Capitol Hillbillies

Leahy calls for investigation of torture

A senior US lawmaker on Sunday called for a special commission to investigate the US government’s alleged torture of terror detainees, amid calls by some that the country bury the controversy.

"I know some people say, let’s turn the page. Frankly, I’d like to read the page before we turn it," Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy told CBS television’s "Face the Nation" program.

McCain splits with Cheney on memos

Releasing classified memos showing whether harsh Bush-era interrogation methods yielded useful information from terrorism suspects is not necessary, Republican Senator John McCain said on Sunday in a public disagreement with former Vice President Dick Cheney.

After President Barack Obama released four memos this month revealing the Bush administration’s legal justification for methods such as waterboarding — a form of simulated drowning — Cheney called for declassifying any memos showing that these techniques succeeded in producing valuable information.

New Democrats show independent streak

Freshman Rep. Bobby Bright won his seat in Congress by convincing conservative southeast Alabama voters that he wasn’t a typical Democrat. Barely a week into his Washington career, he showed that he meant it.

On a vote that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saw as a slam dunk for kicking off the new Congress, Bright opposed a bill named after an Alabama tire-factory worker that would ease restrictions for women challenging pay discrimination. A few days later, Bright voted against another Democratic rallying point, expanding health insurance for children of the working poor.

Can Congress cure health care system’s ills?

This time it’s really going to happen. Or so they claim.

Senators get down to work this coming week on turning ideas into legislation to cover some 50 million people without health insurance and contain costs for everyone else. Hopes are high that Democrats and Republicans can find common ground for a bill to emerge by summer.

They will have to defy history.

Grand plans to revamp health care have a half-century history of collapsing. More focused proposals, such as the creation of Medicare in 1965, have succeeded.

Republicans still looking for direction

Three months into the new Congress, Republicans are struggling to reinvent themselves on the fly as they adjust to life without a president of their own party or a majority in the House and Senate.

Opposition to President Barack Obama’s policies is relatively easy to achieve. But developing alternatives that can appeal outside the party’s conservative core seems more difficult.

Former Utah Congressman dies in ATV crash

Former Utah congressman Bill Orton died in an ATV accident when his machine flipped over on a sand dune at Little Sahara Recreation Area. He was 60.

Juab County Sheriff Alden Orme told The Associated Press that Orton died almost immediately of his injuries about 4 p.m. Saturday.

Orton, a Democrat, was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1991 to 1997. He ran an unsuccessful campaign for Utah governor in 2000.

Congress boosts Obamas agenda

Passage by both House and Senate of companion budget plans gave President Barack Obama and his allies on Capitol Hill a key victory, but the debates also exposed some of the president’s vulnerabilities.

Obama’s Democratic allies passed plans broadly supporting the young administration’s agenda of higher spending on domestic programs like education and overhauling the nation’s health care system. The $3.6 trillion House plan passed by a 233-196 vote Thursday.

House passes pay curbs on bailed-out banks

The House of Representatives on Wednesday approved legislation to curb "excessive" employee pay at financial firms that receive government bailout funds, a measure that could supplant an earlier effort to heavily tax executive bonuses.

The bill, which passed on a 247-171 vote, would give the U.S. Treasury broad powers to prohibit "unreasonable and excessive" compensation and bonuses that are not based on performance standards.

Congress set to give Obama pared-down budget

Democrats controlling the House and Senate are on track to give President Barack Obama a key victory by adopting slightly pared-back versions of his $3.6 trillion budget.

Passage of the companion plans, expected Thursday, would provide the young administration with a symbolic boost, even though the budget blueprints provide little guidance on how to craft subsequent Obama initiatives to reshape the U.S. health care system or combat global warming.

Is Dodd doomed?

Democrats in Sen. Chris Dodd’s home state are pissed over his role in the controversial bonuses paid to fat cats at American International Group (AIG). Democrats elsewhere are pretty damned mad too.

And Democratic leaders wonder if it’s time to replace Dodd with someone who might have a chance of holding on to his Senate seat.

They believe Dodd is done. Time to dump the veteran Senator.