GOP Controls Senate After Luján Stroke — What might be the most under-reported political story is that the Republicans now control the U.S. Senate.
Sen. Ben Ray Luján, a Democrat from New Mexico, suffered a stroke, Jan. 27, and is incapacitated. This gives the Republicans a 50-49 majority and makes moot Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking power.
Lujan is expected to recover but it remains uncertain as to when he will return. A stroke is a stroke after all.
U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) today, Feb. 6, sent a letter to his colleagues expressing his grave concerns over the nomination of Debo Adegbile to serve as Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Mr. Adegbile was chosen by President Obama and the Senate Judiciary Committee is slated to vote on the nomination today.
Below is the letter:
February 6, 2014
Recently, President Obama nominated Mr. Debo Adegbile to serve as Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. I have grave concerns over this nomination, based on Mr. Adegbile’s decision to represent Mumia Abu-Jamal.
On December 9, 1981, Mumia Abu-Jamal murdered 25-year old Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. Abu-Jamal’s guilt has never been in doubt. Four eyewitnesses saw Abu-Jamal rush across the street to where Daniel Faulkner was, shoot Officer Faulkner once in the back, and then shoot Officer Faulkner several more times in the body and face. Three other witnesses attested that they heard Abu-Jamal boast that he had shot Daniel Faulkner. It was no surprise when a Pennsylvania jury convicted Abu-Jamal and sentenced him to death.
Unfortunately, some were not content to let Daniel Faulkner’s young widow to grieve in peace. In 2009, twenty-seven years after Daniel Faulkner’s death, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (“LDF”), decided to join the case-first as an amicus and then as co-counsel for Abu-Jamal. This was not a case of every defendant deserving a lawyer: Abu-Jamal already had multiple, high-priced lawyers volunteering their time and filing dozens of petitions and appeals over two and a half decades.
Under Mr. Adegbile’s oversight, LDF lawyers spread misinformation, promoted division among the American people, and blocked justice for the family of Officer Daniel Faulkner.
The lawyers Mr. Adegbile supervised promoted the myth that Abu-Jamal was a heroic, political prisoner who was framed because of his race, instead of the cowardly, unrepentant killer that he is. Recently, Mr. Adegbile has attempted to downplay his role in the Mumia Abu-Jamal case.
Mr. Adegbile knows better. As Mr. Adegbile told the Senate Judiciary Committee, he “supervised the entire legal staff” of 18 lawyers at LDF, and, in the words of LDF’s website, he was responsible for their advocacy “both in the courts of law and in the court of public opinion.”
The Justice Department’s website explains, the Civil Rights Division “fulfills a critical mission in upholding the civil and constitutional rights of all individuals.” This requires the head of the Civil Rights Division to have an absolute commitment to truth and justice. There are many highly qualified Americans who can carry out this critical mission. Mr. Adegbile’s record creates serious doubts that he is one of them. For these reasons, I ask you to oppose the nomination of Mr. Debo Adegbile to serve as Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
Casey SOPA Late Response — Better a month late than never one supposes.
Sen. Bob Casey (D) finally got back to us on the request we made Jan. 18 that he oppose the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA). Both bills were put on hold that day after massive protests.
He never really did do much to stop them.
Sen. Pat Toomey (R) responded almost immediately and announced his opposition to the bills later that day.
Anyway, here is Sen. Casey’s response:
Dear Mr. Lawrence:
Thank you for taking the time to contact me regarding S. 968, the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property (PROTECT IP) Act of 2011, and H.R. 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act. I appreciate hearing from you about this issue.
S. 968 was introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont on May 12, 2011. The PROTECT IP Act would allow the Attorney General and property rights holders to take legal action against only foreign-based websites strictly dedicated to copyright infringement and intellectual property theft. After legal action is taken and a judge finds the particular foreign-based website guilty of being dedicated to intellectual property theft, payment processors such as credit card companies and other payment systems would no longer be allowed to process payments to that illegal foreign site. It would also allow the Attorney General and intellectual property holders to seek a court order to shut down websites engaging in piracy.
S. 968 was voted out of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary unanimously on May 26, 2011. A version of this bill, H.R. 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act, was introduced in the House of Representatives by Representative Lamar Smith of Texas on October 26, 2011. It was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary, where hearings were held.
Over the past several months, I have heard from numerous groups and individuals concerned that internet piracy destroys American jobs, threatens public safety—for example, through the sales of counterfeit pharmaceuticals—and violates the intellectual property rights of creative and innovative American artists, inventors and entrepreneurs. These diverse groups strongly supported the bill as a means to shut down foreign rogue websites that are dedicated exclusively to intellectual property theft.
More recently, I have heard from individuals who are concerned that these bills violate their right to freedom of speech, as well as from constituents concerned that they would shut down sites like Google, Wikipedia, Facebook and YouTube. I take very seriously concerns about censorship and infringing freedom of speech. Accordingly, I was pleased that the bills were removed from the Senate calendar so that further consideration could be given to these concerns.
At this point, I think it is important for all interested parties—including Internet users, technology companies and intellectual property holders—to take a step back and begin a dialogue on how to protect the legitimate rights of innovators and creative artists, and protect public safety in the face of counterfeit products, while at the same time assuring that First Amendment rights are not infringed and the further development of robust internet is not inhibited. I also look forward to new legislation being developed that appropriately balances all of these objectives. Please be assured that as this process advances, I will have your views in mind.
Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future about this or any other matter of importance to you.
I encourage you to visit my website, casey.senate.gov. I invite you to use this online office as a comprehensive resource to stay up-to-date on my work in Washington, request assistance from my office, or share with me your thoughts on the issues that matter most to you and to Pennsylvania.
Bobby Casey Aye On Porkmarks — Little Bobby Casey, who is Pennsylvania’s other Democrat senator, voted no yesterday, Nov. 30, on an attempt to place a three-year moratorium on earmarks.
Earmarks are a legislative provisions that directs approved funds to be spent on specific projects, or that directs specific exemptions from taxes or mandated fees. They are also known as pork, which makes it puzzling why Little Bobby would vote for such an unpopular thing as he is not known for being able to bring home the bacon. Of course, he is known for being able to take orders so it’s probably not that puzzling.
Bobby is up for re-election in 2012.
Sen. Arlen Specter, as expected, also voted for the earmarks. Arlen’s long and storied career as a public hack is forcibly coming to an end, so this vote gave him one last chance to be spiteful.
The attempt to put a three-year halt to the process came via S.Amdt. 4697 which was an proposed as an amendment to S. 510 and failed on a 56-39 vote .
The latest Rasmussen Reports shows presumptive Republican senate nominee Pat Toomey continuing to hold a 9-point lead over Democrat incumbent Arlen Specter, a margin he has maintained in Rasmussen polling for three straight months.
Rasmussen has him beating Congressman Joe Sestak (D-Pa7), who is challenging Specter for the Democratic nomination, by 5 points.