Friday, July 21, 2006
The Cafferty File: Bad summer rerun?
On "The Situation Room" today, we asked viewers the following questions, and here are some of our favorite responses that we didn't get to read on air:

Is debating the war in Iraq a "bad summer rerun" for the Senate?

Debate? I want more bang for my congressional buck! How about the American citizens demand that our elected officials develop in a timely fashion, a meaningful plan with actual results, that will bring our soldiers home.
Karen, Johnston, Rhode Island

Everthing that has to be said has been said over and over again. If you still think there is a chance for Iraq to become a western-style democracy you have just not been paying attention. Declare victory and leave.
Leonard, Merritt Island, Florida

Issues with Iraq shouldn't be referred to as a rerun. Though I admit it may seem redundant for the topics surrounding Iraq to go back to the Senate yet again, at least it's being brought up. I am deeply concerned about war between Israel and Lebanon, but I am more concerned about where my troops and my family are fighting in Iraq.
Jennifer, Cranbury, New Jersey

Is it a good idea for a congressional delegation to go to the Middle East?

There is enough confusion now that a group of inept legislators would do nothing but get in the way, and possibly become targets.
Jeff, Lakewood, Colorado

We may as well send a congressional delegation to the Middle East. They sure as hell don't get anything done here.
Ron, Shell Beach, California

God bless our bipartisan congressional delegation for going to Israel and supporting our friends. They ought to see by themselves what terrorists of Hezbollah are doing to a democratic country like Israel.
Erkens, Portland, Oregon

Send a congressional delegation to the Middle East, for what? They can't even do the job here let alone travel overseas to try to figure something out. What they need to do is set term limits for themselves. That would be productive work.
Hank, Lancaster, California

What instructions should Pres. Bush give Secy. of State Condoleezza Rice for her trip to the Middle East?

He should tell her the same thing he's told the American public when it comes to things like hurricanes, gas prices, medical prices: you're on your own.

There is no right time to send Condoleezza Rice to the Middle East. She couldn't negotiate a peace agreement with the Amish.
Mike, Charlotte, North Carolina

Bush should instruct Rice to make the Middle East feel as if we are not simply giving Israel a blank check and that we are open to solving the problems of terrorism, while at the same time protecting the civilians of Lebanon.
Mike, Naples, Florida

Perhaps Bush shouldn't be dishing out any advice to Condoleezza Rice at all. Seems to me that if there were more women in "power positions" in the Arab world, it might not have been catapulted to the point of no return as it is now.
Lily, Vancouver

President Bush should keep his thoughts to himself, giving Secretary of State Rice the opportunity to listen to what others say. It may be that Secretary of State Rice, left to her own devices, could fare better than the President.
Geoff, Alta Loma, California

Take Colin Powell with you.
C.J., Russellville, Arkansas
Posted By Jack Cafferty, CNN Commentator: 7/21/2006 07:45:00 PM ET | Permalink
Coast Guard admiral swallows cost of controversial beer brewing kit
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- This round is on the admiral. The superintendent of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy has reimbursed the U.S. Treasury $227.23 from his own pocket after government auditors complained that the academy inappropriately spent government money on a beer brewing kit.

Coast Guard officials originally sought to defend the purchase, giving auditors a detailed financial spreadsheet purporting to show the brew kit saved the government money.

But late this week, in an apparent effort to get beyond the matter, the academy's superintendent, Adm. James C. Van Sice, reimbursed the government for the cost of the brew kit, a Coast Guard spokeswoman said.

In a brief written statement, the Coast Guard said that the purchase -- while technically legal -- "did not represent a prudent use of appropriate funds."

The home brewing kit was one of many examples the Government Accountability Office (GAO)highlighted Wednesday during a hearing on misuses of Department of Homeland Security "purchase cards." Other examples include $68,000 spent on dog booties, $7,000 spent by the U.S. Secret Service on iPods, and nearly $8,000 spent on a 63-inch plasma-screen television.
Posted By Jeanne Meserve and Mike Ahlers, CNN America Bureau: 7/21/2006 06:34:00 PM ET | Permalink
The Situation Online: Evacuation Insights

A boat takes evacuees to the USS Nashville, with Beirut in the distance.

With massive evacuations out of Lebanon still underway, the Internet is giving us unprecedented access into the personal stories of those on the ground. A video shows people at the Damascus airport in Syria hurrying to board a plane. A 24-year-old in Beirut snaps photos of cars heading out of town, packed to the brim with personal belongings, as well as images of foreign nationals as they prepare to leave Lebanon. Some who have already evacuated the country describe conflicted emotions about leaving, while others express relief.

A 41-year-old father and journalist captures the destruction and the plight of Lebanese refugees in smaller towns in need of humanitarian aid. For information on more organizations providing humanitarian aid in the Middle East, the comprehensive online hub, Relief Web, which is run by a UN Agency, continuously updates aid information from around the world.

Then peruse these compelling images of the conflict on the ground, evacuation efforts, and refugee relief.

Watch "The Situation Room" at 4:00 PM, 5:00 PM, and 7:00 PM, ET for these stories and more from our Internet reporters.

Posted By The Situation Online Producers: 7/21/2006 05:36:00 PM ET | Permalink
Feds launch task force to fight DC crime
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Federal officials Friday promised money and manpower as they launched a task force to combat a spike in violent crime, which has spilled out of poor neighborhoods of the nation's capital and onto the National Mall, often filled with tourists.

The joint team of federal agents and local law enforcement officials from more than a dozen agencies will be housed in the FBI's Washington Field Office, and focus on the "crime emergency" declared by District of Columbia authorities.

Charles Ramsey, chief of the district's Metropolitan Police Department and the "field commander" of the new effort, said there has so far been no indication the increase in violent crime has yet affected tourism vital to the capital city.

"This is a safe place to come to. People ought to come and enjoy their summer," Ramsey said. "I've not heard of any reductions or cancellations. Our problems are primarily in our neighborhoods."

But Ramsey and other officials acknowledged concern about the increase in D.C. crime has spread across the region, and attracted particular attention after a series of robberies and muggings near the Washington Monument and elsewhere on the National Mall.
Posted By Terry Frieden, CNN Washington Bureau: 7/21/2006 05:30:00 PM ET | Permalink
Arizona Democrats tap Hildebrand, as the DNC prepares to revise the 2008 presidential nominating calendar
From The Morning Grind

The Arizona Democratic Party has lined up veteran political operative Steve Hildebrand to help organize its caucuses if the Democratic National Committee chooses their state to join Iowa and New Hampshire as one of the first proving grounds for Democratic presidential candidates in 2008.

The signing of Hildebrand -- a well respected strategist who ran the Iowa caucuses for Vice President Al Gore in 2000 -- to a contingency contract illustrates to what lengths states are willing to go to demonstrate to the DNC how serious they are about being selected for this early position on Democratic presidential nominating calendar. Arizona has also turned to Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) to personally lobby DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee members to pick her state, while Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) has made similar calls on behalf of Nevada.

"Arizona has a lot to offer and we wanted to make sure everyone knows it," Arizona Democratic Party Chairman David Waid said in an interview with the Grind.

Waid and representatives from nine other states and the District of Columbia will be in Washington, DC this weekend as the DNC's Rules committee chooses two states -- one from the West and another from the South -- for a coveted early position on the presidential primary calendar. One additional caucus state as well as another primary state will be picked Saturday afternoon and presented to the full DNC membership next month for ratification during the organization's summer meeting in Chicago.

Arizona and Nevada are the leading contenders to be chosen for the caucus slot, while Alabama and South Carolina are the frontrunners to be picked as the additional early primary state, multiple sources tell the Grind.

The decision to schedule additional states early on in the Democratic nominating process has not come without controversy. New Hampshire officials vehemently oppose altering the calendar saying it encourages frontloading and will result in Democrats choosing a nominee too early. Don Fowler, a member of the Rules panel from South Carolina, agrees with New Hampshire officials and predicted it will not work out the way it is intended.

"Every scheme that I have run into for the last 30 years has never panned out the way the schemes were planned and I have been a party to them and opposed to them," he said in an interview with the Grind. "But no scheme has really panned out and my guess is that the law of unintended consequences will occur again in 2008."

One person who could throw a wrench into the DNC's plans is New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner. The Granite State has a law that requires New Hampshire to have a seven day window prior to its primary and Gardner has vowed to uphold it. One proposal being floated would have Iowa hold its caucuses on Jan. 14, 2008 followed by the additional caucus state on the 19th and then the New Hampshire primary on the 22nd. The additional primary state would then hold its primary a week later on the 29th.

Proponents of the idea argue that Iowa and New Hampshire have had too much influence in choosing the Democratic presidential nominee and say this plan will help add more ethnic and union diversity to the selection process. And this is just what states such as Arizona and Nevada are promoting.

"I think they would be missing the boat if they passed up Nevada," said Thomas Snyder, national political director for UNITE HERE, a labor union with a strong presence in the Silver State. "It is a very union state, one of the most union-dense states in the country."

But Hildebrand suggests Arizona is the perfect state to join Iowa and New Hampshire early on in the nominating process.

"I believe that Arizona's Hispanic and Native American populations and the fact that there are a number of issues that a presidential candidate will have to deal with on a national basis (in Arizona) provides the best profile for them to be chosen by the DNC," he said.

Arkansas, Colorado, Hawaii, Michigan, Mississippi and West Virginia join Alabama, Arizona, the District of Columbia, Nevada and South Carolina as states vying for these two coveted slots. Unlike the Democratic Party, the Republican Party will not be altering its presidential primary calendar for 2008.
Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/21/2006 10:31:00 AM ET | Permalink
As the DNC crafts a calendar, Democratic candidates hit the trail
From The Morning Grind

As the DNC takes steps to set up the 2008 Democratic caucus/primary schedule, several potential presidential candidates will be appearing before key constituencies or visiting influential states over the next few days. Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack makes several stops in Michigan, addresses the College Democrats Annual Convention in Missouri, and attends the Democratic Leadership Council's 2006 National Conversation in Colorado; Sen. John Kerry (Massachusetts) addresses the National Black Chamber of Commerce in Louisiana as well as making two stops in South Carolina; retired Gen. Wesley Clark speaks to the College Democrats Annual Convention and then addresses the Florida Democratic Party's "Jefferson-Jackson Weekend"; Sen. Joe Biden (Delaware) visits New Hampshire; Sen. Chris Dodd (Connecticut) speaks at the Florida Democratic Party's "Jefferson-Jackson Weekend" as does New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson; and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (New York) delivers a speech before the DLC's 2006 National Conversation.
Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/21/2006 10:28:00 AM ET | Permalink
Party committees by the numbers
From The Morning Grind

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee both have more money in the bank than the National Republican Senatorial Committee and National Republican Congressional Committee, newly released Federal Election Commission reports show. The DSCC and DCCC also raised more money than the NRSC and NRCC in the 2nd quarter, CNN's Robert Yoon reports. But the cash advantage Democrats enjoy on the Congressional committee levels is eclipsed by the Republican National Committee's continued dominance over the Democratic National Committee in fundraising and cash-on-hand.

Raised in June 2006

DNC $5.7 million
RNC $7.9 million

DSCC $8.8 million
NRSC $4.8 million

DCCC $9.8 million
NRCC $9.5 million

Raised Jan 2005 through June 31, 2006 (a.k.a. "cycle-to-date")

DNC $90.2 million
RNC $167.1 million

DSCC $73.0 million
NRSC $62.6 million

DCCC $75.5 million
NRCC $102.6 million

Cash on hand as of June 30, 2006

DNC $10.8 million
RNC $44.7 million

DSCC $37.7 million
NRSC $19.9 million

DCCC $31.9 million
NRCC $26.5 million
Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/21/2006 10:26:00 AM ET | Permalink
HRC backs Bubba's stumping for Joe
From The Morning Grind

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York) repeated her support Thursday for embattled Sen. Joe Lieberman (Connecticut) in the Democratic primary, but she won't be joining her husband when he stumps for Lieberman on Monday. Sen. Clinton will be thousands of miles away attending the Democratic Leadership Council's 2006 National Conversation. It is the DLC that helped springboard then- Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton (D) into the White House and is an organization that Lieberman once chaired.

"Oh, I think it is absolutely fine," Sen. Clinton responded when asked by CNN's Dana Bash about her husband's decision to campaign for Lieberman. "I'm for Joe Lieberman in the primary. I want Joe Lieberman to win the primary."

But if Lieberman loses, Sen. Clinton's support for her Democratic colleague ends there. She, along with a handful of other Democrats, has declared they will back the winner of the August 8, primary. The latest poll has Lieberman narrowly losing to challenger Ned Lamont in the primary, although the race is a statistical dead heat. Despite the lack of support from some of his colleagues, Lieberman has vowed to run an independent campaign in November if he loses. If that happens, the poll shows Lieberman would win re-election to a fourth term.
Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/21/2006 10:24:00 AM ET | Permalink
House Members head to Israel and the Southern border
From The Morning Grind

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Pete Hoekstra (R-Michigan) is leading a fact finding mission to Israel this weekend to assess the ongoing conflict with Hezbollah, CNN's Deirdre Walsh reports. Democratic Rep. Jane Harman (California) and GOP Reps. Rick Renzi (Arizona) and Darrell Issa (California) will join Hoekstra on the trip.

The lawmakers are expected to meet with Israeli and Palestinian officials as well as U.S. personnel during their visit. The group's itinerary is not being released for security reasons.

Meanwhile, Hastert is leading his own fact-finding mission to Arizona and Texas to see first-hand the security needs along the border. GOP Reps. Peter King (New York), Jim Kolbe (Arizona), Candice Miller (Michigan), Charles Boustany (Louisiana) and Democratic Rep. Bobby Rush (Illinois) will join Hastert on the trip that makes stops in Arizona today and El Paso, Texas on Saturday.
Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/21/2006 10:23:00 AM ET | Permalink
Pelosi's no 2-pack a day person
From The Morning Grind

Infants beware! Stay clear of the Democratic cloakroom. That is House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's (D-California) advice, given the second hand smoke that lingers when her colleagues light up.

"I know one time somebody brought his newborn baby into the cloakroom, where people have been known to smoke," she told reporters yesterday. "I actually thought, 'This is one of the most dangerous places in America for a newborn baby.' I thought, 'I know you are proud of your child, but you don't want him breathing the air in this place. And that was really just because of the smoking.'"

Pelosi was talking about the dangers of smoking after being asked to comment on her colleagues' ability to light up just off the House floor in the Speaker's Lobby. Pelosi said she was unaware that is where people smoked.

"I didn't know that was an issue," she said. "But I certainly wouldn't bring my grandchildren in there if they are still smoking in the Speaker's Lobby."

The next time Pelosi is looking for House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) during a vote, she might want to cover her face and stop by the Speaker's Lobby.
Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/21/2006 10:22:00 AM ET | Permalink
DAYAHEAD/Events making news today and through the weekend
  • President Bush heads to Colorado today to meet with U.S. military personnel and attend a congressional fundraiser. Bush participates in a 1:35 p.m. ET event in Aurora with military personnel. At 3:15 p.m. ET, the President makes remarks at a fundraiser for GOP congressional candidate Rick O'Donnell.

  • The House is not in session. It returns on Monday at 12:30 p.m. ET. The Senate gavels into session at 9:30 a.m. ET and debates the Child Custody Protection Act.

  • Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Indiana), a potential presidential candidate, addresses the College Democrats of America National Convention in St. Louis via video address at 9 a.m. ET. Bayh sponsored a breakfast prior to his taped address.

  • Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack (D), a potential presidential candidate, tours the Anderson Albion Ethanol LLC Plant and Press in Albion, Michigan at 10 a.m. ET. Vilsack then attends the Ionia Free Fair Luncheon with Gov. Jen Granholm (D) at 12:30 p.m. ET in Iona. At 5:30, p.m. ET, he makes remarks at the opening of the Michigan Coordinated Campaign office in Detroit. On Saturday, Vilsack delivers a 1:45 p.m. ET speech to the College Democrats of America National Convention in St. Louis, Missouri.

  • Sen. Barack Obama (D-Illinois) will be in Louisiana on Friday for a full day of events. He attends a 12:45 p.m. ET FEMA briefing in New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin's office. Obama then participates in a 2 p.m. ET Habitat for Humanity event in Musicians Village. At 3:30 p.m. ET, he holds a roundtable discussion with small business owners at 900 Camp Street, followed by a tour of the 9th Ward at 4:45 p.m. ET. Obama then attends what is described as a "faith event" at 7:15 p.m. ET at St. Peter Claver Church.

  • Vice President Cheney attends a 12:30 p.m. ET fundraiser for GOP congressional candidate Gus Bilirakis in Tampa, Florida. He then heads up to Georgia to deliver 3:10 p.m. ET remarks to U.S. military personnel at Fort Stewart in Fort Stewart.

  • Sen. John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) gives a 1:30 p.m. ET keynote address to the National Black Chamber of Commerce Convention being held in New Orleans, Louisiana. He then heads to South Carolina on Saturday for a town hall meeting on health care at 10:30 a.m. ET in Charleston. Kerry attends a Richland and Lexington County Democrats rally and fundraiser at 4:30 p.m. ET in West Columbia, South Carolina.

  • Retired Gen. Wesley Clark (D), a potential presidential candidate, addresses the College Democrats of America National Convention in St. Louis, Missouri on Friday at 3 p.m. ET.

  • Sen. Joe Biden (D-Delaware), a potential presidential candidate, visits New Hampshire and participates in an event for Executive Council candidate Bev Hollingworth on Friday at 5 p.m. ET in Salem.

  • Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) attends a fundraiser on Friday for Rep. Todd Platts (R-Pennsylvania) in York. On Saturday, McCain attends a "Martha Rainville for Congress Town Hall meeting" in Rutland, Vermont.

  • The Democratic National Committee Rules and Bylaws Committee will meet at 10 a.m. ET on Saturday in the Capital Hilton to draft the 2008 delegate selection rules. The panel also meets on Sunday at 9 a.m. ET.

  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) addresses the College Democrats of America National Convention in St. Louis, Missouri at 12 p.m. ET.

  • Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Connecticut), a potential presidential candidate, speaks at 12:15 p.m. ET on Saturday during the Florida Democratic Party's "Jefferson-Jackson Weekend" in Ft. Lauderdale. At 7 p.m. ET, Rep. Jim Davis and state Sen. Rod Smith participate in a Democratic gubernatorial debate. New Mexico Gov. Richardson (D), a potential presidential candidate, delivers remarks at the JJ Dinner following the debate. On Sunday, retired Gen. Wesley Clark (D), a potential presidential candidate, is the breakfast speaker at 9:15 a.m. ET.

  • The Democratic Leadership Council's 2006 National Conversation begins Saturday in Denver, Colorado and runs through Monday. Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack (D) and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D), who are both considering running for president, are among a handful of lawmakers scheduled to address the conference.
  • Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/21/2006 10:20:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Political Hot Topics
    RICE AT U.N. "WILL TRY TO RECONCILE" CEASE-FIRE DEMANDS: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will try to reconcile demands for an immediate cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah with the U.S. priority to disarm the Islamic militia when she meets United Nations officials today in New York. The U.S. hasn't endorsed the outline of a cease-fire plan presented to the Security Council yesterday by Secretary-General Kofi Annan following the return of his three envoys from the Middle East. U.S. officials insist that Annan's plea for an immediate end to hostilities won't produce a sustainable peace unless the threat posed by Hezbollah is eliminated. Bloomberg: Rice Seeks UN Help on Middle East While Resisting Cease-Fire

    "THERE IS A CIVIL WAR GOING ON IN IRAQ," SAYS REID: Declaring that he believes the situation in Iraq has devolved into a civil war, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday he plans to try to bring the war back up for debate on the Senate floor. The Nevada Democrat said he has been "somewhat gingerly approaching this.... No longer. There is a civil war going on in Iraq. In the last two months, more than 6,000 Iraqis have been killed. That's averaging more than 100 a day being killed in Iraq and we need to make sure there is a debate on this." Republicans questioned why Reid wants to go over old ground and were ready to highlight the divisions among Democrats once again. CNN: Sen. Reid: Iraq devolves into 'civil war'

    VOINOVICH COMES AROUND ON BOLTON: Since last year, John R. Bolton has had the title of United States ambassador to the United Nations, and the work that goes with it. But he has not had the formal approval of the United States Senate for his appointment. Instead, President Bush installed him in the job when Congress was out of session. Now a former Republican critic of Mr. Bolton has changed his mind, giving the White House impetus to try again to get the Senate's endorsement. Senator George V. Voinovich, Republican of Ohio, urged the Senate on Thursday to approve Mr. Bolton's nomination, saying the United States needs a fully sanctioned United Nations representative in the tumultuous world climate. New York Times: Bolton's First Year at U.N. Wins Over a Critic

    HOW CHARITABLE IS LEAVITT'S CHARITABLE FOUNDATION? Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt and his relatives have claimed millions of dollars in tax deductions through a type of charitable foundation they created that until recently paid out very little in actual charity, tax records show. Instead, much of the foundation's money has been invested or lent to the family's business interests and real estate holdings, or contributed to the Leavitt family genealogical society. The Leavitts used nearly $9 million of their assets to set up the foundation in 2000 under an obscure provision of the federal tax code. But unlike standard private foundations, which are required to give away at least 5 percent of their assets to charitable causes, the Leavitt organization donated less than 1 percent of its assets in 2002, 2003 and 2004. The donations jumped to 6.3 percent of total assets last year, after the sale of family water interests that also allowed the foundation to increase its lending to Leavitt business interests. Washington Post: HHS Secretary's Fund Gave Little to Charity

    BUSH CHEERED, JEERED AT NAACP SPEECH: After shunning the NAACP for five years, President Bush made an effort yesterday to warm up their frosty relationship with a speech that mixed folksy humor, frank talk about political disagreements, and promises to build stronger ties between his administration and black America. The 33-minute speech at the group's annual convention drew rounds of thunderous applause, such as when the president acknowledged that his political party wrote off the black vote and when he vowed to sign a bill to renew the Voting Rights Act. At other times, the audience groaned, such as when Bush said his family is committed to civil rights. People booed sharply when he praised charter schools. Two men were quickly hustled out of the hall by Secret Service agents for heckling Bush about the Iraq war. Washington Post: At NAACP, Bush Tries to Mend Rift

    SENATE PASSES VRA EXTENSION 98-0: The Senate yesterday passed a 25-year extension of the 1965 Voting Rights Act in the same form that the House passed a week ago, eliminating the need for a conference, after President Bush's call to get the bill to his desk before the summer recess. "I said that I looked forward to the Senate promptly passing the House bill without amendment. Today, the Senate acted and voted to reauthorize this historic legislation," President Bush said after the act was passed 98-0. "I will be pleased to sign the Voting Rights Act into law, and I will continue to work with Congress to ensure that our country lives up to our guiding principle that all men and women are created equal." Washington Times: Vote act renewal passes in Senate

    BORDER LIKE "A PATIENT WHO IS BLEEDING TO DEATH," SAYS HASTERT. "CLOSE THE WOUND FIRST": Two months after the Senate passed a bill that would give citizenship to millions of illegal immigrants, House Speaker Dennis Hastert remains adamant that border security must be improved before Congress considers other changes to the law. I would look at it as if you have a patient who is bleeding to death," Hastert told USA TODAY. "Close the wound first. Secure the border. And then you can begin to look at what other options are." The Illinois Republican's comments came on the eve of a weekend inspection of the U.S.-Mexican border, which he calls "a sieve." He is leading a delegation that includes supporters of a House immigration bill that emphasizes tighter border security and penalties on employers who hire illegal immigrants, as well as opponents who prefer the Senate bill. USA Today: Border security should be priority, Hastert says

    SPECTER'S "COMPROMISE" SURVEILLANCE BILL RUNS INTO "IMMEDIATE TROUBLE": A Senate surveillance bill personally negotiated by President Bush and Vice President Cheney ran into immediate trouble this week, as Democrats and other critics attacked the proposal while key GOP leaders in the House endorsed a different bill on the same topic. The Senate legislation, drafted during negotiations between the White House and Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), would allow the administration to submit the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance program to a secret intelligence court for review of its legality. The proposal was billed as a rare and noteworthy compromise by the administration when unveiled last week. But the legislation quickly came under attack from Democrats and many national security experts, who said it would actually give the government greater powers to spy on Americans without court oversight. Washington Post: Surveillance Bill Meets Resistance in Senate

    JUDGE LETS AT&T SUIT PROCEED... "STATE SECRETS WOULD NOT BE AT RISK": A federal judge on Thursday rejected a motion by the Bush administration to dismiss a lawsuit against AT&T over its cooperation with a government surveillance program, ruling that state secrets would not be at risk if the suit proceeded. The case was filed in February by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group, and alleged that AT&T was collaborating with the National Security Agency in a surveillance program tracking the domestic and foreign communications of millions of Americans. In rejecting the motion brought by the Justice Department, Vaughn R. Walker, chief judge of the Federal District Court for the Northern District of California, ruled that the government had already disclosed in broad terms whose communications it monitored, and that it was generally interested in calls between the United States and other countries. New York Times: Judge Declines to Dismiss Privacy Suit Against AT&T

    DEMS TO TARGET KEY HOUSE SEATS WITH $30 MILLION IN ADS: Signaling a new phase in the struggle for control of Congress, House Democrats have reserved time for more than $30 million worth of campaign advertising this fall in roughly two dozen congressional districts, with a heavy emphasis on the Northeast and Midwest. The Democratic targets include clusters of Republican-held seats in the Philadelphia area held by Reps. Jim Gerlach, Curt Weldon and Michael Fitzpatrick, as well as the Ohio River Valley, where Reps. John Hostettler of Indiana, Geoff Davis of Kentucky and Steve Chabot of Ohio can expect a protracted televised barrage. Based on information available to date, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee intends to air ads for eight weeks in an attempt to defeat Rep. Heather Wilson of New Mexico. Rep. Clay Shaw of Florida faces a particularly well-financed opponent, but he can also expect to face five weeks of Democratic-paid advertising. AP via Yahoo! News: Democrats plan $30M ad campaign

    DeLAY'S ARMPAC SHUTTING DOWN: Former U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay's national political action committee was fined $115,000 on Wednesday for improperly reporting hundreds of thousands of dollars in debts and contributions, a ruling that critics say could affect his trial in Travis County. In a deal negotiated with the Federal Election Commission, DeLay's Americans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee agreed to shut down and accepted FEC findings that:

  • It improperly used $203,483 from 2001 to 2002 in nonfederal "soft money" to cover expenses that should have been billed to a "hard money" federal account directly supporting federal candidates. Soft money includes funds that don't support a particular candidate but can be used for generic-issue advertising or voter registration. Hard money, funds directly support particular candidates.

  • It inaccurately reported almost $400,000 in contributions and expenses from 2001 to 2002.

  • It failed to report $322,000 in debts to vendors that had not been reported or repaid "over several reporting periods."

    Austin American-Statesman: DeLay fundraising group fined, shutting down

    EXCITED FOR OBAMA IN IA: Sen. Tom Harkin announced Thursday that Illinois Sen. Barack Obama will be the featured guest at his annual fundraiser in Indianola in September. Obama, an Illinois Democrat, will headline Harkin's annual steak fry scheduled for Sept. 17 at the Warren County Fairgrounds, the Iowa Democrat announced... The headline act at Harkin's event has been a plum gig, with former President Clinton and six presidential candidates appearing there in 2003. Harkin told Iowa reporters that Obama is a "very excellent speaker" and that he was glad to work out an arrangement so that the Illinois senator could appear at the steak fry. But Harkin was reluctant to characterize Obama as a potential presidential candidate in 2008. "I think he's going to motivate people to work hard for this November, and I think a lot of people are anxious to see him and - what do they say - feel the cloth," Harkin said. "I think it's going to be pretty exciting." Des Moines Register: Sen. Barack Obama to attend Harkin fundraiser

    "A STEAK FRY ISN'T ALWAYS SIMPLY A STEAK FRY": In an interview, Obama said no greater significance should be attached to his trip to Iowa. Harkin extended the invitation and he accepted, he said, just as he has for other Democrats. "I've already been to 30 states," he said. "Why not Iowa?" But in Iowa, a steak fry is not always simply a steak fry. The state's precinct caucuses have helped launch the race for the White House for 30 years. Seldom does a week go by--even in off-presidential years like this one--when an ambitious Democrat or Republican isn't dropping by the state to court activists for 2008. Chicago Tribune: Obama trip to Iowa ups buzz on '08

    DEMS TO VOTE ON SHAKE-UP TO THE PRIMARY CALENDAR: Democrats are on track to jumble the states in the presidential primary calendar in response to growing criticism that the same predominantly white states hold many of the cards in early voting. And not even complaints from a former president and a half-dozen White House hopefuls can stop them. Iowa would still go first in the new calendar, but a Western state - possibly Nevada or Arizona - would be wedged in before the New Hampshire primary. A Southern state - possibly Alabama or South Carolina - would follow New Hampshire. The national Democrats' rules and bylaws committee expects to vote on the proposal this weekend. AP via Yahoo! News: Democrats set to shake up primary calendar

    BOB BARR SUING NYC'S BLOOMBERG: Former Congressman Bob Barr, a Cobb attorney, said aligning himself in a high-profile lawsuit against New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has nothing to do with future plans to run for public office. Barr announced to nearly 100 people gathered Thursday on the Marietta Square that he and the law office of Edwin Marger planned to represent Adventure Outdoors, a family-owned gun retailer in Smyrna, in a civil lawsuit against Bloomberg, New York officials and others. Bloomberg has targeted Adventure Outdoors - one of five gun dealers in Georgia - and 10 dealers in four other states in a federal lawsuit. The mayor's lawsuit claims that the gun store sold 21 guns over seven years that were used in New York crimes. In public statements released May 15, Bloomberg called the stores "rogue gun dealers," and claimed they violated federal and state laws. Barr plans to sue Bloomberg for $400 million in compensatory and punitive damages for bringing slander and defamation to Adventure Outdoors. Marietta Journal: Bob Barr sues N.Y. mayor
  • Posted By Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau: 7/21/2006 09:05:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Thursday, July 20, 2006
    The Cafferty File: Honest broker?
    On "The Situation Room" today, we asked viewers the following questions, and here are some of our favorite responses that we didn't get to read on air:

    Can the U.S. be an honest broker when it comes to the Middle East?

    Yes, it can. I like the effectiveness of the way it is being brokered right now. Sit back and do nothing. The Israelis know what to do. Give them time and carte blanche weapons. End of story. Joe, Atlanta, Georgia

    Who cares, Jack? We all seem like a bunch of busybodies poking our noses everywhere in the world while ignoring problems at home.
    Shaban, Coral Springs, Florida

    Not when we're the majority supplier of Israel's arsenal and refuse to allow for the possibility that Israel may be illegally squatting on someone else's land.
    Jared, Houston, Texas

    How concerned are you if Iranian officials showed up to watch North Korea's missile tests?

    How concerned am I? I should have listened when my crazy aunt told me to keep my money in my mattress. If this purported relationship between Iran and North Korea is, indeed, the case, the whispers of World War III may very well become reality.
    Tamara, Florida

    Concerned? Who me? When we've done such a good job nation-building and neutralizing terrorists in Iraq, why should anyone be concerned about little old Iran or North Korea? Let's rely on our track record of success and just relax.
    Brian, Houston, Texas

    I'll be concerned when the Iranians are watching North Korea successfully launch a missile. In the meantime, I'm more concerned about Iran developing the bomb and delivering it in person.
    Jason, Baldwin, Kansas

    What does it mean if conservatives are distancing themselves from President Bush's foreign policy?

    I voted for President Bush and I support his decision to support Israel, however, I'm not sure he has a policy here. He seems to just want to sit back on his rocking chair while two guys shoot it out in the center of town at high noon.
    Michael, Far Hills, New Jersey

    Bush is about as good at foreign policy as he is at answering spontaneous questions at press conferences, and smart Republicans want to get re-elected. The GOP controls both houses and the presidency and still can't get anything done; how sad this country has become. I hope folks remember this at the midterm elections.
    Ken, Emporia, Kansas

    The fact that even conservatives are distancing themselves from Bush's foreign policy demonstrates that even conservatives are capable of recognizing not only the immorality but also the imprudence of waging unjust wars in Iraq and -- by proxy of Israel -- the remainder of the Middle East.
    Michelle, Minneapolis, Minnesota

    Perhaps they woke up from their six-year coma.
    Mac, Charleston, South Carolina
    Posted By Jack Cafferty, CNN Commentator: 7/20/2006 05:47:00 PM ET | Permalink
    The Situation Online: Middle East aid

    Lebanese families Thursday flee their homes to the southern city of Sidon.

    With an estimated half-million Lebanese displaced from their homes, and a concern for civilian safety in Israel, organizations around the world are mobilizing to send humanitarian aid to the Middle East.

    The United Nations Refugee Agency has launched a multi-million dollar operation to address the growing humanitarian need in the Middle East and is deploying the first of their emergency teams to Lebanon Today. The agency plans to monitor Lebanon's borders for refugees and send out mobile assistance teams to help displaced persons who have fled to shelters or into the mountains.

    The International Committee of the Red Cross is expanding its own international team in the region and working with the local Lebanese Red Cross which has fully mobilized its team of some 2,400 volunteers and 200 ambulances.

    In Israel, Magen David Adom - Israel's equivalent of the Red Cross - is on Code Red High Alert. They are deploying ambulances to the north, moving blood services to a safe location underground, and sending volunteers to shelters to keep people healthy and in good spirits.

    UNICEF is particularly focused on the plight of displaced children in both countries, but right now is most focused on getting critical emergency supplies from Copenhagen to Damascus and overland into Lebanon.

    For information on more organizations providing humanitarian aid in the Middle East, the comprehensive online hub, Relief Web, which is run by a UN Agency, continuously updates aid information from around the world.

    Watch "The Situation Room" at 4:00 PM, 5:00 PM, and 7:00 PM, ET for these stories and more from our Internet reporters.
    Posted By The Situation Online Producers: 7/20/2006 04:55:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Senate Democrats will try to revive the Iraq debate
    From CNN Capitol Hill Correspondent Dana Bash

    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Declaring that he now believes the situation in Iraq
    has devolved into a civil war, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday
    he plans to try to bring the war back up for debate on the Senate floor.

    "I have been somewhat gingerly approaching this from the basis there is a
    civil war in Iraq," the Nevada Democrat said. "No longer. There is a civil war
    going on in Iraq. In the last two months more than 6,000 Iraqis have been
    killed. That's averaging more than 100 a day being killed in Iraq and we need
    to make sure there is a debate on this."

    Last month Senate Democrats offered two Iraq resolutions centering on
    U.S. troop withdrawal, and, during several days of highly partisan debate,
    Republicans accused them of advocating a "cut and run" strategy.

    Senate Democratic leaders call Iraq the top issue on voters' minds this
    election year and say they want to continue talking about it in Congress,
    especially since the situation appears to be deteriorating.

    Posted By CNN's Congressional Unit: 7/20/2006 04:54:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Paulison: FEMA 'lights years' ahead of 2005
    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- After facing intense criticism during a frenzied 2005 hurricane season, the Federal Emergency Management Agency declared itself Thursday "repaired" and "ready to go" this year.

    Director R. David Paulison said FEMA is "light years" ahead of where it was last summer, when it famously floundered as Hurricane Katrina pummeled New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. (Special Report)

    "This agency is ready to move," Paulison said during a media tour of the National Response Coordination Center. "We have a lot of work to do, folks ... But the big things that we saw go wrong with Katrina -- the commodities, tracking those types of things, the communications (problems) -- we have repaired."

    The center has undergone a $3 million modernization allowing FEMA to better track water, pre-packaged meals, tarps and other emergency supplies. Paulison admitted that the agency missed a self-imposed deadline to fill 95 percent of its jobs by June 1 -- 85 percent are currently filled, with 300-400 openings. But he said that he wanted "expand this organization."

    Two recent government audits found excessive waste after Katrina. One found that about $1 billion FEMA gave to Hurricane Katrina and Rita claimants -- in the form of debit cards -- were fraudulent. Another audit found numerous exorbitant purchases -- including an $8,000 plasma television, beer brewing kit and 20 overpriced, flat-bottom boats -- made after the storm by Department of Homeland Security employees.
    Posted By Jeanne Meserve and Mike Ahlers, CNN America Bureau: 7/20/2006 03:19:00 PM ET | Permalink
    After 5 years as no-show, Bush addresses NAACP

    Until recently, Bush described his relationship with the NAACP as "basically nonexistent."

    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Bidding to end an extended rift, President Bush addressed the NAACP at its annual convention Thursday, touching on Hurricane Katrina, African-Americans sour views of Republicans, and his support for renewal of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. (Full story)

    Bush has not addressed the civil-rights group since becoming president, citing a "good working relationship" with new NAACP CEO Bruce Gordon for his recent shift. The Republican president further acknowledged that "many African-Americans distrust my political party," calling it "a tragedy that the party of Abraham Lincoln let go of its historic ties to the African-American community."

    About 10 percent of African-Americans voted for Bush in 2004, according to exit polls. According to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll taken after the hurricane -- which disportionately affected minorities in New Orleans -- 72 percent of African-American respondents agreed with the assertion that the president does not care about black people.

    Of late, the NAACP's top political issue is the Voting Rights Act, set to expire soon amid challenges from some Southern GOP congressman intent on dropping or modifying provisions that require their states to submit changes to election rules to the Justice Department.

    Bush quoted President Johnson in calling "the right to vote the lifeblood of our democracy." After much delay, the House voted 393-33 to reauthorize the act and the Senate is set to consider it this week, according Gordon.
    Posted By CNN's Washington Bureau: 7/20/2006 01:08:00 PM ET | Permalink
    New poll indicates Americans want U.S. to stay out of Mideast conflict
    From The Morning Grind

    Nearly two-thirds of Americans responding to a poll on the Mideast crisis believe the U.S. should stay clear of the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, according to a new survey conducted for CNN by Opinion Research Corporation.

    Sixty-five percent of 633 adults that participated in the poll said the U.S. should not play an active role in attempting to solve the issue. And 45 percent said they disapprove of the way President Bush has handled the conflict, compared to 38 percent who approve and 17 percent who said they were unsure.

    Only 4 percent of those surveyed said they sympathized with Hezbollah, while 57 percent said their sympathies lay with Israel, 20 percent said they did not sympathize with either side and 15 percent had no opinion.

    Read more on the poll by clicking here.

    Click here for complete poll results.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/20/2006 10:49:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Bubba to stump for Lieberman as new poll spells bad news
    From The Morning Grind

    Former President Bill Clinton will campaign for embattled Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Connecticut) next week, as a new poll released this morning shows that Lieberman is in serious danger of losing his primary.

    Clinton, who worked on Lieberman's first campaign for state Senate in 1970, will appear Monday in Waterbury for the incumbent Democrat. Clinton's public show of support for Lieberman comes at a time when some of the Connecticut Democrat's Senate colleagues and former Vice President Al Gore refuse to endorse his re-election bid. Clinton's own wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York), has pledged to support Lieberman in his primary battle, but added she would back the Democratic nominee in the general election.

    News of Clinton's visit this morning coincides with the release of a new Quinnipiac University poll that shows Democratic challenger Ned Lamont has a four point lead over Lieberman, 51 percent to 47 percent, among likely Democratic primary voters. The previous Quinnipiac poll taken last month had Lieberman leading Lamont 55 percent to 40 percent in the race for the Democratic Senate nomination. The primary is scheduled for August. 8.

    Lamont has successfully used his own personal fortune to advocate an anti-war message that has been embraced by 'netroots' Democratic activists. Lieberman is a vocal supporter of Bush's actions in Iraq, which is an unpopular position among many Democrats.

    If Lieberman loses the primary, he has pledged to seek a fourth term by running an independent campaign. And the Quinnipiac poll shows that Lieberman would win if the general election turns into a three way race. Under this scenario, Lieberman gets 51 percent, while Lamont would attract 27 percent and the likely GOP nominee Alan Schlesinger would receive only 9 percent.

    "Lamont is up, while Lieberman's Democratic support is dropping," Quinnipiac University Poll Director Douglas Schwartz said in a statement accompanying the survey's release. "More Democrats have a favorable opinion of Lamont, who was largely unknown last month, and see him as an acceptable alternative to Lieberman. But Lieberman's strength among Republicans and independents gives him the lead in a three-way match-up in November."
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/20/2006 10:47:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Returning to the Hawkeye State
    From The Morning Grind

    Elizabeth Edwards returns to Iowa next week for the first time since being diagnosed with cancer following the 2004 presidential campaign. As the wife of former Sen. John Edwards (North Carolina), the 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee, she criss-crossed the nation campaigning on behalf of the party's ticket. A week from today, Edwards will visit Des Moines for the Polk County Democrats 7th Annual Women's Event. In late September, Edwards releases a new book "Saving Graces: Finding Solace and Strength from Friends and Strangers."
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/20/2006 10:47:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Rep. McHenry skewers Helen Thomas
    From The Morning Grind

    Don't expect Rep. Patrick McHenry to put "Watchdogs of Democracy?: The Waning Washington Press Corps and How It Has Failed the Public" on his summer reading list. The North Carolina Republican sharply criticized the book's author, longtime White House reporter/columnist Helen Thomas, Wednesday during an intern seminar sponsored by Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Georgia).

    When asked about Thomas' assertion that the media had taken it easy on White House, the 30-year-old McHenry, who is only 10 years older than most of those in attendance, teed off, CNN Political Unit interns Megan Cummings and Josh Lipsky report.

    "She is off her rocker," McHenry said. "She's lost it. She's a left-wing, socialist, wacko, communist."

    McHenry went on to describe Thomas as "nuts" and from "outer-space" and his rant against Thomas drew an enthusiastic applause and cheers from the predominately-Republican intern crowd. The Grind could not reach Thomas for comment.

    McHenry was one of a handful of House Republicans including Majority Leader John Boehner (Ohio), Majority Whip Roy Blunt (Missouri), GOP Conference Chairman Deborah Pryce (Ohio), Chief Deputy Whip Eric Cantor (Virginia) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Florida) who spoke to the intern-only crowd on subjects ranging from how they first got started in politics to what is going to happen in the midterms.

    Blunt told the group his calling to public service came at the age of 23. For Boehner, it was a "challenge" to take his mind off the money he was making running a small plastics business. And for Ros-Lehtinen, she was inspired by the impassioned discussions at the dinner table about her Cuban family's struggle for freedom.

    As for a prediction for the midterms, Blunt scoffed at the possibility of a Democratic takeover.

    "They have no agenda," he said. "There is no overriding ideology.

    "They have nothing in common except that they're not us," he later added.

    And Ros-Lehtinen encouraged the young GOPers not to be complacent in helping to grow the party. Right now, she said, "Cubans are the only minority that Republicans consistently have."

    Kingston has a blog posting on the event. Check out Rep. Adam Putnam's (R-Florida) remarks about the Senate.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/20/2006 10:46:00 AM ET | Permalink
    FEC Correction
    From The Morning Grind

    In Tuesday's Grind, we inadvertently transposed Missouri Democratic Senate candidate Claire McCaskill's cash-on-hand figure with the amount she raised in the second quarter. The correct numbers are listed below. We regret the error.


    Sen. Jim Talent (R)
    Raised 2nd qtr.: $2,218,388
    Cash-on-hand: $7,123,022

    Claire McCaskill (D)
    Raised 2nd qtr.: $1,451,087
    Cash-on-hand: $2,779,993
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/20/2006 10:44:00 AM ET | Permalink
    DAYAHEAD/Events making news today
  • President Bush addresses the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People at 10:30 a.m. ET in the Washington Convention Center. Bush then meets with the First Vice President of Government of National Unity of Sudan and President of Southern Sudan at 11:40 a.m. ET in the Oval Office.

  • The Senate convenes at 9:30 a.m. ET and begins considering the Voting Rights reauthorization bill. The House gavels into session at 10 a.m. ET.

  • Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York), a potential presidential candidate, was scheduled to speak before the Children Now Conference on "The future of children's media: Advertising" at 9 a.m. ET. Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), a potential presidential candidate, addresses the conference at 11:10 a.m. ET.

  • First Lady Laura Bush delivers 10:20 a.m. ET remarks at "The Big Read Event" being held at the Library of Congress.

  • House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) holds a 10:30 a.m. ET on-camera briefing in the House Radio and Television Gallery.

  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) holds a 10:45 a.m. ET on-camera briefing in room H-206 of the Capitol.

  • Rep. John Murtha (D-Pennsylvania) receives the "Edmund S. Muskie Distinguished Public Service Award" from the Center for National Policy at noon in the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill. Murtha will also make remarks on national security.

  • Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania) delivers a 12:30 p.m. ET National Press Club speech "on the war against 'Islamic fascism.'"

  • Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Illinois) and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Chuck Schumer (New York) hold a 12:45 p.m. ET conference call with reporters to discuss "protecting Ohio voters this Fall."

  • Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean attends the opening ceremony for the College Democrats annual convention in St. Louis at 7:30 p.m. ET.

  • Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman attends fundraisers and political events in New Mexico that are closed press.
  • Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/20/2006 10:43:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Political Hot Topics
    FOR SOME IN GOP, STRATEGY INCLUDES ACKNOWLEDGING MISTAKES IN IRAQ: Faced with almost daily reports of sectarian carnage in Iraq, congressional Republicans are shifting their message on the war from speaking optimistically of progress to acknowledging the difficulty of the mission and pointing up mistakes in planning and execution... Rank-and file Republicans who once adamantly backed the administration on the war are moving to a two-stage new message, according to some lawmakers. First, Republicans are making it clear to constituents they do not agree with every decision the president has made on Iraq. Then they boil the argument down to two choices: staying and fighting or conceding defeat to a vicious enemy. Washington Post: GOP Lawmakers Edge Away From Optimism on Iraq

    BUSH'S FIRST VETO: President Bush on Wednesday rejected legislation to expand federally supported embryonic stem cell research, exercising his first veto while putting himself at odds with many members of his own party and what polls say is a majority of the public. By defying the Republican-controlled Congress, which had sent him legislation that would have overturned research restrictions he imposed five years ago, Mr. Bush re-inserted himself forcefully into a moral, scientific and political debate in which Republicans are increasingly finding common ground with Democrats. New York Times: First Bush Veto Maintains Limits on Stem Cell Use

    AFTER 5 YEARS, HOPE THAT BUSH'S NAACP SPEECH IS "WORTH THE WAIT": For five years in a row, President Bush has declined invitations to address the annual NAACP convention. This year, with the Senate poised to renew the 1965 Voting Rights Act, Bush said yes. The White House says Bush wants to address the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People on Thursday to show his commitment to civil rights. "The president has had five years to prepare for this speech," Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, past chairman of the Congressional Black Democratic Caucus, said Wednesday. "I hope that this time, he makes it worth the wait." AP via Yahoo! News: Bush to make first NAACP appearance today

    NIGERIAN VEEP SAYS JEFFERSON NEVER PROVIDED HIM "ANY PERSONAL ECONOMIC BENEFITS": The vice president of Nigeria angrily denied Wednesday that he accepted bribes or had a business relationship with Representative William J. Jefferson, the Louisiana Democrat who is the target of a federal corruption investigation that is threatening to complicate American relations with that oil-rich West African nation. In a statement made available by his Washington lawyers, Vice President Atiku Abubakar, a leading candidate in Nigeria's presidential election next year, insisted that Mr. Jefferson had never "suggested - in any way - providing any personal economic benefits" to him. New York Times: Nigerian Official Denies Congressman Bribed Him

    JUDGE SAYS JEFFERSON PROBE CAN PROCEED: A federal judge said Wednesday that investigators could examine documents seized in a search of Rep. William Jefferson's office, denying a request to delay the bribery probe while the Louisiana Democrat appeals the judge's earlier ruling that the search was legal. Chief U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan said granting the delay "would harm the public's interest in a prompt and final outcome of the government's investigation of serious crimes involving a sitting United States congressman running for re-election in November." AP via Yahoo! News: Judge allows Jefferson probe to continue

    MINUTEMEN ASK "WHERE'S THE CASH?" A growing number of Minuteman Civil Defense Corps leaders and volunteers are questioning the whereabouts of hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of dollars in donations collected in the past 15 months, challenging the organization's leadership over financial accountability. Many of the group's most active members say they have no idea how much money has been collected as part of its effort to stop illegal entry -- primarily along the U.S.-Mexico border, what it has been spent on or why it has been funneled through a Virginia-based charity headed by conservative Alan Keyes. Several of the group's top lieutenants have either quit or are threatening to do so, saying requests to Minuteman President Chris Simcox for a financial accounting have been ignored. Washington Times: Minutemen not watching over funds

    CONSERVATIVE SENATOR'S WOULD-BE STRATEGY... "OBVIOUSLY DON'T EMBRACE THE PRESIDENT AND HIS AGENDA": Freshman Sen. John Thune, the Republican hero two years ago for ousting the Senate Democratic leader, said Wednesday that if he were running this year, he'd distance himself from President Bush and his agenda... Thune, a conservative who rarely breaks with the GOP or Bush, said Wednesday that if he were up for re-election this year, he'd adopt a different strategy. "If I were running in the state this year, you obviously don't embrace the president and his agenda," Thune told reporters at the National Press Club. He said the Iraq war is Bush's biggest problem. AP via Yahoo! News: Thune says he'd distance himself from Bush

    RALPH REED... THE FIRST CASUALTY OF AN ANTI-CORRUPTION VOTER WAVE? While political corruption has failed so far to take root as a national issue, the defeat of scandal-stained Ralph Reed in Georgia on Tuesday showed that federal investigators could tip some key House and Senate races this fall, according to party strategists. Reed, a former top campaign official for President Bush and executive director of the Christian Coalition, lost the Republican primary for lieutenant governor after getting pounded by his opponent for his close and profitable relationship with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, the central figure in an unfolding money-for-favors scandal. Reed was the first electoral victim of political corruption probes -- but officials in both parties said he probably won't be the last. Washington Post: Corruption Issue Comes to Fore

    WHAT'S NEXT FOR REED? Before the last of Ralph Reed's campaign signs were stripped from the swank hotel where he watched his election collapse, his supporters huddled in small circles to quietly discuss his political future. They weren't the only ones wondering what's next for the 45-year-old former Christian Coalition leader, famous for helping lead conservative Republicans to nationwide victory but unable to win Georgia's No. 2 job. Some say Reed's ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his convincing defeat at the hands of little-known state Sen. Casey Cagle will force him to return to the behind-the-scenes strategizing that made him famous. Others argue that the man who proclaimed himself a "happy warrior" is too competitive to give up his political dreams because of one defeat. AP via Yahoo! News: Reed's defeat raises questions on future

    LIEBERMAN'S DONOR LIST REVEALS "BIPARTISAN APPEAL": Anyone looking for evidence of Mr. Lieberman's bipartisan appeal can find it in his roster of recent contributors, which includes organizations that traditionally give more to Republicans. They include engineering and construction firms, some with contracts in Iraq. Those firms include Bechtel, Fluor International and Siemens, which support Republicans 64 to 70 percent of the time, according to data compiled by PoliticalMoneyLine, which tracks campaign and lobbying activities. Florida Power and Light, which supports Republicans 84 percent of the time, gave $5,000 to Mr. Lieberman. Areva Cogema, a builder of nuclear power plants that gives 70 percent of its contributions to Republicans, contributed $1,000. An Ohio law firm that directs 80 percent of its donations to Republicans gave $1,000. SRA International, a technology consultant that favors Republicans 66 percent of the time, gave $1,000. New York Times: Lieberman Finds Favor Among Donors That Usually Support G.O.P.

    OBAMA MAKES HIS IA DEBUT: Sen. Barack Obama is heading to Iowa in September to headline the state's biggest Democratic event of the year, the Chicago Tribune has learned. The junior senator from Illinois will make his Iowa debut at Sen. Tom Harkin's annual Steak Fry. The venue is among the most sought-after platforms in Democratic politics, a rural fairground south of Des Moines that has hosted Bill Clinton three times and a string of prospective presidential hopefuls over the years. Until now, Obama has taken great care to steer clear of Iowa, the state that traditionally launches the race for the White House. But accepting the invitation to appear on Harkin's high-profile stage Sept. 17 underscores the notion that Obama is not intent on tamping down speculation about his interest in the 2008 campaign. Chicago Tribune's "The Swamp": Is Obama eyeing Iowa?

    HOLLYWOOD HEARTS HILLARY: Top stars such as Tom Hanks, Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson donated to the New York senator in recent months, generating the kind of cash usually associated with a major box office opening - or a potential presidential bid in 2008. Clinton, who doesn't face much of a challenge in her re-election, received $4,200 from "The Da Vinci Code" star Hanks, the Academy Award-winning actor, and his wife, Rita Wilson... [Owen] Wilson gave Clinton $2,100. Another contributor was Chris Rock, one of many comedians who made bawdy jokes at the Clintons' expense after the investigation into Bill Clinton's affair with intern Monica Lewinsky. Rock gave the senator $2,100. Singer Bette Midler gave the maximum allowed by law, $4,200, as did actor James Caan. Other donors included Donald Trump's ex-wife Marla Maples, who gave $2,000, and director Rob Reiner, who gave $3,200. Billy Crystal donated $4,000, and Walt Disney Co. CEO Robert Iger gave $2,100. AP via Yahoo! News: Top stars donated to Sen. Hillary Clinton
    Posted By Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau: 7/20/2006 09:11:00 AM ET | Permalink
    DHS readies airports for travelers from Lebanon
    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Customs and Border Security are pulling in more airport screeners in anticipation of the hundreds of travelers reentering the country Thursday following their evacuation from Lebanon and Cyprus, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security senior spokesman told CNN.

    The Transportation Security Administration sent 50 additional screeners to Baltimore-Washington International Airport Thursday to speed up lines for travelers making connecting flights, the spokesman said. TSA officials also said the agency is working closely with federal and international partners to ensure efficiency and security when screening passengers.

    "Where we can we are using flexibility, allowed by law, to expedite repatriations (and) of course without compromising security," the spokesman said.

    Additional U.S. Customs and Border protection inspectors were also deployed to the Washington airport and in Britain, where some flights out of Cyprus are stopping.
    Posted By CNN's Washington Bureau: 7/20/2006 09:08:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Wednesday, July 19, 2006
    The Cafferty File: Hezbollah attacks in U.S.?
    On "The Situation Room" today, we asked viewers the following questions, and here are some of our favorite responses that we didn't get to read on air:

    How concerned are you that Hezbollah might attack in the U.S.?

    Jack, they already have attacked the U.S. Lest we forget the Marine barracks that they bombed in '83? Over 200 Marines died in that blast. These fanatics are very scary in that they don't like anyone.
    Mark, Deerfield Beach, Florida

    I am not at all concerned about Hezbollah attacking the U.S. at this time - their immediate goal is victory in their war with Israel and I don't believe they have the capability or desire to take on anything else soon.
    Cate, Middletown, Connecticut

    I'm not concerned at all about hezbollah attacking the U.S. Their concerns are pretty specific against Israel. As long as we don't put boots on the ground in Syria or Lebanon, we have little to fear from them.
    Harold, Anchorage, Alaska

    The odds of Hezbollah attacking America are very slim. We face more of an attack from our broken border in Mexico, from Al Qaeda or from North Korea than from them.
    D.J., Lynn Heaven, Florida

    How will the latest conflict in the Middle East affect U.S. operations in Iraq?

    Predictably, the radicals will see us supporting Israel, and with their us against them mentality, proclaim war waged against Islam, recruit and train like minded people, and otherwise make operations in Iran far more dangerous. We should be evacuating our troops.
    Richard, Oregon

    It is perfect! A great cover/excuse for the U.S. to pull our troops out of the entire region, give Israel any equipment/material it wants and let them clean up the mess, we recently and the British historically created!
    Judith, Hilton Head, South Carolina

    Hurt Iraq operations? Can we be struggling any more under the yoke of the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive war? Ask Iran and N. Korea. Hurt, no -- it just exposed the lack of leverage we have in the Middle East.
    Pat, Ohio

    What's a cease-fire of "lasting value"?

    A cease-fire will never work because a terrorist organization is not a government. If they don't follow through with the agreement, what is the U.N. to do? Place economic restraints on the organization?
    Eric, Tucson, Arizona

    A cease-fire of "lasting value" is one not supported by outside peace-keeping forces, but one brought about by agreements between neighboring nations guaranteeing mutual peace and security. This has worked between Israel and the more moderate Arab nations who recognize her and who live with her in peace.
    Ralph, New York

    Dear Jack, Sad to say, but a cease-fire is of lasting value only when one of the parties is totally defeated. If during the cease-fire, the aggressive party is using the opportunity to rebuild its arsenal, history, as we well know, is doomed to repeat itself.
    Sharon, Mt. Arlington, Virginia
    Posted By Jack Cafferty, CNN Commentator: 7/19/2006 05:51:00 PM ET | Permalink
    The Situation Online: Mideast crisis online

    An Israeli looks at damage caused by a Hezbollah missile strike on a house in Haifa on Wednesday.

    As we reach the eighth day of fighting in the Middle East, the Internet continues to provide a whole new dimension to the conflict raging in the Middle East. Users of the popular video site YouTube are posting their digital home videos online, portraying air raid sirens in Haifa and explosions over Beirut.

    Others are writing about their day-to-day experiences on blogs. In Israel, a woman in Haifa posts pictures of what the inside of a local bomb shelters looks like, while members of a kibbutz near the border find exploded Katyusha rockets near their homes. In Beirut, we're seeing the empty streets of a normally bustling seaside city and, according to one blogger, mistaken targets in a predominantly Christian neighborhood.

    Watch "The Situation Room" at 4:00 PM, 5:00 PM, and 7:00 PM, ET for these stories and more from our Internet reporters.
    Posted By The Situation Online Producers: 7/19/2006 05:04:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Court denies Jefferson request on seized documents
    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A federal judge Wednesday denied a request by Congressman William Jefferson, D-La., to block the FBI from reviewing materials seized in the unprecedented search of his Capitol Hill office while he pursues appeals in the case.

    "The government's ongoing investigation would be prejudiced by the delay," said U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Hogan in rejecting the motion. "Congressman Jefferson has not demonstrated that he would be irreparably harmed
    absent a stay."

    Attorneys for Jefferson, who is under investigation for bribery, had anticipated the ruling and informed the Justice Department last week they would promptly appeal a negative decision.

    Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told reporters last Thursday he has ordered investigators not to begin reviewing the disputed materials for two weeks while Jefferson pursues a court order to block the review.

    Jefferson has not been charged, but authorities say he is the focus of a bribery investigation looking into whether he accepted cash and gifts in exchange for his help to a telecommunications firm in seeking contracts in Africa.
    Posted By Terry Frieden, CNN Washington Bureau: 7/19/2006 02:43:00 PM ET | Permalink
    DHS updates status of those missing laptops
    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Just two hours before they were to receive a public tongue-lashing on Capitol Hill for losing scores of laptop computers, a dozen flat-bottom boats and other gear during Hurricane Katrina recovery operations, Department of Homeland Security officials Wednesday said they had located many of the missing items.

    But federal auditors remained skeptical, saying DHS needs to "touch" the
    objects to assure they had been located, and not to rely on "paper" assurances.

    As noted earlier, a GAO audit concluded that weak management practices at DHS had led to widespread misuse of purchase cards, which were supposed to give government employees a more efficient way to purchase goods and services.

    Auditors cited a variety of apparent misuses of the cards. In many cases, DHS could not locate items purchased with the cards, suggesting the items were lost, stolen or misappropriated, the GAO said. Among the lost items were 107 of 200 laptop computers, 22 printers and 12 flat-bottom boats.

    But shortly before a Senate hearing on the matter, DHS said it had found
    some of the missing equipment.

    "I do want to note that at 7:52 this morning, DHS informed the committee
    that it had miraculously found the missing boats and some of the missing
    computers," said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, chairman of the Senate Committee
    on Homeland Security and Government Reform. DHS said it had located some 74 of
    the 107 missing computers.

    Auditors also voiced skepticism. "I am a little taken back, quite honestly," GAO Special Agent John Ryan told the committee, noting that earlier efforts to locate the items were fruitless. "I would ask them to touch the item and make sure they're really testing the serial number."
    Posted By Jeanne Meserve and Mike Ahlers, CNN America Bureau: 7/19/2006 02:28:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Bush vetoes stem-cell research bill

    At Wednesday's press conference, Bush holds a baby who was adopted as an embryo.

    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush on Wednesday vetoed the embryonic stem-cell research bill passed Tuesday by the Senate, his first veto since taking office.

    "It crosses a moral boundary that our decent society needs to respect, so I vetoed it," he told backers. (Full story)

    On Tuesday, the Senate voted 63-37 to loosen Bush's limits on federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research.

    The measure, which the House of Representatives passed in May, would allow couples who have had embryos frozen for fertility treatments to donate them to researchers rather than let them be destroyed. But neither chamber approved the bill with the two-thirds majority needed to override the veto Bush had promised.
    Posted By CNN's Washington Bureau: 7/19/2006 02:17:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Bernanke: 'A time of transition'

    Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke

    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke testified Wednesday to Congress that the U.S. economy was in "a time of transition," marked by inflation concerns and slowing growth. (Full story)

    Bernanke noted that the first quarter growth rate of 5.6 percent has moderated, reflecting a cooling housing market and increased energy costs. Over the first five months of 2006, overall inflation was higher than the Fed had predicted, rising 4.3 percent, while the number excluding food and energy went up 2.6 percent.

    The chairman's remarks tying together these two major points -- specifically, that slowing economic growth should limit price pressures -- invigorated Wall Street. Stock markets rallied as investors bet that the Fed was nearly done raising interest rates after a two-year rate-hiking campaign.
    Posted By CNN's Washington Bureau: 7/19/2006 02:01:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Maryland to provide repatriation center for U.S. evacuees
    ANNAPOLIS, Maryland (CNN) -- Maryland officials have agreed to support the first stateside repatriation center for Americans evacuated from Lebanon, a spokesman with the governor's office said Wednesday.

    The state-run Baltimore-Washington International airport will receive the first flights of returnees in the days ahead. Spokesman Henry Fawell said support for those evacuees will include medical, transportation and lodging as needed, and possibly paying for connecting flights to points beyond the area.

    Fawell said a request came Tuesday from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and that Governor Robert Ehrlich (R) immediately agreed to provide Maryland help. The funding and logistics of that support will come through the state's Emergency Management Agency, and the Maryland Department of Human Resources.
    Posted By Paul Courson, CNN Washington Bureau: 7/19/2006 01:00:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Brewing kit, plasma TV among government Katrina purchases
    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Government "purchase cards" were used to buy a beer brewing kit, an $8,000 63-inch Samsung plasma screen television, hundreds of laptop computers that are now missing, and 20 flat-bottom boats at greatly inflated prices, according to a government audit of spending associated with Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.

    The new audit, also done by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), looks at purchases made by DHS employees during a five-month period beginning in June 2005 using "SmartPay" purchase cards, intended to give government employees a more flexible and efficient way to purchase goods and services. Typically, government employees can make purchases up to $2,500 with the cards, but Congress increased the threshold to $250,000 for Katrina-related purchases.

    But the GAO's Gregory D. Kutz will testify to a Senate committee Wednesday that weak controls at DHS exposed the department to "fraud, waste, and abuse," according to prepared testimony.

    A previous government audit showed that about $1 billion FEMA gave to Hurricane Katrina and Rita claimants were fraudulent.
    Posted By Jeanne Meserve and Mike Ahlers, CNN America Bureau: 7/19/2006 12:47:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Bush set to issue first veto
    From The Morning Grind

    President Bush today will pull out his veto pen for the first time, striking down legislation that would allow federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.

    His decision to block the bill from becoming law is a major win for social conservatives, who opposed the measure because they argued extracting stem cells would destroy the embryos and thus end a life. It is a major loss for proponents of the stem cell research including scientists, Democrats and many Republicans.

    An administration official tells CNN's Dana Bash that Bush plans to veto the bill prior to holding a news conference this afternoon to discuss the issue. The House is then expected to bring the stem cell measure up for a veto override vote, which is likely to fail. The Senate approved the measure along a 63-37 margin Tuesday, but it is four votes short of overriding Bush's veto.

    Celebrities, state lawmakers and even former First Lady Nancy Reagan have weighed in on the subject. While Reagan did not address Bush's pending veto, she did urge for the legislation to be signed into law.

    "Time is short, and life is precious," she said, "and I hope this promising research can now move forward."

    Despite pleas for the legislation to become law, White House spokesman Tony Snow told reporters Tuesday that Bush considers himself "honor-bound" to veto the bill.

    "There's one kind of research, and that is that which involves the destruction of human life, that he does not think is appropriate for the federal government to finance," Snow said. "He's been absolutely clear about it. There is no shading in it."
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/19/2006 11:53:00 AM ET | Permalink
    A historical look at the presidential veto
    From The Morning Grind

    President Bush will issue his first veto today, striking down legislation approved by the House and Senate to allow federally funded embryonic stem cell research. CNN's Robert Yoon reports that while some chief executives -- including John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and John Tyler -- never issued a veto, others wielded their veto pen early and often.

    Below is some historical context, based on information provided by the U.S. Senate Historical Office, for Morning Grind veto enthusiasts:

    Recent Presidents and their Vetoes
    Clinton: 37 total (2 overridden)
    GHW Bush: 44 total (1 overridden)
    Reagan: 78 total (9 overridden)
    Carter: 31 total (2 overridden)
    Ford: 66 total (12 overridden)
    Nixon: 43 total (7 overridden)

    Presidential Veto Hall of Fame - Most Vetoes
    F. Roosevelt: 635 total (9 overridden)
    Cleveland: 584 total (7 overridden)
    Truman: 250 total (12 overridden)
    Eisenhower: 181 total (2 overridden)
    Grant: 94 total (4 overridden)
    T. Roosevelt: 82 total (1 overridden)
    Reagan: 78 total (9 overridden)
    Ford: 66 total (12 overridden)
    Coolidge: 50 total (4 overridden)

    Presidential Veto Hall of Fame - Most Overridden Vetoes
    Andrew Johnson: 15 overridden out of 29 total
    Gerald Ford: 12 overridden out of 66 total
    Harry Truman: 12 overridden out of 250 total
    Ronald Reagan: 9 overridden out of 78 total
    Franklin Roosevelt: 9 overridden out of 635 total
    Richard Nixon: 7 overridden out of 43 total
    Grover Cleveland: 7 overridden out of 584 total
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/19/2006 11:49:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Reed loses; McKinney faces a runoff
    From The Morning Grind

    Former Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed lost his bid Tuesday for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor, breathing new life into the suggestion that the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal could influence the November elections.

    Reed, a long time friend of Abramoff, was hired by the once-powerful-now-disgraced lobbyist to run anti-gambling campaigns that were paid for by competing casinos. Reed, a skilled political tactician was expected to easily win the GOP nomination until his business connections to Abramoff were revealed. Reed's primary opponent, state Sen. Casey Cagle (R) used the information to convince Republican primary voters that Reed did not share their conservative values.

    In another Georgia primary battle, Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D) is headed to an August 8 run-off against former county commissioner Hank Johnson after neither candidate received 50 percent of the vote. McKinney had 47 percent of the vote to Johnson's 45 percent. McKinney, who is no stranger to controversy, recently made headlines for an altercation with a U.S. Capitol Police officer. A grand jury failed to indict McKinney last month after the police officer alleged that she struck him when he didn't recognize her at a security check point. McKinney served in Congress from 1993 to 2003 when she was defeated in a Democratic primary. She won back the seat in 2004.

    And current Lieutenant Gov. Mark Taylor (D) defeated Secretary of State Cathy Cox (D) for the right to challenge Gov. Sonny Perdue (D) in November.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/19/2006 11:44:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Boehner will blast Democrats in Heritage speech
    From The Morning Grind

    House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) will accuse Democrats of failing to provide answers to pressing issues such as the economy and the war on terror, in an afternoon speech at the Heritage Foundation.

    "We believe in a future built on pillars of freedom and responsibility, in which the initiative of millions of Americans is unleashed to improve the quality of all our lives beyond what we can currently imagine," Boehner will say in his speech before the conservative think tank, according to excerpts of his remarks provided to the Grind. "Because we believe in that future, we're willing to do the hard work necessary to get there and provide solutions on the budget, to keep taxes low, to secure our nation's borders, and to win the global war on terror."

    On the issue of national security, Boehner claims it is Republicans not Democrats who have the answers on how to protect the nation.

    "It's important to note what separates Republicans from Capitol Hill Democrats," Boehner will say. "Republicans recognize the threat and have constructed policies reliant on strength and purpose. Democrats have instead blundered towards an empty and cosmetic mindset that underscores a shared devotion to a weak and indecisive foreign policy forever queasy about America's role in the world."

    Boehner acknowledges that there are some Republicans who oppose reforming the earmark process, but he will blame Democrats for refusing to "join Republicans in exercising fiscal restraint." The Ohio Republican will also highlight the House GOP's tough stand on immigration reform, which is not supported by President Bush.

    "House Republicans have worked to fix our broken immigration system by passing a strong bill that secures our borders and strictly enforces our laws," Boehner will say. "Real reform means re-establishing basic respect for America's immigration laws."
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/19/2006 11:22:00 AM ET | Permalink
    GOP unveils new border security and political web pages
    From The Morning Grind

    House Republicans unveiled two new web pages that will appear on their site, during this morning's weekly strategy meeting, a Republican aide tells the Grind. The first webpage "will serve as a clearinghouse for information about the House's hearings and findings on border security", while the second web page criticizes Democrats for their legislative agenda.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/19/2006 11:10:00 AM ET | Permalink
    DAYAHEAD/Events making news today
  • President Bush speaks about his decision to veto legislation that would provide federal funding for embryonic stem cell research at 2:15 p.m. ET. Press Secretary Tony Snow holds a 9:30 a.m. ET off camera briefing followed by a 12:30 p.m. ET on camera briefing.

  • The Senate gavels into session at 9:30 a.m. ET, followed by the House at 10 a.m. ET.

  • Sen. Joe Biden (D-Delaware), a potential presidential candidate, was scheduled to address the National Summit on Energy Security at 9:15 a.m. ET. Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), a potential presidential candidate, addresses the summit at 11:15 a.m. ET.

  • House Democratic leaders hold a 10 a.m. ET news conference to discuss national security in the Cannon office building rotunda outside room 345.

  • House Republican leaders discuss their "American Values" agenda at 10 a.m. ET outside room HC-6 of the Capitol.

  • The House Intelligence Committee holds a 10 a.m. ET hearing on modernizing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in room 2212 of the Rayburn office building.

  • The Senate Armed Services Committee holds a 10 a.m. ET hearing on detainee rights in the Russell Caucus room.

  • The House Education and Workforce Committee holds a 10:30 a.m. ET hearing titled, "Guest Worker Programs: Impact on American Workforce and U.S. Immigration Policy" in room 2175 of the Rayburn office building.

  • Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), a potential presidential candidate, holds a 10:30 a.m. ET news conference with North Korean refugees in room 138 of the Dirksen office building.

  • Sens. Barack Obama (D-Illinois), Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts), and Hillary Clinton (D-New York) address the NAACP's "Voting our values, valuing our votes" conference at 11 a.m. ET being held in the Washington Convention Center.

  • The Campaign Finance Institute holds a noon debate over 527's and 501(C) s at the National Press Club.

  • Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Chuck Schumer (New York) hold a noon pen-and-pad news conference to discuss President Bush's veto of legislation that would provide federal funding for embryonic stem cell research in room S-224 of the Capitol.

  • House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) delivers a 12:30 p.m. ET speech on the Republican agenda at the Heritage Foundation.

  • The Republican Main Street Partnership holds a 1 p.m. ET news conference to urge President Bush not to veto legislation that would provide federal funding for embryonic stem cell research at the Capitol Hill Club.

  • The Senate Judiciary Committee meets today on the Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King Voting Rights Act reauthorization at 2 p.m. ET in room 226 of the Dirksen office building.

  • Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack (D), North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley (D), and Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-New York) and Tom Carper (D-Delaware) hold a 2 p.m. ET news conference at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Capitol Hill to discuss a new college education proposal.

  • Veterans Affairs Secretary James Nicholson is joined by Congressional leaders to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Department of Veterans Affairs at 2 p.m. ET in the Capitol Rotunda.
  • Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/19/2006 10:57:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Political Hot Topics
    WH WAITING "AT LEAST A FEW MORE DAYS BEFORE WADING INTO THE CONFLICT": The outlines of an American-Israeli consensus began to emerge on Tuesday in which Israel would continue to bombard Lebanon for about another week to degrade the capabilities of the Hezbollah militia, officials of the two countries said. Then, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would go to the region and seek to establish a buffer zone in southern Lebanon and perhaps an international force to monitor Lebanon's borders to prevent Hezbollah from obtaining more rockets with which to bombard Israel. American officials signaled that Ms. Rice was waiting at least a few more days before wading into the conflict, in part to give Israel more time to weaken Hezbollah forces. New York Times: U.S. Appears to Be Waiting to Act on Israeli Airstrikes

    "ANGER" FROM THE RIGHT OVER WH "TIMIDITY AND CONFUSION" IN FOREIGN POLICY: At a moment when his conservative coalition is already under strain over domestic policy, President Bush is facing a new and swiftly building backlash on the right over his handling of foreign affairs. Conservative intellectuals and commentators who once lauded Bush for what they saw as a willingness to aggressively confront threats and advance U.S. interests said in interviews that they perceive timidity and confusion about long-standing problems including Iran and North Korea, as well as urgent new ones such as the latest crisis between Israel and Hezbollah. Washington Post: Conservative Anger Grows Over Bush's Foreign Policy

    BUSH'S FIRST VETO COMING TODAY? The Senate voted to lift restrictions on federally funded human embryonic stem cell research yesterday, setting the table for President Bush's first veto and producing an emotional campaign issue that Democrats believe will help them this fall. Senators voted 63 to 37 to approve a House-passed bill that would pour millions of dollars into a field of medical research that is promising -- but also controversial because it requires destroying human embryos to extract the cells... White House press secretary Tony Snow said Bush's veto "will be pretty swift" once he receives the bill, possibly as soon as today. Washington Post: Senate Passes Stem Cell Bill; Bush Vows Veto

    ROVE'S STEM CELL REMARK RULED "INACCURATE" BY EXPERTS: When White House political adviser Karl Rove signaled last week that President Bush planned to veto the stem cell bill being considered by the Senate, the reasons he gave went beyond the president's moral qualms with research on human embryos. In fact, Rove waded into deeply contentious scientific territory, telling the Denver Post's editorial board that researchers have found "far more promise from adult stem cells than from embryonic stem cells."... Rove's negative appraisal of embryonic stem cell research--echoed by many opponents of funding for such research--is inaccurate, according to most stem cell research scientists, including a dozen contacted for this story. Chicago Tribune: Experts rip Rove stem cell remark

    "AN UNUSUALLY DIRECT AND UNPRECEDENTED WHITE HOUSE INTERVENTION": President Bush effectively blocked a Justice Department investigation of the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance program, refusing to give security clearances to attorneys who were attempting to conduct the probe, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales said yesterday. Bush's decision represents an unusually direct and unprecedented White House intervention into an investigation by the Office of Professional Responsibility, the internal affairs office at Justice, administration officials and legal experts said. It forced OPR to abandon its investigation of the role Justice officials played in authorizing and monitoring the controversial NSA eavesdropping effort, according to officials and government documents. Washington Post: Bush Thwarted Probe Into NSA Wiretapping

    SQUEEZE SEEN 'ROUND THE WORLD: It's not exactly "Presidents Gone Wild!" but for the normally staid Group of Eight Summit, a video of President Bush sidling behind German Chancellor Angela Merkel and delivering an impromptu neck rub is, well, as wild as it gets. The scene, captured by a Russian TV camera, hit the Internet like a summer wildfire Tuesday, and it may be most memorable for the German chancellor's reaction. Bush applies his hands to Merkel's shoulders and neck while she's speaking with Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi; the chancellor hunches her shoulders, then throws her hands up to stop the unexpected massage with a wan smile -- and an expression that can best be translated as "Ewwww." While the incident didn't get a lot of play on major TV media, it was just one of the Bush G-8 gaffes that garnered considerable space in the blogosphere from London to Los Angeles. San Francisco Chronicle: Bush's unexpected squeeze of the German chancellor has the Internet howling


    WHY DOES DHS NEED A $227 BEER BREWING KIT? Flat-bottomed rescue boats at double the retail price, $68,500 worth of unused dog booties, hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of computers that somehow disappeared and a $227 beer brewing kit. These are just a few of the questionable purchases that Congressional auditors have found by digging through half a year of credit card records from the Homeland Security Department, including records for the months immediately after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita last year. The audit, by the Government Accountability Office, which is due to be released Wednesday, concluded that the credit card misuse could probably have been avoided had the department completed a long-planned rulebook for its more than 9,000 employees who spent $420 million last year using government-issued credit cards. New York Times: Homeland Security Department Is Accused of Credit Card Misuse

    BUSH WILL ADDRESS NAACP FOR FIRST TIME AS PRESIDENT: President Bush plans to speak to the NAACP for the first time since he was a candidate, with the White House announcing the appearance days after the chairman of the civil rights group publicly urged him to attend. The president had declined invitations to the NAACP's annual meeting for five years in a row, and has often been criticized in speeches by the group's leaders. But under new NAACP President Bruce S. Gordon relations have improved. AP via Yahoo! News: Bush to address NAACP at 97th gathering

    RALPH REED LOSES PRIMARY: Former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed, unable to overcome his ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, conceded defeat Tuesday in Georgia's Republican race for lieutenant governor. Reed was making his first bid for elective office after working for years as a behind-the-scenes campaign strategist and leading the Christian Coalition and the state Republican Party. He vied with state Sen. Casey Cagle for the GOP nomination in a primary race that appeared closer than expected in recent months because of Reed's work with Abramoff, who pleaded guilty to fraud and corruption earlier this year. Savannah Morning News: Reed concedes to Cagle

    McKINNEY IN TROUBLE? U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney is headed to a runoff against a relatively unknown challenger in a Democratic primary she was expected to win with ease. The controversial 4th District incumbent, accused of striking a Capitol Hill police officer last March, narrowly led former DeKalb County Commissioner Hank Johnson. Alpharetta businessman John F. Coyne III came in a distant third but with enough votes to play the spoiler in his first election, keeping McKinney from topping 50 percent of the vote. Few political analysts expected McKinney to have much trouble in her re-election bid even though her longheld status as a political lightning rod reached new heights over her very public confrontation with the Capitol guard. Atlanta Journal-Constitution: McKinney headed for runoff with Johnson

    HARRIS SAYS SHE'S NOT A TARGET OF BRIBERY PROBE: U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris said on Tuesday that Justice Department officials have contacted her and "requested information" from her office as they investigate a bribery case. It is the first time that Harris, R-Longboat Key, has confirmed that she is involved in the case, which has already landed one member of Congress in prison... Harris released a statement to the media on Tuesday, saying she has cooperated fully with federal authorities and that she is not a target of the bribery investigation. Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Harris says feds contacted her in bribery probe

    LAMONT WANTS TO TALK ABOUT SOMETHING OTHER THAN IRAQ: Ned Lamont has become a political sensation in Connecticut by being a multimillionaire who wants the troops out of Iraq. But he would love, love to get people talking about other things than his wealth or the war... In just four months Mr. Lamont has upended the Democratic status quo by coming from nowhere (well, the Greenwich Board of Selectmen) to mount an energetic bid to topple Mr. Lieberman, who was his party's nominee for vice president in 2000. Having stoked voter anger over the senator's support for the war in Iraq, Mr. Lamont is also trying to score points by portraying Mr. Lieberman as neglectful on local issues and overly friendly with the Bush White House. New York Times: Lieberman Rival Seeks Support Beyond Iraq Issue

    WILL SOCIAL CONSERVATIVES RALLY BEHIND BROWNBACK? Big issues like ending abortion, banning same-sex marriage, battling indecency on TV and refusing to fund embryonic stem cell research fuel [Kansas Senator Sam] Brownback's long-shot hopes for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008. Most Americans have never heard of him, but the conservative Christian leaders who play a critical role in the GOP take him seriously. After delivering what they see as the decisive votes to elect and re-elect George W. Bush, they grumble that social conservatives haven't gotten all they deserved on the issues that matter most to them, especially the campaign for a constitutional amendment to bar gay marriage. The question for them next time: Support a candidate who has a good shot of winning but a short history on their core issues? Or back a true believer who faces a steep uphill fight? USA Today: Will Christian right embrace - and support - one of its own?

    BIG DIG "TURNAROUND"... STAKES ARE HIGH FOR ROMNEY: As a venture capitalist, Mitt Romney turned around companies and made himself a multimillionaire. At Salt Lake City, he turned around the scandal-plagued 2002 Winter Olympics, then went on to get elected governor of Massachusetts. The question these days is whether Romney can take a page from his autobiography, "Turnaround," get the nation's most expensive highway project back on track - and perhaps make himself the next president of the United States. AP via Yahoo! News: Gov. Romney's future may hinge on Big Dig

    BAYH THROWS "HARD ELBOW" AT EDWARDS: Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana threw the first hard elbow this week in what had previously been gentle jostling among the dozen or so Democrats considering a run for the presidency in 2008. Bayh said helping the middle class should be the party's top priority, a poke at former Senator John Edwards of North Carolina. Edwards, the Democratic vice presidential nominee in 2004, has traveled the country saying that eradicating poverty should be the chief concern of the party and its next nominee. "We have to do more to help those who are less fortunate in our country, but we can't stop there," Bayh said in an interview yesterday. "We have to help empower our middle class as well." Bloomberg: Bayh, Rebuking Edwards, Says Democrats Must Court Middle Class
    Posted By Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau: 7/19/2006 09:30:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Tuesday, July 18, 2006
    The Cafferty File: Leaving Lebanon
    On "The Situation Room" today, we asked viewers the following questions, and here are some of our favorite responses that we didn't get to read on air:

    Is it taking the U.S. too long to get its citizens out of Lebanon?

    Why should the United States be criticized for taking too long to get its citizens out of Lebanon, when those individuals chose to go to a place designated as dangerous by the government? It is always interesting to me how eager people are to blame someone else for their poor choices. Where does personal responsibility come into play in this situation?
    G.A., Glenrock, Wyoming

    Katrina, immigration, evacuating Americans, gasoline prices, prescription prices, health care, minimum wage, border security, almost anything that affects the average middle class American is the last priority for this administration and this Congress.
    Gene, Houston, Texas

    Yes! It's shades of Katrina again. Also, why is the U.S. govt. making these people pay to be evacuated? Shouldn't we send the bill to Israel? They bombed the roads and runways so people were unable to get out on their own.
    Debbie, Cumberland, Maryland

    Compared to other countries' evacuations, the U.S. acts like it was unprepared to deal with the situation. Lack of planning seems to be a recurrent theme for the government in recent years, i.e. Iraq and Katrina.
    Julie, Sandy, Utah

    It is not too long. Only fools could think moving people in this type of situation can be done in a snap of the finger. We grow impatient at a traffic light, when crossing the street... but then that is why the terrorists have the advantage when dealing with us.
    George, Kittery, Maine

    Who are the winners and losers in the Middle East conflict?

    Discussing this conflict in terms of "winners and losers" is painfully simplistic to the point of non-relevance. The ultimate goal of the operation, the destruction and removal of Hezbollah from Lebanon, will mean the world has won as a terrorist group is dismantled.
    John, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

    Seems to me that the real winners here are Iran and any other faction who wished to bolster mistrust and hatred for the West. Hey Jack, am I the only one who has noticed that Iran's nuclear ambitions just aren't getting as much press since this started?
    Randy, Warren, Michigan

    There are no winners. The losers are the ones who live over there and only want to live without worrying about getting blown to bits by either side.
    R.O., Fort Worth, Texas

    What's the appropriate role for President Bush in the Middle East crisis?

    Everyone is quick to call Bush a war-monger. I think he is doing what he should. You don't broker peace with terrorists, and that's what Israel has known for decades.
    John, Kentucky

    President Bush should stay out of the current Middle Eastern mess.
    A., Florida

    To answer your recent query regarding the question of whether President Bush should intervene in the present conflict; I believe he should stay out of it and allow the Israelis to decimate Hezbollah. If the terrorist organizations are not destroyed, they will simply continue to grow and this will happen again and again.
    Rusty, Philippi, West Virginia
    Posted By Jack Cafferty, CNN Commentator: 7/18/2006 05:43:00 PM ET | Permalink
    The Situation Online: Mideast crisis online

    A man surveys a house Tuesday that was destroyed by Israeli planes south of Beirut.

    Middle East crisis online
    By way of first-hand reports, pictures, and video, the Internet continues to provide a whole new dimension to what's happening on the ground in Lebanon and Israel. Several videos are sprouting up on YouTube, including one showing a boy in Israel running into his house's shelter, and another of an Israeli missile exploding over Beirut. CNN can't authenticate these videos, but they are the kind of raw, real images we're seeing people share online. We're seeing daily photo updates, too. Pictures posted from an Israeli kibbutz near the Lebanese border show the effect of the crisis on the small communal settlement, but message board postings reassure readers that the community is functioning well. On the other side of the conflict, a blogger in Beirut has been frequently updating on his Web site. Today's images demonstrate the desire to evacuate the city, and also trash piling up on the streets of Beirut.

    Leaving Lebanon
    One evacuation plan for Americans in Lebanon is by commercial charter vessel. We have more on one of those vessels contracted by the U.S. Military, a luxury cruise ship called the Queen Orient.

    Watch "The Situation Room" at 4:00 PM, 5:00 PM, and 7:00 PM, ET for these stories and more from our Internet reporters.
    Posted By The Situation Online Producers: 7/18/2006 05:40:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Senate votes, 63-37, to loosen stem-cell rules
    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Senate voted 63-37 Tuesday to loosen President Bush's ban on federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, a move Bush has pledged to veto.

    The measure, which the House of Representatives passed in May, would allow couples who have had embryos frozen for fertility treatments donate them to researchers rather than let them be destroyed. But neither chamber managed the two-thirds majority needed to overturn the veto the White House threatened to deliver.

    Scientists believe stem cells offer the possibility of a renewable source of replacement cells and tissues to treat afflictions such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases, spinal cord injuries, diabetes, strokes and burns.

    Opponents objected to the destruction of human embryos to extract stem cells and warned that lifting Bush's restrictions would lead to the cloning of human embryos for research purposes. They argue that other alternatives, such as adult stem cells, are available.
    Posted By CNN's Congressional Unit: 7/18/2006 05:07:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Washington declares heat emergency
    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- For a second consecutive day, city officials declared a heat emergency in the nation's capital, thereby activating the Department of Emergency Management.

    With the temperature at 95 degrees F, electricity producer Pepco asked consumers to conserve electricity, especially during the peak-demand hours between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. On Monday night, demand on the company peaked at 6,575 megawatts, 150 megawatts short of the record, set July 27, 2005, a company spokesman said.

    The city is in the midst of an intense heat wave that has gripped the East Coast, with temperatures in the upper 90s and even topping 100 in some places. (Full story)
    Posted By CNN's Washington Bureau: 7/18/2006 03:04:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Bush to address NAACP for first time as president
    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush will address the NAACP's annual convention Thursday, the White House announced Tuesday, making an appeal for unity in what will be his first appearance as president before the nation's oldest civil rights group. (Full story)

    NAACP leaders have been critical of Bush during his five-and-a-half-years in office, deriding his social and economic policies as well as the administration's response to Hurricane Katrina. A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll taken after the hurricane found that 72 percent of African Americans agreed with the assertion that Bush did not care about black people.

    White House spokesman Tony Snow said the president has a good relationship with the NAACP's new president, Bruce Gordon, calling the upcoming speech "an opportunity to have a conversation."
    Posted By CNN's Washington Bureau: 7/18/2006 02:06:00 PM ET | Permalink
    U.S. government charges Americans to evacuate Lebanon
    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. State Department is charging American citizens trying to escape the Israeli bombardment of Lebanon for the cost of their transportation, a move that has come under fire from citizens and the top Democrat in the House of Representatives.

    A notice on the Web site for the U.S. Embassy in Beirut states that evacuees will be asked to "sign a promissory note and we will bill you at a later date."

    The State Department estimates there may be as many as 25,000 Americans in Lebanon, many scrambling to get out after Israeli bombing attacks began last week following the abduction of two Israeli soldiers. For several years, the State Department has warned Americans about security issues in Lebanon. (Full story: Hundreds flee Beirut)

    House Demcoratic Leader Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday criticized the law, saying the government "has an obligation to get thousands of citizens out of harm's way."
    Posted By CNN's Washington Bureau: 7/18/2006 01:22:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Reed tries to shake Abramoff ties as Georgia voters head to the polls
    From The Morning Grind

    Georgia voters head to the polls today as Democrats pick a gubernatorial nominee to challenge Gov. Sonny Perdue (R) in November and Ralph Reed battles to become the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor.

    Current Lieutenant Gov. Mark Taylor (D) is expected to defeat Secretary of State Cathy Cox (D) for the right to challenge Gov. Sonny Perdue (R) in November, Georgia political analysts tell the Grind.

    Meanwhile Reed, the former head of the Christian Coalition, is locked in a tight contest with state Sen. Casey Cagle (R) for the GOP's lieutenant governor's nomination. It is the Reed/Cagle contest that is drawing national attention given Reed's close association with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Reed was once hired by Abramoff to run anti-gambling campaigns that were paid for by competing casinos.

    Bill Shipp, a political columnist who appears in 55 Georgia newspapers, said he thinks that Reed will lose because his natural base of social conservatives is divided over his work for Abramoff.

    "I think the Christian Right has been split and they have decided all that Abramoff stuff is much more than they can handle," Shipp said in an interview. (Here is Shipp's July 16 column on the race, via the Marietta Daily Journal)

    Daniel Franklin, a political science professor at Georgia State University, agreed with Shipp saying he thinks social conservatives will decide to stay at home.

    "One thing you can give the moral majority credit for is they are very serious about their morals and will not come out and vote," Franklin said.

    Cagle has made Reed's relationship with Abramoff a centerpiece of his campaign triggering a television ad war between the two candidates. (See two examples here and here)

    Evan Tracey of TNSMI/Campaign Media Analysis Group, CNN's consultant on television advertising spending, estimates that Cagle spent more than $1 million, while Reed spent about $976,000 on the TV advertising.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/18/2006 11:03:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Bush pulls out his veto pen
    From The Morning Grind

    President Bush repeated Monday his threat to strike down a bill that would allow for federally funded embryonic stem cell research, as the Senate prepared to approve the legislation (H.R. 810) this afternoon. The House had approved the controversial measure last year.

    Two other stem cell bills (S.2754 and S.3504) are also expected to be passed by the Senate when votes on all three measures occur at 3:45 p.m. ET. The two latter bills would promote the use of "embryonic like" pluripotent stem cells as well as outlaw the creation of fetuses for research purposes.

    CNN's Dana Bash reports that Republicans are telling her the House could approve these two less controversial stem cell bills tonight, giving Bush the opportunity to sign them into law at the same time he vetoes the more controversial measure as early as Wednesday.

    In addition to possibly voting on the two stem cell measures, the House will also vote on a constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriage. While a majority of lawmakers will vote in favor of the legislation (H.J.Res. 88), it is expected to fall short of the two-thirds majority needed to enact a constitutional amendment. Today's vote is part of the House GOP's "American Values Agenda" that Republicans hope will energize its political base heading into the November elections.

    "Republicans believe the American people, should decide this issue, not out-of-touch judges who are bent on redefining what constitutes marriage," House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement released by his office.

    This is the first time the House has addressed this issue since 1994. An attempt to pass a similar measure in the Senate failed last month.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/18/2006 10:58:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Show me the money
    From The Morning Grind

    Here's how several Senate campaigns of note stack up against each other, according to reports filed over the weekend with the Federal Election Commission that have been reviewed by CNN's Robert Yoon and Xuan Thai. These totals do not include any money raised or spent after June 30, 2006. Information was not available for every candidate in all the key Senate races at press time.

  • Connecticut

    Sen. Joe Lieberman (D)
    Raised 2nd qtr: $1,609,428
    Cash-on-hand: $4,279,088

    Ned Lamont (D)
    Raised 2nd qtr: approx. $2 million
    Cash-on-hand: approx. $300,000

  • Florida

    Sen. Bill Nelson (D)
    Raised 2nd qtr: $2,509,568
    Cash-on-hand: $12,081,888

    Rep. Katherine Harris (R)
    Not available

  • Hawaii

    Sen. Daniel Akaka (D)
    Raised 2nd qtr: $780,000
    Cash-on-hand: $1 million

    Rep. Ed Case (D)
    Raised 2nd qtr: $251,470
    Cash-on-hand: $381,832

  • Maryland

    Rep. Ben Cardin (D)
    Raised 2nd qtr: $925,000
    Cash-on-hand: $2.3 million

    Lt. Gov. Michael Steele (R)
    Raised 2nd qtr: $1,899,270
    Cash-on-hand: $3,039,131

  • Minnesota

    Amy Klobuchar (D)
    Raised 2nd qtr: $1.83 million
    Cash-on-hand: $3.5 million

    Rep. Mark Kennedy (R)
    Raised 2nd qtr: $1,622,107
    Cash-on-hand: $4,061,414

  • Missouri

    Sen. Jim Talent (R)
    Raised 2nd qtr: $2,218,388
    Cash-on-hand: $7,123,022

    Claire McCaskill (D)
    Raised 2nd qtr: $1,451,087
    Cash-on-hand: $2,779,993

  • Montana

    Sen. Conrad Burns (R)
    Raised 2nd qtr: $868,652
    Cash-on-hand: $2,206,690

    Jon Tester (D)
    Raised 2nd qtr: $864,376
    Cash-on-hand: $514,907

  • New Jersey

    Sen. Robert Menendez (D)
    Raised 2nd qtr: $2,587,707
    Cash-on-hand: $7,392,276

    Tom Kean, Jr. (R)
    Raised 2nd qtr: $1,184,175
    Cash-on-hand: $2,279,311

  • New York

    Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D)
    Raised 2nd qtr: $5,679,413
    Cash-on-hand: $22,000,937

    Not available:
    Bill Brenner (R)
    K.T. McFarland (R)
    John Spencer (R)

  • Ohio

    Sen. Mike DeWine (R)
    Raised 2nd qtr: $2,136,010
    Cash-on-hand: $6,635,440

    Rep. Sherrod Brown (D)
    Raised 2nd qtr: $1.6 million
    Cash-on-hand: $3.7 million

  • Pennsylvania

    Rep. Rick Santorum (R)
    Raised 2nd qtr: $3,603,961
    Cash-on-hand: $9,439,268

    Bob Casey (D)
    Raised 2nd qtr: $2.765 million
    Cash-on-hand: $5.17 million

  • Rhode Island

    Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R)
    Raised 2nd qtr: $732,777
    Cash-on-hand: $1,276,547

    Sheldon Whitehouse (D)
    Raised 2nd qtr: $1,014,927
    Cash-on-hand: $1,812,438

  • Virginia

    Sen. George Allen (R)
    Raised 2nd qtr: $1,800,751
    Cash-on-hand: $6,617,620

    James Webb (D)
    Raised 2nd qtr: $882,914
    Cash-on-hand: $424,245
  • Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/18/2006 10:54:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Feingold's political army
    From The Morning Grind

    Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin) will pay for 15 staffers to work in "key races across the country" as part of his ongoing efforts to "promote a progressive reform agenda." The workers will be known as the Patriot Corps and funded by the Progressive Patriots Fund, Feingold's political action committee. It is the latest sign that the Wisconsin Democrat is seriously considering a run for president, as it appears he is trying to collect chits and build the foundation of a national field operation. Several other potential presidential candidates such as former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner (D) are paying for staffers to work on local and state races in key early states such as Iowa and New Hampshire.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/18/2006 10:52:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Hastert released from hospital
    From The Morning Grind

    House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois) was released from the Bethesda Naval Hospital Monday afternoon, after being admitted on Thursday for treatment of a skin infection. Hastert will be back at work today, his spokesman Ron Bonjean said.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/18/2006 10:52:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Republicans: mark your calendars
    From The Morning Grind

    The Republican National Committee will hold its Annual Summer Meeting on August 3rd and 4th in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/18/2006 10:51:00 AM ET | Permalink
    DAYAHEAD/Events making news today
  • Less than 24 hours after returning from his trip to the G8 Summit, President Bush meets and takes photos with the National Capital Area Council of Boy Scouts of America at 9:50 a.m. ET. He then meets and takes a photo with the winner of the Indianapolis 500 at 10:20 a.m. ET. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush meet and take photos with Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop Donald Wuerl and Papal Nuncio Pietro Sambi at 6:50 p.m. ET. Tony Snow holds a 12:30 p.m. ET on-camera news conference.

  • The Senate gavels into session at 9:45 a.m. ET and continues the stem cell debate with final votes expected to take place this afternoon. The House came into session at 9 a.m. and will vote, among other things, on a constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriage.

  • The Senate Judiciary Committee holds a 9:30 a.m. ET hearing on "Department of Justice Oversight" in room 216 of the Hart building. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testifies.

  • The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People continues its 97th Annual Convention at the Washington, DC Convention Center. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) speaks at 9:30 a.m. ET followed by Rep. Charles Rangel (D-New York).

  • The House subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims holds a 10 a.m. ET hearing "Should We Embrace the Senate's Grant of Amnesty to Millions of Illegal Aliens and Repeat the Mistakes of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986?" The hearing will be held in room 2141 of the Rayburn building.

  • Democratic Reps. Jan Schakowsky (Illinois) and Marion Berry (Arkansas) hold an 11 a.m. ET news conference with representatives from Americans United and Campaign for America's Future on the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan in room HC-9 of the Capitol.

  • House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Missouri) and GOP Reps. Clay Shaw (Florida) and Wally Herger (California) hold a 2 p.m. ET news conference on the 10th anniversary of welfare reform being signed into law in room H-137 of the Capitol.

  • Former Sen. John Edwards (D-North Carolina), a potential presidential candidate, attends a 9 p.m. ET fundraiser for the Washington State Democratic Party in Seattle, Washington.
  • Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/18/2006 10:50:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Political Hot Topics
    BUSH READY TO BREAK OUT THE VETO PEN: Since his inauguration in 2000, President Bush has gone out of his way to avoid an overt confrontation with Congress. He has been helped by the strong support of GOP leaders, who have made sure that he has been sent bills to his liking, and he has been willing to swallow some legislation -- a campaign finance package, for instance -- to avoid a political confrontation. But Bush is unwilling to tolerate deviations from his policy restricting federal funding for stem cell research that he set out in his first prime-time television address in August 2001. If all goes as scheduled later this week, he will do something he has avoided for nearly six years: veto a bill. Washington Post: Bush Set to Use First Veto on Stem Cell Bill

    GOP EFFORT TO ATTRACT BLACK VOTERS HAS "FALTERED": Even for some Republicans, the notion was hard to take at face value: the Republican Party would make an explicit play for black votes, a strike at the Democratic base and a part of a larger White House plan to achieve long-term Republican dominance... Was it simply a ploy to improve the party's image with moderate white voters? Did the White House see an opportunity to make small though significant changes in the American political system by pulling even a relative few black voters into its corner in important states like Ohio? (Yes, and yes.) But as Mr. Bush is tentatively scheduled to speak at the N.A.A.C.P. convention in Washington this week -- after five years of declining to appear before an organization with which he has had tense relations -- it seems fair to say that whatever the motivation, the effort has faltered. New York Times: G.O.P.'s Bid for Blacks Falters

    EVERYBODY'S "OPTIMISTIC" IN MARRIAGE DEBATE: The safest bet in American politics in recent years has been a state ban on same-sex marriage. Since 1998, proposals to outlaw such unions have appeared on the ballot in 20 states, both red and blue, and they have passed everywhere by big margins. Accordingly, opponents of same-sex marriage -- who prefer to call the issue "protection of marriage" -- are confident these days as they look ahead to the eight (or possibly nine) states in which the ban is expected to be on the ballot in November... And yet, supporters of same-sex marriage -- who prefer to call the issue "marriage equality" -- are also optimistic as they look forward to this fall's campaigns. "Attitudes are changing, as people come to see this as a civil rights issue," said Brad Luna, of the Human Rights Campaign. "All the indicators show Americans are moving in the direction of marriage equality." Washington Post: Optimism on Both Sides of Gay-Marriage Debate

    GRAHAM WILL PLAY PIVOTAL ROLE IN DETAINEE DEBATE: Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina often plays the contrarian, the conservative Republican willing to poke a stick in the eye of the White House. Now Mr. Graham is playing an even higher-profile variant of that role, as the Senate's foremost expert on military law in the midst of the emotional debate over what rights to provide to terror suspects. A former military lawyer who is also a reserve judge on the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals, his influence is shaping up to be pivotal in forming the Congressional response to the Supreme Court ruling striking down the White House's plan for bringing terror detainees to trial. New York Times: G.O.P. Senator Resisting Bush Over Detainees

    DeLAY'S LEGAL FEES... OUCH: Ex-Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) has now paid out more than $1.7 million in legal bills resulting from a pair of investigations over the past two years, including close to a half-million dollars in the second quarter of 2006 as he was retiring from the House. DeLay used what he at the time considered to be leftover campaign funds to pay off some of his legal bills, which was his biggest expenditure during the quarter, and helped slash his cash-on-hand balance by more than half and leaving him with just $641,000 in the campaign account. With legal bills still mounting -- DeLay faces a local trial later this year on campaign finance charges and the probe of ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff continues -- he was originally expected to use all his leftover funds to pay a legal team that now includes lawyers from nine different firms. Roll Call: Legal Bills Drain DeLay's Reserve

    HILLARY HAS $22 MILLION ON HAND: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), the early favorite to win the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, has raised $44 million this election cycle and has $22 million in her campaign war chest, according to her latest finance report. She is pre-eminent among White House hopefuls in the Senate facing reelection this year who could have a significant financial advantage heading into the presidential primaries, new campaign-finance reports show. While the midterm elections this November are the main focus, at least officially, preparations for the next presidential race are in full swing behind the scenes. That is probably because, as Federal Election Committee (FEC) Chairman Michael Toner says, presidential contenders will need $100 million by the end of 2007 to be considered serious candidates. The Hill: Clinton's $22M war chest

    RUPERT HOSTS "SECRET" FUNDRAISER FOR HILLARY: Two of the most public people in the world had a chummy breakfast yesterday, but media mogul Rupert Murdoch and Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) tried to keep their political get-together as secret as possible. There were no Fox News cameras to record the odd couple breaking bread together at Murdoch's News Corp. headquarters in midtown, where, after years of attacking her, the conservative Murdoch hosted a fund-raiser for Clinton's Democratic Senate campaign. The campaign refused to even confirm the time or location of the controversial fund-raiser. No estimate of the take or number of people who attended was released. New York Daily News: Hil, Rupert sly as Fox at fund-raiser

    PRIMARY DAY IN GA: State elections officials believe no more than one in five registered Georgia voters will go to the polls today. Because Georgia does not require specific party registration, voters today can choose to vote in either party primary... The Democratic nomination for governor and the Republican race for lieutenant governor lead today's ballots. The Democrats, Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor and Secretary of State Cathy Cox, crisscrossed Georgia on Monday to cap a raucous gubernatorial primary battle defined more by attack ads than a debate of the issues. Republicans have their own high-stakes race to settle in today's primary election. Former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed and state Sen. Casey Cagle (R-Gainesville) are locked in a bitter primary battle for lieutenant governor. Polls indicate the two are neck and neck, and they spent Monday drumming up grass-roots support at get-out-the-vote rallies. Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Polls open for primary business

    TIED IN JERSEY: The U.S. Senate race remains a tossup, a Quinnipiac University poll showed yesterday. Republican state Sen. Tom Kean Jr. has overtaken Democratic incumbent Sen. Robert Menendez for a slim 40 percent to 38 percent lead in the poll. Because the difference is within the margin of error, the race is considered a tie. As in earlier polls, nearly one in five voters surveyed said they were undecided. But the poll showed clearly the volatility in the Senate race. While Kean jumped 4 percentage points from a Quinnipiac poll on June 15, Menendez fell 5 percentage points. That shift flip-flopped the lead, turning Menendez' 7 percentage point advantage into a 2 percentage point edge for Kean. Newark Star-Ledger: Senate rivals jockeying for top spot, polls find

    FEDS QUESTION ROLLINS ABOUT HARRIS AND WADE: Federal investigators have interviewed U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris' former top political strategist about the congresswoman's dealings with a defense contractor at the center of a widening Capitol Hill corruption probe. Political consultant Ed Rollins confirmed Monday that Justice Department lawyers and FBI agents recently questioned him for two hours in Washington. He said the discussion focused on Harris' dealings with Mitchell Wade, a defense contractor who funneled $32,000 in illegal campaign contributions to Harris and also bribed a former California congressman. Wade, who is cooperating with federal authorities, pleaded guilty to giving the illegal donations to Harris in 2004. He also admitted trying to curry favor with her in 2005 by offering to hold a fundraiser for her U.S. Senate campaign in Florida. Orlando Sentinel: Feds query ex-adviser on Harris

    KLOBUCHAR LEADS BY 19 IN MN: Democrat Amy Klobuchar holds a strong lead over Republican Rep. Mark Kennedy in the latest Senate poll in Minnesota. The Star Tribune Minnesota Poll showed Klobuchar with 50 percent of likely voters' support compared to 31 percent for Kennedy. The two are vying for the seat being vacated by Democratic Sen. Mark Dayton, who is retiring after one term. The poll was based on a survey of 813 adults statewide July 6-11. The margin of error was plus or minus 3 percentage points. AP via Yahoo! News: Democrat leads in Minn. Senate poll

    NED'S FAMOUS FRIENDS: Some famous people are trying to help Greenwich businessman Ned Lamont defeat three-term U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman in next month's primary. Entertainer Barbra Streisand, actor Paul Newman, billionaire financier George Soros, television producer Norman Lear and singer Jackson Browne all contributed to Lamont's campaign, according to campaign finance data filed Saturday with the Federal Election Commission. Streisand, Soros and Lear, producer of "All in the Family" and "Maude," each contributed $1,000. Newman, who lives in Westport, Conn., gave $2,100, while Browne, known for hits such as "Running on Empty" and "Lawyers in Love," contributed $500. AP via Hartford Courant: Famous names appear on Ned Lamont's contributor list

    SCHWARZENEGGER AIDE'S AT&T INVOLVEMENT CALLED "CONFLICT OF INTEREST": Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's top campaign advisor is being paid to provide marketing strategy to AT&T Inc. at a time when the governor's office is involved in negotiations on legislation potentially worth billions of dollars to the telecommunications giant. Political consultant Matthew Dowd's involvement with the governor and AT&T at the same time presents, at minimum, the appearance of a conflict of interest, government watchdogs warned... Dowd declined to be interviewed. But a spokeswoman for Schwarzenegger's reelection campaign said that neither the political strategist nor his Austin, Texas-based consulting firm, ViaNovo, had acted improperly. Los Angeles Times: Gov.'s Aide Serves Firm With Stake in State Bill

    ROMNEY WANTS TO REPLACE 1000+ BIG DIG CEILING BOLTS: Saying he has serious doubts about the safety of more than 1,100 hangers that hold up heavy concrete ceiling panels in the closed Interstate 90 connector tunnel, Governor Mitt Romney outlined an ambitious plan yesterday to reinforce or remove each of the steel rods. He said the work would take two months or more, but that some heavily traveled ramps could reopen over the next two weeks. State inspectors have concluded that 1,146 hangers suspended from the connector tunnel roof by bolts and epoxy are unreliable, including 225 hangers held in place with at least one bolt that is no longer flush with the roof, Romney said. Boston Globe: Romney details repair plan for tunnel ceiling
    Posted By Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau: 7/18/2006 09:35:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Monday, July 17, 2006
    The Cafferty File: International peacekeepers?
    On "The Situation Room" today, we asked viewers the following questions, and here are some of our favorite responses that we didn't get to read on air:

    Is sending an international peacekeeping force to the Middle East a good idea?

    The solution to the problem is to let Israel, with help from their friends, destroy Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran. A peace keeping force will only delay what is inevitable.
    Patrick, Scottsdale, Arizona

    Sending international troops into the area won't help the situation. All that will happen is that those troops will be attacked by Hezbollah and Israel will still be threatened. The solution needs to come from within the Arab world, not from without.
    Jason, Owings, Maryland

    Yes, indeed, there needs to be an international peacekeeping force, but not primarily from the United States. The European Union and U.N. need to step up and take a strong, leading role... I fear the reputation America has cultivated in the region in recent years will have anything but a soothing effect on the crisis.
    Tamara, Ponce Inlet, Florida

    Sending an international peace keeping force means U.S. and British forces. We need to keep out of this one. It would only make matters worse.
    Bill, Litchfield, Illinois

    What is Iran's role in the growing conflict in the Middle East?

    The United States shouldn't be worried about Iran. After all, our administration fingered Saddam Hussein as the true threat in the region and committed the bulk of our military assets to Iraq. So what if Saddam had no WMDs while Iran was developing nukes and supplying Hezbollah with missiles?
    Justin, Mendham, New Jersey

    Iran supplies weapons, just like the U.S. and Britain. Until the U.S. and Britain stop selling weapons, I don't think there is any reason to complain about others doing the same. What do you think the U.S. weapons are used for? Just humanitarian stuff?
    Tim, Toronto

    The Middle East is caught in the middle of a chess game, with Israel seeking to wipe out its opponent's pawns. The only way to win is to wipe out the king, which in this case is Iran; with Syria as the Queen.

    Being part Iranian and seeing all the crimes that they have committed against their own people I can't believe their government when they say that they had no part in supplying Hezbollah. Iran is a country that needs to be dealt with and not in a light manner.
    Ryan, Centennial, Colorado

    How good an idea is democracy in radical Islamist countries?

    The whole idea of democracy in radical Islamist countries is a horrible idea. If you have never heard of a lost cause, then this is it. We have to remember that in Islamic countries Islam is not only the religion, it's the law. This is like asking how good an idea is a radical Islamic government in the United States.
    Eric, Deltona, Florida

    I don't think it is a good idea to promote democracy at all costs to cultures that have chosen other paths for centuries. I think America would be much better-served if our leaders would focus on promoting capitalism instead. China serves as an interesting model of capitalism integrated into an ancient (and non-democratic) society.
    Mark, Overland Park, Kansas

    Democracy and radical Islamic government are two philosophies at opposite ends of the spectrum of beliefs. I do not believe that they can co-exist in a country for any extended period.
    Rick, Metamora, Michigan

    Democracy has clearly failed miserably within radical Islamic nations. We all need to realize that the world is quite beautifully filled with many different peoples and belief systems and what works in one place may not work in another.
    Danny, Parsipanny, New Jersey
    Posted By Jack Cafferty, CNN Commentator: 7/17/2006 05:54:00 PM ET | Permalink
    The Situation Online: Mideast crisis online

    Medics evacuate an injured woman after rockets struck her apartment building Monday in Haifa, Israel.

    The Internet gives us an extraordinary look, from those on the ground in Israel and Lebanon, into what those caught in the middle of this conflict see, hear, smell, and feel.

    One video, viewed over one hundred thousand times online, captures the sound of sirens and what we believe to be rockets hitting in the northern Israeli town of Haifa. Bloggers in Haifa describe these sirens as they huddle in hallways and hide out in bunkers. Postings on a message board from a kibbutz near the Israeli-Lebanese border report that the kibbutz residents are safe, but photos reveal that children have been sent to another a safer location.

    Across the border in Lebanon, photos offer a look at empty tourist attractions in Beirut, which are normally bustling with visitors. The Web also shows people stockpiling supplies. Another site details what an American in Beirut on vacation has experienced in evacuating Beirut. For Americans still in Lebanon, the U.S. Embassy in Beirut has posted all the latest information on evacuation plans.

    Watch "The Situation Room" at 4:00 PM, 5:00 PM, and 7:00 PM, ET for these stories and more from our Internet reporters.
    Posted By The Situation Online Producers: 7/17/2006 04:47:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Crisis in the Middle East

    A French man holds his grandchild as they wait to be evacuated from Beirut Monday.

    From The Morning Grind

    Space shuttle Discovery landed safely this morning in Florida and Congress is about to address three controversial measures this week, but it is the crisis in the Middle East that is dominating the headlines.

    Hezbollah rockets hit the Israeli city of Haifa today and Israel's military forces briefly entered southern Lebanon, as operations against Hezbollah entered day six. Some Western nations have already begun moving citizens out of Lebanon and the U.S. is preparing to do the same.

    Maura Harty, assistant secretary of Consular Affairs, said in an interview on CNN's American Morning that the U.S. is taking steps to help U.S. citizens leave Lebanon and noted that the U.S. Navy and commercial ships were heading to the region. So far, a few Americans have left the country with U.S. assistance, but Harty urged Americans in Lebanon not to gather outside the U.S. embassy in Beirut for their own safety. Instead, she instructed Americans to e-mail the State Department or call the embassy directly to tell U.S. officials of their location. The latest State Department bulleting (as of 9:02 a.m. ET) can be found here.

    Frustration by world leaders at the situation was apparent when a live microphone caught President Bush using an expletive in discussing it with British Prime Minister Tony Blair at the G8 Summit. Bush was speaking specifically about trying to get U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to do more to end the conflict.

    "See the irony is what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this s--- and it's over," Bush is overheard saying to Blair.

    Earlier in the day, Blair and Annan called for the deployment of an international force in southern Lebanon, in order to end the spiraling conflict between Israel and Hezbollah.

    Tune into CNN throughout the day for the latest developments in this story.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/17/2006 10:19:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Stem Cells: Setting up a presidential veto
    From The Morning Grind

    The Senate is expected to approve a measure this week that would allow federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, setting up what is likely to be President Bush's first veto. The House has already passed legislation lifting the funding restriction that was put in place by Bush five years ago.

    The President opposes federal funding for this research, because he says it is akin to destroying life. Still, a majority of House members and senators support it, although it is not known if there are enough votes to override a Bush veto. Sen. Trent Lott (R-Mississippi), a social conservative, told Wolf Blitzer on CNN's Late Edition that he would support the bill, but predicted there were enough votes in the House to sustain Bush's veto.

    "But there is a real (feeling) that there's a need to do something here," Lott said on Sunday. "I believe something could be worked out. Something could have already been worked out. Now, I think the Congress has to go ahead and act, and then we'll take it from there."

    And Lott said he isn't worried about potential backlash from the social conservatives, who are angry at him for voting in favor of the measure.

    "Look ... you have to do the right thing as best you can see it," he said. "And if you do, I think people will understand. Some will disagree with the vote. To me, it's quite simple, where you have an opportunity here to make use of these stem cells that would be destroyed, to see if you can use it to help save life. To me, that is the pro-life position."

    The stem cell debate has become an issue in the Missouri Senate race where Sen. Jim Talent (R) has come out against an upcoming ballot initiative that supports the procedure. His Democratic challenger, Claire McCaskill, criticized Bush in the Democratic Party's weekly radio address on Saturday for issuing the veto threat.

    The Senate begins debate at 12:30 p.m. ET on three separate stem cell measures: H.R. 810, S.2754 and S.3504.

    Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tennessee) is hoping to wrap up debate by the close of business Tuesday and the House GOP leadership has indicated they are prepared to hold a vote to override or more likely sustain Bush's veto this week.

    The House will also take up two measures this week that Republicans hope will help energize the party's base. The House is expected to vote on a constitutional amendment that would ban same sex marriages as well as an amendment to protect the Pledge of Allegiance.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/17/2006 10:16:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Bayh's 'middle class' '08 strategy
    From The Morning Grind

    Sounding more and more like a presidential candidate, Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Indiana) will criticize his fellow Democrats today for losing touch with middle class Americans, in back-to-back speeches to be delivered in Washington and Iowa. The Indiana Democrat will also warn his party that failure to reconnect with middle class voters will result in huge electoral problems in November and beyond.

    "We may consider ourselves the party of the middle class, but too many middle class Americans no longer consider us their party," Bayh will say, according to excerpts of his remarks made available by his office. "They have left the Democratic Party in droves -- costing us the last two presidential elections and the last six Congressional elections, and if we don't learn some lessons, we'll lose in 2006 and 2008 as well. We must not let that happen, because the middle class is more than a source of votes for my party, it is a fundamental part of who we are as Democrats and Americans."

    "So I offer this advice to my fellow Democrats: without an agenda that speaks directly to the Middle Class and all who aspire to it, we are no longer the Party of Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, and Clinton. And we will not be a majority party," he will say.

    Bayh will also address the 2008 question, saying he hasn't "made a final decision" on running for president.

    "But if I do run, creating opportunity for middle class Americans will be a centerpiece of my campaign," Bayh will say. "It's a message I will take across America on behalf of other candidates this fall."
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/17/2006 10:14:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Frist's legacy
    From The Morning Grind

    Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tennessee) is learning that it is nearly impossible to run the Senate at the same time exploring a White House bid. Every decision, utterance and move is scrutinized by Democrats as well as his potential GOP rivals for the Republican presidential nomination. To say Frist has had some major stumbles in the past two years would be an understatement. But one thing Frist is intent on doing is not going out a loser. When he retires at the end of the year, the Tennessee Republican wants to make sure he hands a majority over to his successor, a source close to Frist tells the Grind. (At this point it looks like Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) will be that person).

    In the short term, holding onto the majority could perhaps give Frist's presidential campaign a much needed jolt as he heads out the door. In the long term, maintaining the majority ensures he would not go down in history as having squandered a five seat advantage.

    "The most important thing is that he is majority leader and he wants to turn over a majority," the source close to Frist said.

    Last week, Frist sent out an e-mail to his political supporters urging them to support three GOP senate candidates: state Sen. Tom Kean (N.J.), Rep. Mark Kennedy (Minnesota), and business executive Mike McGavick (Washington). Frist also criticized Democrats for abandoning the principles of Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy with ideas being promoted by Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean and Sen. John Kerry (D-Massachusetts).

    "The truth is that an extreme liberalism has seized the Democratic Party," Frist wrote. "Given such extremism from my colleagues across the aisle, how can we move America forward?"

    Helping these candidates in their races this year has the dual benefit of possible reciprocation should Frist take the plunge and decide to seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2008.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/17/2006 10:13:00 AM ET | Permalink
    DAYAHEAD/Events making news today
  • President Bush is on his way back to Washington from the G8 Summit that was held in St. Petersburg, Russia. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush arrive back at the White House at 3:30 p.m. ET.

  • The Senate convenes at noon for a period of morning business. At 12:30 p.m. ET, the chamber begins debating stem cell bills S.3504, S.2754 and H.R.810. The House gavels into session at 12:30 p.m. ET for morning hour and then legislative business at 2 p.m. ET.

  • Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) addresses the 97th Annual National Association for the Advancement of Colored People at 9:30 p.m. ET, being held in the Washington Convention Center.

  • The Campaign to Defend the Constitution and Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colorado) hold a 10 a.m. ET conference call on the stem cell debate.

  • Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Indiana), a potential presidential candidate, delivers a 10 a.m. ET address on the middle class at the National Press Club. He heads to Iowa to deliver the same speech later in the day.

  • Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), a potential presidential candidate, holds a noon news conference in room S-207 of the Capitol to discuss the stem cell debate.

  • Vice President Cheney attends a 1:30 p.m. ET fundraiser for Iowa GOP House candidate Jeff Lamberti at the Wakonda Club in Des Moines, Iowa. At 2:35 p.m. ET, Cheney delivers remarks to the Iowa Air and Army National Guard in Johnstown, Iowa. Cheney then heads to Davenport, Iowa to attend a 6:30 p.m. ET fundraiser for GOP House candidate Mike Whalen.

  • The Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research and several senators hold a 1:30 p.m. ET news conference on the stem cell debate in room 138 of the Dirksen Office Building.

  • The Senate Democratic Policy Committee holds a 1:30 p.m. ET hearing on Medicare Part D "donut hole" in room 192 of the Dirksen Office Building.

  • The House Rules Committee meets at 5 p.m. ET in room H-313 on H.J. Res. 88, an amendment to the Constitution relating to marriage.
  • Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/17/2006 10:11:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Political Hot Topics
    THEY NEED "TO GET SYRIA TO GET HEZBOLLAH TO STOP DOING THIS S---": A candid, lunch-table conversation between President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair in Russia today, peppered with an expletive from Bush, was captured on tape [in St. Petersburg]. Blair also offered a candid assessment of his own limitations. Bush, unaware that his remarks were being recorded through an open microphone at lunch in Russian President Vladimir Putin's palace, candidly voiced frustration about the conflict in the Middle East. He has blamed the militant arm of Hezbollah, a group backed by Iran and Syria, for the violence. "See, the irony is that what they need to do is to get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this s---, and it's over," Bush told Blair during their discussion. Chicago Tribune's "Swamp": Frank talk: Bush and Blair

    10 MORE YEARS IN IRAQ? U.S. war commanders think some level of American forces will be needed in Iraq until 2016 and those forces will receive continued support from the vast majority of Iraqis. At the tactical level, the U.S. is getting better at detecting deadly improvised explosive devices (IEDs), especially using unmanned spy planes. But the enemy is growing more sophisticated. A raid on an IED factory earlier this year netted two bomb-makers who hold master's degrees in chemistry and physics -- from U.S. colleges. These were among the points made by Iraq war commanders at a closed-door conference last spring at Fort Carson, Colo., home to the 7th Infantry Division. Maj. Gen. Robert W. Mixon Jr., the division's commander, invited scores of retired generals and admirals in the Fort Carson area to hear the commanders and give them feedback. Washington Times: Military leaders foresee Iraq exit in 2016

    DEMOCRACY ALLIANCE GIVES MILLIONS FROM SECRET DONORS: An alliance of nearly a hundred of the nation's wealthiest donors is roiling Democratic political circles, directing more than $50 million in the past nine months to liberal think tanks and advocacy groups in what organizers say is the first installment of a long-term campaign to compete more aggressively against conservatives. A year after its founding, Democracy Alliance has followed up on its pledge to become a major power in the liberal movement. It has lavished millions on groups that have been willing to submit to its extensive screening process and its demands for secrecy... The alliance has required organizations that receive its endorsement to sign agreements shielding the identity of donors. Public interest groups said the alliance represents a large source of undisclosed and unaccountable political influence. Washington Post: A New Alliance Of Democrats Spreads Funding

    "NO PROGRESS" ANNOUNCED, BUT ETHICS PANEL KEEPS "PLENTY BUSY": It has been nearly two months since the House ethics panel began probes into the conduct of several lawmakers, but no progress has been announced. The surfacing of a bevy of other scandals may not seem to have the attention of the secretive oversight committee, but its work is quietly humming along this summer. Members of the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct are following recent news reports suggesting misconduct by House members from both parties and are working either in tandem with or parallel to Justice Department investigations. Panel members are "plenty busy," said one source close to the committee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Washington Times: House ethics panel keeping 'busy' with scandals

    DEM PUSH FOR HIGHER WAGE "LOOKS AS IF IT COULD BEAR FRUIT": House Democrats' election-year persistence in trying to force a vote on raising the federal minimum wage for the first time in almost a decade looks as if it could bear fruit. The Democrats have seized on the issue, which polls show is overwhelmingly popular with voters, as a building block in their effort to retake both houses of Congress in November. Their effort in Washington is moving forward as organizers in several states push ballot initiatives for the fall election to adopt or increase state minimum wages, measures that the Democrats hope could boost turnout of voters likely to lean their way... Republican leaders in both houses of Congress oppose an increase, saying that mandating a higher minimum wage would hurt low-wage workers by destroying their jobs. They also say the Democrats are engaged in a cynical election-year ploy. San Francisco Chronicle: Democrats hope minimum wage push pays off

    CONGRESS TO HOLD STEM CELL DEBATE; BUSH VOWS TO VETO: Congress embarks this week on the weightiest of debates on morality and the march of science, deciding whether to use public money for embryonic stem cell research and, in turn, setting up President Bush's first veto. Neither the House nor Senate has demonstrated enough support for the bill to override a veto, though the House probably will try, just to give Bush a definitive victory in the showdown. Supporters of the research hold out faint hope that Bush, presented with new data and pressured by election-year politics, might reverse course and sign the bill. "This would be his first veto in six years, on something that the vast majority of the public supports," said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa. "What would come down on him would be all the scientists, all the Nobel laureates and everyone else who supports it." AP via Yahoo! News: Congress faces debate on stem cell bill

    WILL BUSH SPEAK TO NAACP? These days, civil rights leaders are struggling to be heard. NAACP chairman Julian Bond has been trying, to no avail, to get the attention of one leader in particular: President Bush. Bond opened the NAACP's annual convention Sunday by criticizing the war in Iraq and pushing for voting protections, but he also had a message for Bush. "This year the convention has come to the president and we hope and pray he is coming to us," Bond said at the Washington Convention Center, about a mile from the White House. Bond has invited Bush to six conventions. Bush has avoided the gatherings since taking office in 2001, making him the first sitting president in decades not to have spoken to the group. His schedule for Wednesday lists an event with the notation "TBA," or to be announced. AP via Yahoo! News: NAACP invites Bush to annual conference

    PELOSI WON'T PAY TRIBUTE TO DeLAY, CUNNINGHAM: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is refusing to take part in an event Wednesday night that will include a tribute to former Reps. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and Duke Cunningham (R-Calif.), saying the two men "have dishonored the House" and "are unfit to to be honored for their service." But former Rep. Ronald Sarasin (R-Conn.), president of the U.S. Capitol Historical Society, which is holding Wednesday's tribute, said that DeLay would remain among the list of those whose names are publicly read out during the event. Sarasin said he was willing to skip any mention of Cunningham, who is now serving time in prison for crimes committed in a wide-ranging bribery scandal. But Sarasin said he would not do the same for DeLay. Roll Call: Pelosi Blasts Citations of DeLay, Cunningham

    FEW PAYING ATTENTION TO PRIMARIES: Halfway through this year's primary season, voters are showing little interest in picking candidates for the Nov. 7 elections that will determine control of Congress and elect more than one-third of the nation's governors. Twenty-five states held primaries through June 27. Sixteen of the 22 states that have certified figures or provided estimates to USA TODAY recorded voter turnout lower than 2002, the last national election that wasn't in a presidential year. Some experts worry that a voter boycott of primaries could result in politics being dominated by single-issue special-interest groups. "The higher the turnout, the more representative an election is," says Rhodes Cook, publisher of a non-partisan political newsletter. "The lower the turnout, the more the election is likely to reflect a wing of a party or an ideology." Turnout hasn't cracked 40% in any state. USA Today: Growing number of voters ignore primary elections

    REED SLAMMED FOR JACK CONNECTIONS IN FINAL LEG OF GA LT GOV PRIMARY: With the primary race for lieutenant governor down to its final 72 hours, Republican candidates Ralph Reed and Casey Cagle went after each other in their final televised debate. As in previous debates, both struck heavy blows. Time and again, Cagle referred to Reed's association with Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who has pleaded guilty to corruption. Reed replied in kind, questioning Cagle's stance on private property rights and controls on immigration. Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Cagle, Reed trade blows in final TV slugfest

    LIEBERMAN REACHES OUT TO BLACK BASE: Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman came to Beulah Heights Church Sunday to reconnect with an old friend, Bishop Theodore L. Brooks, and an old constituency, African American voters. Lieberman, an observant Jew who marched for civil rights in Mississippi in 1963, spoke easily from the pulpit about faith, scripture and common cause with people of color. "We have to have a partnership, the government and places of faith. America is a faith-based institution, isn't it?" Lieberman said. As he spoke, congregants repeatedly murmured, "Amen!" Hartford Courant: Back To His Voter Base

    BIG DIG "CRISIS" SHIFTS TONE OF MA GOV RACE: This was not how Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey was intending to spend her summer. After four years as a loyal second in command, she was hoping to step out of the governor's shadow as the Republican gubernatorial nominee, while he explored a presidential run. But in the past week, when she has appeared in public, she has mostly been standing behind the man who is in charge: Governor Mitt Romney. Healey said she has been working on the Big Dig crisis... [Tufts PoliSci professor Jeffrey] Berry said that Thomas F. Reilly, a Democrat, might find himself in the most enviable position, at least in the short term. As attorney general, his job is to find out who, if anyone, can be held responsible for the falling tiles. Boston Globe: Big Dig crisis tests candidates

    AR'S WIN ROCKEFELLER DIES: Lt. Gov. Win Rockefeller, an unassuming billionaire who inherited his father's philanthropic spirit and hoped to follow him to the governor's office, died after unsuccessful treatments for a blood disorder. He was 57. Rockefeller abandoned his gubernatorial campaign after being diagnosed last July with an unclassified myeloproliferative disorder that can lead to leukemia. Two bone-marrow transplants failed to cure it. "Win could have lived anywhere and done anything, but he chose to give himself to the state both as a public servant and as a philanthropist," said state Senate President Jim Argue, a Democrat. AP via Yahoo! News: Arkansas Lt. Gov. Win Rockefeller dies

    TED'S TUBES HIT THE TIMES: The word is spreading: The Internet is not a big truck. It's "a series of tubes." Two weeks ago Senator Ted Stevens, a Republican from Alaska, shared this information at a Senate committee hearing to explain why he voted against an amendment aimed at ensuring that traffic on the Internet be delivered equally, an idea known as "net neutrality." And while it is true that the Internet is not a big truck, the senator might feel as if he has been run over by one. His comments have been posted on blogs, lampooned on "The Daily Show" and have spawned musical spinoffs, including a folk version and a techno song with the senator's analogies mixed in. New York Times: Senator's Slip of the Tongue Keeps on Truckin' Over the Web
    Posted By Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau: 7/17/2006 09:53:00 AM ET | Permalink
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