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Monday, November 27, 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...


  • "A draft report on strategies" from the Iraq Study Group "urges an aggressive regional diplomatic initiative that includes direct talks with Iran and Syria but sets no timetables for a military withdrawal," reports the New York Times.

  • Early adjournment for the 109th? "A squabble among Republicans over spending bills makes it increasingly likely that the House will finish its business by the end of next week, with the Senate shutting down operations soon after," Roll Call reports.

    President's Schedule:

  • President Bush departed the White House at 7 am ET this morning en route Tallinn, Estonia, where tomorrow he'll meet with Estonia's President and Prime Minister before heading to Riga, Latvia, for a two-day NATO summit.

    On Wednesday afternoon, Bush will travel to Amman, Jordan, where he's scheduled to meet with Iraqi PM Nuri Al-Maliki. Bush returns to Washington on Thursday.

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

    STUDY GROUP TO RECOMMEND REACHING OUT TO IRAN, SYRIA: A draft report on strategies for Iraq, which will be debated here by a bipartisan commission beginning Monday, urges an aggressive regional diplomatic initiative that includes direct talks with Iran and Syria but sets no timetables for a military withdrawal, according to officials who have seen all or parts of the document. While the diplomatic strategy appears likely to be accepted, with some amendments, by the 10-member Iraq Study Group, members of the commission and outsiders involved in its work said they expected a potentially divisive debate about timetables for beginning an American withdrawal. New York Times: Panel to Weigh Overture by U.S. to Iran and Syria

    HAGEL SAYS WITHDRAWAL NEEDED TO PREVENT "IMPENDING DISASTER" IN IRAQ: A leading Republican senator called Sunday for American troops to begin withdrawing from Iraq, declaring that a U.S. pullout is needed to head off "impending disaster" in the nearly 4-year-old war. "There will be no victory or defeat for the United States in Iraq," Sen. Chuck Hagel wrote in Sunday's edition of The Washington Post. Instead, he said, President Bush should use the upcoming report from a bipartisan panel led by former Secretary of State James Baker to begin laying the groundwork for a "phased withdrawal" of U.S. troops. "If the president fails to build a bipartisan foundation for an exit strategy, America will pay a high price for this blunder -- one that we will have difficulty recovering from in the years ahead," Hagel wrote. CNN: Hagel: U.S. should pullout of 'mismanaged' Iraq

    TALABANI TO MEET WITH AHMADINEJAD: Iraqi President Jalal Talabani was due to fly to Tehran to meet his Iranian counterpart on Monday as the government reopened Baghdad airport and lifted a curfew imposed after a string of deadly attacks last week. Pressure is growing on Iraq's government and the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush to look beyond the country's borders to bring an end to the ongoing violence. Talabani's meeting with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, intended in part to discuss Iran's role in creating a more stable Iraq, had been planned for Saturday but was delayed because of the intense violence. Without being specific, Talabani's office had said the president would be cleared to leave for Tehran when the curfew ended. CNN: Iraq president to fly to Iran

    AFGHANISTAN "LIKELY TO DOMINATE" NATO DISCUSSIONS: President Bush's agenda at a NATO summit this week will include pressing alliance members to increase defense spending. Aides say many U.S. allies are ill-equipped for modern military operations. The defense outlays of some NATO partners are less than half those of the United States as a percentage of gross domestic product. Bush is set to leave Monday to visit Estonia, a NATO member, ahead of the two-day NATO summit in Riga, Latvia. He then heads to Amman, Jordan, for talks Wednesday and Thursday with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Discussion of Afghanistan, where NATO has 32,000 troops battling the Taliban and working on reconstruction, is likely to dominate the alliance's summit. But the Bush administration hopes to use lessons from NATO's first major combat mission to make the case for broader spending. AP via Yahoo! News: Bush to press allies on defense spending

    OP-EDS OFFER GLIMPSE OF "CAUTIOUS" SECDEF NOMINEE: Defense Secretary-designate Robert M. Gates in the past decade opposed big changes at the CIA in the face of terror attacks and expressed doubt that Washington could assemble an alliance of nations against al Qaeda. His writings, mostly in the op-ed pages of the New York Times, also revealed a former CIA director who was protective of the agency and opposed to intelligence inroads by the Pentagon at the behest of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. He opposed creating a budget line for the White House Office of Homeland Defense after al Qaeda's September 11 attacks on the United States. The writings show Mr. Gates to be more cautious and pragmatic than his predecessor, Mr. Rumsfeld, who has transformed the military and aggressively hunted al Qaeda members. Washington Times: Writings reveal cautious Gates

    109TH MAY ADJOURN EARLY, "PUNT" SPENDING BILLS TO 110TH: A squabble among Republicans over spending bills makes it increasingly likely that the House will finish its business by the end of next week, with the Senate shutting down operations soon after. Given that GOP conservatives have prevented their colleagues on the House and Senate Appropriations panels from moving forward with plans to pass the nine remaining spending bills as an omnibus package, Republicans leaders are now expected to punt the issue to next year's Democratic-led Congress rather than take the time to piece together major spending legislation. "It could mean we would adjourn much earlier than most pundits think — certainly well before the Christmas deadline," said one senior Senate GOP aide. Indeed, passing a continuing resolution to keep the government running until February or March would allow Congress to avoid the time-consuming negotiations and last-minute spending fights that inevitably accompany omnibus appropriations bills. That could make it more likely that the House would be able to close up shop by Dec. 8, with the Senate likely to stay in town for a few more days to consider the nomination of Robert Gates to be Defense secretary, several aides said. Roll Call: GOP Tiff Makes CR 'Inevitable'

    DEMS WON'T HURRY TO TACKLE WIRETAPS, IMMIGRATION, IRAQ: Democratic lawmakers vow to come roaring out of the blocks when they assume control of the next Congress, passing several top-priority bills in the first 100 hours. Absent from that list, however, are the knottiest problems that bedeviled the outgoing Congress, including immigration, domestic surveillance and the war in Iraq. Voters handed Democrats a mandate for change on Nov. 7, politicians and analysts agree. But party leaders are drawing a sharp distinction between popular, comparatively simple issues, such as raising the minimum wage, and more complex matters for which they have yet to propose solutions or even outline a plan for hearings. Washington Post: New Congress Unlikely to Rush Toughest Issues

    PHILLY LAWYER DETAILS 30-YR RELATIONSHIP WITH WELDON: When Center City lawyer and Russian trade expert John J. Gallagher lost a $2.5 million investment in a cognac distillery in a former Soviet republic, a family friend stepped up to help - in a big way. The friend, U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon, first called the president of Moldova. When that didn't work, Weldon went to the House and proposed cutting all U.S. aid to Moldova until Gallagher got his money back. That deal, now part of an FBI corruption investigation, wasn't the only time that Weldon used his office to help Gallagher, a lawyer who specializes in putting together business deals - from Philadelphia City Hall to the U.S. Capitol to the Kremlin... In the first interview given by one of the subjects of the FBI probe, Gallagher said his relationship with Weldon went back 30 years. Philadelphia Inquirer: Subject of FBI probe tells of Weldon ties

    NOMINATION STALLED OVER ATTENDANCE OF "LESBIAN COMMITMENT CEREMONY": A conservative Republican lawmaker is considering whether to stop blocking a judicial nominee over concerns her appearance at a lesbian commitment ceremony betrayed her legal views on gay marriage. Sen. Sam Brownback, a potential presidential candidate in 2008, said Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Janet T. Neff should not be disqualified automatically for having attended the ceremony. But Brownback, R-Kan., made clear it raised doubts in his mind. "But what I want to know is what does it do to her look at the law? What does she consider the law on same-sex marriage, on civil unions, and I'd want to consider that," Brownback said Sunday. President Bush nominated Neff, who has a liberal reputation, to be a U.S. District Court judge as part of a compromise struck with Democrats. Neff's nomination is pending before the full Senate; Brownback has stalled it because of her attendance at the 2002 ceremony in Massachusetts. "I'm still looking at the Neff situation, and I will in the future," Brownback said. AP via Yahoo! News: Lawmaker leaves judge nominee in limbo

    BROWNBACK SAYS '08 ANNOUNCEMENT COMING SOON: Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas strongly hinted yesterday that he would run for president in 2008, saying the Republican field was open for a "full-scale conservative" and that he would make an official announcement soon. During an appearance on ABC's "This Week," the Republican outlined what he called a "compassionate conservative" agenda, including a willingness to open diplomatic ties with Iran and Syria. "I think there is room, on the Republican side, for somebody that's a full-scale conservative, that's an economic and fiscal and social conservative," Mr. Brownback said. "I think there's room on our side, and need on our side, to develop some new plays, particularly on the compassionate conservative agenda. So we'll be making some announcements, soon, about that." Washington Times: Brownback hints at '08 presidential bid

    DEATH OF THE "YANKEE REPUBLICAN": It was a species as endemic to New England as craggy seascapes and creamy clam chowder: the moderate Yankee Republican. Dignified in demeanor, independent in ideology and frequently blue in blood, they were politicians in the mold of Roosevelt and Rockefeller: socially tolerant, environmentally enthusiastic, people who liked government to keep its wallet close to its vest and its hands out of social issues like abortion and, in recent years, same-sex marriage. But this election dealt the already-fading New England Republican an especially strong blow, one that some fear will increase the divide between the two parties nationally by removing a longstanding bridge between them. New York Times: A G.O.P. Breed Loses Its Place in New England

    ON ELECTION NIGHT, BETTER TO WATCH THE WEB, SAYS PEJ: Election night 2006 will go into history books as a triumph for Democrats and rebuke to President Bush. It was a watershed evening for the news media, too. The first smoothly run election night of the Internet era left many news organizations unsure of where they stood and should prompt some rethinking in time for 2008, according to a detailed new report by the Project for Excellence in Journalism. The journalism think tank monitored several forms of media that night and concluded the best place to follow the story was on Web sites run by television networks - as opposed to the networks themselves. Because of the richly detailed Web sites, fed by both results and exit poll data gathered by the networks and The Associated Press, Internet browsers frequently were more up-to-date than the anchors and pundits on the air, said Tom Rosenstiel, the project's director. AP via Yahoo! News: News media have watershed election, too

    RANGEL GETS A BOOST FROM VIRGIN ISLANDERS: Powerhouse Harlem Rep. Charles Rangel has raised $50,000 in campaign contributions from residents of the sunny Virgin Islands. Rangel raised more from the islands (population: 109,000) than he got from any state except New York, according to PoliticalMoneyLine. Now that he's about to take over the Ways and Means Committee, Rangel, a longtime advocate for the islands' special tax breaks, is in a position to deliver even more. The breaks give income-tax credits to island residents who invest in local businesses. In 2004, Congress tightened the tax break to require people who claim it to live there at least half the year. New York Post: Virgin Isles $upport Rangel
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