Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Nine-second session in the Senate

Expand Messages
  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20071226/ap_on_go_co/quick_senate;_ylt=Av.9AMnIOcdb3JgLEo2bHQ1h24cA Senate meets briefly to block Bush By LAURIE KELLMAN, Associated
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 26, 2007

      Senate meets briefly to block Bush

      By LAURIE KELLMAN, Associated Press Writer Wed Dec 26,
      3:53 PM ET

      WASHINGTON - The House was quiet as a mouse the day
      after Christmas. But across the Capitol, the Senate
      was operating in an unusually efficient manner in its
      ongoing power struggle with President Bush.

      A nine-second session gaveled in and out by Sen. Jim
      Webb, D-Va., prevented Bush from appointing as an
      assistant attorney general a nominee roundly rejected
      by majority Democrats. Without the pro forma session,
      the Senate would be technically adjourned, allowing
      the president to install officials without Senate

      The business of blocking Bush's recess appointments
      was serious. It represents an institutional standoff
      between Congress and the president that could repeat
      itself during Congress' vacations for the remainder of
      Bush's presidency.

      In such situations, pro forma sessions also could give
      Bush some political cover on popular legislation he
      doesn't want to sign. When Congress is holding pro
      forma sessions and is not formally adjourned, a bill
      sent to a president automatically becomes law 10 days
      after he receives it — excluding Sundays — unless he
      vetoes it.

      That could be the fate of two bills Congress passed
      last week. One growing out of the Virginia Tech
      massacre makes it harder for people with mental
      illness records to buy guns. The other makes it easier
      for journalists and others to obtain government
      documents through the Freedom of Information Act. The
      FOIA bill, for example, would become law on New Year's
      Eve if not vetoed before then, according to Senate
      Judiciary Committee officials.

      In practice, Wednesday's pro forma process was almost

      "Good morning!" Webb, sporting a respectful tie and
      jacket, called to the floor staff assembled just for
      the occasion in an otherwise sleepy and chilly
      Capitol. One clerk congratulated Webb on being 30
      seconds early, thrice the amount of time it would take
      to complete the Senate's work for the day.

      Climbing to the president's chair, Webb took the gavel
      and banged it.

      "The Senate will come to order," he intoned, reading
      from a two-line script to a floor empty of other
      senators but witnessed from the gallery by one
      reporter and about a half dozen staffers. "Under the
      previous order, the Senate stands in recess until
      Friday, December 28th, 2007 at 10 a.m."

      His work done, Webb left. The floor staff reported to
      those in the gallery overhead that the session had
      lasted nine seconds.

      "I didn't appoint myself ambassador to a tropical
      nation," Webb, a former Navy secretary, novelist and
      TV documentary maker, quipped afterward.

      Before Congress left last week, Democrats scheduled 11
      pro forma sessions to fill the void until the Senate
      returns to regular session on Jan. 22. The purpose was
      to stop Bush from using the constitutional power
      presidents hold under the Constitution to bypass
      Senate confirmation and unilaterally install his
      nominees in office when Congress is adjourned.

      Democrats wanted to block one such recess appointment
      in particular: Steven Bradbury, acting chief of the
      Justice Department's Office of Legislative Counsel.
      Bush nominated Bradbury for the job and asked the
      Senate to remove the "acting" in his title.

      Democrats would have none of it, complaining Bradbury
      had signed two secret memos in 2005 saying it was OK
      for the CIA to use harsh interrogation techniques —
      some call it torture — on terrorism detainees.

      Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Bush
      refused to rule out appointing Bradbury to the job if
      the Senate formally adjourned. So, Reid decided to
      keep the Senate in session with pro forma meetings
      every two or three days.


      The gun bill is H.R. 2640.

      The Freedom of Information Act bill is S. 2488.
    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.