and by calls for his ouster by members of his own party.
08/31/07 Warner announces retirement
Senator John Warner (R-VA) announced today that he will be retiring at the end of his term, in 2009, after 30 years of legislative service. Warner was considered a strong candidate for the next election, despite the state's recent shift toward Democrats, and his retirement means the Republican Party will have to try to find a strong name to fill the slot on the ballot in November. Warner also served as Secretary of the Navy from 1972 to 1974.
08/30/07 Idaho Senator's arrest revealed
Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) was arrested in an airport bathroom in June and pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct. Details of the arrest were revealed in Internet blogs and confirmed by Craig in a press conference. Craig, however, denies he did anything wrong, charging the police with entrapment, and saying he plead guilty to avoid embarrassment. The arrest was the result of a police sting operation operating in a bathroom in the airport that had been used for illicit homosexual liaisons. The arresting officer wrote that while he sat in a stall, Craig occupied the adjoining stall and tapped his foot on the floor as a signal that he was looking for a liaison. The officer wrote that Craig touched his foot and reached under the stall wall with his hand several times. In transcripts and recordings of the arrest interview, Craig accused the police of entrapment. He said that any touching was inadvertent and his hand motions were the result of his searching for paper on the floor. At the press conference, Craig stated unequivocally that he is not gay.
08/27/07 Embattled Attorney General announces resignation
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, a long-time friend and ally of President Bush and recently the target of increasingly harsh criticism from both Democrats and Republicans, has announced that he is resigning from his post. Speaking from the Justice Department in Washington, Gonzales said that his last day on the job will be September 17. Speculation is that Bush might nominate current Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to replace Gonzales.
08/20/07 White House retirements
White House press secretary Toney Snow is joining top political adviser Karl Rove in announcing retirements from public life this past week. Snow, whose recent battles with recurring cancer have had him in the news nearly as much as the President, announced that he will retire next month. Rove, who has been a political adviser to the President since his time as governor of Texas, announced his intention to step down before the end of August, to spend more time with his family. Also this week, Dennis Hastert (R-IL) announced that he will retire from the House at the end of this Congress. Hastert served as Speaker of the House longer than any Republican in history until last year.
08/13/07 Romney wins Iowa straw poll
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney took 31.6 percent of the vote in the Iowa Republican straw poll, an unofficial tally of support for presidential hopefuls in the early-caucus state. Previous Republican straw polls have been harbingers of the eventual winner of that state's caucus. Following the announcement of the results, Governor Tommy Thomson of Wisconsin formally dropped his bid for the White House. Thompson placed last among participating candidates.
08/09/07 South Carolina adjustment scrambles primary schedule
South Carolina Republican party announced today that its primary would be held on January 19, 2008, prompted by Florida's move of its primary to February 2, just a few days before South Carolina's already announced date of January 29. The announcement was held in New Hampshire, a nod to that state's own law that it hold the first primary in the nation. New Hampshire has not yet set the date for its primary, but the movement toward the beginning of the year has some fearing that primaries and caucuses will soon be happening before the first of the year.
07/31/07 Senator's home searched by FBI, IRS
The home of Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) was searched today by agents from the FBI and the IRS, in connection with a probe into influence peddling that has already snared two oil executives and a state lobbyist. Stevens's son, Ben, has also been investigated, though no charges have been filed. Ben Stevens was president of the Alaska state senate at the time of the investigation. The investigation is focused on the 2000 renovation of Stevens's home, during which its size was doubled. Agents are trying to figure out if VECO, an Alaska-based oil services company, improperly paid for some of the work. Stevens denied wrong-doing, saying he and his wife personally paid all the bills they were sent for the renovation.
07/30/07 Chief Justice hospitalized
Chief Justice John Roberts, vacationing in Maine, was hospitalized today after taking a fall while having a seizure. Roberts, 52, suffered a similar seizure in 1993, but has not had one since until today. Roberts was reported to be alert but would be kept overnight at the Penobscot Bay Medical Center in Rockport.
07/29/07 Jefferson documents unsealed
Documents supporting the indictment of Representative William Jefferson (D-LA) have been unsealed today, and give a glimpse into the evidence against the embattled member of Congress. Jefferson allegedly took $400,000 in cash and more in stock to help iGate, a telecommunications company, gain contracts in Nigeria and other African countries. The documents also detail where agents found some of the cash while searching Jefferson's home, famously in the freezer. $20,000 was found in a box for Boca Burgers, $20,000 in a Pillsbury crust box, $10,000 in a frozen vegetable bag, and more in stacks wrapped in aluminum foil.
07/02/07 Bush commutes Libby's sentence
Former Chief of Staff to the Vice President, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, had his sentence commuted by the President today, just hours after an appeal to keep him out of jail failed. Libby was found guilty of perjury in a case stemming from the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame, and has been sentenced to 30 months in federal prison. An appeals court today found that Libby's appeal was likely to fail and rejected a call to allow Libby to remain free pending a full appeal, and he was scheduled to go to prison in about two weeks. A commutation is not a pardon - Libby's conviction will remain on his record and he will still be responsible for a $250,000 fine. In a written statement, President Bush called the 30 month sentence "excessive."
06/25/07 Supreme Court rules against student free speech
The Supreme Court today ruled that a school administrator was not acting outside legal limits when she had a student sign removed during an off-campus event. The banner, which read "Bong Hits 4 Jesus", was displayed by student Joseph Frederick in Juneau, Alaska as the student body assembled along city streets to watch the passing of the Olympic torch, which was on its way to Salt Lake City, Utah, for the Olympic games in 2002. The principal, Deborah Morse, had the banner removed because of a message she deemed to be pro-drug. Frederick denied a pro-drug intention, saying the message was basically nonsense and that he was displaying it as a simple expression of his free speech rights. The case, Morse v Frederick, was decided on a 5-4 vote with Chief Justice John Roberts delivering the opinion of the Court.
06/25/07 Court: Taxpayers don't have standing to sue over faith-based office
Opposing the President's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, the group Freedom From Religion filed a suit in federal court, alleging that conferences organized by the office are in violation of the Establishment Clause. The only standing the group and its members asserted was that they are taxpayers, indirectly harmed when federal tax money is spent on the conferences. The Seventh Circuit Court ruled that they had standing because the money from the office was allocated by the Congress, even though the money was not specifically allocated to the office. The Court, on a 5-4 ruling in an opinion written by Justice Alito, disagreed with the circuit court. The Court reiterated previous rulings that taxpayers do not have standing to bring such cases. In Flast v Cohen (392 US 83), a narrow exception was carved out, and the Court ruled that the narrow exception did not apply in this case. The case is Hein v Freedom From Religion Foundation.
06/11/07 Home health care workers can be exempted from minimum wage laws
A unanimous Supreme Court today ruled that a rule set by the Labor Department, which allows home health care workers to be exempt from minimum wage and overtime pay laws, is legal. Evelyn Coke sued her former employer, Long Island Care at Home, for back wages. For 20 years, Coke alleged, she had been paid under the minimum wage for shifts that often ran for 24 hours. The Fair Labor Standards Act allows minimum wages and maximum hours to be set, but allows for exceptions. A 1975 Labor Department rule excepts home health care workers from the wage and hour limits. Coke argued that the department was acting outside its authority when it made the rule, but the Court ruled that the department was within its powers. The case is Long Island Care at Home v Coke.
06/11/07 Senate rejects "No Confidence" vote on Gonzales
The Senate was poised today to take a rare "no confidence" vote on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, but opponents blocked the measure, which required 60 votes to put an end to debate. Proponents are dissatisfied with responses Gonzales has given to questions surrounding the firing of several US Attorneys earlier this year. Votes of no confidence are a key feature of parliamentary systems, and can mean the downfall of the government if carried. There is no constitutional basis for a no confidence vote in the United States, however, and the move was criticized by some as a time-wasting publicity stunt. Proponents, however, say that the measure, even though it did not carry, sends a clear message to the President regarding the embattled Attorney General.
06/04/07 Senator succumbs to cancer
Senator Craig Thomas (R-WY), diagnosed with leukemia in November, succumbed to the disease today, his family announced. Wyoming's governor will be choosing a replacement from a list of three submitted by the state's Republican party.
04/30/07 Police not responsible for injury during car chases
The Supreme Court today, in an 8-1 decision, made it clear that if someone is injured while the police pursue them, the police cannot be held responsible. In the case of Scott v Harris, Victor Harris was being pursued by sheriff's deputy Timothy Scott. After six miles and ten minutes of pursuit in populated areas, Scott decided to stop the pursuit by using a technique whereby the police car hits the vehicle in a precise location forcing it into a spin. The maneuver was not performed precisely enough and Harris's car overturned and crashed. Harris was left with quadriplegia, and he sued Scott, saying his 4th Amendment rights were violated by the use of excessive force. After the justices reviewed Scott's on-board video tape, however, they concluded that even if Scott used deadly force, the real question was whether the force was reasonable. They concluded it was. Only Justice Stevens dissented.
04/20/07 Vermont Senate votes for impeachment
In a surprise move, the Vermont Senate today passed a resolution calling for the impeachment of both President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Earlier, the Senate President Pro Tem had said that there was no time to take up the issue, requested earlier in the year by 38 Vermont towns. The resolution was passed 16-9 and urges the Vermont congressional delegation to introduce articles of impeachment. The Vermont delegation has, however, been consistently opposed to raising the subject considering the high bar for Senate conviction and the disruption caused by the impeachment efforts during President Clinton's administration. House members would like to introduce a similar measure there, but Speaker Gaye Symington has also come out against taking up an impeachment measure.
04/18/07 Supreme Court rules on abortion case
In a 5-4 decision today, the Supreme Court ruled on its first significant abortion case since Justices Roberts and Alito took their seats. It also allowed a nationwide ban on a specific procedure for the first time. The procedure, known as partial-birth abortion or intact dilation and evacuation, was banned by federal law in 2003. In his opinion for the Court, Justice Kennedy said that the ban does not violate a woman's right to an abortion. Siding with Kennedy were Justices Alito, Scalia, Thomas, and Chief Justice Roberts. Justice Ginsberg, writing for the minority, called the decision the phalanx of an assault on abortion. Pro-choice activists said they feared the ruling would open the flood gates to restrictive state laws; pro-life activists, such as Senator John Boehner (R-OH) hailed the decision as setting the stage for "further progress". The case is Gonzales v Carhart.
03/27/07 Senate passes Iraq funding bill with time table
After garnering the support of a few critical Republicans, a bill was passed in the Senate today that funds the troops in Iraq but which also has a non-binding time table for withdrawal. The bill had already passed the House and passed the Senate with a 50-48 vote. Vice President Dick Cheney had been recalled to Washington in case he needed to break a tie on the vote. The bill allocates $122 billion for continued support of the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and suggests a goal for withdrawal of March 31, 2008. The bill also requires that some of the combat troops be cycled back home. President Bush has vowed to veto the bill, which has to go to conference to resolve minor differences in the House and Senate versions before being forwarded to the President.
03/27/07 FBI Director takes blame for missteps
FBI Director Robert Mueller appeared before the Senate's Judiciary Committee yesterday and had to answer uncomfortable questions concerning recent news about FBI missteps. The Director took personal responsibility and pledged to clean up the agency's act. Some Senators questioned if the agency could handle the dual roles of law enforcement and domestic spying. It has been revealed in recent days that the FBI provided inaccurate facts when applying for warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and that it had sent out tens of thousands of National Security Letters that were illegal and unjustified. A NSL requires the recipient to provide the FBI with personal data from private databases and records.
03/26/07 Gonzales aide invokes Fifth Amendment rights
Monica Goodling, an aide to Attorney General Roberto Gonzales, has been asked to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee to testify to her knowledge about the on-going U.S. Attorney scandal. In a surprise move, Goodling wrote to the committee through her lawyer, invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Goodling's attorney wrote that he was concerned that some members of the committee had already made up their minds on the scandal and that Goodling herself had been blamed for the scandal by a senior Justice Department official. Committee chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT) noted that "The American people are left to wonder what conduct is at the base of Ms. Goodling's concern that she may incriminate herself in connection with criminal charges if she appears before the committee under oath."
03/22/07 Conflict between White House and Congress develops
The House and Senate have both authorized their respective committees to issue subpoenas to get answers from White House officials about an ongoing scandal. The White House has offered to allow the officials to appear for unrecorded and unsworn interviews, but has said it draws the line at the issuance of subpoenas. The possible constitutional crisis - can the Congress compel the executive to testify, and can the executive refuse? - has dominated the news in recent days. The controversy began when eight U.S. Attorneys were fired by the Justice Department. While U.S. Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President, the controversy is why they were fired and if the reasons given to the Congress were deliberately misleading. Some of the prosecutors were under scrutiny because they had investigated and prosecuted Republican lawmakers, and others because they resisted investigating and prosecuting Democratic lawmakers. Reasons given for the firings included poor performance, but all of the fired prosecutors had gotten good performance reviews. One prosecutor told Congress that he had gotten phone calls from Republican lawmakers asking about the status of investigations, something that is forbidden. Thousands of pages of communications between the Justice Department and the White House have been released and show that officials within both organizations discussed the prosecutors throughout the latter quarter of 2006.
02/24/07 Virginia legislature apologizes for slavery
The Virginia Assembly today unanimously approved a measure, approved unanimously by the Virginia Senate earlier in the week, that apologizes for the state's role in slavery and in mistreatment of American Indians. Joint Resolution 728 calls slavery "the most horrendous of all depredations of human rights and violations of our founding ideals in our nation's history," and acknowledges that it "enacted laws to restrict the rights and liberties of Native Americans, including their ability to travel, testify in court, and inherit property."
02/20/07 Some punitive damages are unconstitutional, Supreme Court rules
Cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris was ordered to pay almost $80 million in punitive damages to the estate of Jesse Williams by an Oregon jury in 1999. The trial judge ruled that the award was too large and reduced it to $32 million, but an appeals court and the Oregon Supreme Court restored the award. In a 5-4 decision today, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed with the trial judge - the award, the Court found, was partially given on the basis of harm caused to persons not a party to the suit. This, the Court said, amounted to an unconstitutional taking without due process. The punitive damages, which amounted to almost 100 times the compensatory damages, were "grossly excessive." Justice Breyer delivered the majority opinion. Justices Stevens, Thomas, Ginsberg, and Scalia dissented. The case is Philip Morris v. Williams.
02/13/07 Georgia Representative Charlie Norwood dies
Representative Charlie Norwood (R-GA) died today after a long battle with cancer. Norwood was first diagnosed with lung cancer in 1998. The House, in the midst of a marathon debate on President George Bush's proposal to send 20,000 troops to Iraq, paused to remember Norwood today. The seat will be filled by a special election, the data of which will be determined later.
01/22/07 Court decision could reduce sentences for California prisoners
The Supreme Court today reaffirmed previous rulings when it decided that judges in California cannot hear additional evidence in determining sentencing than the jury had heard. John Cunningham was tried and convicted of continuous sexual abuse of a child under 14, an offense that carries a sentence of 12 years. A sentence of 6 years can be imposed if mitigating circumstances are found; or of 16 years if aggravating circumstances are found. After the jury found Cunningham guilty, the judge examined the aggravating circumstances and found evidence of six of them, allowing the 16 year sentence. The Supreme Court, on a 6-3 ruling, found that the aggravating circumstances should have been heard and considered by a jury, not just a judge. The decision will likely mean that the sentences of many currently held in California will have to be reviewed. Justices Alito, Kennedy, and Breyer dissented. The case is Cunningham v California.
01/20/07 Rare copy of Declaration of Independence found
Georgia State Archivist Greg Jarell discovered something unexpected while doing genealogy research in the state archives recently: a copy of the Declaration of Independence. Jarell found the copy while searching unrelated documents, leading to speculation that the document was misfiled when it was bound in the mid-1940's. Each state had been sent a copy of the document, which is formatted differently than the classic "Stone" copy of the Declaration and presented over several pages. Until the find, it had been assumed that Georgia's copy has been lost during the Revolutionary period.
01/08/07 Effort underway to change New Jersey constitution's voting restrictions
Article 2, Section 1, Clause 6 of the New Jersey state constitution states, "No idiot or insane person shall enjoy the right of suffrage." This prohibition, says one state senator, is "outdated, vague, offensive to many and may be subject to misinterpretation." Senate President Richard Codey wants to remove the language and replace it with language that allows a court to find someone unable to mentally understand the voting process. Any amendment must be agreed upon by three-fifths of both houses of the legislature, then approved by the voters.
01/04/07 First female Speaker of the House sworn in
Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was sworn in as the first female Speaker of the House today, as the Democrats assumed the majority in the House for the first time since 1995. Pelosi, who has announced an ambitious schedule of bills for the first 100 legislative hours of the new 100th Congress, said "women weren't just waiting. Women were working. Never losing faith, we worked to redeem the promise of America, that all men and women are created equal." In the Senate, long-time Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) was elected President Pro Tem of the Senate.
01/02/07 Ford lies in state, buried in Michigan
The body of President Gerald Ford, who died last week, came home to Michigan for final services and burial after lying in state at the U.S. Capitol. Ford, who served in both the House and Senate, was brought into the Capitol on the House side and left from the Senate side. He was eulogized by Henry Kissinger, Donald Rumsfeld, and President George W. Bush. He was buried on the grounds of his presidential library in Grand Rapids.