Capitol Hillbillies

Ensign’s affair: Another mess for GOP

It’s just about the last thing the beleaguered Republican Party needed: a Christian conservative with national aspirations admitting to an extramarital affair with an ex-staffer.

Add Nevada Sen. John Ensign’s infidelity admission to an ever-growing list of woes for the out-of-power GOP.

One senator’s predicament hardly condemns an entire party. But the episode is an unwelcome distraction as the Republicans, their ranks shrinking, seek a turnaround after disastrous losses in consecutive national elections.

Sen. Ensign admits banging campaign aide

Just two weeks after taking the first steps toward a 2012 presidential bid, conservative Republican Sen. John Ensign of Nevada is admitting to an extramarital affair last year with a campaign aide.

Ensign, a rising star in conservative circles and Nevada’s most popular Republican, disclosed the affair at a hastily arranged news conference here Thursday, shattering his prospects for heading his party’s ticket three years from now and jarring a state already dealing with a scandal involving its GOP governor.

House narrowly approves war funding

The House of Representatives on Tuesday narrowly backed a $106 billion bill to pay for the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and extend billions in new credit to the International Monetary Fund.

The legislation also includes extras like vouchers to spur U.S. car sales, and comes after a series of political battles that exposed the sharp fissures between President Barack Obama’s Democrats and the Republican minority.

Kennedy’s health plan could cost $1 trillion

A Senate panel proposal to expand healthcare coverage would increase the federal deficit by about $1 trillion over 10 years and still leave millions without insurance, a congressional analysis said on Monday.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said its calculations were preliminary and stressed that the Democratic-sponsored legislation was still being drafted.

But its estimates could fuel opposition to President Barack Obama’s drive for healthcare reform, which critics fear would result in an expensive government takeover of the U.S. healthcare system.

GOP problem: What to do with Sotomayor

Senate Republicans are in a quandary over the Supreme Court nomination of Sonia Sotomayor, aiming to raise pointed questions about her record without angering increasingly influential Hispanic voters.

Senator John Cornyn exemplifies the Republican dilemma over Sotomayor, who is the daughter of Puerto Rican parents who seems certain to be confirmed by the Democratic-led Senate as the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice.

More ethics problems for Democrats

Lawmakers who steer money and contracts to favored companies and receive campaign contributions in return could face a House ethics committee investigation.

The ethics committee’s Democratic chairman and its ranking Republican said Thursday that the committee has been reviewing the practice — which came under scrutiny because of a Justice Department criminal investigation of a now-defunct lobbying firm, PMA.

GOP could gain edge in ethics issues

The revelation that Democratic appropriations kingpins may face a House ethics investigation of their campaign receipts from lobbyists for recipients of government grants and contracts moves Republicans closer to gaining a corruption issue in 2010.

Senators live high on taxpayer tab

While talking about the need to bring spending under control, some members of the Senate live high on the hog and send the bill to American taxpayers, an investigation by Politico has found.

The web site’s investigation found Republican Senator John Cornyn racked up the highest bills for travel with Democratic colleague Chuck Schumer coming in second. Together, Cornyn and Schumer spend 10 times more than some other Senators.

Both Senators prefer private, chartered planes to commercial air transportation and think nothing of using taxpayer dollars for the privilege.

Sotomayor hearings set to start July 13

Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor will start on July 13, a top Democrat announced on Tuesday, and a Republican predicted she would be easily confirmed as the first Hispanic on the highest court in the United States.

Rejecting calls by other Republicans for more time to review her record, Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy made a Senate speech announcing the date for his panel to begin publicly questioning the nominee under oath.