Sunday, August 05, 2007

Analysis: Is there a significant difference between the previous Republican-controlled Congress and the current Democratic-controlled Congress?

Explanatory Note: In the 2006 elections many voters seemed to vote for Democrats because they thought the policies in Iraq would change. In addition, many on the left thought a Democratic-controlled Congress would change what they perceived as violations of the principles of the Bill of Rights. With the current policy in Iraq and the information from the article below in mind, analyze whether or not there are any real differences in substance between the leadership of the two parties.

House Approves Wiretap Measure
White House Bill Boosts Warrantless Surveillance
By Ellen Nakashima and Joby WarrickWashington Post Staff WritersSunday, August 5, 2007

The Democratic-controlled House last night approved and sent to President Bush for his signature legislation written by his intelligence advisers to enhance their ability to intercept the electronic communications of foreigners without a court order.

The 227 to 183 House vote capped a high-pressure campaign by the White House to change the nation's wiretap law, in which the administration capitalized on Democrats' fears of being branded weak on terrorism and on a general congressional desire to act on the measure before an August recess.

The Senate had passed the legislation Friday night after House Democrats failed to win enough votes to pass a narrower revision of a statute known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The original statute was enacted after the revelation of CIA abuses in the 1970s, and it required judicial oversight for most federal wiretapping conducted in the United States.

Privacy and civil liberties advocates, and many Democratic lawmakers, complained that the Bush administration's revisions of the law could breach constitutional protections against government intrusion. But the administration, aided by Republican congressional leaders, suggested that a failure to approve what intelligence officials sought could expose the country to a greater risk of terrorist attacks.

Democrats facing reelection next year in conservative districts helped propel the bill to a quick approval. Adding to the pressures they felt were recent intelligence reports about threatening new al-Qaeda activity in Pakistan and the disclosure by House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) of a secret court ruling earlier this year that complicated the wiretapping of purely foreign communications that happen to pass through a communications node on U.S. soil.

The bill would give the National Security Agency the right to collect such communications in the future without a warrant. But it goes further than that: It also would allow the interception and recording of electronic communications involving, at least in part, people "reasonably believed to be outside the United States" without a court's order or oversight.

White House spokesman Tony Fratto emphasized that the bill is not meant to increase eavesdropping on Americans or "to affect in any way the legitimate privacy rights" of U.S. citizens. Data related to Americans in communications with foreigners who are the targets of a U.S. terrorism investigation could be monitored only if intelligence officials have a reasonable expectation of learning information relevant to that probe, a senior U.S. official said.

"There are a lot of people who felt we had to pass something," said one angry Democratic lawmaker who spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of caucus discussions. "It was tantamount to being railroaded."

In a sole substantial concession to Democrats, the administration agreed to a provision allowing the legislation to be reconsidered in six months.

Some House Democrats were still upset by what they saw as a deliberate scuttling by the White House of negotiations on a compromise bill. On Thursday, Democratic leaders reached what they believed was a deal with the government's chief intelligence official, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell, only to be presented with a new list of conditions at the last minute. The White House and McConnell have denied that a deal had been reached.

"I think the White House didn't want to take 'yes' for an answer from the Democrats," said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), an intelligence committee member.

The administration said that its bill is aimed at bringing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 into step with advances in technology, primarily by restoring the government's power to gather without a warrant foreign intelligence on targets located overseas.
(this article continues...go to www.washingtonpost.com)

10 comments:

CoreyA said...

I do not think it is possible to see a major "significant" change in congress simply because several members change. Theoretically speaking, people in office are only voted into office to do what the people want them to do, and henceforth all people in office should be doing what the majority of the people want them to do. So a "significant" change in direction would only occur if the people wanted it to... theoretically of course. Obviously not everyone agress on what the majority of people want so this does not work perfectly. Like the article says, people voted democrates into office because they wanted change in our Iraq policies. So if their is a "significant" change in congress it has less to do with who was voted into office, a more to do with what the people decided they want now.

Basically, I have yet to answer your question. I feel that the quesiton focus on an irrelevant fact. Policy will only change when the majority of the people want it to. Congressmen like having jobs and will do what the people say to keep their jobs, idealy atleast. So to answer your question. No.

Now, for any one who is reading this,(I can not imagine that that statement applies to very many people) I have my own question. If people are voted into power to represent the general populous of the United States, and the general populous is ignorant and change their minds quite often, then why when someone in power changes their mind about a topic during a several year time span, is it looked down upon? How can a remotely intellegent person running for office say that they are in a politcal party and that they agree with all of their parties stances when those parties never fully change their stances? Would a person not have to change their stances every time that the people did? Understandably, politicians are able to take stances on things involving ethics and those stances may not change. But obviously stances on things like the war, or other topics where public opinion is notorious for changing during a few years, should be changed based on said opinion. So why then is it frowned upon?

jzurko said...

No, there is no significant different between the Republican vs. Democratic controlled Congress. Democrats are afraid of voting in a way the public could perceive them as being 'soft' on defense or terrorism. The Democrats were voted in after countless scandals on the Republican side and weariness of the Iraq war; nevertheless, they're still scared of being seen as 'pro-terrorist'. Any real changes the Democratic-controlled Congress tries to pass, President Bush promises to veto (i.e. stem cell research, minimum wage increase, etc). So until Democrats stop basing their votes on fear of public opinion, the majority of Democrats in the Senate increases, or we elect a Democratic (or at least one with the ability to compromise) president, one won't see any significant change in Congress.

Vlad said...

I think there is a difference - just not a drastic difference. The democrats have their own views and some are not afraid to express them through voting but others fear for their reputation. And like stated above, the President will veto anything he doesn't agree on and that's mostly everything that the democrats stand for.

JamieW said...

I don't believe there is a significant difference between the previous REpublican-controlled Congress and the current Democratic-controlled Congress. We still have a Republican president which keeps from a lot of drastic changes from occuring when the Democrats know that Bush isn't going to budge. Like Joanna said, until we get a Democratic or open minded President, not much change is going to occur.

MorganJ said...

There are no real differences between the previous Republican-controlled Congress and the current Democratic-controlled Congress.

Looking at the two congresses the only notable difference I notice is that the Republicans were doing what that thought to be right and the Democrats are just playing politics. I think it is ridiculous “a lot of people felt they HAD to pass something.” We’ve been in this war for how long? … And NOW they feel obligated to pass something. I would think the Democrats would have felt more pressure to pass a republican-supported bill when they were the minority in Congress. I guess the whole “there’s power in numbers” theory doesn’t apply to Democratic-controlled Congress.

Democrats are not doing anything they said they would do; they are scared to make any mistakes so close to the election. They also want to make the Republican Party look like the “bad guy” before the election.

It's a joke to say that the Democrats "can't" do anything because we have a Republican President. The Democratic-controlled Congress has fiscal power. If they really wanted to, they could stop funding the war. No money equals no war.

There are no differences between the Republican and Democratic Congresses because the Decorates are scared of misusing their power so close to the election.

Personally, I do not care which party dominates Congress. We just need a congress that does what is best for the nation and not a political party.

kora said...

There's a difference, just not a significant one. And as Vlad said the president will juat veto anything he dosen't agree with; so even if the democrats are making a difference, its not noticable.

Jbyko10 said...

The only difference in the Congress is that it is Democratic. Earlier in the year they have tried to pass bills for the troops to come home and get out of Iraq. It never happened. The Democrats have their opinions on whats going on in the world. They can make laws and pass them on to the president. And to the looks of it, they do that, and the same outcome comes out. Veto power by Bush. Democrats are keeping their eyes out for the public reputation. They want to do what is right for the country. IT just seems to me that everything they do gets veto-ed in some way or nothing ever really happens. I do not think this will change even if we do elect a Democrat in 2008.

Alex said...

When the Republicans controlled congress people cryed out in anger on congress allowing the Iraq war to be prolonged and lack of action. In the next vote the American public showed their fusterations in voting the Democrats the majority in both houses of Congress. Now, with the demicrats in power not much has changed. The liberal majority has made several showings of their dissiproval of the execuctive branch but have been so far unable to make a signifigant move to differenciate themselves from the previously Republican held Congress

aly mac said...

I believe there really is a difference between the previous Republican-controlled Congress and the current Democratic controlled Congress. The Republican controlled congress tried to drive issues that were pertinent to our national security since 9/11. A majority of the Republicans supported the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan all the way through its course and the Patriot Act as well. When the Democrats took the majority, they vowed to make sweeping changes to the Patriot Act along with a strong approach towards putting an end to our war in Iraq. They have struggled to accomplish much in either of these areas and appear to have various changing positions in these issues as the 2008 elections draw near. It makes it very difficult to determine where they stand.

Alex the Great said...

other than the gradual increase in minimum wage, i dont think that the democrats controlling the congress. the main reason that there hasnt been a drastic change is that the president is still republican, so he can still veto bills that he and his party oppose.