Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Monday opened the next-to-last planned week of the lame-duck session with a vow to push ahead with an ambitious agenda. Reid's agenda includes: the expiring Bush tax cuts, the DREAM Act, a defense authorization measure that repeals “Don’t ask, don’t tell” and the START arms control treaty.All items that were so critical that Reid put them off until after the election because he didn't want to have his members make difficult votes that would make them more unpopular than they already are. And he hasn't even mentioned other items such as passing a budget, fixing the AMT and the doctors' Medicare reimbursements.
Reid said the Senate would be in session the next “few weeks,” but on Saturday said he planned to adjourn the chamber on Dec. 17, a week before Christmas, adding that he hoped to avoid a repeat of last year’s Christmas Eve votes on healthcare reform.
“We have a long to-do list,” Reid said. “These are not leftovers, they’re critical to our economy, national security, to our families and to our country’s future. And we will resolve them before we adjourn. … It is time to roll up our sleeves, not dig in our heels.”
On top of this pile of deeply controversial and divisive items, I didn't realize that the Senate had one more duty - they're holding an impeachment trial for a federal district judge who was impeached back in March for corruption. G. Thomas Porteous was appointed by Clinton back in 1994. And his lawyer's defense is that his corruption occurred before he was appointed.
Defense attorney Jonathan Turley told senators assembled in the chamber for the historic trial that some of the allegations against Judge G. Thomas Porteous are vague or exaggerated. Others, he said, involve conduct that occurred before Porteous was appointed to the federal bench.But even that defense doesn't sound that convincing since the allegations are that he continued his pattern of corruption while on the bench.
"In the history of this republic, no one has ever been removed from office on the basis of pre-federal conduct," Turley said, urging the senators to dismiss some of the most serious charges.
House prosecutors allege that Porteous was racking up debt as he struggled with drinking and gambling problems. They say he began accepting cash, meals, trips and other favors from people with business before his court, beginning as a state judge in the 1980s and continuing after he was appointed to the federal bench by President Bill Clinton in 1994.Ah, the perfect Clinton appointee, n'est-ce pas?
During previous evidence-gathering hearings, two attorneys who once worked with Porteous said they gave him thousands of dollars in cash, including about $2,000 stuffed in an envelope in 1999, just before Porteous decided a major civil case in their client's favor. They also said they paid for meals, trips and part of a bachelor party for one of Porteous' sons in Las Vegas, including a lap dance at a strip club.
"Counsel has taken to calling it a wedding gift, as if it were a piece of china from the Pottery Barn," Schiff said of the $2,000 cash gift. "This is at best defense counsel at his most creative."
Another witness, New Orleans bail bondsman Louis Marcotte, described a long-standing relationship in which Marcotte and his employees routinely took Porteous to lavish meals at French Quarter restaurants, repaired his automobiles, washed and filled his cars with gas, and took him on trips. In return, Porteous manipulated bond amounts for defendants to give Marcotte the highest fees possible, said Marcotte, who served 18 months in prison on related corruption charges.
Porteous, who sat with his attorneys Tuesday before the chamber, also stands accused of filing for bankruptcy under a false name and lying to the Senate during his judicial confirmation.I
And it's nice to have this little reminder that the last time a federal judge was impeached and convicted, he ran for the House of Representatives and serves there still as one of Nancy Pelosi's lieutenants - Representative Alcee Hastings of Florida.