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Friday, January 19, 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...

  • In an interview with CNN's John Roberts, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) gave a candid assessment of Iraq's prime minister:

    ROBERTS: Nuri al-Maliki, the Prime Minister. Do you have any faith that he is the guy who can bring Iraq back to a state of security?
    CLINTON: I don't have any faith.
    ROBERTS: No faith in al-Maliki?
    CLINTON: Whether there's a gap between his intentions and his will and capacity is the real problem, or whether he's doing what he intends to do to mark time and further the, you know, the dominance of his sectarian supporters. It's hard to tell.

    Be sure to watch the FULL INTERVIEW on "THIS WEEK AT WAR," airing Saturday 7 pm ET and Sunday 1 pm ET.

  • The Senate passed "passed sweeping changes to ethics and lobbying rules" by a vote of 96-2 last night, an action that "makes the start of the 110th Congress a watershed moment in the history of K Street and Capitol Hill," the Washington Post reports.

  • Nancy Pelosi's announcement of a special committee to address global warming and energy independence is "the latest in a series of moves that have created tension with some veteran Democratic committee chairmen," Bloomberg reports.

    "Tension between Pelosi and some of the Democratic chairmen is 'palpable,'" said Rep. John Conyers (D-MI).

  • "Republican National Committee members think they will get a secret ballot on today's election of a new general chairman," the Washington Times reports, a move that "would protect members opposed to the White House's push to fill the new slot with" Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL), "an advocate of an amnesty for illegal aliens."

  • And Rahm Emanuel is "hiding under the desk," he tells the Chicago Tribune. Why is the Dem power broker finding himself in the "fetal" position when it comes to his preferred '08 horse? Find out in Hot Topics below!

    President' Schedule:

  • No public events.

    Also on the Political Radar:

  • Iraq Study Group Co-Chair Lee Hamilton testifies on his commission's report before the House Foreign Affairs Committee at 10 am ET.

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid give a prebuttal to President's address with their own "State of the Union" at the National Press Club at 10:30 am ET.

    The leaders' comments will address global warming, energy independence, and the war in Iraq, among other topics. From prepared remarks:

    Pelosi: "Taking bold measures today to achieve energy independence within ten years must be the highest priority for this Congress. Working with the global, religious, business, and scientific communities, we intend to continue robust research on global warming and produce policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions while simultaneously creating good-paying jobs."'

    Reid: "The President's plan [for Iraq] will receive an up-or-down vote in both Chambers of Congress. It is the only way the American people can have their voice heard. Our hope... is that the President will hear the bipartisan chorus opposing escalation, and work with Democrats to find a new course."

  • The Senate Radio-Television Correspondents' Gallery Daybook

  • The House Radio-Television Correspondents' Gallery Daybook

  • Tomorrow, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) will formally announce his intention to run for President at 1 pm ET in Topeka.

    Political Hot Topics

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

    "A WATERSHED MOMENT" FOR K STREET AND THE HILL: The Senate on Thursday overwhelmingly passed sweeping changes to ethics and lobbying rules, overcoming bipartisan reluctance to ban many of the favors that lobbyists do for lawmakers and to illuminate the shadowy legislative practice of earmarking money for special projects. The Senate's action makes the start of the 110th Congress a watershed moment in the history of K Street and Capitol Hill. Interpreting the results of the Nov. 7 election as a reaction to corruption scandals when Congress was under Republican control, the Senate has joined the House in adopting broad new rules that go beyond the proposals Republicans introduced last year, the ones that Democrats campaigned on, or the extensive changes House Democrats recently passed. The measure passed around 9 p.m. by a vote of 96 to 2. Senators Orrin Hatch of Utah and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, both Republicans, were the only members to vote against the bill. New York Times: Senate Passes Vast Ethics Overhaul

    DEMS COMPLETE "100 HOURS" AGENDA IN 42:25 (ACCORDING TO PELOSI'S CLOCK): House Democrats capped their "100 hours" agenda with the passage of an energy bill yesterday, the sixth piece of legislation approved in two weeks, and Democratic leaders said the package marked "a beginning, not an end" to their legislative ambitions. Though the six measures still face battles in the Senate and possible veto by the White House, Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, boasted that "we made promises and we kept our promises." Though Republicans complained that they were not given enough opportunities to amend the six bills, an average of 62 GOP lawmakers voted in favor of the measures. Thirty-six Republicans voted for the energy bill adopted yesterday in a 264-163 vote. Washington Post: House Repeals Tax Break for Big Oil

    "POTENTIAL FOR ABUSE IS HIGH" IN IRAQ'S BUDGET: It's budget time in Iraq, and the lively debates that have erupted would strike a familiar chord for observers of such talks in any American statehouse or European parliament. But war-ravaged Iraq is no ordinary country, and the murkiness surrounding many items in the proposed 2007 budget has contributed to the general distrust between sectarian factions as well as widespread doubts about the ability of the government of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki to manage the nation. Nearly $2 billion of the budget is allocated to agencies beyond the oversight of the central government at a time when potential international donors have balked at tossing more money into what has been viewed as a black hole. The potential for abuse is high. Most ministries get multimillion-dollar discretionary funds known as "social benefits" with few spending safeguards, Iraqi officials say. Los Angeles Times: Iraq's planned budget divisive too

    HOUSE DEMS WILL GET BEHIND SENATE'S "SURGE" RESOLUTION: Speaker Nancy Pelosi said yesterday that House Democrats will support a Senate resolution denouncing President Bush's proposal to increase the number of troops in Iraq. "It is not in the national interest of the United States to deepen its military involvement in Iraq, particularly by escalating the U.S. troop presence in Iraq," she said at a press conference yesterday, reading with approval from the nonbinding Senate resolution. "Introduced in a bipartisan way in the United States Senate, that resolution will be supported in the House by the Democrats," Mrs. Pelosi said. "We do not support the escalation of the war. We do not think it is in our national interest. We will engage the public in that debate." Washington Times: House to echo criticism of troop surge

    BUSH WILL FACE "SKEPTICAL AUDIENCE" AT SOTU: When President Bush delivers his State of the Union address Tuesday, he'll be facing a new audience on an old issue: a Democratic majority in Congress that is strongly opposed to his new plan for the Iraq war. Explaining the proposal to boost U.S. troop strength by 21,500 in Iraq is a major goal of Bush's speech, said White House press secretary Tony Snow, even as Democrats and some Republicans push forward a non-binding resolution against it. "We understand it's going to be a skeptical audience," Snow said. Unlike Bush's prime-time address on Iraq last week, Snow said, the State of the Union "has a large domestic component" that will be crafted to find common ground with the Democrats who control Congress. The agenda includes immigration, education and energy. USA Today: Bush to focus on broad challenges facing country

    SENATORS HAVE MORE QUESTIONS AS ADMIN REVERSES ON WIRETAPS: Lawmakers demanded more information on new rules for governing a domestic surveillance program on Thursday, a day after the Bush administration announced that it had placed the National Security Agency eavesdropping under court supervision. Senators from both parties who had long criticized the eavesdropping without court warrants said at a Judiciary Committee hearing that they welcomed the change but wanted details. They said they wanted to be sure that the new rules adequately protected Americans' privacy. A central question is whether the court will approve eavesdropping case by case, its traditional practice, or will it issue broader orders that provide additional government leeway in selecting targets. New York Times: Senators Demand Details on New Eavesdropping Rules

    GLOBAL WARMING COMMITTEE PITS PELOSI AGAINST SENIOR DEMS: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to create a new congressional panel to address global warming and energy independence, the latest in a series of moves that have created tension with some veteran Democratic committee chairmen. The new panel will hold hearings and recommend legislation, drawing attention to the need to curb emissions of climate-changing gases, Pelosi said. It would have limited capabilities, lacking the power to approve measures for consideration by the full House. The new Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming would encroach on the jurisdiction of at least three existing congressional panels and comes two weeks after Pelosi surprised party veterans by imposing six-year term limits on panel chairmen. Tension between Pelosi and some of the Democratic chairmen is "palpable," said House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat. "You can feel it." Bloomberg: Pelosi Global Warming Plan Is Latest Tussle With Panel Chiefs

    KERRY WANTS TO PROBE MILITARY SURPLUS SALES TO IRAN: Sen. John Kerry on Thursday called for an investigation into security weaknesses in the Defense Department's surplus sales that have let buyers for Iran and China acquire aircraft parts and other valuable military gear. The Massachusetts Democrat sought an inquiry by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee after The Associated Press reported that in several instances middlemen for the countries had exploited security flaws to acquire sensitive surplus. The surplus sales include parts for F-14 "Tomcat" fighter jets, a plane retired last year by the United States and now flown only by Iran. Iran bought the jets in the 1970s before the U.S. government banned most exports, including defense-related sales, to the Mideast country. "There is no way that Iran should be getting these sensitive military parts, especially with the situation in the Mideast so turbulent," Kerry said. AP via Yahoo! News: Kerry calls for probe of Pentagon sales

    GSA ADMINISTRATOR CALLS FRIEND'S NO-BID CONTRACT "A MISTAKE": The chief of the U.S. General Services Administration attempted to give a no-bid contract to a company founded and operated by a longtime friend, sidestepping federal laws and regulations, according to interviews and documents obtained by The Washington Post. Administrator Lurita Alexis Doan, a former government contractor appointed by President Bush, personally signed the deal to pay a division of her friend's public relations firm $20,000 for a 24-page report promoting the GSA's use of minority- and woman-owned businesses, the documents show. The contract was terminated last summer after GSA lawyers and other agency officials pointed out possible procurement violations, including the failure to adequately justify the no-bid deal or have it reviewed in advance by trained procurement officers, officials said... In an interview Wednesday, Doan said she believed she was following proper procedures to hire the best firm available to quickly produce a report on diversity practices. "I made a mistake," Doan said. Washington Post: GSA Chief Scrutinized For Deal With Friend

    NEY IN COURT FOR SENTENCING TODAY: Former Rep. Bob Ney, who resigned in October after pleading guilty to corruption charges, faces more than two years in prison for his role in a congressional bribery scandal. The Ohio Republican, the first congressman ensnared in the case, has admitted trading political action for golf trips, tickets, meals and campaign donations from disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Ney is due in court Friday and has asked U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle not to sentence him to more than two years in prison. Federal prosecutors say the Abramoff scheme was wider than Ney acknowledges and that he should receive a 27-month sentence. Ney is also asking Huvelle to rule that his corruption was influenced by alcohol addiction. His lawyers asked that the six-term lawmaker be recommended for a prison drug abuse program, which could make him eligible for release in about a year. AP via Yahoo! News: Ex-Ohio congressman Ney faces sentencing

    MARTINEZ'S CHALLENGE: From the presidential cuff links on his white shirt to the new title of general chairman of the Republican Party that he assumes today, Sen. Mel Martinez owes much of his political fortune to one man. President Bush plucked Martinez from Orange County's local political scene and made him the nation's housing secretary, which proved a springboard to becoming a U.S. senator. And now Bush has chosen him to lead the national GOP, a position that is expected to be ratified today by the Republican National Committee. His challenge is formidable. The once lock-step GOP is not the swaggering party Martinez knew when he signed on with Bush six years ago... Several members of the 168-member Republican National Committee will vote against Martinez today to register disapproval of his -- and the president's -- support for reforms that would give some illegal immigrants a path toward legal status. Orlando Sentinel: Martinez faces fight to keep party in line

    SECRET BALLOT AT RNC OFFICER VOTE: Republican National Committee members think they will get a secret ballot on today's election of a new general chairman, which would protect members opposed to the White House's push to fill the new slot with an advocate of an amnesty for illegal aliens. "If we get the secret ballot as promised, then every member will feel free to express his or her view without the fear of coercion or intimidation," said RNC member Curly Haugland of North Dakota... "If it is a secret ballot, it will make a huge difference," said RNC member Denise McNamara of Texas, who said she intends to vote against the creation of the general-chairman position and, if that move fails, to vote against Mr. Martinez to fill the office, regardless of whether the vote is secret or public. So far, a minority of members share her willingness to publicly express opposition. Washington Times: GOP expects secret ballot

    EMANUEL "HIDING UNDER THE DESK"... DILEMMA PICKING A DEM HORSE: Of all the positions he has assumed in political wars, one rarely associated with the combative Rahm Emanuel is this: fetal. Yet that is where he finds himself when it comes to his preferred candidate in the 2008 presidential race. Last April, the former Clinton White House aide publicly committed to his political patron's wife, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), a view he also echoed privately and more than once. Now, with the ascendant candidacy of home-state political phenomenon Sen. Barack Obama, Emanuel has gone to a strange place for him, a neutral corner. "I'm hiding under the desk," said the Chicago Democratic congressman. "I'm very far under the desk, and I'm bringing my paper and my phone." Chicago Tribune: Between friends, Emanuel looking for neutral corner

    BLACK OPINION LEADERS STILL SIZING OBAMA UP: Excitement is spreading among Democratic Party activists that [Senator Barack] Obama might have a shot at winning the White House, but black opinion leaders are still sizing him up - and some are already expressing greater kinship with other candidates. Half-black and half-white, a U.S. senator for a mere two years, Obama boasts that his life story transcends racial lines. But he is unlikely to win the Democratic nomination without substantial support from black voters. Blacks remain one of the party's most loyal voting blocs. They are expected to make up more than half of the electorate in South Carolina's first-in-the-South primary next year and to play a crucial role in other key states. Los Angeles Times: Black leaders still sizing up Obama

    BROWNBACK TO OFFICIALLY JUMP IN: Kansas Republican Sen. Sam Brownback, an outspoken conservative, on Saturday will become the first major Republican candidate to announce his intention to run for president in 2008. And while many in the increasingly crowded field of would-be GOP contenders are seeking ways to balance appeals to the party's conservative voting base with outreach to a broader base of voters, the 50-year-old Brownback thus far is hardly tempering his ideological passion. "There is a real need in our country to rebuild the family and renew our culture, and there is a need for genuine conservatism and real compassion in the national discussion," Brownback said in December when he announced the formation of his exploratory committee. Brownback, who enters the campaign as a longshot for the Republican nomination, will make his formal candidacy announcement in the state capital of Topeka, with the speech scheduled to be broadcast nationally by C-SPAN. CQ Politics: Brownback, Set to Launch GOP White House Bid, Will Fight from the Right
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