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Monday, November 13, 2006
CNN Political Ticker AM
For the latest, breaking political news, check for updates throughout the day on the CNN Political Ticker. All politics, all the time.

Compiled by Stephen Bach
CNN Washington Bureau

Making news today...


  • Congress comes back to DC for a "lame-duck session" that "mixes a dispirited Republican Party and a Democratic Party that knows it will soon have the upper hand in both chambers - a potentially combustible cocktail," says the Los Angeles Times.

  • Nancy Pelosi will back prominent Iraq war critic John Murtha over her current deputy Steny Hoyer for majority leader in the Democratic-led Congress, Murtha's office announced Sunday.

    In a letter released by Murtha's office, Pelosi told the Pennsylvania congressman that his surprise call for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq in 2005 "changed the national debate and helped make Iraq the central issue of this historic election."

  • Hoyer released this statement Sunday night:

    "Nancy told me some time ago that she would personally support Jack. I respect her decision as the two are very close.

    "I am grateful for the support I have from my colleagues, and have the majority of the caucus supporting me. I look forward to working with Speaker Pelosi as Majority Leader."

  • Sen. John McCain on "Meet the Press":

    MR. RUSSERT: Will you run for president in 2008?

    SEN. McCAIN: I'm going to sit down with my family over the holidays. I always said I would decide early next year, and I'll sit down over the holidays with my family and make that decision. Are we doing the things organizationally and legally that need to be done to prepare for it? Yes.

  • Michael Steele told C-SPAN that he hasn't "had any conversations directly with the White House yet on this," but expressed interested in running the Republican National Committee, AP reports.

  • And among the millionaires in the U.S. Senate, who "will most likely be the only person in the world's most exclusive club who knows how to butcher a cow or grease a combine?" Find out in Hot Topics below!

    President's Schedule:

  • The President speaks at the ceremonial groundbreaking of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial on the National Mall at 10:05 am ET.

    At 11:10 am ET, Bush meets with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in the Oval Office.

    Also on the Political Radar:

  • The Iraq Study Group will be at the White House today "to begin its final round of interviews," reports the New York Times.

    "The panel will meet separately with Mr. Bush and members of his foreign policy team, including the secretaries of state and defense, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency and the director of national intelligence, and will then interview Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain by videoconference."

  • Freshman House members meet this morning for orientation in the Cannon House Office Building.

  • The Senate Radio-Television Correspondents' Gallery Daybook

  • The House Radio-Television Correspondents' Gallery Daybook

    =================================================================

    Political Hot Topics

    (Today's top political stories from news organizations across the country)

    TOP DEMS' TOP PRIORITY IS "PHASED REDEPLOYMENT" OF TROOPS: Democratic leaders in the Senate vowed on Sunday to use their new Congressional majority to press for troop reductions in Iraq within a matter of months, stepping up pressure on the administration just as President Bush is to be interviewed by a bipartisan panel examining future strategy for the war. The Democrats - the incoming majority leader, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada; the incoming Armed Services Committee chairman, Senator Carl Levin of Michigan; and the incoming Foreign Relations Committee chairman, Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware - said a phased redeployment of troops would be their top priority when the new Congress convenes in January, even before an investigation of the conduct of the war. New York Times: Democrats Push for Troop Cuts Within Months

    GATES WON'T BE "WIMPING OUT ON THE GLOBAL WAR" ON TERROR: Defense Secretary-designate Robert M. Gates is not expected to rein in the aggressive global war on al Qaeda started by predecessor Donald H. Rumsfeld or reverse the transformation of the Army, but instead focus on how to win in Iraq and get American troops home, current and former Pentagon officials say. "He definitely is not seen as someone wimping out on the global war," said a Pentagon adviser. "How he does it, and what tools, and who he entrusts with them, that's a whole different issue." Mr. Gates, once confirmed by what Republicans hope will be a December floor vote, will arrive at the Pentagon needing to replace a number of senior aides to Mr. Rumsfeld who set policy on intelligence, special operations and the war itself. Washington Times: Gates likely to sustain terror war

    BUSH TRIP HIGHLIGHTS VIETNAM-IRAQ COMPARISONS: President Bush travels this week to the site of an old military conflict casting a shadow over the United States and Iraq: Vietnam. Bush's trip, including stops in Singapore and Indonesia, is mainly to promote trade at a conference in Hanoi and discuss ways to combat terrorism in the region. But the eight-day journey also includes reminders of how the Vietnam War roiled U.S. politics and society and raises questions about whether the same thing is happening with Iraq. "The few similarities dwarf all the differences," said historian Robert Brigham, author of the book Is Iraq Another Vietnam? Among them, Brigham said: an inability to transform military strength into political influence in the region, a steady drain of public support for the war, and harsh lessons about the limits of U.S. power. USA Today: As Vietnam trip nears, Bush rejects Iraq link

    STILL A LOT TO DO FOR GOP-CONTROLLED CONGRESS: The Democrats won the midterm elections, but time has not run out on the Republican majority in Congress. Despite devastating losses at the polls, Republicans will control the post-election session that opens Monday as lawmakers return to try to finish 10 overdue spending bills and other legislation that stalled because of pre-election gamesmanship. Republican leaders have compiled an ambitious to-do list, hoping to dispose of energy legislation, a trade deal or two, a civilian nuclear treaty with India and other favored bills before turning over the keys to the House and Senate chambers to the Democrats in January. Democrats have some measures they want completed as well, most notably the spending bills, to save them the added work next year. New York Times: For Post-Election Congress, Extensive To-Do List Is Awaiting Action

    LAME-DUCK "POTENTIALLY A COMBUSTIBLE COCKTAIL": The lame-duck session mixes a dispirited Republican Party and a Democratic Party that knows it will soon have the upper hand in both chambers - a potentially combustible cocktail. At minimum, Congress must pass a temporary spending bill to keep the government running until the next Congress takes office. Getting much else accomplished could be difficult. "Democrats won't allow anything to pass they don't like, and Republicans have little interest in starting the Democratic reign early," said Thomas Mann, a congressional scholar at the centrist Brookings Institution think tank in Washington. "It could be a very short lame-duck session." Los Angeles Times: Congress returns for session's last lag

    PELOSI WILL SUPPORT MURTHA OVER HOYER FOR MAJORITY LEADER: Likely House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will back prominent Iraq war critic John Murtha over her current deputy for majority leader in the Democratic-led Congress, Murtha's office announced Sunday. In a letter released by Murtha's office, Pelosi told the Pennsylvania congressman that his surprise call for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq in 2005 "changed the national debate and helped make Iraq the central issue of this historic election." "Your leadership gave so many Americans, including respected military leaders, the encouragement to voice their own disapproval at a failed policy that weakens our military and makes stability in that region even more difficult to achieve," she wrote. CNN: Pelosi supports Murtha for majority leader

    BEHIND THE SCENES OF RAHM'S VICTORY: During the past year, the [Chicago] Tribune had exclusive access to the strategy sessions, private fundraisers and other moments that shaped this victory. The newspaper agreed not to print any of the details until after the election. Now that the votes have been counted, the story of how Emanuel helped end an era of Republican rule can be told. He did it, in large measure, by remaking the Democratic Party in his own image. Democrats had never raised enough money. Emanuel, a savvy fundraiser who shaped those skills under Richard M. Daley and Bill Clinton, yelled at colleagues and threatened his candidates into generating an unprecedented amount of campaign cash. Democrats had a history of appeasing party constituencies. Emanuel tore up the old litmus tests on abortion, gun control and other issues. With techniques that would make a Big Ten football coach blush, he recruited candidates who could mount tough challenges in some of the reddest patches of America. Chicago Tribune: The House that Rahm Built

    DID REID BENEFIT FROM BRIDGE EARMARK? Incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid vows to make reform of congressional earmarks a priority of his tenure, arguing that members need to be more transparent when they load pet projects for their districts into federal spending bills. But last year's huge $286-billion federal transportation bill included a little-noticed slice of pork pushed by Reid that provided benefits not only for the casino town of Laughlin, Nev., but also, possibly, for the senator himself. Reid called funding for construction of a bridge over the Colorado River, among other projects, "incredibly good news for Nevada" in a news release after passage of the 2005 transportation bill. He didn't mention, though, that just across the river in Arizona, he owns 160 acres of land several miles from proposed bridge sites and that the bridge could add value to his real estate investment. Los Angeles Times: Will the pork stop here?

    BUSH CONTINUES TO BACK BOLTON: President Bush will not relent in his defense of John Bolton, his nominee for U.N. ambassador, despite unwavering opposition from Democrats who view Bolton as too combative for international diplomacy, aides said Sunday. Two of Bush's top advisers said the White House is not backing down from a fight to win Senate approval for Bolton to continue in the job. Bush gave Bolton the job temporarily in August 2005, while Congress was in recess. That appointment will expire when Congress adjourns, no later than January. White House counselor Dan Bartlett said Bolton has done a remarkable job. "He's proven the critics wrong on all the charges they've leveled against him," Bartlett said. "So let's have a conversation about it. We'll see." The White House resubmitted Bolton's nomination on Thursday, though it has languished in the Senate for more than a year. AP via Yahoo! News: Bush stands by his man for U.N. envoy

    STEELE EXPRESSES INTEREST IN TOP GOP JOB: Republican Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, who lost his race for a Senate seat, expressed interest Sunday in becoming chairman of the Republican National Committee. "I have not had any conversations directly with the White House yet on this," Steele told C-SPAN. Ken Mehlman, the current chairman, is stepping down when his two-year term ends in January. Mehlman made a point of emphasizing outreach to black voters and helped recruit Steele for the Maryland race... Steele said he wasn't sure when an announcement would be made on who will be the new committee chair. Steele was head of the Maryland Republican Party before being elected lieutenant governor in 2002 as the first black candidate elected statewide in Maryland. AP via Yahoo! News: Steele interested in heading RNC

    GOP IN CONGRESS NOW "EVEN MORE HOMOGENEOUS AND EVEN MORE CONSERVATIVE THAN BEFORE": The rout of Republicans in the midterm congressional elections may increase the influence of the party's self-styled conservatives at the expense of moderates, who bore the brunt of the voters' punishment. Almost 40 percent of the approximately 200 Republicans in the next House will come from the South, the most conservative part of the country, compared with 35 percent at present. There may be only one Republican House member left from New England, depending on the outcome of a recount in Connecticut. The elections make "the Republican Party in Congress even more homogeneous and even more conservative than before," said David Rohde, a political scientist at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. Republicans lost at least 28 House seats, though final numbers won't be in until election officials finish tallying the results in a handful of disputed races. Bloomberg: Republican Conservatives May Emerge Stronger From Party Defeat

    EXTINCTION OF A POLITICAL BREED: The classic New England Republican - fiscally conservative, socially liberal - is near death, following a long and quiet decline that began more then a decade ago when the GOP nationally began its move to the right. It is a political breed generations old. The Democratic tidal wave in Tuesday's elections claimed several victims in seats that had long been in Republican hands. Scholars say the losses may be the death knell for the traditional "rock-ribbed" New England Republican. Perhaps the best example is Sen. Lincoln Chafee, whose family has represented Rhode Island in the Senate for 30 years. Both of New Hampshire's seats in Congress switched parties. Six-term Rep. Charles Bass, also part of a political family whose father held the same seat in Congress and whose grandfather was a governor, lost to a Democrat, as did Rep. Jeb Bradley (news, bio, voting record), who served 12 years in the state legislature before winning election to Congress in 2002. AP via Yahoo! News: Yankee Republicans on last legs

    FORMATION OF McCAIN '08 EXPLORATORY COMMITTEE "IMMINENT": Sen. John McCain of Arizona said he will form an exploratory committee as the first step toward a possible run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008. The action had been widely expected from McCain, who lost a primary bid in 2000 to George W. Bush and who is the most popular prospective candidate for the nomination in 2008. McCain, appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press" yesterday, said that while he won't make a decision until talking with his family over the holidays, "Are we doing the things organizationally and legally that need to be done to prepare for it? Yes." McCain indicated that the formation of an exploratory committee is imminent. Washington Post: McCain to Form Committee To Explore White House Bid

    MEET THE PRESS TRANSCRIPT (via MSNBC.com)

    NO '08 RUN FOR FEINGOLD: Sen. Russ Feingold's decision not to run for president removes from the potential Democratic field the one candidate who voted against the use of force in Iraq... After mulling it over for more than a year, Feingold disclosed in an interview Saturday that he would not run, saying he was content to remain in the Senate, especially with the Democrats' return to power. The decision surprised some supporters but didn't shock others. By all accounts - including his own - Feingold faced a tall climb in winning the nomination, although insiders and analysts disagreed about his potential to be an "X-factor" in the race. Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: Feingold alters the calculus in presidential race

    "LETTER FROM RUSS" (via Progressive Patriots Fund PAC)

    JUST A FEW YEARS IN SENATE MIGHT BE OBAMA'S ADVANTAGE: Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) might be well advised to stay in the Senate several more years before running for president, as many strategists have suggested. But there are at least 40 reasons to challenge that advice. That is the number of senators who have tried, and failed, to reach the White House since Sen. John F. Kennedy (D-Mass.) accomplished the feat in 1960. Nearly all of them had more Senate experience than Obama, underscoring the light regard that American voters show for senatorial longevity and expertise in presidential elections. If Obama's aim is to become a more respected and knowledgeable senator -- in the mold of, say, Robert J. Dole (18 years in the Senate before his 1996 presidential race), Henry "Scoop" Jackson (20 Senate years before his 1972 bid) or Richard G. Lugar (20 Senate years before his 1996 try) -- it may be a laudable goal. But it's a highly questionable presidential strategy. Washington Post: Time in Senate May Be Irrelevant if Obama Runs

    GERALD FORD HITS A MILESTONE: Gerald R. Ford has surpassed Ronald Reagan to become the longest-living U.S. president. Ford, who turned 93 on July 14, 2006, became the oldest president Sunday by living to 93 years and 121 days. The milestone is based on full days. "The length of one's days matters less than the love of one's family and friends," Ford said in a statement this week from the Rancho Mirage compound he shares with former first lady Betty Ford. AP via Yahoo! News: Gerald Ford becomes oldest president

    ONLY SENATOR WHO "KNOWS HOW TO BUTCHER A COW OR GREASE A COMBINE": When he joins the United States Senate in January, big Jon Tester - who is just under 300 pounds in his boots - will most likely be the only person in the world's most exclusive club who knows how to butcher a cow or grease a combine. All his life, Mr. Tester, 50, has lived no more than two hours from his farm, an infinity of flat on the windswept expanse of north-central Montana, hard by the Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation. For all the talk about the new Democrats swept into office on Tuesday, the senator-elect from Montana truly is your grandfather's Democrat - a pro-gun, anti-big-business prairie pragmatist whose life is defined by the treeless patch of hard Montana dirt that has been in the family since 1916. New York Times: Fresh Off the Farm in Montana, a Senator-to-Be
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