Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Crikey. Bad news.
This sure has been a crazy up and down issue....

From TheHill.com. Dateline - today.
And Roll Call posted about it, too.

Internet gambling bill revived in DoD measure

2+2 thread discussing this.

And thankfully, the mods stickied a new thread at the top of the Legislation forum where you can catch the latest and greatest news. Bear in mind that things change with a drop of a hat.

Update - Week of September 25th


Controversial language to curb illegal gambling on the Internet snuck back into the defense authorization bill over the weekend.

While the language in the bill was not finalized as of press time last night, the insertion of the Internet gaming language could be a big win for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.).

But that potential victory hung in the balance on Monday as House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) continued his threats to postpone a vote on the overarching bill until negotiators from both chambers include unrelated measures on immigration and court security.

“The Speaker will not move this bill until these critical security measures are included in it,” Hastert spokesman Ron Bonjean said yesterday.

Conferees were still ironing out defense-related issues yesterday, but lawmakers are now fighting to include a number of non-defense items in the must-pass bill that has become a regular vehicle for pet projects.

The Internet gaming language would create an additional enforcement mechanism for federal officials to crack down on money transferred from banks, credit card companies and other financial institutions to gambling outfits overseas.

Internet gambling is already illegal in most of the country, with the major exceptions of Nevada, Indian reservations and other smaller locales where residents have voted to change the law.

The fight in Congress to enact further enforcement methods has persisted since former GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff fought to defeat a bill offered by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) in the summer of 2000.

Goodlatte combined his language with a bill introduced by Rep. Jim Leach (R-Iowa) that passed the House earlier this year.

The language included in the defense reauthorization bill appeared to mirror Leach’s language, numerous outside lobbyists said over the weekend. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) has been pushing a companion to the Leach bill, which is far narrower than Goodlatte’s legislation that would, among other things, revamp the 1961 Wire Act.

Frist has been working hard to include some version of the Internet gaming language in the defense reauthorization bill in what a number of outside lobbyists see as a push to ingratiate himself with social conservatives and, more specifically, Leach, whose endorsement would be a big boost during the Iowa primary.

Frist co-hosted a field hearing on Internet gaming with Leach earlier this fall in Iow.

The Internet gaming issue is far from settled because conference negotiations do not end until all the negotiators have signed off on an agreement.

This move to include an Internet gambling curb comes after Senate Armed Services Chairman John Warner (R-Va.) and Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the committee’s ranking Democrat, rebuffed Frist’s attempts to include it in the bill because it is not related to defense policy.

K Street has been watching the back-and-forth on Internet gambling intently. Wall Street, in particular, has already priced Internet gambling stocks to reflect some of the possibility that Congress will approve the legislation.

A unit of Friedman, Billings, Ramsey & Co, an Arlington, Va.-based investment firm, has been tracking the legislation closely as it related to various Internet gambling companies. In a report last week, the firm wrote that “failure to attach a gaming provision to the DOD authorization bill likely means that proponents have missed their last best chance to pass anti-gaming provisions…before senators head home for the final campaign stretch run.”

Hastert has told negotiators that he will not move the bill unless there is authorizing language to boost the security of judges in and out of courtrooms, eases the process of deporting convicted gang members, and bars their indefinite detention.

Senate leaders promised to include the courtroom language, which was part of a larger child safety that passed the House earlier this year, on must-pass bill some time this year, a House GOP leadership aide said yesterday.

Hastert has made a bill political issue of this push following the brutal murder of the family of a federal judge in Chicago earlier this year. Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) has also pressed for the legislation.


Here's the Roll Call article:

Roll Call Staff

September 26, 2006

A controversial Internet gambling measure may hitch a ride on a Defense Department authorization bill, but as of press time, a standoff over adding legislation to improve courthouse security and crack down on illegal immigrants in gangs continued to hold up action on the overall Defense package.

While it was not clear that Senate Armed Services Chairman John Warner (R-Va.) has actually agreed to attach the anti-gambling legislation, Republican leadership sources on both sides of the Capitol said the measure would be added to the Defense bill.

“It’s Kyl-style, with a Frist twist,” said a senior aide to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) of attaching the Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) bill designed to bar Internet gambling by preventing credit card companies from honoring charges on gaming Web sites.

The aide said the Internet gambling bill has been tweaked slightly to ensure optimum support in the Senate, though details of the changes to Kyl’s original bill were not available.

Warner spokesman John Ullyot declined to comment, saying, “This is in line with the long-standing committee policy to keep such negotiations confidential.”

Still, one GOP lobbyist working against the gambling bill said Warner and Frist had a “showdown” last week over the Internet gambling legislation, with Warner telling Frist that he wasn’t going to put the Internet gambling bill in the Defense authorization bill. “Then Frist told him the [DOD] bill won’t come to the floor,” said the lobbyist.

Meanwhile, Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) has threatened to prevent the measure from coming to the House floor if Warner does not agree to include a House-passed courthouse security bill and the gangs legislation.

Warner is concerned that any of the three bills could complicate passage of the larger authorization measure, sources said.

The wrangling over the three law enforcement measures provides a glimpse into the end-of-session gamesmanship that goes on behind the scenes as Members seek to add controversial measures to one “must-pass” bill or another.

And because GOP leaders in both chambers have vowed to recess at the end of this week so that Members can go home to campaign for this year’s pivotal midterm elections, Members and lobbyists have stepped up their push to get their measures sent to the president’s desk before Congress adjourns.

One Democratic lobbyist working against the gambling bill called the past few days a “roller-coaster ride.”

“Frist has been on a jihad about Internet gambling,” this Democratic lobbyist said.

Democratic Senate aides also complained that they have been left completely out of the bargaining process, and that the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over all three bills, has not approved the versions currently being considered for inclusion in the DOD authorization measure.

“It’s just such a sneaky and sleazy way to go about it,” said one of the aides.

Three bills are moving this week that could play host to the Internet gambling, courthouse security and gangs bill: the spending bills for the Defense and Homeland Security departments and the Defense authorization bill.

But GOP and Democratic Senate sources said that backers of the bills were rebuffed in their attempts to get them attached to the annual Defense spending bill, which has more of an imperative to move since it will actually disburse funds to U.S. troops.

Because House and Senate conferees signed off on a conference report for the Defense spending bill last week, any attempts to add extraneous language now would send the appropriations bill back to conference committee — an unlikely scenario.

Meanwhile, conferees for the Homeland Security spending bill were hoping to wrap up their conference report last night.

That leaves the Defense authorization bill as the only measure in a position to carry the controversial provisions and still have a chance of passing this week.

Bill backers are betting that opponents of all three Judiciary bills will fear the political ramifications of voting against any national defense measure in this potentially volatile election year. And by threatening to hold up action on the bill, both Frist and Hastert hope to force Warner’s hand, reasoning that Warner would be loath to see his authorization bill become unnecessary, like so many other federal agency authorization bills that languish in committee each year.

While it is unusual for Congress not to pass a Defense authorization bill, it only authorizes funds; it does not distribute them.

Even though leadership sources said the Internet bill would be included on the Defense authorization bill, the conference committee on the bill has not yet completed and the deal could hinge on whether the court security and gang bills are also included.

Additionally, Democratic sources said they were not convinced that Warner would go along with the gambit to include the law enforcement bills in the Defense measure.

The Democratic lobbyist said that Warner was not likely to cave in to the pressure.

“You very likely might not have a Defense authorization bill,” the lobbyist said.

Other opponents of the Internet gaming bill said that any legislative vehicle could be fair game.

“We remain on guard that the Internet gambling prohibition could be included” in any remaining bills, said John Pappas, a spokesman for the Poker Players Alliance, which opposes the ban.

Indeed, if the impasse does not get resolved this week, backers of the three bills could attempt to add the measures to legislation such as an omnibus appropriations bill that would be set to move through the lame-duck session after the Nov. 7 elections. And of course, if the Defense authorization bill does not get passed this week, the battle could then begin anew as well.

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