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Thursday, January 04, 2007
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...


  • The 110th Congress convenes.

    SPECIAL PROGRAMMING NOTE: As part of CNN's coverage of the first 100 hours of the Democratic-controlled 110th Congress, Wolf Blitzer will anchor "Power Shift: Democrats Take Control."

    This special edition of The Situation Room begins today at 11:45 am ET and will include live footage of the swearing-in ceremony of new members of Congress and Nancy Pelosi, the first female Speaker of the House in U.S. history.

  • National Intelligence Director John Negroponte will resign his post to become deputy secretary of state, according to senior U.S.,
    Bush administration and State Department officials.

    A government official who is familiar with the situation tells CNN that
    retired Adm. Mike McConnell, a former director of the National Security Agency, is expected to be nominated to replace Negroponte.

  • Participants in several meetings with Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) said she considered Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) "her biggest obstacle to the nomination, but that she believed the threat of his candidacy would diminish as voters learned how inexperienced he was in government and foreign affairs."

  • Why are the Washington Wizards blasting part of the Democrats' new ethics package? Find out in Hot Topics below!

    President's Schedule:

  • The President meets with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at 5 pm ET in the Oval Office. The two leaders are scheduled to make statements to the press at 6:20 pm ET.

    Also on the Political Radar:

  • Senators hold a "special bipartisan caucus meeting" at 9 am ET in the Old Senate Chamber. Leaders are expected to speak to the press at 10 am ET.

  • "Pelosi-palooza" rolls into DC with a concert tonight at the National Building Museum featuring performances by Tony Bennett, Carole King, and Wyclef Jean.

  • 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)

    NEGROPONTE STEPS ASIDE AS TOP SPY; WILL JOIN RICE AT STATE: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has persuaded John D. Negroponte to leave his post as director of national intelligence and come to the State Department as her deputy, government officials said last night. Negroponte's move would fill a crucial hole on Rice's team. She has been without a deputy since Robert B. Zoellick left in July for a Wall Street firm. It also comes as President Bush plans to announce a new Iraq strategy; as former Iraq envoy, Negroponte would be expected to play a major role in implementing that plan in his new role. Washington Post: Negroponte to Leave Job to Be State Dept. Deputy

    PRESIDENT WILL TAP FMR NSA DIRECTOR McCONNELL AS REPLACEMENT: [T]he leading candidate to become the new intelligence chief is J. Michael McConnell, a retired vice admiral who led the National Security Agency from 1992 to 1996. Admiral McConnell was head of intelligence for the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Gen. Colin L. Powell during the first Persian Gulf war, in 1991... Admiral McConnell is a career intelligence officer who is a senior vice president of Booz Allen Hamilton, an international consulting firm. During his tenure at the Pentagon and as director of the National Security Agency, Admiral McConnell worked closely with [Defense Secretary Robert] Gates during Mr. Gates's time as deputy national security adviser and as director of central intelligence, and with Dick Cheney while he was defense secretary during the first Persian Gulf war. New York Times: Intelligence Chief Is Shifted to Deputy State Dept. Post

    20,000-40,000 MORE TROOPS LIKELY TO BE PART OF NEW IRAQ STRATEGY: President Bush is likely to send anywhere from 20,000 to 40,000 additional troops to Iraq as part of his yet-to-be-announced new Iraq strategy, sources with knowledge of his deliberations told CNN Wednesday. Bush is expected to address the nation on the new strategy early next week, sources have said. The president has not yet signed off on any changes, including a possible increase of U.S. troops, according to the sources. But he is "driving toward a conclusion" and a plan is "taking shape" and "getting more detailed" as the president puts "on the finer points," they said. National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe denied a report Tuesday that Bush was ready to sign off on increasing troop strength in Iraq by 20,000. CNN: Officials: Bush mulls Iraq surge, address likely next week

    BUSH CLAIMS AUTHORITY TO OPEN MAIL WITHOUT WARRANT, SAYS NYDN: President Bush has quietly claimed sweeping new powers to open Americans' mail without a judge's warrant, the Daily News has learned. The President asserted his new authority when he signed a postal reform bill into law on Dec. 20. Bush then issued a "signing statement" that declared his right to open people's mail under emergency conditions. That claim is contrary to existing law and contradicted the bill he had just signed, say experts who have reviewed it. Bush's move came during the winter congressional recess and a year after his secret domestic electronic eavesdropping program was first revealed. It caught Capitol Hill by surprise. New York Daily News: W pushes envelope on U.S. spying

    BUSH TAKES ON EARMARKS; WILL OFFER BALANCED BUDGET PLAN: President Bush promised yesterday to produce a plan to balance the federal budget in five years and challenged lawmakers to slash their special pet projects in half next year, embracing priorities of the new Democratic leadership that will assume control of Congress today. Appearing in the Rose Garden with his Cabinet, Bush said he has been encouraged by meetings with Democrats and thinks they can reach common ground on spending issues that have bitterly divided them for six years. He said that the budget proposal he will make Feb. 5 will erase the deficit by 2012, and he called on Congress "to end the dead-of-the-night" process in which earmarks are slipped into spending bills. Washington Post: Bush Signals Budget Accord

    DEMS TO TARGET ETHICS REFORM IN FIRST DAYS: Democrats take control of the House Thursday for the first time in a dozen years and plan as their first act to tackle a problem that helped them oust the Republicans in November: potential corruption involving lobbyists. The changes range from a total ban on gifts and meals from lobbyists to greater restrictions on lawmakers' travel. But efforts to cut down on the special projects that lawmakers add, often secretly, to spending bills, face a tougher battle. President Bush on Wednesday called for Congress to reduce the number and cost of those projects, known as earmarks, by half in the next year... The ethics changes proposed by House Democrats would not limit earmarks. Instead, they would require lawmakers to disclose the special projects and declare in writing whether they or their spouses have financial stakes in the projects. Tax breaks that benefit 10 or fewer people also would be disclosed. USA Today: First act for Dems is ethics cleanup

    WIZARDS ANGRY ABOUT PLANS TO KILL "SPORTS TICKET LOOPHOLE": Washington Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Washington Wizards basketball team and Verizon Center, yesterday blasted Democratic plans to kill a sports ticket loophole from lawmakers' $50 gift limit, saying it would damage an important local business. "We support the concept of full and open disclosure on the part of lobbyists and lawmakers to comply with ethics standards," said Matt Williams, senior vice president at WS&E. "However, we oppose a total ban on all corporate entertainment opportunities. And this ban of tickets to sporting events as gifts will cause a negative impact on our business. "Probably more than any other franchises in professional sports, Washington, D.C.-area teams count business from lobbyists as a contributing factor to our bottom line. This ban will certainly negatively affect the business we do with one of the major industries in our region - the federal government." The Hill: Gift limit riles Wizards

    "STENY HOYER, ROCK STAR" (?!): There were comparisons to "Alice in Wonderland," "Star Trek," "The Twilight Zone," and all manner of clichés to convey the strangeness engulfing Washington this week as the Democrats prepared to assume control of Congress after 12 years in the minority wilderness. But nothing distilled the new aura of things like this conceit: Steny Hoyer, Rock Star. "Here he comes, here he comes," a member of the press throng effervesced when Mr. Hoyer of Maryland, the incoming House majority leader, strode into the room as if he owned the place... Mr. Hoyer surveyed the conference room and held his arms slightly apart, as if to frame the unusual site before him: a crush of 60 or so reporters, camera operators, TV types and assorted security people, staff members and hangers-on to befit the status of an emerging fuss magnet. New York Times: Where Up Is Still Down, but the Rest Is Changing

    SHEEHAN & CO. TAKE OVER DEM PRESSER: Cindy Sheehan, the "peace activist" who famously besieged President Bush at Prairie Chapel Ranch, yesterday routed the leaders of the new House Democratic majority from their press conference where they attempted to present their legislative agenda. Chants of "de-escalate, investigate, troops home now," drowned out the new majority leaders, including Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, the chairman of the Democratic House Caucus. The flustered lawmakers retreated to a room behind closed doors, and surrendered the field to Mrs. Sheehan, whose son, an Army soldier, was killed in Iraq in 2004. With her quarry in full retreat, she scolded Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi for abandoning the war issue in the agenda for the first 100 hours of the 110th Congress, which convenes today. Washington Times: Cindy Sheehan routs the Democrats

    LOC GIVES ELLISON THOMAS JEFFERSON'S QUR'AN FOR SWEARING-IN: The Qur'an that Keith Ellison will use today during his swearing-in ceremony in Congress has an all-American history. It belonged to Thomas Jefferson. Ellison is borrowing it from the Library of Congress, which keeps the text in a vault. It will be returned after the ceremony. Ellison contacted the library early last month, asking to use Jefferson's Qur'an. It wasn't a typical request -- more common are requests from presidents for religious texts for inaugurations, said Mark Dimunation, a former Minneapolis resident and chief of the rare book and special collections division at the library... The version Ellison will be using was published in 1764 in London and was translated from Arabic into English by George Sale, he said. It is a highly respected version and helped Europe to understand the Qur'an, he said. Minneapolis Star-Tribune: Ellison to borrow Qur'an once owned by Jefferson

    RANGEL MOVES INTO CHENEY'S "PRIME DIGS": Rep. Charles Rangel has evicted Vice President Dick Cheney from his office in the Capitol, and the Harlem heavyweight is moving into the prime digs today, The Post has learned. Gilded letters were freshly painted atop the office door yesterday proclaiming "Ways and Means Committee" - confirming that the office now belongs to Rangel, the House panel's new chairman. Sources said Cheney's and his staff's belongings were removed over the holidays. The new digs give Rangel some of the choicest and most politically central real estate in all of Washington - as well as a measure of sweet revenge. Rangel moved at lightning speed to boot the man he once told The Post is a "son of a bitch." Even before Rangel officially took charge as the new chairman - which will happen at noon today - Capitol workers expunged the last traces of Cheney and brought in Rangel's plush furniture. New York Post: RANGEL BOOTS VEEP

    ELECTION DISPUTE CONTINUES IN FL: Democrat Christine Jennings asked an appeals court Wednesday to overturn a ruling that denied her access to the programming code for electronic voting machines used in Sarasota County in the November election. Jennings wants experts to examine the programming to determine if the machines somehow failed to count votes in the congressional race in which she was running against Republican Vern Buchanan. The state declared Buchanan the winner of the race to replace Katherine Harris by 369 votes and he is scheduled to be sworn in Thursday. AP via Yahoo! News: Fla. Democrat appeals court ruling

    WELDON WILL REPAY $23K FOR TRIP, "WAS APPARENTLY MISLEADING VOTERS" DURING CAMPAIGN: Outgoing U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon has agreed to repay more than $23,000 in travel expenses for a 2003 trip he took with several family members, according to a brief statement issued yesterday by ranking leaders of the House ethics committee. The statement left unclear who had paid for the trip, where the Weldon clan had traveled or how the family had racked up such hefty expenses. But it appeared to clarify two issues that were unsettled in November, when suburban voters went to the polls to decide whether Weldon deserved an 11th term in Congress. First, Weldon was apparently misleading voters when he repeatedly claimed that the ethics committee had thoroughly investigated his activities and decided not to take any action against him. And second, the ethics committee protected Weldon by failing to issue any public statements about the Republican congressman until yesterday - two months after the election and the last day that the GOP controlled the House agenda. Philadelphia Inquirer: Weldon, in reversal, to repay $23G

    FEENEY ALSO WILL PAY FOR '03 SCOTLAND TRIP: U.S. Rep. Tom Feeney has agreed to pay $5,643 to the U.S. Treasury to cover the cost of a golfing trip he took to Scotland with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Feeney's chief of staff said the Oviedo Republican will write a check out of personal funds to pay for the 2003 trip... When Feeney reported his trip on congressional-disclosure forms, he said it was paid for by the National Center for Public Policy Research. The center issued a statement Wednesday disavowing any connection with the trip, repeating what it told the Orlando Sentinel in 2005. Feeney said Wednesday that he was "duped and lied to" about the purpose of the trip and filed his disclosure forms in good faith. His chief of staff, Jason Roe, said the congressman is not sure who paid for the visit to Scotland, but added it could have been Abramoff's clients. Orlando Sentinel: 'Duped' Feeney will pay for golf trip with lobbyist

    "MACHU MEN" SENATORS GO SOUTH FOR NEW YEAR'S: A day after the death of former president Gerald R. Ford, Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) embarked on what could be called his first official activity as the incoming Senate majority leader. But it had nothing to do with Ford's funeral. Instead, Reid boarded a government plane bound for six days in South America, accompanied by wife Landra and five other Democratic and Republican senators and their spouses Dec. 27. Their mission: improved relations -- and New Year's in Machu Picchu... Highlighting their trip: three hours of presidential meetings and two days touring the Incan ruins in Peru. The senators did not change course after Ford's death, figuring they would insult leaders in a region none too happy with the United States to begin with, according to a Reid aide. Washington Post: While the Nation Mourned, Their Trip Continued

    HARMAN STILL STUNG BY PELOSI PICK: Catfight aftermath: Rep. Jane Harman is still quite irked that House Speaker-designee Nancy Pelosi nixed her for chairman of the House intelligence committee -- and she's not exactly being stoic about it. Friends and colleagues say Harman has openly complained that she was cut loose by her fellow California Democrat and one-time friend, Pelosi, who picked instead Silvestre Reyes(D-Tex.), a former Border patrol agent. A Harvard Law graduate with a gold-plated political résumé, Harman was the ranking Democrat on the intelligence committee and first in line for the chairmanship. She has lamented that Congress has lost its luster for her and that she is hoping for a job in a Democratic administration, according to a friend. "She's obsessed," the source said. "It's been hard for her not to take it personally, but it's over." Washington Post: Passed Over by Pelosi, Harman Doesn't Get Even. She Gets Mad

    HILLARY SEES OBAMA AS "BIGGEST OBSTACLE" TO NOMINATION: According to participants, Mrs. Clinton has pressed to find out everything from whether Al Gore will run again (he is inclined not to, people tell her) to how much support remains for Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, the party's 2004 candidate, among Democratic leaders (anemic, she has heard). Mrs. Clinton told Democrats that she viewed her two strongest potential Democratic opponents to be Senator Barack Obama of Illinois and John Edwards, the former senator from North Carolina. The participants said that she considered Mr. Obama as her biggest obstacle to the nomination, but that she believed the threat of his candidacy would diminish as voters learned how inexperienced he was in government and foreign affairs. New York Times: In Meetings With Allies, Clinton Hones '08 Strategy

    CRITICS TURN "CT FOR LIEBERMAN" INTO WATCHDOG OF SENATOR'S ACTIONS: The party Sen. Joe Lieberman created to mount his independent re-election campaign has been seized by one of his critics, and the secretary of state's office said Wednesday that it won't challenge the takeover. After the senator's Nov. 7 victory under the Connecticut for Lieberman Party banner, John Orman switched his party affiliation from Democrat to Connecticut for Lieberman and voted himself chairman. Orman, a political science professor who ran briefly against Lieberman last year, said only critics, bloggers and anyone named Lieberman can join the party, which he said would be a watchdog of the senator's actions. Ted Bromley, a lawyer for the secretary of the state's office, said it won't take a stance on the legitimacy of Orman's leadership. He said the issue could be settled by a judge, but only if it's challenged in court. AP via Yahoo! News: Lieberman Party now in hands of critic
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