Capitol Hillbillies

Tentative deal cut for funding Iraq, Afghan wars

Top House and Senate Democrats reached a tentative agreement on an almost $100 billion war funding bill Monday, including a generous new line of credit for the International Monetary Fund.

At the core of the measure is President Barack Obama’s war funding request, which included $76 billion for Pentagon operations. But the IMF funding is a top priority of Obama, who pledged the $100 billion line of credit at April’s G-20 summit in London to help developing countries deal with the troubled global economy.

The actual U.S. costs for the IMF contribution are far less — $5 billion is the Congressional Budget Office estimate — since the U.S. government is given interest-bearing assets in return.

Sotomayor heads for Capitol Hill

Appeals court judge Sonia Sotomayor is getting her first chance to make an impression on senators who will vote on her nomination to the Supreme Court, with a marathon set of Capitol Hill meet-and-greets that kicks off what could be a long debate.

Sotomayor’s schedule Tuesday is packed with roughly half-hour meetings — known as "courtesy calls" — that are as important for the courtly tone they set for the debate as they are for offering a few moments of candid conversation with the nominee.

Congress set to tackle health care reform

It’s go time for President Barack Obama’s promise to enact a sweeping health care overhaul this year.

First up as Congress returns from a weeklong recess: Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, partially sidelined by cancer, is convening his health committee’s Democrats on Tuesday to begin weighing his proposals to extend health care to all.

Later in the week, the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee meets behind closed doors to work on legislation to achieve the same goal.

The GOP’s Sotomayor quandry

Republicans are divided over how aggressively to go after federal judge Sonia Sotomayor, a family feud about the tone of the coming debate over confirming the Supreme Court’s first Hispanic.

A growing chorus of GOP lawmakers and conservative strategists are voicing concern over the strident rhetoric some prominent Republicans have used to describe Sotomayor, and some are denouncing right-wing groups for swiftly launching negative advertisements against her.

New corruption scandal on Capitol Hill

A federal grand jury has subpoenaed a Democratic congressman in a corruption probe, the first concrete indication that a long-simmering Justice Department investigation of a top lobbying firm also has the potential to seriously damage congressional careers.

On Friday, Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Ind., acknowledged the grand jury has demanded documents from his office, some employees and his campaign committees.

GOP may filibuster Obama’s court pick

Empathy isn’t part of the job description for a Supreme Court justice, a top Republican says.

As President Barack Obama prepares to name his pick for the high court, the Senate’s No. 2 Republican said the qualifications being discussed — "emotions or feelings or preconceived ideas," Sen. Jon Kyl called them — aren’t enough to justify a lifetime appointment. The Arizona Republican on Sunday wouldn’t rule out a filibuster to block an Obama pick that falls outside his definition of the mainstream.

Liberals pissed over setbacks on guns, Gitmo

Frustrated liberals are asking why a Democratic-controlled Congress and White House can’t manage to close the Guantanamo prison or keep new gun-rights laws from passing.

After all, President Barack Obama pledged to shut down the military detention center on Cuba for suspected terrorists. And Democratic control of the government would suggest that any gun legislation leads to tighter controls on weapons, not expanded use.

Senate approves war funds but not Gitmo closure

The Senate late Thursday approved a 91.3-billion-dollar 2009 budget supplemental to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through October 1, but without funds to close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp.

The senators approved the measure in a voice vote that passed 83 against three, after days of debate over the fate of the 240 prisoners being held at the "war on terror" prison camp at the US naval base in Cuba, which President Barack Obama has pledged to close.

Angry Senators pass credit card reform

The credit card companies seem to have few friends on Capitol Hill these days, with even the most business-minded lawmakers siding with consumers in speaking out against steep rate hikes and fees.

The House was expected to pass, possibly as early as Wednesday, a bill that would enact sweeping new restrictions on the industry, including a requirement that customers penalized by higher interest rates because they missed a payment are given a chance to reclaim their lower rate after six months.

The Senate passed the bill Tuesday, 90-5.

Democrats deliver setback to Obama on Gitmo

US President Barack Obama’s plan to close the Guantanamo Bay prison by early 2010 hit a snag as his Democratic Senate allies moved to deny him 80 million dollars he sought for that purpose.

Democrats on Tuesday joined Republicans who have warned for weeks that Obama lacks a plan for dealing with the facility’s 240 detainees from 30 countries, and argued against imprisoning, trying or freeing any of them on US soil.