Capitol Hillbillies

Congress travels more at taypayer expense

Members of Congress may be telling others to cut back and criticizing corporate CEOs for lavish perks, but taxpayer-paid junkets are on the increase in the House and Senate and family members often go along for the ride.

A study by the Wall Street Journal shows traveling well at taxpayer expense is a perk that hasn’t been cut back in these financially-trouble times. To the contrary, travel is up and the costs continue to rise.

Senate Dems trim cost of health care bill

Determined to advance President Barack Obama’s health care agenda, key Senate Democrats are calling for a government-run insurance option to compete with private plans, as well as a $750-per-worker annual fee on larger companies that do not offer coverage to employees.

In a letter outlining the details, Sens. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., and Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., said their revised plan would cost dramatically less than an earlier, incomplete proposal, and help show the way toward coverage for 97 percent of all Americans.

Can Franken boost Dems on key issues?

The jokes about Minnesota’s prolonged recount can finally stop, just in time for Democrats to secure a reliable vote from a former funny man.

Al Franken is on his way to Washington and the comedian-turned-senator-elect will bring with him a likely yes vote on key legislation, including two of President Barack Obama’s top priorities — health care and climate change.

Comedian Al Franken can now be Sen. Franken

It took comedian Al Franken eight months, millions of dollars and an army of lawyers but he will soon be able to finally call himself Senator Franken, giving the Democratic party a potential 60-vote stranglehold on the U.S. Senate.

The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled 5-0 Tuesday that Frankin did indeed win the long-disputed election against Republican incumbent Norm Coleman last November and Coleman finally conceded.

Most Republicans wanted Coleman to throw in the towel months ago but he fought what everyone else knew was a losing battle to the bitter end.

A shouting and shoving match in Congress

Two volatile members of Congress got into a shouting and shoving match on the House floor Thursday.

Rep. David Obey, the powerful chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, and Rep. Maxine Waters, the California Democrat known for her vocal outbursts to anyone who doesn’t agree with her, went at each other in a disagreement over some pork barrel legislation Waters wanted for an employment center that just happens to bear her name.

Turning the tables: GOP plays ethics card

Republicans long ago lost the moral high ground on ethics. You can’t claim honesty and ethical behavior when you have leaders like Tom DeLay, who never met a bribe he wouldn’t take, or hypocritical whorehounds like John Ensign and Mark Sanford.

That, however, doesn’t stop the GOP from aimng a morality shotgun at entrenched Democrats like Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha and Virginia Rep. Jim Moran — who long-termers who also play fast and loose with the rules.

Hill bi-partisanship: Real or a myth?

Even as President Barack Obama and the insurance industry move toward open confrontation over the role of government in health care, his administration is telling lawmakers to keep pushing for a bipartisan deal.

Medicare deal could help pay for drugs

Medicare beneficiaries would receive better drug coverage and a portion of President Barack Obama’s health care legislation would be paid for under an emerging agreement involving the pharmaceutical industry, the White House and key lawmakers.

Several officials said Friday night that agreement on the $80 billion deal was close, and one said it had been sealed.

New law will turn gas-guzzlers into cash

Car shoppers could take advantage of government incentives worth up to $4,500 this summer to send their old gas guzzler to the scrap heap in favor of a more fuel-efficient new vehicle.

President Barack Obama is expected to sign into law the "cash for clunkers" program, which was approved by the Senate on Thursday. For owners of low-mileage models such as the 1994 Ford Bronco, 1998 Nissan Pathfinder or the 1995 Chevrolet Blazer, the plan could give them a reason to visit their local car dealer during an economic downturn.

War funds bill passes Congress, but…

The U.S. Congress on Thursday sent President Barack Obama a $106 billion bill to pay for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars after political sparring that could foreshadow tougher fights over Obama’s agenda.

The bill, delayed by disputes over quickly closing the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay and expanding support for the IMF, highlighted the difficulties Obama may face in Congress even though his fellow Democrats control both the Senate and House of Representatives.