Posted: 9:15 am Thursday, March 13th, 2014

Saxby Chambliss declares himself neutral in brewing constitutional fight 

By Jim Galloway, Greg Bluestein and Daniel Malloy

Saxby Chambliss on Wednesday declared himself an island of neutrality in a building constitutional controversy between the Democratic chairman of the Senate Intelligence committee and the chief agency it oversees, the CIA.

After remaining tight-lipped about the dispute, Chambliss “reluctantly” took to the Senate floor to declare his non-involvement – and hint that all parties should stop talking about it.

Your daily jolt on politics from the AJC's Political insider blogSen. Dianne Feinstein of California has publicly accused the CIA of breaching the constitutional separation of powers by spying on computers used by the committee’s Democratic staff to compile information about the agency’s enhanced interrogation program under President George W. Bush.

The CIA accused the Senate staffers of stealing documents and has referred the matter to the Department of Justice.

Said Chambliss:

 “The Republican committee members of the Senate Intelligence Committee and staff were not involved in the underlying investigation of the detainee and interrogation report. We do not know the actual facts concerning the CIA’s alleged actions or all of the specific details about the actions by the committee staff regarding the draft of what is now referred to as the Panetta internal review document.

Both parties involved have made allegations against one another, and have speculated as to each other’s actions. But there are still a lot of unanswered questions that must be addressed. …

“Eventually, we will get to the bottom of this, but today I cannot make any statement that will reflect what actually occurred, and therefore what recommendations we ought to make as we move forward. Right now, our committee members are conducting an internal assessment of the facts and the circumstances involved in both of these matters. This will be an ongoing process that should not be described or discussed in the public domain.”

The Washington Post today adds this bit of essential background:

Feinstein, who had recently become chairman of the committee, envisioned the investigation as a way to answer one of the most contentious questions: whether harsh interrogation measures, including the simulated-drowning technique known as waterboarding, worked.

In March 2009, the committee voted 14 to 1 to open its formal probe. Only Sen. Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), who later became the ranking Republican on the panel, voted against it.

***

We are picking up word of some head-butting between lawmakers and Gov. Nathan Deal’s office – which has cryptically raised the possibility of a legislative session that won’t end on March 20.

The session’s final day scheduled for next Thursday, and lawmakers are eager to hit the campaign trail ahead of record-early May 20 primaries. But Deal’s top aide Chris Riley hinted that the governor’s suite wouldn’t object to a longer stay by lawmakers.

“The flowers at the state Capitol are beautiful when they bloom in April,” Riley said.

We hear one of the main points of contention involves a Senate push to require that Georgia health insurance policies cover behavioral therapy for children 6 and under who have been diagnosed with autism. Facing tough odds in the House, the bill’s Senate sponsors tied it to a popular medicinal marijuana bill yesterday to try to assure its passage.

***

Remember how, earlier this year, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed seemed rather cool toward Jason Carter’s Democratic candidacy for governor? Not so with Michelle Nunn and her U.S. Senate run.

While Republicans scramble to close down the Legislature next Thursday, Reed will be hosting a fund-raiser for Nunn. As usual, the press is not invited:

nunnreed2

What’s interesting is a pricing schedule that appears to include a $500-a-plate children’s table.

***

Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball today takes a look at U.S. Senate races, giving Georgia’s contest a “lean Republican” rating. But writer Kyle Kondik includes this note:

A post-November runoff if no one gets over 50% here in the general election is possible. Imagine if Georgia and Louisiana went to overtime, with the Senate in the balance? Georgia’s runoff wouldn’t be until Jan. 6, 2015 — after the new Congress will be seated. Hmm…

***

Augusta Democratic U.S. Rep. John Barrow has signed on to House Democrats’ effort to force a vote on a minimum wage hike. His party is counting on the popular measure to draw a contrast in this year’s elections, and Barrow is one of the most endangered Democratic incumbents in the country. Most Republicans and business groups oppose a higher minimum wage, citing evidence that it would destroy jobs.

The measure would raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10. Republicans control the agenda in the House, but if Democrats can peel away enough centrist GOPers to form a majority on a “discharge petition,” they can force a vote. They’re trying the same tactic, without success so far, on immigration reform and an extension of unemployment benefits.

Here’s what Barrow had to say, via a spokeswoman:

“There’s a time and a place for everything, and it’s been a long time since we raised the minimum wage. As we work to improve the economy and get folks back to work, there needs to be a conversation with folks on both sides of the aisle about how to raise the minimum wage in a responsible and pragmatic way, and this is the only way we can get that conversation started.”

***

After Rep. John Lewis, D-Atlanta, led lawmakers from both parties on a civil rights pilgrimage last weekend, Roll Call asks: Whither the Voting Rights Act rewrite? Majority Leader Eric Cantor is the key, and the Capitol Hill paper reports that he and House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer will meet about the bill this week:

“The majority leader has made a major, personal investment in connecting to the civil rights movement — something that ultimately could prove important for a GOP that regularly polls in the single digits among African-Americans and poorly among other minorities.

But translating participation in the Faith and Politics Institute’s annual pilgrimage into legislative text that can win support from the bulk of the Republican Conference isn’t an easy task.

And so far, Cantor hasn’t laid out a clear path for a bill nine months after declaring his support for a congressional response to the Supreme Court decision striking down the VRA’s core enforcement mechanisms.”

***

When we ran into Republican John McCallum last week, as he formally signed up for the First District congressional race to replace Jack Kingston of Savannah, we asked if his old boss would be campaigning for him. He was coy then – but gives his answer today:

***

One of the more interesting press releases on Wednesday came from the campaign of state Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan of Austell, the Democrat running for superintendent without her party’s backing.

Morgan claimed credit for the House Education Commitee vote that effectively halted the much-maligned Common Core legislation from reaching a vote. Said Morgan:

“We listened, and because of their work we stopped the anti-Common Core legislation. Most importantly, I can go back to my daughter’s 1st grade teacher and tell her not to worry – that we’re going to keep the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards because we believe in having high standards and doing what’s best for kids.”

Business types this morning were more willing to spread the plaudits around. From the press release:

“We appreciate the attention this issue has received as it is key to ensuring our children’s future success,” said Georgia Chamber of Commerce President Chris Clark.  “The Chamber thanks the members of the House Education Committee for listening to the concerns of educators, parents, local school boards and most importantly, our students.”

***

When their two House districts in Atlanta were pushed together, Simone Bell already beat fellow Democrat Ralph Long. Now Bell is facing Long’s wife, Erica, in one of the more interesting legislative primary races.

Bell, one of three openly gay women in the Legislature, has quite a history with the Longs. Earlier this month she posted on Facebook that Ralph Long threatened to run against her if Bell supported one of his opponents in a Fulton County Commission race (She did, but he never qualified for that race).

Ralph Long took to Facebook this week to urge support of his wife. “She is my better everything,”  he wrote. Watch this one closely, people.

19 comments
AuntieChrist
AuntieChrist

For all the tea partiers that are wringing their hands over the "loss of our Fourth Amendment rights," you're a little late to the party. Your Fourth Amendment rights went out the window the day you remained silent as a cop pulled a 'stop and frisk' on a minority walking down the street minding their own business, when you said nothing as cops put dogs in a citizens car to sniff out contraband when there was no 'reasonable cause' to do so, when you said 'right on' as cops enforced the offense of Driving While Black or cheered joe arpiao for his stopping any and all Hispanics and demanding proof of citizenship the way South African Boers enforced apartheid. 

It's a story as old as the cliched "First they came for the socialists.....so I did not object."  It is also as true. You ignore injustice at your own peril. You think, "I'm a middle class white guy, it doesn't pertain to me." Now we see first hand how allowing a "minor injustice" to "those people" never stops with "those people," it eventually encompasses all citizens. 

Thinking that the government is allowed just a little encroachment is just as naive as thinking your girlfriend will only get "a little pregnant."

Bernie31
Bernie31

Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan of Austell, another BootLicker like Kasim Reed, trying to build a fortune of Massive Wealth off the People of Georgia. Alisha is another one to be watched and not to be TRUSTED. Her Chameleon like politics changes like the wind. Be watchful of those with BROAD TOOTHY GRINS with Nodding heads.

td1234
td1234

As soon as the Senators are equally outraged at the NSA and CIA spying on the rest of us then I might be outraged at the CIA spying on the Senators.

Derwin0
Derwin0

The CIA is banned by law from spying on domestic activities of American citizens.  So whether it's Pelosi or everyday citizens, the law is being broken.


From the CIA's own FAQ page:
"CIA’s mission is to collect information related to foreign intelligence and foreign counterintelligence. By law, the CIA is specifically prohibited from collecting intelligence concerning the domestic activities of U.S. citizens. By direction of the President in Executive Order 12333, as amended, and in accordance with procedures approved by the Attorney General, the CIA is restricted in the collection of intelligence information directed against U.S. citizens. Collection is allowed only for an authorized intelligence purpose; for example, if there is a reason to believe that an individual is involved in espionage or international terrorist activities. The CIA’s procedures require senior approval for any such collection that is allowed, and, depending on the collection technique employed, the sanction of the Director of National Intelligence and Attorney General may be required. These restrictions on the CIA, or similar ones, have been in effect since the 1970s."

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

Typical double standard from the ruling elite; it is OK for the NSA or CIA to spy on real Americans, just not "special" Americans. 

MiltonMan
MiltonMan

Funny to see libs like Jimmie-boy and Jay B. at The AJC who are salivating over Jason Carter & Michelle Nunn yet Nunn's fundraiser from fellow loser Reed is closed to the press.

MiltonMan
MiltonMan

He is useless - short-timers attitude waiting for a nice lobbying job just like the guy he defeated back in the day - Max Cleland

Bernie31
Bernie31

"All I want to Do is keep My Head Down and Take MY GOLDEN Taxpayers PARACHUTE and Leave. You Guys have been good to me...I have a wonderful Retirement Pay Package with a LIFETIME Cadillac Healthcare Plan for me and WIFE to go with our NEW CADDIE in the parking Lot."

All My Love, Saxby "Hollywood" Chambliss

dgroy
dgroy

So, what's new......Saxby Chambliss has been neutral on everything since he became a senator.....why should he change now?  You know, Georgia needs real Senate Representation, not a "do nothing". 

tomkat1111
tomkat1111

Saxby is waiting for the lobbyist's that sponsor him to tell him which side of this issue to be on.

DS
DS

I'm not impressed with Chambliss's dodge on this issue. 

I agree with Senator Graham, who said that the dispute involved “an executive branch agency trying to cover its butt from past allegations.” If Ms. Feinstein’s allegations are true, he said, “heads should roll, and people should go to jail.”

Sam_Hill
Sam_Hill

 

Hey Jim -- I fixed a typo in your blog:

"Saxby Chambliss declared “himself an island of imbecility in a building constitutional controversy....”

 

That's better. 

Bernie31
Bernie31

@RafeHollister - Well Rafe, it was The Party of INIQUITY wh Drafted,Wrote and Passed the Legislation for its wide without PROABLE CAUSE on The American People in the name of Security and Protection. All of the SHEEPLE like You said OK.."If that is what you need to do.. I am fine with it and I have nothing to Hide. " So what, if I am LOSING My Constitutional Rights of Search & Seizure? I am not using them anyway.

uh...huh.

Bernie31
Bernie31

@MiltonMan- If Michelle were smart, she would keep it that way. Any support from Atlanta City Government and any  former Mayor of Atlanta is Toxic and a Vote Loser. This should include any Public appearances with any of them at her side.

uh..huh

Bernie31
Bernie31

@DontTread - It was YOUR BELOVED REPUBLICAN CLOWNS who passed The Law for the CIA to do what ever they want on a Late Night Sunday whle America slept and KING W.

signed it without even reading it. W. was more ANGRY from being awakened from a ALL DAY DRUNK of watching College FOOTBALL than reading what he was signing. You can Bet that was EXACTLY the Plan from the Republican Congressional Leadership too! Six weeks after 911.

Andy123
Andy123

@Bernie31 @MiltonMan

Why are your elected people within I-285 so corrupt?  They make the crooked white politicians looks like Jesus.  


uh..huh

Bernie31
Bernie31

@Andy123 @MiltonMan - Unlike You and Saxby at least Max was willing to Put on the American Military uniform to serve and protect America. Ole "Hollywood "Saxby said he "HURT his Leg" and could NOT SERVE in VIETNAM.  Besides the pay was not that good and he was subject to LOSE his Life in the process. Serving as Senator has been FAR MORE rewarding.

uh...huh

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