Links for 7-24-2013

  • Congressman Justin Amash’s amendment to the Defense Appropriations bill that prohibits the NSA from collecting phone and email metadata from American citizens who aren’t under investigation failed on a 205–217 vote.

  • Planned Parenthood paid $1.4 million to the state of Texas to settle improper Medicaid billing charges. Part of the money will go to the federal government and to a whistleblower who alerted the state to the problem.

  • The NSA responded to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by ProPublica by stating that the agency is unable to search its internal emails en masse, only person-by-person. Of course the NSA probably wouldn’t encounter such a problem searching ProPublica’s emails.

  • The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will have trouble cutting a deal with Lois Lerner to testify about the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups who applied for tax exempt status because Lerner knows Eric Holder will never prosecute her, and without a legal threat there’s little reason for her to testify in exchange for immunity.

  • The chair of the Senate Finance Committee and the ranking Republican are offering their colleagues 50 years of secrecy in exchange for suggestions on what deductions and credits ought to survive a re-write of the tax code. From the linked article: “Deeming the submissions confidential, the Senate’s top tax writers have said only certain staff members – 10 in all – will get direct access to a senator’s written suggestions. Each submission will also be given its own ID number and be kept on password-protected servers, with printed versions kept in locked safes.” I’m pretty sure this isn’t how a representative republic is supposed to work.

  • Senator Robert Menendez told a group at the Center for American Progress that they need to pressure the House of Representatives to pass some kind of immigration reform bill so there’s a House-Senate conference committee that can settle on the “Gang of Eight” bill. This conference committee tactic is going to be important in the context of continuing resolutions to fund the government as well.

  • Ted Olson wrote an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal explaining how the federal government is robbing private investors in Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac. The billions of dollars the government is collecting from the two companies is helping to fund operations while the debt ceiling is maxed out.

  • Renee Vaughan, the Austin community organizer who held up a “We’re racist and proud!” sign during a “March for Trayvon” protest in Houston, apologized for her actions.