2007 News Archive – The U.S. Constitution Online – USConstitution.net

2007 News Archive

This page is an archive of articles presented on the Current News page of the USConstitution.net site. On
this page are articles that were posted in 2007.

12/13/07 Bush vetoes another children’s health insurance bill

Calling it a virtual duplicate of a bill he vetoed just two months ago,
President Bush today vetoed another children’s health insurance bill sent to
him by the Congress. The bill added $35 billion to the SCHIP program over five
years, $30 billion over the amount Bush said he would support. Though the bill
passed both houses of Congress with wide margins, they were not large enough to
support a veto override.

12/10/07 Supreme Court allows judges to use discretion in sentencing

The Supreme Court today, in a strong 7-2 vote, ruled that judges can use their
discretion when sentencing those convicted of crimes involving crack cocaine.
Under current sentencing guidelines, the sentence for crimes involving crack
cocaine are harsher than those for powder cocaine, sometimes decidedly so. It
also decided, by the same majority, that a suspended sentence given to a former
dealer of the drug Ecstasy, who had gone on to live a lawful and respected
life, was also proper. The decision cleared up confusion left by the court when
it said that appellate courts could review sentences for reasonableness, but
left the reasonableness test too vague.

11/19/07 Senate seeks to stifle recess appointments

Stung by recent defeats of bills that sought to place a timetable on withdrawal
from Iraq, the Democratic majority has decided to stifle any attempts by the
President to use the recess appointment power by remaining in session during
the traditional Thanksgiving break. The Senate recessed on Friday, but plans to
hold a pro forma session on Tuesday. In that session, no business will
be conducted and it is likely only one member will appear. Such sessions are
authorized by the Constitution at Article 1,
Section 5
. The short session will be enough to officially keep the Senate
in session, making a recess appointment impossible. The full Senate is not
scheduled to return until December 3. To prevent an official recess, pro
sessions will have to be held at least once every four days until the
full Senate returns.

11/09/07 Mukasey confirmed by Senate

Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey was confirmed by a divided Senate
today, on a vote of 53-40. Mukasey had come under fire in the Judiciary
Committee because of his failure to clearly acknowledge that water boarding, an
interrogation method that simulates drowning, is torture.

11/08/07 Bipartisan support leads to veto override

The Senate today voted 79-14 to override President George Bush’s veto of the
Water Resources Development Act. The House had previously voted to override the
bill by a vote of 361-54. The bill became law as soon as the Senate vote result
was announced. The override was the first in Bush’s presidency.

10/28/07 Date for Iowa caucuses set

Iowa Democrats today decided to join their Republican counterparts and agreed
to hold their caucus on January 3, 2008. New Hampshire, traditional site of the
first primary in the race, has not yet set the date for its election.

10/04/07 Craig rescinds resignation

After an unsuccessful attempt to withdraw his guilty plea for disorderly
conduct, Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) decided today to rescind his previously
announced resignation from the Senate. He also made it clear that while he
would not be resigning, he would also not be seeking reelection.

09/01/07 Craig announces resignation

Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) announced today that he will be resigning his seat
in the Senate on September 30. Craig had been stung by the recent revelation of
his arrest and guilty plea after he was arrested in an airport bathroom, by the
release of the arrest report and a recording of the arrest interview, and by
calls for his ouster by members of his own party.

08/31/07 Warner announces retirement

Senator John Warner (R-VA) announced today that he will be retiring at the end
of his term, in 2009, after 30 years of legislative service. Warner was
considered a strong candidate for the next election, despite the state’s recent
shift toward Democrats, and his retirement means the Republican Party will have
to try to find a strong name to fill the slot on the ballot in November. Warner
also served as Secretary of the Navy from 1972 to 1974.

08/30/07 Idaho Senator’s arrest revealed

Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) was arrested in an airport bathroom in June and
pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct. Details of the arrest were revealed in
Internet blogs and confirmed by Craig in a press conference. Craig, however,
denies he did anything wrong, charging the police with entrapment, and saying
he plead guilty to avoid embarrassment. The arrest was the result of a police
sting operation operating in a bathroom in the airport that had been used for
illicit homosexual liaisons. The arresting officer wrote that while he sat in a
stall, Craig occupied the adjoining stall and tapped his foot on the floor as a
signal that he was looking for a liaison. The officer wrote that Craig touched
his foot and reached under the stall wall with his hand several times. In
transcripts and recordings of the arrest interview, Craig accused the police of
entrapment. He said that any touching was inadvertent and his hand motions were
the result of his searching for paper on the floor. At the press conference,
Craig stated unequivocally that he is not gay.

08/27/07 Embattled Attorney General announces resignation

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, a long-time friend and ally of President
Bush and recently the target of increasingly harsh criticism from both
Democrats and Republicans, has announced that he is resigning from his post.
Speaking from the Justice Department in Washington, Gonzales said that his last
day on the job will be September 17. Speculation is that Bush might nominate
current Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to replace Gonzales.

08/20/07 White House retirements

White House press secretary Toney Snow is joining top political adviser Karl
Rove in announcing retirements from public life this past week. Snow, whose
recent battles with recurring cancer have had him in the news nearly as much as
the President, announced that he will retire next month. Rove, who has been a
political adviser to the President since his time as governor of Texas,
announced his intention to step down before the end of August, to spend more
time with his family. Also this week, Dennis Hastert (R-IL) announced that he
will retire from the House at the end of this Congress. Hastert served as
Speaker of the House longer than any Republican in history until last year.

08/13/07 Romney wins Iowa straw poll

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney took 31.6 percent of the vote in the
Iowa Republican straw poll, an unofficial tally of support for presidential
hopefuls in the early-caucus state. Previous Republican straw polls have been
harbingers of the eventual winner of that state’s caucus. Following the
announcement of the results, Governor Tommy Thomson of Wisconsin formally
dropped his bid for the White House. Thompson placed last among participating

08/09/07 South Carolina adjustment scrambles primary schedule

South Carolina Republican party announced today that its primary would be held
on January 19, 2008, prompted by Florida’s move of its primary to February 2,
just a few days before South Carolina’s already announced date of January 29.
The announcement was held in New Hampshire, a nod to that state’s own law that
it hold the first primary in the nation. New Hampshire has not yet set the date
for its primary, but the movement toward the beginning of the year has some
fearing that primaries and caucuses will soon be happening before the first of
the year.

07/31/07 Senator’s home searched by FBI, IRS

The home of Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) was searched today by agents from the
FBI and the IRS, in connection with a probe into influence peddling that has
already snared two oil executives and a state lobbyist. Stevens’s son, Ben, has
also been investigated, though no charges have been filed. Ben Stevens was
president of the Alaska state senate at the time of the investigation. The
investigation is focused on the 2000 renovation of Stevens’s home, during which
its size was doubled. Agents are trying to figure out if VECO, an Alaska-based
oil services company, improperly paid for some of the work. Stevens denied
wrong-doing, saying he and his wife personally paid all the bills they were
sent for the renovation.

07/30/07 Chief Justice hospitalized

Chief Justice John Roberts, vacationing in Maine, was hospitalized today after
taking a fall while having a seizure. Roberts, 52, suffered a similar seizure
in 1993, but has not had one since until today. Roberts was reported to be
alert but would be kept overnight at the Penobscot Bay Medical Center in

07/29/07 Jefferson documents unsealed

Documents supporting the indictment of Representative William Jefferson (D-LA)
have been unsealed today, and give a glimpse into the evidence against the
embattled member of Congress. Jefferson allegedly took $400,000 in cash and
more in stock to help iGate, a telecommunications company, gain contracts in
Nigeria and other African countries. The documents also detail where agents
found some of the cash while searching Jefferson’s home, famously in the
freezer. $20,000 was found in a box for Boca Burgers, $20,000 in a Pillsbury
crust box, $10,000 in a frozen vegetable bag, and more in stacks wrapped in
aluminum foil.

07/02/07 Bush commutes Libby’s sentence

Former Chief of Staff to the Vice President, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, had his
sentence commuted by the President today, just hours after an appeal to keep
him out of jail failed. Libby was found guilty of perjury in a case stemming
from the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame, and has been sentenced to 30
months in federal prison. An appeals court today found that Libby’s appeal was
likely to fail and rejected a call to allow Libby to remain free pending a full
appeal, and he was scheduled to go to prison in about two weeks. A commutation
is not a pardon – Libby’s conviction will remain on his record and he will
still be responsible for a $250,000 fine. In a written statement, President
Bush called the 30 month sentence “excessive.”

06/25/07 Supreme Court rules against student free speech

The Supreme Court today ruled that a school administrator was not acting
outside legal limits when she had a student sign removed during an off-campus
event. The banner, which read “Bong Hits 4 Jesus”, was displayed by student
Joseph Frederick in Juneau, Alaska as the student body assembled along city
streets to watch the passing of the Olympic torch, which was on its way to Salt
Lake City, Utah, for the Olympic games in 2002. The principal, Deborah Morse,
had the banner removed because of a message she deemed to be pro-drug.
Frederick denied a pro-drug intention, saying the message was basically
nonsense and that he was displaying it as a simple expression of his free
speech rights. The case, Morse v Frederick, was decided on a 5-4 vote
with Chief Justice John Roberts delivering the opinion of the Court.

06/25/07 Court: Taxpayers don’t have standing to sue over faith-based office

Opposing the President’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, the
group Freedom From Religion filed a suit in federal court, alleging that
conferences organized by the office are in violation of the Establishment
Clause. The only standing the group and its members asserted was that they are
taxpayers, indirectly harmed when federal tax money is spent on the
conferences. The Seventh Circuit Court ruled that they had standing because the
money from the office was allocated by the Congress, even though the money was
not specifically allocated to the office. The Court, on a 5-4 ruling in an
opinion written by Justice Alito, disagreed with the circuit court. The Court
reiterated previous rulings that taxpayers do not have standing to bring such
cases. In Flast v Cohen (392 US 83), a narrow exception was carved out,
and the Court ruled that the narrow exception did not apply in this case. The
case is Hein v Freedom From Religion Foundation.

06/11/07 Home health care workers can be exempted from minimum wage laws

A unanimous Supreme Court today ruled that a rule set by the Labor Department,
which allows home health care workers to be exempt from minimum wage and
overtime pay laws, is legal. Evelyn Coke sued her former employer, Long Island
Care at Home, for back wages. For 20 years, Coke alleged, she had been paid
under the minimum wage for shifts that often ran for 24 hours. The Fair Labor
Standards Act allows minimum wages and maximum hours to be set, but allows for
exceptions. A 1975 Labor Department rule excepts home health care workers from
the wage and hour limits. Coke argued that the department was acting outside
its authority when it made the rule, but the Court ruled that the department
was within its powers. The case is Long Island Care at Home v Coke.

06/11/07 Senate rejects “No Confidence” vote on Gonzales

The Senate was poised today to take a rare “no confidence” vote on Attorney
General Alberto Gonzales, but opponents blocked the measure, which required 60
votes to put an end to debate. Proponents are dissatisfied with responses
Gonzales has given to questions surrounding the firing of several US Attorneys
earlier this year. Votes of no confidence are a key feature of parliamentary
systems, and can mean the downfall of the government if carried. There is no
constitutional basis for a no confidence vote in the United States, however,
and the move was criticized by some as a time-wasting publicity stunt.
Proponents, however, say that the measure, even though it did not carry, sends
a clear message to the President regarding the embattled Attorney General.

06/04/07 Senator succumbs to cancer

Senator Craig Thomas (R-WY), diagnosed with leukemia in November, succumbed to
the disease today, his family announced. Wyoming’s governor will be choosing a
replacement from a list of three submitted by the state’s Republican party.

04/30/07 Police not responsible for injury during car chases

The Supreme Court today, in an 8-1 decision, made it clear that if someone is
injured while the police pursue them, the police cannot be held responsible. In
the case of Scott v Harris, Victor Harris was being pursued by sheriff’s
deputy Timothy Scott. After six miles and ten minutes of pursuit in populated
areas, Scott decided to stop the pursuit by using a technique whereby the
police car hits the vehicle in a precise location forcing it into a spin. The
maneuver was not performed precisely enough and Harris’s car overturned and
crashed. Harris was left with quadriplegia, and he sued Scott, saying his 4th Amendment rights were violated by the use of
excessive force. After the justices reviewed Scott’s on-board video tape,
however, they concluded that even if Scott used deadly force, the real question
was whether the force was reasonable. They concluded it was. Only Justice
Stevens dissented.

04/20/07 Vermont Senate votes for impeachment

In a surprise move, the Vermont Senate today passed a resolution calling for
the impeachment of both President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.
Earlier, the Senate President Pro Tem had said that there was no time to take
up the issue, requested earlier in the year by 38 Vermont towns. The resolution
was passed 16-9 and urges the Vermont congressional delegation to introduce
articles of impeachment. The Vermont delegation has, however, been
consistently opposed to raising the subject considering the high bar for Senate
conviction and the disruption caused by the impeachment efforts during
President Clinton’s administration. House members would like to introduce a
similar measure there, but Speaker Gaye Symington has also come out against
taking up an impeachment measure.

04/18/07 Supreme Court rules on abortion case

In a 5-4 decision today, the Supreme Court ruled on its first significant
abortion case since Justices Roberts and Alito took their seats. It also
allowed a nationwide ban on a specific procedure for the first time. The
procedure, known as partial-birth abortion or intact dilation and evacuation, was
banned by federal law in 2003. In his opinion for the Court, Justice Kennedy
said that the ban does not violate a woman’s right to an abortion. Siding with
Kennedy were Justices Alito, Scalia, Thomas, and Chief Justice Roberts. Justice
Ginsberg, writing for the minority, called the decision the phalanx of an
assault on abortion. Pro-choice activists said they feared the ruling would
open the flood gates to restrictive state laws; pro-life activists, such as
Senator John Boehner (R-OH) hailed the decision as setting the stage for
“further progress”. The case is Gonzales v Carhart.

03/27/07 Senate passes Iraq funding bill with time table

After garnering the support of a few critical Republicans, a bill was passed in
the Senate today that funds the troops in Iraq but which also has a non-binding
time table for withdrawal. The bill had already passed the House and passed
the Senate with a 50-48 vote. Vice President Dick Cheney had been recalled to
Washington in case he needed to break a tie on the vote. The bill allocates
$122 billion for continued support of the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and
suggests a goal for withdrawal of March 31, 2008. The bill also requires that
some of the combat troops be cycled back home. President Bush has vowed to
veto the bill, which has to go to conference to resolve minor differences in
the House and Senate versions before being forwarded to the President.

03/27/07 FBI Director takes blame for missteps

FBI Director Robert Mueller appeared before the Senate’s Judiciary Committee
yesterday and had to answer uncomfortable questions concerning recent news
about FBI missteps. The Director took personal responsibility and pledged to
clean up the agency’s act. Some Senators questioned if the agency could handle
the dual roles of law enforcement and domestic spying. It has been revealed in
recent days that the FBI provided inaccurate facts when applying for warrants
from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and that it had sent out tens
of thousands of National Security Letters that were illegal and unjustified. A
NSL requires the recipient to provide the FBI with personal data from private
databases and records.

03/26/07 Gonzales aide invokes Fifth Amendment rights

Monica Goodling, an aide to Attorney General Roberto Gonzales, has been asked
to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee to testify to her knowledge
about the on-going U.S. Attorney scandal. In a surprise move, Goodling wrote
to the committee through her lawyer, invoking her Fifth Amendment right against
self-incrimination. Goodling’s attorney wrote that he was concerned that some
members of the committee had already made up their minds on the scandal and
that Goodling herself had been blamed for the scandal by a senior Justice
Department official. Committee chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT) noted that “The
American people are left to wonder what conduct is at the base of Ms.
Goodling’s concern that she may incriminate herself in connection with criminal
charges if she appears before the committee under oath.”

03/22/07 Conflict between White House and Congress develops

The House and Senate have both authorized their respective committees to issue
subpoenas to get answers from White House officials about an ongoing scandal.
The White House has offered to allow the officials to appear for unrecorded and
unsworn interviews, but has said it draws the line at the issuance of
subpoenas. The possible constitutional crisis – can the Congress compel the
executive to testify, and can the executive refuse? – has dominated the news in
recent days. The controversy began when eight U.S. Attorneys were fired by the
Justice Department. While U.S. Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the
President, the controversy is why they were fired and if the reasons given to
the Congress were deliberately misleading. Some of the prosecutors were under
scrutiny because they had investigated and prosecuted Republican lawmakers, and
others because they resisted investigating and prosecuting Democratic
lawmakers. Reasons given for the firings included poor performance, but all of
the fired prosecutors had gotten good performance reviews. One prosecutor told
Congress that he had gotten phone calls from Republican lawmakers asking about
the status of investigations, something that is forbidden. Thousands of pages
of communications between the Justice Department and the White House have been
released and show that officials within both organizations discussed the
prosecutors throughout the latter quarter of 2006.

02/24/07 Virginia legislature apologizes for slavery

The Virginia Assembly today unanimously approved a measure, approved
unanimously by the Virginia Senate earlier in the week, that apologizes for the
state’s role in slavery and in mistreatment of American Indians. Joint Resolution 728 calls slavery “the most
horrendous of all depredations of human rights and violations of our founding
ideals in our nation’s history,” and acknowledges that it “enacted laws to
restrict the rights and liberties of Native Americans, including their ability
to travel, testify in court, and inherit property.”

02/20/07 Some punitive damages are unconstitutional, Supreme Court rules

Cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris was ordered to pay almost $80 million in
punitive damages to the estate of Jesse Williams by an Oregon jury in 1999. The
trial judge ruled that the award was too large and reduced it to $32 million,
but an appeals court and the Oregon Supreme Court restored the award. In a 5-4
decision today, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed with the trial judge – the award,
the Court found, was partially given on the basis of harm caused to persons not
a party to the suit. This, the Court said, amounted to an unconstitutional
taking without due process. The punitive damages, which amounted to almost 100
times the compensatory damages, were “grossly excessive.” Justice Breyer
delivered the majority opinion. Justices Stevens, Thomas, Ginsberg, and Scalia
dissented. The case is Philip Morris v. Williams.

02/13/07 Georgia Representative Charlie Norwood dies

Representative Charlie Norwood (R-GA) died today after a long battle with
cancer. Norwood was first diagnosed with lung cancer in 1998. The House, in the
midst of a marathon debate on President George Bush’s proposal to send 20,000
troops to Iraq, paused to remember Norwood today. The seat will be filled by a
special election, the data of which will be determined later.

01/22/07 Court decision could reduce sentences for California prisoners

The Supreme Court today reaffirmed previous rulings when it decided that judges
in California cannot hear additional evidence in determining sentencing than
the jury had heard. John Cunningham was tried and convicted of continuous
sexual abuse of a child under 14, an offense that carries a sentence of 12
years. A sentence of 6 years can be imposed if mitigating circumstances are
found; or of 16 years if aggravating circumstances are found. After the jury
found Cunningham guilty, the judge examined the aggravating circumstances and
found evidence of six of them, allowing the 16 year sentence. The Supreme
Court, on a 6-3 ruling, found that the aggravating circumstances should have
been heard and considered by a jury, not just a judge. The decision will likely
mean that the sentences of many currently held in California will have to be
reviewed. Justices Alito, Kennedy, and Breyer dissented. The case is
Cunningham v California.

01/20/07 Rare copy of Declaration of Independence found

Georgia State Archivist Greg Jarell discovered something unexpected while doing
genealogy research in the state archives recently: a copy of the Declaration of
Independence. Jarell found the copy while searching unrelated documents,
leading to speculation that the document was misfiled when it was bound in the
mid-1940’s. Each state had been sent a copy of the document, which is formatted
differently than the classic “Stone” copy of the Declaration and presented over
several pages. Until the find, it had been assumed that Georgia’s copy has
been lost during the Revolutionary period.

01/08/07 Effort underway to change New Jersey constitution’s voting restrictions

Article 2, Section 1, Clause 6 of the New Jersey state constitution states, “No
idiot or insane person shall enjoy the right of suffrage.” This prohibition,
says one state senator, is “outdated, vague, offensive to many and may be
subject to misinterpretation.” Senate President Richard Codey wants to remove
the language and replace it with language that allows a court to find someone
unable to mentally understand the voting process. Any amendment must be agreed
upon by three-fifths of both houses of the legislature, then approved by the

01/04/07 First female Speaker of the House sworn in

Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was sworn in as the first female Speaker of the House
today, as the Democrats assumed the majority in the House for the first time
since 1995. Pelosi, who has announced an ambitious schedule of bills for the
first 100 legislative hours of the new 100th Congress, said “women weren’t just
waiting. Women were working. Never losing faith, we worked to redeem the
promise of America, that all men and women are created equal.” In the Senate,
long-time Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) was elected President Pro Tem of the

01/02/07 Ford lies in state, buried in Michigan

The body of President Gerald Ford, who died last week, came home to Michigan
for final services and burial after lying in state at the U.S. Capitol. Ford,
who served in both the House and Senate, was brought into the Capitol on the
House side and left from the Senate side. He was eulogized by Henry Kissinger,
Donald Rumsfeld, and President George W. Bush. He was buried on the grounds of
his presidential library in Grand Rapids.

Last Modified: 24 Jan 2010

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