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Thursday, December 07, 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...


  • "With a compromise on the trade and tax bill eluding negotiators, House Majority Leader John Boehner late Wednesday announced that the goal of adjourning on Thursday was not feasible and that members should put off plane reservations until Saturday morning," AP reports.

  • News of Mary Cheney's pregnancy has "touched a nerve, as advocates for conservative values struggle to reconcile their loyalty to the Cheneys with their visceral opposition to same-sex relationships," reports the Los Angeles Times.

  • Mark your calendars - "South Carolina may host the first debate of the 2008 presidential cycle," AP reports. A debate among Democratic candidates "would be tied to the April 27 Jefferson-Jackson Dinner and the state party convention the next day."

    SC Republicans "have already announced that they've set May 15 for a GOP candidates' debate."

  • "It's certainly more endearing than being mistaken for a pickle." - Des Moines Register, suggesting Tom Vilsack should "adopt" the AFLAC duck "as a campaign mascot."

  • And which two GOP Senators flipped at the last minute to give Senator Trent Lott (R-MS) a one-vote victory in last month's whip race? Find out in Hot Topics below!

    President's Schedule:

  • Bush huddles with UK Prime Minister Tony Blair in the Oval Office at 9:35 am ET, then holds a joint press conference with Blair in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at 10:55 am ET.

    At 5 pm ET, the President lights the National Christmas tree, a 41' 9" Colorado blue spruce, on the Ellipse.

    Also on the Political Radar:

  • Iraq Study Group Co-Chairs Lee Hamilton and James Baker testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee at 9:30 am ET.

  • House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) meet Tony Blair at 12:20 pm ET in the Capitol.

  • Outgoing Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) gives his farewell address on the Senate Floor. Vice President Dick Cheney is expected to preside.

  • At 5 pm ET, Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) gives a speech at Johns Hopkins' School of Advanced International Studies, ""The Role of the Senate in U.S. Foreign Policy."

  • 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)

    "A BROAD INDICTMENT OF US STRATEGY IN IRAQ": The bipartisan Iraq Study Group yesterday delivered a broad indictment of US strategy in Iraq, recommending that the military mission shift from combat to training local forces and urging the White House to enlist Syria and Iran to help rescue the "grave and deteriorating" situation. Without setting a timetable, the group also asserted that the United States could withdraw most combat troops by early 2008. But to reach that goal, the panel said, the Bush administration must immediately reassign far more US troops to advise Iraqi Army units, aggressively pursue the help of Iraq's influential neighbors, and place new pressure on the Iraqi government to reach a political settlement between warring ethnic groups... "Current US policy is not working, as the level of violence in Iraq is rising and the government is not advancing national reconciliation," said the report. "Making no changes in policy would simply delay the day of reckoning at a high cost." Boston Globe: 'US policy is not working'

    FULL ISG REPORT (pdf via USIP.org)

    DEMS PLAN "EXTENSIVE HEARINGS"... "WE'RE GOING TO BRING IN EVERY REASONABLE PERSON WE CAN FIND...": Congressional Democrats say their criticisms of the Iraq war are vindicated by the Iraq Study Group's report and promised yesterday to begin "extensive hearings" in January that will continue for months. "We're going to bring in every reasonable person we can find -- left, right and center; military, civilian and government -- to discuss elements of this report and discuss what alternatives there may be," Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Delaware Democrat who will head the Foreign Relations Committee, said yesterday after a private briefing with members of the bipartisan panel. Democrats -- many of whom, including Mr. Biden, voted to authorize the Iraq war -- also took the opportunity to claim victory in the debate about the war, which is sure to dominate politics for the foreseeable future and likely through the 2008 presidential election. Washington Times: Democrats pledge 'extensive' analysis

    SENATE VOTES 95-2 TO CONFIRM GATES: The Senate overwhelmingly approved Robert M. Gates yesterday as the new defense secretary to replace Donald H. Rumsfeld, sealing a swift confirmation with a vote of 95 to 2 that reflected bipartisan confidence in his willingness to overhaul U.S. strategy in Iraq. Senate Democrats and Republicans lauded Gates's frankness after a day of testimony Tuesday in which he acknowledged that the United States is not winning in Iraq, and said that historians would have to judge whether the decision to invade Iraq in March 2003 was correct. He also pledged to take a fresh approach to Iraq in which "all options are on the table." Two Republican senators -- Jim Bunning (Ky.) and Rick Santorum (Pa.) -- voted against Gates, with Bunning saying that Gates's criticism of "our efforts in Iraq" sends the wrong message to U.S. troops and allies. Washington Post: Senate Confirms Gates as Defense Secretary

    DEMS VOW TO INVESTIGATE "EFFECTIVENESS" AND "LEGALITY" OF ANTI-TERROR PROGRAMS: Leading Senate Democrats put the Bush administration on notice Wednesday that they intended to press for a fuller accounting on a wide range of counterterrorism programs, including wiretapping, data-mining operations and the interrogation and treatment of detainees. Democrats have appeared divided at times over how aggressively to challenge the administration on its terrorism policies, in part because of concerns that they risked playing into Republican accusations that they were soft on terrorism. But Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, who will take over next month as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, made clear at a committee hearing Wednesday that he wanted to investigate actively the effectiveness and legality of many programs. New York Times: Democrats Set to Press Bush on Privacy and Terrorism

    DON'T BOOK THAT FRIDAY MORNING PLANE, SAYS BOEHNER: The bipartisan drive to bring the 109th session of Congress to an end slowed as the lawmakers struggled with the finale, a catchall bill covering everything from tax breaks for college tuition to normal trade relations with Vietnam. With a compromise on the trade and tax bill eluding negotiators, House Majority Leader John Boehner late Wednesday announced that the goal of adjourning on Thursday was not feasible and that members should put off plane reservations until Saturday morning. Republicans, reeling from their defeat in last month's midterm elections, have shown little desire to prolong this lame duck session, while Democrats already are looking to January when they will take over both the House and Senate. AP via Yahoo! News: Congress struggles to break final logjam

    ELEVENTH HOUR "DEFECTIONS" BY WARNER AND COLLINS GAVE LOTT WHIP JOB: Sen. Trent Lott's (R-Miss.) stunning return to the Senate leadership was made possible by the last-minute defections of Sens. John Warner (R-Va.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) from Sen. Lamar Alexander's (R-Tenn.) rival campaign for Republican whip. Ironically, four years earlier, Warner and Collins helped drive Lott from leadership by giving his rivals support at crucial moments during the controversy over his comments at the 100th birthday party of the late Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.). The week before last month's leadership election, Alexander told reporters that he had been promised enough votes to become whip. He said he was working to achieve a consensus of support within the GOP conference. The Hill: Alexander defectors were Collins, Warner

    LOBBYISTS STAKING OUT FRESHMEN; AIDES STAKING OUT LOBBYISTS: Postelection fund-raising and political repositioning are hardly new in Washington. Candidates routinely use the last months of an election cycle to clear campaign debt. Lobbyists use the time to target freshmen who haven't staked out firm positions on the vast array of issues that come before Congress. But the cycle turns especially intense when a major power shift is under way -- as is the case this year, for the first time since Republicans took Congress in 1994. For instance, receptions such as those being held this week, coinciding with the return of Congress for its lame-duck session, are prime networking opportunity for lobbying shops looking to hire Democrats, and aides looking to cash in on their new status. Wall Street Journal: Postcampaign Lobbying Thrives

    MODERATE REPUBLICANS A DYING BREED: With the defeat of [Rep. Jim] Leach [R-IA] and several other Republican moderates Nov. 7, the Democrats' victory in the midterm election accelerates a three-decade-old pattern of declining moderate influence and rising conservative dominance in the Republican Party. By one measure, the GOP is more ideologically homogenous now than it has been in modern history. The waning moderate wing must find its place when the Democratic majority takes over in January. "The irony of this election is that the public, in seeking change, has.. weakened the center," Leach said recently. "In a sense, what has occurred is the strengthening of the edges of the parties."... On the Senate side, the defeat of Lincoln D. Chafee (R-R.I.), a critic of the war who declined to vote for Bush's reelection in 2004, underscored the same trend. By one measure, the 110th Congress will have the fewest moderates since the 19th century. Washington Post: Democratic Wave in Congress Further Erodes Moderation in GOP

    MARY CHENEY'S PREGNANCY HAS "TOUCHED A NERVE": No Republican in Washington is more beloved by social conservatives than Vice President Dick Cheney, who with his wife, Lynne, has backed and breathed every issue dear to them for six tumultuous years. News that Cheney's lesbian daughter, Mary, is pregnant has therefore touched a nerve, as advocates for conservative values struggle to reconcile their loyalty to the Cheneys with their visceral opposition to same-sex relationships - and particularly to raising a child without a father. "Not only is she doing a disservice to her child, she's voiding all the effort her father put into the Bush administration," said Janice Shaw Crouse, senior fellow at the Beverly LaHaye Institute, the think tank of Concerned Women for America. Asked why the administration downplayed the news, she added, "This is Cheney's daughter; anything they say will make the situation worse." Los Angeles Times: A pregnant pause in right wing

    "WHERE HAVE ALL THE CASES GONE?": On the Supreme Court's color-coded master calendar, which was distributed months before the term began on the first Monday in October, Dec. 6 is marked in red to signify a day when the justices are scheduled to be on the bench, hearing arguments. The courtroom, however, was empty on Wednesday, and for a simple reason: The court was out of cases. The question is, where have all the cases gone? Last year, during his Senate confirmation hearing, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said he thought the court had room on its docket and that it "could contribute more to the clarity and uniformity of the law by taking more cases." But that has not happened. The court has taken about 40 percent fewer cases so far this term than last. New York Times: Case of the Dwindling Docket Mystifies the Supreme Court

    NAGIN IN DC TO PRESS FEDS FOR FUNDS: New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin accused the federal government Wednesday of abandoning its legal obligation to help his city recover from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. In an interview with USA TODAY's editorial board, Nagin insisted that even the city's most flood-prone areas should be rebuilt — albeit "smarter and safer." He said that can't happen unless promised federal aid begins to flow. "I'm planning and building for a city that's as large, if not larger, than pre-Katrina levels," he said. "There is (federal) money out in cyberspace, there is money in the mail … but very little of that money has made it to our local governments and our citizens." Under federal law, he added, the government is obliged to help restore vital infrastructure decimated by the storm, which struck the Gulf Coast on Aug. 29, 2005. Nagin said the federal government has approved more than $900 million to rebuild New Orleans' infrastructure, but local officials have not been able to access most of it. "We're here to say to the federal government: 'Honor the law,'" said Nagin, in Washington to see lawmakers and federal officials. USA Today: Nagin: Feds have abandoned New Orleans recovery

    CARTER STAFFER STEPS DOWN OVER CONCERNS ABOUT BOOK: An adviser to former President Jimmy Carter and onetime executive director of the Carter Center has publicly parted ways with his former boss, citing concerns with the accuracy and integrity of Mr. Carter's latest book, "Palestine Peace Not Apartheid." The adviser, Kenneth W. Stein, a professor of Middle Eastern history and political science at Emory University, resigned his position as a fellow with the Carter Center on Tuesday, ending a 23-year association with the institution. In a two-page letter explaining his action, Mr. Stein called the book "replete with factual errors, copied materials not cited, superficialities, glaring omissions and simply invented segments." Mr. Stein said he had used similar language in a private letter he sent to Mr. Carter, but received no reply. New York Times: Former Aide Parts With Carter Over Book

    '08ERS "OUT OF THE GATES" EARLIER THAN EVER: Shattering the pace of any previous presidential campaign, a half-dozen White House candidates already have leapt out of the gates for 2008, either formally signaling their entry into what is shaping up to be a packed field or filing paperwork freeing them to begin fundraising. The first wave of candidates - three Senators, one House Member, an ex-mayor and an outgoing governor - have eschewed traditions of waiting until at least the end of the preceding midterm year before officially opening their campaign committees. With fundraising expectations higher than ever and the caucus and primary schedule so compacted in early 2008, the candidates, former candidates, and current and former campaign aides see nothing unusual about so many declarations for a general election that's still almost two years away. Roll Call: Candidates Set Record '08 Pace

    SC PLANNING FIRST DEM DEBATE: Less than five months from today, South Carolina may host the first debate of the 2008 presidential cycle, said Democratic Party Chairman Joe Erwin. Erwin said the debate - which would feature Democratic candidates - would be tied to the April 27 Jefferson-Jackson Dinner and the state party convention the next day. He said he's begun informal talks with television networks that might be interested in carrying the debate nine months before South Carolina's first-in-the-South presidential primary on Jan. 29, 2008. South Carolina Republicans have already announced that they've set May 15 for a GOP candidates' debate. AP via Yahoo! News: S.C. Dems eye April presidential debate

    CORZINE SAYS HILLARY WILL "HAVE A HARD TIME GETTING ELECTED": New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine veered off-message on former colleague Hillary Rodham Clinton's White House prospects, saying she'd be a great president - but will "have a hard time getting elected." Corzine's unvarnished appraisal came in an interview with radio host Don Imus on WFAN, as he said Sen. Clinton is someone he could support for president. "There are people who are disciplined and willing to listen to different sides of issues who are articulate - maybe not charismatic - but are diligent, and I think she'll be that," Corzine said. "If she were to be president, she'd do an outstanding job," he said on the Tuesday show, adding: "I think she's going to have a hard time getting elected." New York Post: FELLOW DEM CORZINE FEARS HILL CAN'T WIN

    HILLARY CHOOSES HARKIN OVER NY DEMS: Sen. Hillary Clinton dumped New York for Iowa yesterday. Just a month after winning reelection to the Senate, Clinton skipped an all-hands meeting between New York's congressional Democrats and Governor-elect Eliot Spitzer - choosing instead to have breakfast with an Iowa senator. Clinton has been aggressively courting advice from Democratic leaders in key primary election states as she nears an increasingly certain White House bid. Yesterday, she had her highest-profile out-of-state sitdown yet with Sen. Tom Harkin, while the rest of New York's Democrats hashed out strategy on education, energy, homeland security and other topics. "It just shows where her head is at," said a miffed Democratic staffer. "What - 30 days after the election and she's done with New York?" New York Daily News: Hil in an Iowa state of mind

    PHILLY MAYOR CANDIDATE LAUNCHES $700K XMAS AD BLITZ: The air-war portion of the 2007 Philadelphia mayoral campaign is set to begin this week, as businessman Tom Knox spends nearly $700,000 introducing himself to city voters. Knox's campaign is rolling out a Christmas-season television advertising blitz that touts the candidate's rise from public housing to business-world triumph... Neither of Knox's fellow declared candidates - former Councilman Michael A. Nutter and U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah - has yet done TV ads... But Larry Ceisler, a political consultant who has worked with labor leader John J. Dougherty, another possible candidate, said December was a risky time to spend money on campaign ads. "There's a big problem with running political media so close to the holidays," Ceisler said. "I don't think people are tuned into mayoral politics. They're tuned into buying Christmas gifts." Philadelphia Inquirer: Ads cost Knox $700,000
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