The U.S. House of Representatives has passed the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 2014 and 2015, which included a version of the NSA Internal Watchdog Act sponsored by Nashville Rep. Jim Cooper.
Cooper's office says in a release that he worked to get the act included in the general bill, which "authorizes funding for the 16 components of the Intelligence Community and for national security programs."
Earlier this month, Cooper spoke to Pith about the watchdog bill which he introduced with U.S. Reps. Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Jim Himes (D-CT) with the aim of creating a "tough, independent watchdog inside [the National Security Agency]."
Today's watchdog in the NSA has no teeth, in fact has no gums. He or she is appointed by the NSA bureaucracy, so he's more of a lapdog than a watchdog. The idea here is make it full Senate confirmation, speak for the people of America, and be fully independent. And actually supercharged, kind of like on steroids or a superhero or something, so they have extraordinary powers for an [inspector general] to really be able to look into wrongdoing and stop it. Because external oversight is not enough. It's such a big and busy agency, you really need somebody inside, on the ground 24/7, to see what's going on because a few strokes of a computer keyboard and you can violate someone's Constitutional rights. And we need to make sure that doesn't happen.
An [inspector general] is kind of a proven way to do that, it's just that the old NSA IG was too weak. We need a real super-strong one in this agency.
Here's a one page summary of the act, from the congressman's office:
Earlier this month, U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper was among a bipartisan trio of congressmen who introduced the NSA Internal Watchdog Act, to create a "tough, independent watchdog inside [the National Security Agency] who will be accountable to Congress and the American people."
In a release announcing the bill, the Nashville Democrat said the agency whose surveillance activity has shocked many Americans, and confirmed the fears of many others, "needs a watchdog with teeth."
Here's a summary of the teeth, per that release:
The new NSA IG will be able to:
* Ensure all NSA programs and activities comply with our laws and Constitution.
* Recommend new NSA policies to protect our civil rights and civil liberties.
* Undertake, immediately after Senate confirmation, a comprehensive review of the programs involved in the Snowden leaks, including the NSA's compliance or non-compliance with FISA court orders.
* Exercise subpoena power to require contractors and former NSA employees to give testimony in IG investigations, a power that no IG other than the Department of Defense IG currently has.
* Prevent personal snooping or any other misuses of NSA programs by rogue employees and contractors, such as investigating ex-spouses.
* Recommend improvements to whistleblower reporting, security clearance and background check procedures.
* Challenge, through Congress, any attempted prohibition of an IG audit or investigation due to alleged national security grounds.
Talk about Coopmentum.
Nashville Congressman Jim Cooper — a far-from-radical Democrat, from a state with a constitutional amendment effectively banning same-sex marriage — is taking part in this year's NOH8 on the Hill photo event, as you can see above. The NOH8 campaign promotes "marriage, gender and human equality through education, advocacy, social media, and visual protest."
The campaign's annual event on Capitol Hill is of the visual variety — U.S. Senators and Representatives pose for portraits in solidarity with those "silenced by anti-gay legislation around the world" and right here at home. Cooper joined 20 members of Congress taking part in this year's event. He's the first member of the Tennessee delegation ever to do so.
“America is about bigotry toward none and equality for all,” Cooper says, in a release from his office.
More information about the campaign, and portraits of other congressional types can be found here.
Every so often, word of Rep. Jim Cooper's blue dog moderation makes its way back to Nashville and riles up local liberals. Anyone perusing Twitter on the nights he voted against millions of dollars in relief for victims of Hurricane Sandy, or a bill that would have restricted the National Security Agency's snooping, has witnessed the shock and awe that consumes the lefty set when they realize, again, that their congressman is an unabashed conservative Democrat.
For this week's issue of the Scene, we sat down with Cooper for a chat about those issues and more. After the jump, he talks about the serious side of a scenario we suggested in jest — one in which he becomes Speaker of the House — and in doing so, shares some troubling observations about the role of money in today's politic.
Presented without comment as we approach the debt limit deadline, in week three of the government shutdown: Above is Sen. Bob Corker on CNN this morning. Below, check out Congressman Marsha Blackburn on MSNBC.
Over the past couple of days, Slate political reporter Dave Weigel has been documenting a new meme amongst congressional Republicans — that the debt limit deadline, coming Oct. 17, isn't real.
After weeks of attempting to use the specter of a government shutdown and debt ceiling crisis as leverage in their fight against Obamacare, and Obama in general, some Republicans are now asserting that these crises aren't really crises at all. Government shutdown? Maybe "people are probably going to realize they can live with a lot less government than what they thought they needed." Default? What default?!
And it turns out Sen. Bob Corker is among those questioning the debt limit deadline, although he says he doesn't want to "minimalize the debt ceiling." Huh?
From Slate, after the jump:
U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn's Clarksville office was evacuated Monday morning after a suspicious envelope was sent there, The Leaf Chronicle reports.
Blackburn tweeted this afternoon that "on advice from law enforcement, the Clarksville office will be closed for the remainder of the day."
From the Chronicle:
The Clarksville Police Department received a call at 11:12 a.m. that Blackburn’s 128 North 2nd Street office had received a suspicious envelope. CPD closed down North Second Street between Main Street and Strawberry Alley and evacuated part of the Federal Building, according to CPD spokeswoman Officer Natalie Hall.
“There was a suspicious envelope, they couldn’t tell what was in it,” Hall said.
The hazardous materials unit responded and transported the package to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation for further inspection, according to Hall.
In a statement to the Chronicle, Blackburn said “However hot the rhetoric, there should never be a reason to resort to a threat of violence as a means to convey your concerns.”
A dispatch from Coop Central informs us that Rep. Jim Cooper is endorsing a continuing resolution that would fund the government for at least six months, and repeal the Affordable Care Act's medical device tax and replace it with other revenues.
The full release:
U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper today joined a group of moderate Democrats and Republicans in outlining a proposal to reopen government, returning 800,000 federal employees to work.
“In a weak economy, even a few days of government shutdown weaken America,” Cooper said. “Congress needs to fund government now and stop partisan bickering.”
Frustrated by congressional leadership’s inability to keep government open, or even to engage in serious talks with the other political party, the bipartisan coalition led by Democratic Rep. Ron Kind (WI) and Republican Charlie Dent (PA) agreed to a proposal that would fund government for at least six months at current levels, and modify one small part of the Affordable Care Act. Discretionary spending would be at $986 billion until March 31, 2014, and the medical device tax of 2.3% would be repealed and replaced by other revenues.
“Tennesseans deserve better than the sort of congressional misbehavior they have been getting,” Cooper said. “Democrats and Republicans should work together for the good of the country. This proposal is a good start.”
Cooper is a member of the Blue Dog Coalition and New Democrat Coalition.
Yesterday, Cooper said that he will furlough most of his staff and donate his salary to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee for the duration of the shutdown.
Nashville Rep. Jim Cooper tells Pith that he will forego his salary for the duration of the government shutdown, and that he will begin furloughing most of his staff.
Hundreds of thousands of federal employees were sent home when the shutdown began Tuesday morning, and will go without pay until it ends. Members of congress — who make $174,000 annually — will continue to be paid by law. As of this writing, the Washington Post reports that 85 members of congress (including Tennessee Republican Rep. Diane Black) have said that they will either refuse their salary or give it to charity as long as the government is shut down.
Cooper said he will make a contribution to Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee for the amount he would have been paid during the shutdown.
Read a full statement from Cooper after the jump:
Well, the federal government is (partially) shutdown, but essential functions will continue. You know, stuff like national security, public safety and Congressman Marsha Blackburn's television appearances.
This morning, Blackburn joined "Fox & Friends" to talk about the shutdown and Obamacare. There's plenty to be troubled by here, like the part when Blackburn says "this is traditionally how we have achieved big reforms in this country, by wrapping it around a debt ceiling" or the fact that Fox News continues to provide aid and comfort to Steve Doocy. But for now, we'll point out one thing in particular.
After banging on about how it's President Obama who wants a government shutdown, the congressman can't resist noting with just a hint of glee that "people are probably going to realize they can live with a lot less government than what they thought they needed." In a moment that shows just how much cats-and-dogs-living-together mass hysteria results from a government shutdown, it fell to Brian Kilmeade to point out that Blackburn's observation might be true "unless you're one of the thousands [who] have been told to stay home, who live paycheck to paycheck." (More on who some of those people are here and here.)
"That's right," Blackburn says, apparently remembering that, unlike members of Congress, some people could miss a paycheck as a result of the shutdown.
Other people that might not be chuckling about how they "can live with a lot less government that what they thought they needed"? Women and children who rely on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) for help buying healthy food for their kids.
"That's right," we imagine Blackburn saying before rushing off to her next TV hit.
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