Saturday, December 15, 2012

Stephen Fincher Voted Poorly

Patriot Act Extension.
This legislation (S. 990) extended for four years three provisions of the Patriot Act that were set to expire: the “roving wiretap” provision that allows the federal government to wiretap any number of a suspect’s telephone/Internet connections without specifying what they will find or how many connections will be tapped; the “financial records” provision that allows the feds to seize “any tangible thing” that has “relevance” to an investigation; and the “lone wolf” provision that allows spying on non-U.S. citizens without a warrant. These provisions violate the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which requires that no warrants be issued “but upon probable cause” (a much higher standard than “relevance”), and that warrants must contain language “particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” The Patriot Act even allows the FBI to issue warrants called “National Security Letters” without going to a judge, though this provision was not set to expire and therefore was not part of this legislation. The House passed the Patriot Act extension on May 26, 2011 by a vote of 250 to 153 (Roll Call 376). The provisions that were extended, as well as the Patriot Act as a whole, violate the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.
Stephen Fincher Voted FOR this bill.

Debt Deal.
This legislation (S. 365) provided for an immediate $400 billion increase in the national debt limit, while allowing the President to raise the ceiling an additional $500 billion unless Congress passes a resolution of disapproval. This legislation also established a process for reducing future cumulative deficit projections by up to $2.4 trillion for fiscal years 2012 through 2021, including the establishment of a supercommittee tasked with recommending cuts totaling up to $1.5 trillion for the 10-year period. If the supercommittee were to fail in recommending at least $1.2 trillion in cuts (and, as we know, the supercommittee failed to recommend any cuts), then the legislation would trigger automatic cuts totaling up to $1.2 trillion over 10 years. The debt-raising/deficit-cutting package created the appearance that Congress was doing something to rein in out-of-control spending. But in reality, the total national debt would still increase even if the entire dollar amount of cuts called for in the legislation were identified and enacted, since the cuts are not cuts in the absolute sense but cuts in future budget projections. The national debt would continue to go up, but not as fast as before, for the simple reason that cutting (say) $1.2 trillion over 10 years will not offset projected annual $1 trillion-plus deficits. The House passed S. 365 on August 1, 2011 by a vote of 269 to 161 (Roll Call 690). The debt deal allows both the national debt and spending to continue their upward trajectories. Moreover, the budget process established by the legislation is clearly unconstitutional since no Congress can bind the actions of future Congresses via the so-called automatic cuts.
Stephen Fincher Voted FOR this bill.

South Korea Trade Agreement.
On a single day — October 12, 2011 — both the House and Senate approved three separate trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama. These measures are three more in a series of “free-trade agreements” intended to transfer the power to regulate trade (and eventually other powers too) to super-national arrangements via a step-by-step process. NAFTA is a prime example of such an arrangement. So is the developing continental government now known as the European Union, which is an outgrowth of a free-trade arrangement once called the Common Market.  In fact, the Common Market-EU trajectory to regional governance served as a model for the formation of NAFTA. The South Korea agreement, to quote Congressional Quarterly, is “considered the most economically important trade deal since the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement.” For this reason this vote was selected over the other two (Colombia and Panama) for inclusion here. The House passed H.R. 3080, the measure to implement the South Korea trade agreement, on October 12, 2011 by a vote of 278 to 151 (Roll Call 783). Agreements such as this one are intended to transfer trade (and other) powers to super-national arrangements binding the United States, despite the fact that under the Constitution only Congress has the power “to regulate commerce with foreign nations.”
Stephen Fincher Voted FOR this bill.

Omnibus Appropriations.  
This catch-all legislative package (H.R. 2055), which would provide $915 billion in discretionary appropriations for fiscal 2012, is comprised of nine appropriations bills for fiscal 2012 that Congress failed to complete separately — Defense ($518.8 billion), Energy-Water ($32.1 billion), Financial Services ($21.5 billion), Homeland Security ($41.3 billion), Interior-Environment ($29.2 billion), Labor-HHS-Education ($156.3 billion), Legislative Branch ($4.3 billion), State-Foreign Operations ($33.5 billion), and Military Construction-VA ($73.7 billion). The House adopted the final version of this legislation (known as a conference report) on December 16, 2011 by a vote of 296 to 121 (Roll Call 941). Many of the bill’s spending programs — e.g., education, housing, foreign aid, etc. — are unconstitutional. Moreover, passing this mammoth appropriations bill in light of the ongoing trillion-dollar annual deficits is grossly fiscally irresponsible. Furthermore, packaging the appropriations bills for so many large federal agencies into one mega-bill greatly reduces the accountability of the Congressmen to their constituents.
Stephen Fincher Voted FOR this bill.

Line-item Veto.  
This bill (H.R. 3521) would allow the President to rescind all or part of any dollar amount of funding for discretionary spending items in enacted appropriations bills. Although both houses of Congress would have to approve any such rescissions, they would be forced to do so very quickly by the bill’s expedited procedures, including a prohibition on amendments in both Houses and filibusters in the Senate. This bill dramatically and unilaterally enhances the power of the executive branch. Note that Article I, Section 1 and Article I, Section 7, Clauses 2 and 3, of the U.S. Constitution vest Congress with all legislative powers. Any bill that shifts legislative power away from Congress and to the President is violating the constitutionally defined separation of powers for the legislative and executive branches. A similar line-item veto law was passed when Clinton was President. That one was found to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. The House passed H.R. 3521 on February 8, 2012 by a vote of 254 to 173 (Roll Call 46). Providing any form of line-item veto power to the President violates the Constitution’s separation of powers.  
Stephen Fincher Voted FOR this bill.

Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA). 
This bill (H.R. 3523) would foster information sharing about cyber threats between the federal government and private businesses. Businesses that would participate in this sharing would be protected from lawsuits regarding this sharing of their customers’ private information with the government. According to Violet Blue in an article posted on on June 8, “Most people familiar with CISPA believe it will wipe out decades of consumer privacy protections and is primarily to give the US government unprecedented access to individuals’ online data and communications.” The House passed H.R. 3523 on April 26, 2012 by a vote of 248 to 168 (Roll Call 192). The CISPA bill would permit government access to the private information of citizens, in violation of the Fourth Amendment “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.”
Stephen Fincher Voted FOR this bill.

Indefinite Detention. 
Detainee-related language in the National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 4310) is so sweeping that American citizens accused of being terrorists can be detained by the U.S. military and held indefinitely without habeas corpus and without even being tried and found guilty in a court of law. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) offered an amendment to strike this language from the bill, but the House rejected Smith’s amendment on May 18, 2012 by a vote of 182 to 238 (Roll Call 270). The War on Terror must not be allowed to destroy constitutional legal protections, including the issuance of a warrant based on probable cause (Fourth Amendment) and the right to a trial (Sixth Amendment).
Stephen Fincher Voted AGAINST this bill. 

Afghanistan Withdrawal (Defense Appropriations Reduction). 
During consideration of the Defense appropriations bill for fiscal 2013 (H.R. 5856), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) proposed an amendment to cut overseas military spending by almost $21 billion. The intent behind the amendment was to allow enough funding for an orderly withdrawal from the unpopular war in Afghanistan but not enough to continue the conflict. According to Rep. Lee, the original bill includes over $85 billion for the war in Afghanistan. The House rejected Lee’s amendment on July 18, 2012 by a vote of 107 to 312 (Roll Call 485). The massive expenditure on undeclared foreign wars and nation building is unconstitutional and unaffordable.
Stephen Fincher Voted AGAINST this bill

The proposed FISA Amendments Act Reauthorization Act of 2012 (H.R. 5949) would reauthorize for five years, through 2017, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which governs electronic surveillance of foreign terrorism suspects. The law allows warrantless surveillance of foreign targets who may be communicating with people in the United States, provided that the secret FISA court approves surveillance procedures. The House passed H.R. 5949 on September 12, 2012 by a vote of 301 to 118 (Roll Call 569). Warrantless surveillance is unconstitutional and violates privacy and individual liberty. While ostensibly carried out only on “foreign suspects” communicating with U.S. citizens, it is difficult to imagine this surveillance not extending to U.S. citizens.
Stephen Fincher Voted FOR this bill. 


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