Capitol Hillbillies

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.

Dems ‘Truth Commission': Just more partisanship?

A Democratic-proposed "truth commission" to investigate the Bush administration is generating more partisanship in a Congress already filled with it.

Republicans are almost universally opposed, and President Barack Obama doesn’t appear to be enthralled with the idea either, saying at his first prime-time news conference he would consider the proposal but wants to look forward.

Burris says he welcomes probe of his actions

An increasingly embattled U.S. Sen. Roland Burris said he "welcomes" the chance for authorities and elected officials to look into how he landed a coveted Senate appointment from ousted Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Burris’ admission that he had more contact with Blagojevich advisers about the Senate seat than he described under oath to a state House impeachment panel has furious lawmakers asking for an investigation into whether the Democrat committed perjury.

And the revelation that Burris tried to raise money for the governor after Blagojevich’s brother asked him for fundraising help has triggered calls for Burris’ resignation.

Republicans seek return to image of fiscal restraint

Seeking political traction, Republicans are using the economic stimulus package to try to restore an image of fiscal discipline tarnished by a free-spending GOP Congress under former President George W. Bush.

The return to what many Republicans consider their small-government, tax-cut roots is driving unity in a party that now lacks power in the White House and in the Democratic-controlled House and Senate.