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Wednesday, November 15, 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...


  • In the latest AP-Ipsos poll, 57 percent of all adults said Democrats do not have a plan for Iraq; 29 percent said they do.

  • A Roll Call source "suggested that there are fewer than five Senators who remain uncommitted" in the Lott-Alexander minority whip race, "and predicted the final result would be determined by one or two ballots."

    Meanwhile, Sen. Mitch McConnell is "expected to become Minority Leader without opposition" in this morning's secret ballot, Roll Call reports.

  • The selection of Sen. Mel Martinez as RNC general chairman "drew sharp criticism Tuesday from some of the party's core conservatives, who disdain the Florida lawmaker's support for liberalized immigration laws," the Los Angeles Times reports.

  • And congresswoman for a month... what can one brand-new Texas Rep. accomplish in a few weeks of a lame-duck session? And why does she have to go home at the end of the 109th? Find out in Hot Topics below!

    President's Schedule:

  • President Bush met with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Moscow airport this morning, before getting back on Air Force One en route Singapore.

    Also on the Political Radar:

  • Jack Abramoff heads to prison today in Cumberland, MD, to begin serving a 70-month sentence on charges of fraud related to his purchase of a Florida casino cruise line.

  • The Senate Armed Services Committee holds a hearing "on the current situation and U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan." General John P. Abizaid, Commander, United States Central Command, and CIA Director Michael Hayden are among the witnesses scheduled to attend.

  • 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)

    EXPERTS CHALLENGE "PHASED REDEPLOYMENT" PLAN: Anthony C. Zinni, the former head of the United States Central Command and one of the retired generals who called for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, argued that any substantial reduction of American forces over the next several months would be more likely to accelerate the slide to civil war than stop it... Instead of taking troops out, General Zinni said, it would make more sense to consider deploying additional American forces over the next six months to "regain momentum" as part of a broader effort to stabilize Iraq that would create more jobs, foster political reconciliation and develop more effective Iraqi security forces. New York Times: Get Out Now? Not So Fast, Experts Say

    57 PERCENT OF AMERICANS THINK DEMS DON'T HAVE A PLAN FOR IRAQ: Amid new talk of bipartisanship on Capitol Hill and at the White House, Americans are divided on whether the new Democratic-controlled Congress and President Bush can work together on their top priorities. The latest Associated Press-Ipsos poll shows Americans in the aftermath of last week's power-shifting election remain divided over the country's direction and on their hopes for bipartisan cooperation... Of those surveyed, 47 percent said they were confident the president and congressional Democrats could work together to address national problems; 51 percent said they were not confident... 57 percent of all adults in the AP-Ipsos poll said Democrats do not have a plan for Iraq; 29 percent said they do. AP via Yahoo! News: Poll: Most doubt Dems have plan for Iraq

    MORE POLL RESULTS (pdf via Ipsos.com)

    ABIZAID TO FACE ARMED SERVICES: Senate Democrats impatient to start withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq will inject a new political dynamic into the debate over the war beginning today as they question the military's top Middle East commander for the first time since their party swept into control of Congress this month. Army Gen. John P. Abizaid, head of the U.S. Central Command, which oversees American forces in the Middle East, will face questions on the violence in Iraq and what it means for the roughly 145,000 U.S. troops there during scheduled testimony today before the Senate Armed Services Committee, senators from both parties said. Senior Democrats and Republicans on the committee are deeply divided over basic issues such as troop levels and strategy and whether Iraq is already in a state of civil war. Still, they are united by a concern for American forces. Committee Chairman John W. Warner (R-Va.), for example, said he will quiz Abizaid on the risks that U.S. troops could face if embedded with Iraqi units under an Iraqi chain of command. Washington Post: U.S. Commander in Iraq to Face Democrats Eager for Troop Cuts

    IRAQ STUDY GROUP INTERVIEWS CLINTON, ALBRIGHT, BLAIR: The bipartisan commission examining strategic options for Iraq reached out on Tuesday to top Democrats from the Clinton White House - beginning with former President Bill Clinton himself. The Iraq Study Group interviewed at least four other members of the Clinton administration: both of Mr. Clinton's secretaries of state, Madeleine K. Albright and Warren Christopher; the former ambassador to the United Nations, Richard C. Holbrooke; and the former national security adviser, Samuel R. Berger. The group also spoke Tuesday by video link with Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain. New York Times: Blair, Clinton and Democrats Hold Meetings With Iraq Panel

    NEXT GOP SENATE WHIP STILL UP IN THE AIR: With this morning's vote on the next Senate Minority Whip still nip-and-tuck, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said Tuesday that he was using the last hours of campaigning to make sure Senators who already had committed to him were not switching to the insurgent campaign of Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.). "I'm spending almost all of my time on that," Alexander said of his efforts to reinforce support Senators lent him before Republicans lost control of the chamber last week. Alexander is set to square off against Lott this morning for the No. 2 GOP leadership slot, a position for which both Senators have been furiously campaigning in recent days. Republican Senators will convene in the Old Senate chambers to decide the outcome, along with cementing the rest of their leadership lineup for the 110th Congress. Roll Call: Lott, Alexander Battle to the End

    HOUSE GOPERS "INCREASINGLY FRUSTRATED" WITH MINORITY LEADER CHOICES: House Republicans in search of someone to lead them out of the minority wilderness are growing increasingly frustrated with their choices in the leadership elections as Senate Democrats yesterday swiftly approved a slate of top leaders... Most insiders say Rep. John A. Boehner, the Ohio Republican and current majority leader, is favored to win the top spot, but Rep. Mike Pence, Indiana Republican, has been widely praised by conservatives off the Hill as a fresh face. House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois has declined to run for the leader position. Some Republicans have expressed reluctance to return Mr. Boehner to leadership after last week's disastrous elections, and some are opposed to Mr. Pence for forging a compromise on immigration that critics dismissed as "amnesty." Washington Times: House GOP scrambles for leader

    MURTHA SAYS HE'S GETTING THE "SWIFT BOAT" TREATMENT: Rep. John Murtha, the anti-war congressman who is the likely new House speaker's pick for majority leader, fended off what he called "swift boat-style attacks" on his ethics record Tuesday. The Pennsylvania Democrat also blasted his rival for majority leader, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, for siding with President Bush on Iraq. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who as the House Democratic leader is in line to be the next speaker, has backed Murtha against Hoyer, who is currently the No. 2 Democrat in the House of Representatives. Democrats are slated to vote Thursday on who will take the chamber's leadership posts when the Congress reconvenes in January. CNN: Murtha decries 'swift boat-style' attacks on ethics

    SCHUMER GETS "VICE CHAIRMAN OF THE CAUCUS" TITLE: Senate Democrats rewarded Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) yesterday for his success as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) by giving him a specially created leadership position. In return for the new title of vice chairman of the caucus, which ranks third among Democratic leaders, Schumer has agreed to serve another two years as chairman of the Senate Democratic fundraising committee. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) announced after a closed-door meeting of the Democratic caucus yesterday that Democrats had created the new position, which puts Schumer below only Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the incoming majority whip, and Reid, but means he outranks the Democratic conference secretary. The Hill: Schumer, the victor, wins new leadership position

    MARTINEZ PICK RILES SOME REPUBLICANS: President Bush's decision to back Sen. Mel Martinez to help lead the Republican Party, a move intended to appeal to disaffected Latino voters, drew sharp criticism Tuesday from some of the party's core conservatives, who disdain the Florida lawmaker's support for liberalized immigration laws. The decision to name the Cuban-born Martinez as Republican National Committee general chairman served as an acknowledgment that the GOP had lost ground among Latinos... Martinez supported legislation to create a guest worker program and a path to citizenship for many immigrants who are in this country illegally; Bush and many Latinos also backed versions of that plan. But the legislation that passed the Senate this year created a firestorm of opposition among conservative Republicans and much of the House GOP leadership, who derided it as amnesty for lawbreakers. Los Angeles Times: Conservatives wary of choice to lead RNC

    ABRAMOFF GOES TO PRISON FOR FL CASINO DEAL: After years of using expensive gifts, campaign donations and exotic trips to win access to the White House and Congress, Jack Abramoff's illegal dealings won him an open door from a final government agency Wednesday, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. Abramoff was to report to federal prison to begin serving a nearly six-year prison sentence for a fraudulent deal to buy a fleet of casino ships in Florida. He also is awaiting sentencing for corrupting government officials and their staff members... If it were up to the Justice Department, however, Abramoff wouldn't be heading to prison - at least not yet. He could hold the key to a sweeping corruption case involving Congress, members of the Bush administration and their aides, and prosecutors said putting their star witness behind bars would impede the investigation. AP via Yahoo! News: Lobbyist Abramoff to report to prison

    K STREET DEMS SUDDENLY VERY POPULAR: Republicans do not cede control of Congress for nearly two months, but money, power and influence are already beginning to change hands. The political economy, at least here in the capital, is humming for Democrats. Democratic lobbyists are fielding calls from pharmaceutical companies, the oil and gas industry and military companies, all of which had grown accustomed to patronizing Republicans, as the environment in Washington abruptly shifts... The Republican Party lost its grip on Congress and is now bracing to lose its hold over K Street, the bustling corridor that has become synonymous with the lobbying industry. The so-called K Street Project, an effort engineered by Republicans to dominate the trade, is unraveling, and Democrats say they intend to pass sweeping reforms rather than reverse the project for their benefit. New York Times: As Guard Changes in Congress, Lobbyists Scramble

    OHIO UNIVERSITY TO TAKE NEY'S NAME OFF BUILDING: First, Bob Ney lost his job as a congressman. Now, he's on his way to losing another classic political honor - having a building named after him. Ney, a six-term Republican from Ohio, will be sentenced Jan. 7 for his role in providing favors to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Ohio University has begun the process of removing Ney's name from the Robert W. Ney Center for Health and Physical Education at its campus in St. Clairsville, near the West Virginia border. The building was named after Ney in 1997 because, as a state senator, he helped secure the $5.5 million in state funding to construct it. USA Today: University urged to take Ney's name off building

    HUCKABEE LASHES OUT AT REPORTERS OVER GIFT REGISTRY: Gov. Mike Huckabee on Tuesday ripped news reporters for writing about gift registries in his and his wife's names for a housewarming party for their recently purchased halfmillion-dollar home in North Little Rock. The registries are on the Internet at Target and Dillard's Web sites under "weddings." It's the "Janet Huckabee and Michael Huckabee's Club Wedd Registry" at Target and "Welcome to the wedding registry of: Janet Huckabee and Michael Huckabee" at Dillard's. The governor accused news media of being "tools" for Arkansas Times Editor Max Brantley, who runs a blog that discussed the registries and who has been a longtime critic of Huckabee. Huckabee said the registries weren't any different from gift lists for a wedding shower or a baby shower. He said anyone, when told that the affair was put on by his wife's friends, should have no problem with the registries. Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: Huckabee on registry reportage: For shame

    DEMOCRAT WINS CT RECOUNT: The studious Democratic lawyer from Vernon appears to have clinched a win in the 2nd Congressional District. And it took only 168 hours and 49 minutes after the polls closed on election night to receive the news. A protracted recount in each of the district's 65 towns ended late Tuesday when the tiny Windham County town of Ashford concluded its review, and Joe Courtney learned he had knocked off three-term Republican incumbent Rob Simmons in what was probably the nation's tightest congressional contest. Courtney was in Washington at the Capitol Tuesday evening, seated in the elegant Hall of Statuary at a candlelight dinner, just steps from the grand rotunda. The dinner was hosted by Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who is expected to be named House speaker. At 8:49 p.m., word filtered down from Ashford to Courtney's press secretary, Brian Farber, that the recount was over, and their guy had won. Hartford Courant: 'Landslide Joe?'

    FROM "ORLEANS" ROCKER TO FRESHMAN REP: For more than three decades, John Hall has occupied a very specific role in the soft-rock band Orleans: guitarist, songwriter, and insufferable policy wonk. Hall was the one who, faced with a roomful of fans, would "launch into dissertations about the statistics of how much plutonium was being produced," recalled the band's longtime bass player, Lance Hoppen, 53. The fans, he added, did not always share Hall's enthusiasm for the minutiae of energy policy. "It was like, 'All right, we get it,'" Hoppen said. Hall, 58, may have finally found his audience. He has spent the last two days in Washington with the rest of Congress' 2007 freshman class, learning House protocol and catching up on sleep. Last week, he pulled off one of the most dramatic political upsets in the country, defeating Sue W. Kelly, a six-term Republican incumbent, by 4,300 votes in New York's 19th Congressional District. Los Angeles Times: Rocking a GOP district's boat to the House

    CONGRESSWOMAN FOR A MONTH: Shelley Sekula-Gibbs was sworn in as a congresswoman on Monday night and already she's a lame duck. Because of a weird electoral quirk, her brief term in office expires next month... Tom "The Hammer" DeLay, the former House majority leader who was indicted on money-laundering charges, resigned from Congress last spring after winning the Republican primary. Last week, voters in DeLay's old district, the 22nd, got to cast two votes for Congress. The Texas voters elected Sekula-Gibbs to fill the remaining portion of DeLay's term -- but they elected Democrat Nick Lampson to succeed DeLay in the Congress that takes office in January, a race that Sekula-Gibbs had to run as a write-in candidate. Washington Post: Lame-Duck Texas Rep. Gets Down to Work Without DeLay
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