Thursday, February 08, 2007
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Compiled by Stephen Bach
CNN Washington Bureau
Making news today...
"The bare-bones approach is intended to persuade Republicans to break ranks with the GOP and express their frustration with a war without turning off Democrats who want to end the war by cutting funding."
Pace's statement that the troops "understand how our legislature works and that they understand that there's going to be this kind of debate" effectively "takes out of play an argument that had been made by Mr. Bush's spokesman and other top Republicans, who had warned resolutions disagreeing with the troop increase plan would send bad signals."
The letter, signed by Assistant Secretary of Defense Robert Wilkie, "essentially limits her to the commuter plane used by former Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, which requires refueling to travel from Washington to Mrs. Pelosi's San Francisco district."
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Political Hot Topics
(Today's top political stories from news organizations across the country)
WARNER THREATENS TO ATTACH SURGE MEASURE "TO ANY BILL SENT TO THE FLOOR": Senate Republicans who earlier this week helped block deliberations on a resolution opposing President Bush's new troop deployments in Iraq changed course yesterday and vowed to use every tactic at their disposal to ensure a full and open debate. In a letter distributed yesterday evening to Senate leaders, John W. Warner (Va.), Chuck Hagel (Neb.) and five other GOP supporters of the resolution threatened to attach their measure to any bill sent to the floor in the coming weeks. Noting that the war is the "most pressing issue of our time," the senators declared: "We will explore all of our options under the Senate procedures and practices to ensure a full and open debate." Washington Post: 7 GOP Senators Back War Debate
DEMS PLANNING "SHORT AND SIMPLE," "BARE-BONES" ANTI-SURGE RESOLUTION: House Democratic leaders are considering a straightforward approach to next week's Iraq war debate, planning a short and simple measure opposing President Bush's decision to send more forces into combat. The bare-bones approach is intended to persuade Republicans to break ranks with the GOP and express their frustration with a war without turning off Democrats who want to end the war by cutting funding... Republican leaders, who are seeking their own alternative measure that would set benchmarks for the Iraqi government, said they anticipate some GOP defections to the nonbinding Democratic resolution. "I don't think it'll be a pure party-line vote," said Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Fla., chairman of the House Republican Conference. AP via Yahoo! News: Dems take simple tack on Iraq war debate
NONBINDING RESOLUTIONS WON'T HURT TROOP MORALE, SAY GATES AND PACE: The Defense Department's top civilian and its top military officer, undercutting the White House and other senior Republicans yesterday, said Congress doesn't endanger troop morale by voting on nonbinding resolutions opposing President Bush's Iraq reinforcement plan. "From the standpoint of the troops, I believe that they understand how our legislature works and that they understand that there's going to be this kind of debate," said Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Peter Pace, effectively taking out of play an argument that had been made by Mr. Bush's spokesman and other top Republicans, who had warned resolutions disagreeing with the troop increase plan would send bad signals. Joining Gen. Pace in testifying to the House Armed Services Committee, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said the troops are "sophisticated enough to understand" that the debate is about a way to move forward in Iraq. Washington Times: War foes will not hurt morale
SENATE BUDGET COMMITTEE WANTS TO HEAR FROM GATES BY MARCH 1: Senate Budget Committee leaders yesterday gave Defense Secretary Robert Gates until the end of the month to testify on inconsistent cost estimates for the troop "surge" in Iraq. They set the deadline amid anger among Democrats that Gates cancelled a planned appearance at next Thursday's hearing on the defense budget and offered to send another Pentagon official instead. Senators had thought Gates would become the first Pentagon chief to testify before the panel since the war began and would make good on a vow he made to Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) before his confirmation. Conrad and Sen. Judd Gregg (N.H.), the panel's ranking Republican, wrote to Gates yesterday urging him to reschedule by March 1. The Hill: Gates riles Budget panel
LIEBERMAN SIDES WITH GOP ON RESOLUTION, MOVES FARTHER FROM OWN PARTY: It came as little surprise that when Senate Republicans blocked debate Monday on a resolution that would have opposed President Bush's plan to increase troop levels in Iraq, Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, erstwhile Democrat, sided with them... Defeated last year in the Democratic senatorial primary in Connecticut but then elected as an independent to a fourth term, Mr. Lieberman has kept a promise to caucus with the Democrats, giving them a majority of only 51 to 49 and earning for him a designation as "the most influential man in the Senate." But on Iraq, the issue that made the last year the most difficult of his political life, he has moved farther and farther from the party, winding up to the right of many Republicans who now embrace what six months ago was almost solely a Democratic position on the war. New York Times: Allied With Democrats, Lieberman Easily Aligns With Republicans
VOTEVETS' "ANGRY SOLDIERS" HEAT UP THE RHETORIC ON SURGE: When Iraq war veteran Jon Soltz accused Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) of "aiding the enemy," the Democratic senators gathered around him yesterday did not wince. Nor did Democrats object when Soltz, the chairman of a group called VoteVets.org, called President Bush and Vice President Cheney "draft dodgers." In the United States Congress, where decorum usually holds sway, Soltz and his small band of veterans are saying things many Democrats would like to express but can't. And as the politics heat up over the Iraq war, Democratic leaders increasingly are being drawn to Soltz and his angry soldiers. VoteVets.org appears to be the most active group trying to influence the debate about the president's plan to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq. Washington Post: Veterans Group Speaks Out on War
METHODS FOR DOLING OUT TERROR FUNDS "HIGHLY TECHNICAL" AND "TOTALLY ARBITRARY": Federal Homeland Security officials who slashed New York City's anti-terror funding by 40 percent botched their grant analysis and barely understood how their own Byzantine methods worked, a bombshell new report reveals. Bungling bureaucrats had "limited knowledge" of their own formulas, which changed from year to year as thousands of new bits of data came on line, and failed to produce any evidence that they tested their analysis for quirks, the Government Accountability Office found. "It is almost as if the money is distributed based on a bureaucrat with darts throwing them at a map of the United States," fumed Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.). "There's no rhyme or reason." The agency's methods for judging risk and doling out $1.7 billion in homeland funds were at once both highly technical, built on a complex foundation of data and totally arbitrary, the GAO said, with officials deciding to hand out two-thirds based on "risk" and one-third based on "effectiveness." New York Post: HOMELAND FEDS GOT LO$T IN OWN MAZE
RUSSERT GETS A TASTE OF HIS OWN MEDICINE ON CROSS: The prosecution in the perjury trial of I. Lewis Libby Jr. neared the end of its case Wednesday with a final dramatic flourish - putting Tim Russert of NBC News on the witness stand to deliver what could be a serious blow to Mr. Libby's defense. Nevertheless, Mr. Russert, who is accustomed to asking tough questions of his guests on "Meet the Press," found himself in the clearly uncomfortable role of being the subject of tough questions during a cross-examination by Mr. Libby's defense lawyer. Mr. Russert, whose signature technique in interrogating officials on his television program includes confronting them with documents and texts of previous quotes, found the technique used on him. A defense lawyer displayed documents on a large television screen in the courtroom as he challenged Mr. Russert's recollection of events. New York Times: At Libby Trial, Russert of NBC Gives and Gets
LOOKS LIKE PELOSI WILL HAVE TO STOP FOR GAS: The Department of Defense yesterday sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that puts limits on the size of the plane she may use to travel across the country and restricts the guests she can bring, The Washington Times has learned. A congressional source who read the letter signed by Assistant Secretary of Defense Robert Wilkie said it essentially limits her to the commuter plane used by former Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, which requires refueling to travel from Washington to Mrs. Pelosi's San Francisco district. A second source, in the Bush administration, confirmed the contents of the letter... "It's not a question of size. It's a question of distance," Mrs. Pelosi told reporters yesterday. "We want an aircraft that can reach California." Washington Times: Pentagon limits Pelosi jet size
110TH MAKES CLIMATE CHANGE A TOP ISSUE: The opening weeks of the new Democratic-controlled Congress have become the season of climate change. Since the current session began last month, lawmakers have introduced more than 10 bills addressing global warming. Several committees have scheduled hearings, including two yesterday and another today . And former vice president Al Gore, whose Oscar-nominated film "An Inconvenient Truth" has drawn millions of moviegoers, is scheduled to testify on Capitol Hill next month... Though scientists have long warned about global warming, the issue had taken a back seat on the national agenda in recent years because of the Bush administration's opposition to mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions, which many scientists blame for the problem. But the Democratic takeover of Congress in November -- along with a disturbing report from a meeting of world-renowned scientists last week -- has given the issue new urgency among lawmakers. Boston Globe: Global warming a hot topic in Washington
"I HAVE ABSOLUTELY BEEN FALSELY ACCUSED," SAYS REP. MILLER: As Republican leaders attempt to keep a closer eye on potential scandals within the GOP Conference, Rep. Gary Miller (Calif.) assured his colleagues during a closed-door meeting Tuesday that despite a federal investigation into his real estate dealings he has done nothing illegal and is simply the target of partisan attacks. "I have absolutely been falsely accused," Miller said in a brief interview Wednesday. Miller said he told his colleagues at Tuesday's Conference meeting that all of the documents related to his business transactions are available in his Congressional office for any Member or staff to review. Roll Call: Miller Mounts His Defense
RAILROADS FIND FAMILY MEMBERS TO LOBBY THEIR KIN IN CONGRESS: The railroad industry is hiring relatives of Capitol Hill lawmakers and staff members as it faces tighter federal safety legislation, employing a tactic untouched by the Democrats' new ethics proposals: lobbying by congressional family members. The new Democratic Congress is working on the first overhaul of railroad-safety laws in 13 years. Long attuned to Republican control, railroad companies are now working to keep their GOP allies but also hiring Democratic lobbyists... The lobbyists said they would not directly advocate for clients through family members. The hirings are legal, experts on lobbying law said, but point to a topic left unaddressed in the new ethics proposals before Congress. Washington Post: Railroad Firms Bringing Aboard Lawmakers' Lobbyist Relatives
"CANDIDATES FROM NOWHERE": The 2008 presidential campaign has already produced the next generation of American politicians. They don't have local accents. That's because they don't have local roots. Nor do they boast legions of home-state friends, teachers and mentors who have spent years waiting for the proud day when their talented native son or daughter would run for president. These are the candidates from nowhere -- or everywhere. With the race still in its early stages, the top tier of contenders in both parties is filled with people who reflect a new brand of post-regional politics. These candidates convey no distinct sense of place in either their personal style or political base. The Politico: 2008 Field Sprouts Rootless Candidates
WILL ROMNEY'S RELIGION "BE A BIG OBSTACLE?" As he begins campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination, Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, is facing a threshold issue: Will his religion - he is a Mormon - be a big obstacle to winning the White House? Polls show a substantial number of Americans will not vote for a Mormon for president. The religion is viewed with suspicion by Christian conservatives, a vital part of the Republicans' primary base. Mr. Romney's advisers acknowledged that popular misconceptions about Mormonism - as well as questions about whether Mormons are beholden to their church's leaders on public policy - could give his opponents ammunition in the wide-open fight among Republicans to become the consensus candidate of social conservatives. New York Times: Mormon Candidate Braces for Religion as Issue
ROMNEY HAS "ABOUT-FACE" ON CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM: Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who strongly criticized campaign-finance regulations in a private meeting with House conservatives last week, once touted dramatic restructuring measures such as taxing political contributions and placing spending limits on federal campaigns. Romney's past positions on campaign-finance regulation, anathema to many social conservatives who believe such rules place unconstitutional limits on free speech, could complicate his ongoing efforts to court conservative leaders. Romney already has had to explain his past support for abortion rights, another volatile issue among conservatives. The Hill: Romney's about-face on campaign funding
OBAMA FILING TRIES TO DEFINE "MURKY AREA OF CAMPAIGN FINANCE LAW": Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) signaled yesterday that he will begin raising money for a potential general election candidacy, joining Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and former senator John Edwards (D-N.C.) in rejecting the public financing system that has governed presidential elections for better than three decades. Even as Obama starts to collect donations for a general election account, he has asked for guidance from the Federal Election Commission on whether he could reverse course if he wins the Democratic nomination and his Republican opponent accepts public money. Dan Pfeiffer, a spokesman for Obama, said the senator's filing is intended to "preserve the public financing option for the party's nominees." Other aides explained that the request is aimed at defining what Obama can and cannot do in a murky area of campaign finance law. Washington Post: Obama to Seek FEC Ruling on Financing
EDWARDS "TAKING HEAT" FOR MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR ESTATE: Two homes, two images, one candidate. Democrat John Edwards, who has made an anti-poverty message the theme of his 2008 presidential campaign, is taking heat for the lavish home he has constructed in Orange County, N.C... Sitting on 102 secluded acres - surrounded by trees and defended by no-trespassing signs - the 28,000-square-foot estate that Edwards and his family call home has presidential privacy. A main home has five bedrooms and six-and-a-half baths. It's connected by a covered walkway to a bright red addition known as "The Barn," that includes its own living facilities along with a handball court, an indoor pool and an indoor basketball court with a stage at one end. Nearby, the family has cleared space for a soccer field. With a current building value of $4.3 million, the unfinished Edwards estate is already about $1 million more expensive than any other house in the county, according to tax records. It sits on land worth about $1.1 million. AP via Yahoo! News: Edwards takes heat over lavish estate
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