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9/11 Commission Recommendations: The Senate Confirmation Process for Presidential Nominees

Description: On July 22, 2004, the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, known as the 9/11 Commission, issued its final report, detailing the events up to and including the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks upon the United States. The 9/11 Commission recommended that the Senate adopt rules requiring hearings and votes to confirm or reject national security nominees within 30 days of their submission at the start of each new presidential administration. Implementing the commission's proposal would involve imposing new restrictions on both the power of committee chairs to control the agenda of their committees and the rights of Senators to delay or block nominations through holds and extended debate. This report discusses in detail this proposal, how it could be implemented, and the potential effects of its implementation.
Date: March 23, 2005
Creator: Palmer, Betsy

S. 147/H.R. 309: Process for Federal Recognition of a Native Hawaiian Governmental Entity

Description: S. 147/H.R. 309, companion bills introduced in the 109th Congress, represent an effort to accord to Native Hawaiians a means of forming a governmental entity that could enter into government-to-government relations with the United States. This report describes the provisions of the reported version of S. 147; outlines some federal statutes and recent cases which might be relevant to the issue of federal recognition of a Native Hawaiian entity; and recounts some legal arguments that have been presented in the debate on this legislation. It includes a brief outline of the provisions of a substitute amendment expected to be offered in lieu of the reported version of S. 147, when Senate debate, which was interrupted by the filing of a cloture motion on July 29, resumes.
Date: September 27, 2005
Creator: Murphy, M. Maureen

S. 1783: The Pension Security and Transparency Act of 2005

Description: On September 28, the Senate Finance Committee and the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions announced that they had reached a compromise on a pension reform bill for consideration by the full Senate. The compromise bill has been introduced as S. 1783, “The Pension Security and Transparency Act of 2005.” S. 1783 combines provisions of S. 219, “The National Employee Savings and Trust Equity Guarantee Act,” reported by the Finance Committee, and “The Defined Benefit Security Act,” reported by the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. This report summarizes the major provisions of the compromise bill, as announced by the chairmen and ranking members of the two committees.
Date: October 3, 2005
Creator: Purcell, Patrick J.

Abortion: Justice O'Connor's Opinions

Description: This report examines Justice O'Connor's notable opinions on abortion, and explores her role in the development of the undue burden standard, adopted in 1992. Under the new standard, a reviewing court would consider whether an abortion restriction has the effect of imposing an "undue burden" on a woman's right to obtain an abortion.
Date: July 15, 2005
Creator: Shimabukuro, Jon O.

Access to Government Information In the United States

Description: The Constitution of the United States makes no specific allowance for any one of the co-equal branches to have access to information held by the others and contains no provision expressly establishing a procedure for, or a right of, public access to government information. Nonetheless, Congress has legislated various public access laws. These include two records access statutes — the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act — and two meetings access statutes — the Federal Advisory Committee Act and the Government in the Sunshine Act. This report provides background on the issue of government transparency.
Date: January 7, 2005
Creator: Relyea, Harold C.

Access to Government Information in the United States

Description: The Constitution of the United States makes no specific allowance for any one of the co-equal branches to have access to information held by the others and contains no provision expressly establishing a procedure for, or a right of, public access to government information. Nonetheless, Congress has legislated various public access laws. These include two records access statutes — the Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C. 552) and the Privacy Act (5 U.S.C. 552a) — and two meetings access statutes — the Federal Advisory Committee Act (5 U.S.C. App.) and the Government in the Sunshine Act (5 U.S.C. 552b). Moreover, due to the American separation of powers model of government, interbranch conflicts over the accessibility of information are neither unexpected nor necessarily destructive. The federal courts, historically, have been reluctant to review and resolve “political questions” involving information disputes between Congress and the executive branch. Although there is considerable interbranch cooperation, such conflicts probably will continue to occur on occasion.
Date: January 7, 2005
Creator: Relyea, Harold C.

Accounting Problems at Fannie Mae

Description: On September 22, 2004, the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Supervision (OFHEO) made public a report that was highly critical of accounting methods at Fannie Mae, the government-sponsored enterprise that plays a leading role in the secondary mortgage market. OFHEO charged Fannie Mae with not following generally accepted accounting practices in two critical areas: (1) amortization of discounts, premiums, and fees involved in the purchase of home mortgages and (2) accounting for financial derivatives contracts. According to OFHEO, these deviations from standard accounting rules allowed Fannie Mae to reduce volatility in reported earnings, present investors with an artificial picture of steadily growing profits, and, in at least one case, to meet financial performance targets that triggered the payment of bonuses to company executives. On November 15, 2004, Fannie Mae reported that it was unable to file a third-quarter earnings statement because its auditor, KPMG, refused to sign off on the accounting results. On December 15, 2004, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), after finding inadequacies in Fannie’s accounting policies and methodologies, directed Fannie Mae to restate its accounting results since 2001. Shortly thereafter, the company’s CEO and CFO resigned. It is estimated that earnings since 2001 will be revised downwards by as much as $12 billion, but the formal restatement of earnings is not expected before late 2006.
Date: November 15, 2005
Creator: Jickling, Mark

Active Military Sonar and Marine Mammals: Events and References

Description: The deployment of active sonar by the U.S. Navy and its potential impacts on marine mammals has been an ongoing issue of intense debate; regulatory, legislative, and judicial activity; and international concern. This report summarizes legal and political events related to active sonar and marine mammals since 1994. This report summarizes some of the more significant recent events pertaining to active military sonar, in particular.
Date: November 3, 2005
Creator: Buck, Eugene H. & Calvert, Kori

Active Military Sonar and Marine Mammals: Events and References

Description: The deployment of active sonar by the U.S. Navy and its potential impacts on marine mammals has been an ongoing issue of intense debate; regulatory, legislative, and judicial activity; and international concern. This report summarizes legal and political events related to active sonar and marine mammals since 1994. This report summarizes some of the more significant recent events pertaining to active military sonar, in particular.
Date: November 22, 2005
Creator: Buck, Eugene H. & Calvert, Kori