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Wednesday, Nov 26th

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Climate Change Denying Congressman to Head Subcommittee on Climate Change

Chris StewartAs the new chairman of a key House subcommittee on the environment, Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) will be one of the GOP's leading actors when it comes to the Environmental Protection Agency and the growing threats from climate change.

So with his first hearing as chairman on tap for Wednesday, what does the freshman Republican—and end times novelist—think about anthropogenic global warming? He's not sure.

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Senate Republicans block Hagel nomination for Defense secretary

Chuck HagelSenate Republicans in a 58-40 vote Thursday blocked former Sen. Chuck Hagel’s (R-Neb.) nomination as Defense secretary from proceeding to a final up-or-down vote.

Four Republicans — Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Thad Cochran (Miss.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Mike Johanns (Neb.)—  joined 55 Democrats and Independents in supporting the nomination. Sixty votes were needed to cut off debate, leaving Democrats one vote short.  The final 58-40 tally reflected a no vote from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who switched his vote from yes to preserve his ability to bring up the nomination again.

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Obama orders Justice Department to send lawmakers classified rationale for drones

DOJPresident Barack Obama has directed the Justice Department to give Congress' intelligence committees access to classified legal advice providing the government's rationale for drone strikes against American citizens working with al-Qaida abroad, a senior administration official said Wednesday.

A drumbeat of demands to see the document has swelled on Capitol Hill in recent days as the Senate Intelligence Committee prepares to hold a confirmation hearing for John Brennan, who helped manage the drone program, to be CIA director.

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Non-believers on rise in Congress

atheistsThe number of members of Congress who don’t identify with any particular religion is on the rise, according to an analysis by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

In the 96th Congress (1979-80), not a single member of the House or Senate said they didn’t belong to any particular faith, didn’t know or refused to disclose their religion. But in the new 113th Congress, 10 members fall under that category.

That’s twice as many as in the 111th Congress (2009-10).

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FISA Warrantless Wiretapping Renewed By Senate

Dianne FeinsteinChristmas may be over, but the Senate is still singing “Do You Hear What I Hear?” In a 73 to 23 vote on Friday, Senators renewed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments Act for another five years. The extension continues the authorization the government has to conduct warrantless wiretaps of communications that Americans conduct with foreign intelligence targets abroad.

With strong bipartisan support led by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D - Calif.) chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and President Obama promising to sign it, the extension has less media buzz than it did when it first went through Congress during the Bush years. Still, that hasn’t changed the controversial and potentially unconstitutional nature of the bill.

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Indefinite Detention Protection Provision Mysteriously Stripped From DefenseBill

Dianne FeinsteinCongress stripped a provision Tuesday from a defense bill that aimed to shield Americans from the possibility of being imprisoned indefinitely without trial by the military. The provision was replaced with a passage that appears to give citizens little protection from indefinite detention.

The amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 was added by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), but there was no similar language in the version of the bill that passed the House, and it was dumped from the final bill released Tuesday after a conference committee from both chambers worked out a unified measure.

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Republican opposition downs UN disability treaty

Disabled treatyLed by Republican opposition, the Senate on Tuesday rejected a United Nations treaty on the rights of the disabled that is modeled after the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act.

With 38 Republicans casting "no" votes, the 61-38 vote fell five short of the two-thirds majority needed to ratify a treaty. The vote took place in an unusually solemn atmosphere, with senators sitting at their desks rather than milling around the podium. Former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, looking frail and in a wheelchair, was in the chamber to support the treaty.

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