Capitol Hillbillies

Rove, Miers will testify…sort of

Armed with an agreement by top Bush administration aides to testify under oath, congressional Democrats may finally learn the answer to a 2-year-old question: What role did George W. Bush’s White House play in politically motivated firings of U.S. attorneys?

Karl Rove and Harriet Miers agreed Wednesday to be questioned by the House Judiciary Committee, settling for now a major constitutional dispute that was going to be decided by the courts.

The legal issue was the constitutionality of Bush’s assertion of executive privilege, to order the aides not to testify.

Lawmakers start whacking away at Obama’s budget

President Barack Obama’s proposed tax increases are being met with misgivings by both Republicans and Democrats in Congress as he sends his Treasury secretary to Capitol Hill to defend them.

Lawmakers in both parties question Obama’s call to reduce high-income earners’ tax deductions for the interest on their house payments and for charitable contributions. Also drawing fire is his proposal to start taxing industries on their greenhouse gas pollution — a move sure to raise consumers’ electric rates.

Obama and his top aides have been promoting the budget package since unveiling an outline last week, but Tuesday will provide the lawmakers their first opportunity to publicly question top officials about the details.

The best Congress special interest money can buy

Political Action Committees (PACs) spent a record $416 million in the 2008 federal elections — most on candidates for the House and Senate.

As one who once ran the multi-million dollar PAC for the National Association of Realtors — at the time the largest in the nation — I can say as an absolute fact that those who sign the checks don’t do so without expecting something in return.

Republicans look forward to budget battle

Top Republicans charged President Barack Obama with driving the United States toward socialism on Friday, opening an ideological attack on his big spending plans.

While the tough rhetoric was certain to rev up hard-line Republicans — many of whom regard "socialism" as anathema to American life — it was unclear how much it would change the debate in the Democratic-led Congress, which begins hearings next week on Obama’s $3.55 trillion budget proposal.

In Congress, a rare consensus on Iraq

After years of bitterly debating whether to set a timetable for troop withdrawals in Iraq, Congress has agreed to one.

The general consensus came Friday in the form of statements endorsing President Barack Obama’s plan to bring home roughly two-thirds of the U.S. military force in Iraq by August 2010.

Roland Burris and the Sound of Silence

Simon and Garfunkel’s classic song, The Sound of Silence, could apply now to the controversy surrounding embattled Illinois Senator Roland Burris.

As questions increase over whether or not Burris pulled a "pay to play" to gain appointment to the Senate to fill President Barack Obama’s Senate seat, the "official" reaction around Washington is strangely quiet.

Perhaps Democrats in the Senate are embarrassed by how easily they were played by Burris and ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Perhaps the hyperbole of change in Washington has been washed away by a flood silence.

Or perhaps it is just the calm before the storm.

Republicans, hypocrisy and the stimulus

Hypocrisy is no stranger to politics but the ability of Republican members of Congress to oppose the recently-enacted economic stimulus plan while promoting some provisions in press releases takes doublespeak to a new level.

More questions, fewer answers about Burris

U.S. Sen. Roland Burris is pleading with ordinary Illinoisans to stop a "rush to judgment" amid growing fury over the new senator’s shifting accounts of how he came to be appointed to the Senate.

"If I had done the things I’ve been accused of, I would be too embarrassed to stand up here in front of you because you all are my friends," Burris said Wednesday at a City Club of Chicago luncheon, adding that during his decades of public service there was "never a hint of a scandal."

Republicans eager to jump on spending abuses

Republicans are preparing to pounce on any wasteful spending in the $787 billion stimulus package as they refocus their criticisms of a measure whose success could hurt their 2010 election prospects.

President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats also promise rigorous oversight, including a new Web site to help people track various projects funded by the massive bill. But the two parties will reap different political rewards if they find waste or abuse, which is virtually inevitable when the government tries to spend so much money so fast, authorities say.