Leahy Urges Google, Apple to Attend Mobile Privacy Hearing

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy (D-VT) “is urging two leading providers of smartphone and tablet technology to accept invitations to testify before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law at a May 10 hearing focused on ‘Protecting Mobile Privacy: Your Smartphones, Tablets, Cell Phones and Your Privacy,’” according to a press release.

In letters to Google CEO Larry Page and Apple CEO Steve Jobs, Leahy urged the companies to testify about how each is addressing privacy concerns raised by the collection and storage of sensitive, personal information by technologies like Google’s Android software and Apple’s iPhone.

“Like many Americans, I read with deep concern recent press reports indicating that [Android Phones and iPhones] collect, store and track user location data without the user’s consent,” wrote Leahy.  “As Congress considers updates to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and other Federal privacy laws, it is essential that the Senate Judiciary Committee have full and accurate information about the privacy risks posed by this new technology.”

Read the Google letter here and the Apple letter here.

Update: According to All Things Digital, Apple CEO Steve Jobs will send a representative to attend the hearing.

He said Apple looks forward to testifying before Congress and other regulatory bodies and said the company will do what it can to clarify things further.

“I think Apple will be testifying,” Jobs said. “They have asked us to come and we will honor their request, of course.”

Update (4/28): According to a press release statement by Chairman Leahy, both Apple and Google representatives will attend the hearing.

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Reid Says Trip Improved Relationship Between China, U.S.

A high-powered “US Senate delegation to China helped build ‘mutual trust’ in talks on human rights, economic disputes, clean energy, and Iran’s suspect nuclear drive, its leader said Tuesday,” according to the AFP.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who headed the 10-member group, said the week-long visit’s "primary focus" had been to secure "a level playing field" for US businesses in China.

"The world needs its two largest economies to work together. We have to communicate and build mutual trust," Reid said in a statement issued after the group returned home. "Our meetings in China helped improve that relationship."

At the same time, Reid said, "our experience there was an unmistakable reminder of just how hard we have to work to make American more competitive with the rest of the world."

The lawmakers met with parliamentary chief Wu Bangguo and Vice President Xi Jinping, who is widely expected to succeed President Hu Jintao as China’s top leader by 2013, as well as outgoing US Ambassador Jon Huntsman and US business executives in China.

On currency:

The senators urged Beijing to be "more aggressive" in letting the yuan gain value against the dollar, amid charges in the US Congress that the Asian giant keeps its currency, and thus its exports, artificially cheap, hurting US exports and stifling job growth.

But "Chinese officials confirmed that China would continue the managed appreciation of its currency," said the statement.

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Florida Senate: Hasner Will Run

Former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner (R) “is no longer exploring the idea of running for U.S. Senate, he is running,” the AP reports.

Hasner, 41, released a video on his website announcing plans to run. He earlier formed an exploratory committee.

In the video, he said Republicans and Democrats are both to blame for the nation’s fiscal troubles and Republicans need to go beyond just holding Democrats accountable on budget and tax issues and make sure the party adheres to its principles.

He will challenge Senate President Mike Haridopolos and former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux for the GOP nomination. Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson is seeking his third term.

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Committee Republicans Seek Open Budget Process

Senate Republicans serving on the Budget Committee sent a letter to Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) today “urging him to drag the budget process into the light of day — or at least onto the Internet,” POLITICO reports.

In the letter obtained by POLITICO, the senators ask Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat, to post his 2012 budget proposal online at least three days before the committee marks up the bill. In recent years, the budget has been “presented, marked up and passed out of committee in less than 48 hours.”

The GOP senators also want Conrad to hold a series of public meetings where they can offer amendments to the budget plan.

“Having an open, public process in the Senate allows the American people to directly participate in the decision over how we spend their money,” the senators wrote. “The American people do not, and should not, trust Washington with their tax dollars — for years it has frittered away those tax dollars and brought our nation to the brink of insolvency.”

Response:

Conrad’s office responded to the letter saying the Republicans aren’t asking for anything new. "The Budget Committee has always had a completely open mark-up process for the budget resolution," said Stu Nagurka, Communications Director, Senate Budget Committee in a statement.  "And Chairman Conrad understands the urgency of dealing with our nation’s long-term deficits. That’s why he has been working hard for months on a bipartisan, comprehensive deficit reduction plan. He wants to give the Group of 6 a chance to reach agreement so that he could consider using that bipartisan plan as a framework for the Senate budget resolution."

Who signed:

In addition to [Ranking Member Jeff] Sessions, the letter was signed by Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Mike Crapo of Idaho, John Ensign of Nevada, John Cornyn of Texas, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, John Thune of South Dakota, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Rob Portman of Ohio.

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Reid Considers Senate Vote on Paul Ryan’s Budget

Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) “office confirmed reports on Tuesday that the Nevada Democrat is thinking of holding a vote on Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) budget,” according to The Huffington Post.

That would force moderate Republican senators to take an uncomfortable political stand.

“He’s considering it,” Reid’s top spokesman Jon Summers told The Huffington Post.

The idea, first reported in The Hill newspaper, would be to build off the skeptical reaction that the Ryan budget has engendered at local town hall events this past week. After voting in near unanimity to pass the measure — which would make drastic spending cuts, lower tax rates and fundamentally alter Medicare and Medicaid — House Republicans have faced hostile receptions back home.

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New Mexico Senate: Balderas Seeks Democratic Nomination

New Mexico Auditor Hector Balderas “announced Tuesday that he is running for Senate, setting up a primary between two rising stars in the state’s Democratic Party,” Roll Call reports.

If Balderas can compete financially, state insiders expect a competitive primary battle with Rep. Martin Heinrich, who announced his Senate candidacy earlier this month.

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Manchin Backs Spending Caps, Balanced Budget Amendment

Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) “on Tuesday announced his support for strict spending caps that put him at odds with his party’s leadership and President Obama,” The Hill reports.

Manchin told an audience in South Charleston, W.Va. that he would endorse the “CAP Act,” which sets a tighter spending limit than the president’s budget calls for, as well as a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution.

The senator suggested the legislation could help Republicans and Democrats agree to a deal to raise the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt ceiling.

“Today, I will be announcing my support for two proposals that I believe provide a good starting point and framework from which we can move forward,” he said, according to excerpts of his remarks released by his office. “But let me be also clear — one of my top priorities will be to make sure that whatever final debt fix emerges, it will keep our promises to our seniors by protecting Social Security and Medicare. I believe we can do this and cut our debt and deficits over time.”

The “CAP Act,” sponsored by GOP Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.) and Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill (Mo.), would cap federal spending at 20.6 percent of gross national product after 10 years.

According to the Floor Action blog, Senator Corker says the White House is actively working against the spending cap proposal.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said Monday the White House is calling every member of the Senate, urging them to reject the “CAP Act.”

“The White House is calling every individual senator and asking them to stay off of this bill,” Corker told the Times-News editorial board Monday while promoting his legislation. “I see it as a part of the fulcrum of this (spending) debate. I’m hoping that it passes.”

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Filed under Budget, Constitutional Amendment, White House