By a voice vote, the U.S. Congress passed an amendment last week to the Defense Authorization Act for FY2009, forbidding the U.S. Department of Defense to engage in "propaganda purposes within the United States not otherwise specifically authorized by law." Probably more important is that the amendment requires an investigation by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study and report back to Congress on "the extent to which the Department of Defense has violated the prohibition on propaganda" already established in previous laws passed by Congress. The amendment was prompted by an April 20 report in the New York Times exposing the Pentagon military analyst program through which the Pentagon lobbied for war by cultivating former military officers who became regulars on Fox News, CNN and the broadcast networks. As Diane Farsetta and Sheldon Rampton have argued previously, the Pentagon pundit program broke existing laws which forbid government officials from engaging in "publicity or propaganda purposes within the United States not heretofore authorized by the Congress."
When Rep. Vito Fossella (R-N.Y.) allegedly ran a stoplight in Virginia earlier this month, he hit the brakes on his career in the U.S. House of Representatives, which has now ended with his retirement. While he resisted calls for his resignation for a while, his drunk driving arrest and the ensuing scandal proved to be too much for his Republican colleagues, who kept up the pressure on Fossella to vacate his Staten Island seat in the hopes of fielding a candidate not under investigation.
Kentucky, Oregon and Arkansas had their congressional primaries on Tuesday and, as usual, Congresspedia's Wiki the Vote project is on the case with which candidates made the cut for the November ballot.
Well, Arkansas sort of had congressional primaries - as best we can tell, every member of its incumbent congressional delegation faced no challenge from within their own party or from the other major party, so each will face only Green and Libertarian challengers in the fall. Oregon and Kentucky, which both have a Republican senator up for reelection and at least one House member retiring, had vigorous primaries.
Each candidate and incumbent has a profile within Congresspedia's Wiki the Vote project, which you can find at the Oregon, Arkansas and Kentucky portals, or through the full listing of the primary victors below. We need your help to find out more about these candidates, so if you know something about them please add it to their profile. (You can always contact one of the staff editors for help.)
Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.)was recently hospitalized after suffering an apparent seizure. Paramedics responded to his home on Saturday, and the senator was then airlifted to a Cape Cod hospital. Doctors have since diagnosed the Democratic fixture with a malignant brain tumor. His physicians have said a normal prescription would include radiation and chemotherapy, but said a specific treatment would be worked out with Kennedy when his condition is further analyzed.
The big action last week in Congress was the passage of the Farm Bill and continuing negotiations over the next round of funding for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, which this week included votes on torture, troop pullout timetables and veterans' benefits.
Several big votes are expected this week, as the farm bill finally leaves conference negotiations and hits the floors of the House and Senate for possibly final votes, amendments to the latest Iraq War funding bill wind through the House, and congressional elections are held in Mississippi, West Virginia and Nebraska.
The Farm bill is finally hitting the floor in the Senate and House this week. President George W. Bush has threatened to veto the bill, and White House actually posted a list of its objections on its Web site this afternoon. They include:
- $20 billion over Bush’s recommendations
- insufficient cuts to subsidy levels for individual farmers
- more farm subsidies even while food prices hit record levels
Iraq War funding
In addition to action on the Farm bill, expect votes on three separate amendments related to the Iraq supplemental. House Democrats have decided to push the amendments to give different factions within their caucus an opportunity to vote on the war and on troop withdrawal, all while forcing a slate of domestic funding options into a must-pass defense bill.