Friday, June 30, 2006

Short Takes

- First, an update on the flooding. The water is slowly receding now along the Susquehanna and Delaware rivers; the worst appears to be over. Tremendous loss of property and several lives due to this round of flooding, which was among the worst ever recorded in many areas, including my hometown and those nearby. There are some pictures of the water in Bainbridge here; the Evans Street examples near the bottom show the water near its peak, less than fifty feet from our house. Quite a mess.

- I haven't yet had the chance to read the Hamdan ruling, and will reserve full comment on it until I've done so, but will recommend today's Linda Greenhouse piece in the NYT. At first glance, this seems like broadly positive decision on behalf of the rule of law.

- There is finally!!! agreement in the Senate to take up legislation to loosen federal restrictions on stem cell research. Under a plan proposed by Majority Leader Bill Frist, the Senate will debate three bills: one identical to H.R. 810, which allows federal funding on stem cells from embryos that would otherwise be discarded; another proposed by Senators Specter and Santorum which "encourages the National Institutes of Health to finance work that might someday allow scientists to produce cells equivalent to embryonic stem cells without destroying embryos"; the third, offered by Senator Brownback, would "make it a crime for anyone to trade in tissues from fetuses that were conceived and aborted expressly for research purposes."

Each portion of the package would need sixty votes (which all of them are likely to attain without a problem). The three together will be debated for twelve hours on a date in July yet-to-be-determined. No amendments will be allowed. This was reportedly a very tough unanimous consent agreement to reach, as Senator Coburn withheld his consent through much of the negotiating process.

The president has threatened to veto the H.R. 810 portion of this package, and a spokesman reiterated that threat yesterday. Seems like an unwise move to me. Nonetheless, this agreement is excellent news, and has been a long time in coming.

- Redistricters in Texas have two weeks to propose new boundary lines for the 23rd congressional district declared unconstitutional by the Court this week. Federal judge John T. Ward wants proposals by July 14, responses a week later, and has scheduled oral argument about the plans for August 3.

- The WaPo reports that Senate leaders may be caving in to House demands on the immigration bill; there is reportedly talk that the upper chamber would agree to a multi-phase process beginning with enhancements to border security, and the "When those measures are fully funded and operational - a process that could take as much as two years - debate on some version of the Senate's broader proposals would begin." This is utterly absurd. Pass the comprehensive plan, and do it before November. The problem is not just going to go away, folks.


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