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A Weekly e-Newsletter from
Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA)

July 1, 2005

Dear Friends,

Today, I joined with President Bush in congratulating Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on her retirement and in celebrating her distinguished service to our nation. She made history when she was appointed by President Reagan in 1981 as the first woman ever named to our nation's highest court. Throughout her tenure, she has served ably and with a steady hand through some of our nation's toughest legal controversies.

I am grateful to Justice O'Connor for her willingness to remain on the Court until her successor is nominated and confirmed. It is critical to have all nine seats on the Supreme Court filled at all times. I look forward to considering the President's nominee deliberatively, fairly and expeditiously. I will not apply any kind of litmus test for the nominee, and I am hopeful my Senate colleagues will share my goal of confirming a nominee before the new Supreme Court term begins in October.

Also today, in response to last week's disturbing Supreme Court decision permitting local governments to take land from one property owner for the benefit of another private citizen, I signed on as a co-sponsor to a bill, S.1313, to restrict how the government may exercise of its power of eminent domain. The Protection of Homes, Small Businesses, and Private Property Act of 2005 would prohibit the federal government from using the power of eminent domain to condemn property for the purpose of economic development. It also imposes the same prohibition on state and local governments when the condemnation involves the use of federal funds. This legislation is crucial to protecting our basic private property rights.

Last Sunday, I had the opportunity to visit our United States Naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. I went with a specific desire in mind - to see for myself that which I'd heard so many people talk about and seen so much about on television. I learned there must be two Guantanamo's - the one I visited and the one all the news media talk about because they didn't resemble one another.

On Tuesday, I spoke on the Senate floor about my trip. The most hardened of those detainees that I saw are being held in air-conditioned facilities better than any I have seen in the United States in sheriff's jails and prisons. The food they eat is better than what our soldiers eat. The medical care is first rate. And they are allowed to practice their religion every day. None of this is being shown on CNN. I had lunch with two soldiers from Georgia who told me of the abuse they are subjected to each day by the enemy combatants who wish to kill your loved ones and mine. I hope in some small way the message I brought back from those valiant soldiers will help us to stay the course against the war on terror for democracy and freedom.

On Tuesday, the Senate passed a comprehensive national energy policy, H.R. 6. I am very pleased with the result. We must become less dependent on foreign energy, and this bill will help us achieve that result over the long term.

On Tuesday, after a great deal of work, Senator Chambliss, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC), Representative Jack Kingston, Representative Charlie Norwood, and Representative Gresham Barrett (R-SC) and I announced that the Department of Energy has agreed to provide $4.3 million for the Savannah River Ecology Lab in Aiken, SC for the 2006 fiscal year. I am very pleased Secretary Bodman has been so willing to work with us over the past several months to ensure that the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory and the University of Georgia can continue their critical research at Savannah River Site. Our Georgia and South Carolina delegations made a very strong case as to why SREL deserves to continue to receive funding from the Department of Energy and we appreciate Secretary Bodman's willingness to take this action.

On Thursday, the Base Realignment and Closure Commission held hearings in Atlanta to allow our Governor, local communities, and both Senator Chambliss and I to make a compelling case as to why the Naval Air Station in Atlanta, the Navy Supply School in Athens, and Forts McPherson and Gillem are all vital to our national defense and should remain open. After the BRAC Commission sends its recommendations to the President on September 5 th, the President has until September 23 rd to approve or disapprove the Commission's recommendations on an all-or-none basis.  If the President rejects the recommendations, the Commission must prepare a revised report and deliver it to the President by October 20 th.   The President then has until November to approve the revised report and send it to Congress.

Also this week, the Senate passed the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), which promotes U.S. trade with Central America and the Dominican Republic. This agreement will benefit our state and this nation tremendously. When implemented, CAFTA will open new markets for Georgia products, improve the competitiveness of Georgia's textile manufacturers in the region and level the playing field for Georgia farmers. Since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was signed in 1993, Georgia's combined exports to Canada and Mexico have increased by more than 200 percent. CAFTA will significantly increase economic opportunities for Georgia businesses and provide additional market access for our state's products.

What's on Tap for Next Week?

Next week, the Senate will be in recess for the Independence Day holiday. Please have a safe holiday and take a moment to say a prayer for our troops in harm's way. God Bless America.

Sincerely,
Johnny Isakson