Capitol Hillbillies

Daschle faces more questions

Tom Daschle’s former Democratic colleagues were rallying to his defense after he met behind closed doors with the Senate Finance Committee to discuss problems with back taxes and potential conflicts of interest, but lawmakers promised he will face more questions.

Daschle, the former Senate Democratic leader, is President Barack Obama’s nominee to oversee the Health and Human Services Department.

Bipartisanship sounds nice, but seldom works

True to his pledge on the campaign trail, President Obama, in the spirit of bipartisanship and a more civil tone in Washington politics, ventured to Capitol Hill this week for separate closed-door meetings with House and Senate Republicans to sell his $825 billion stimulus plan.

It was a trip he didn’t have to make. The stimulus plan will ultimately pass, although getting it through the Senate might be a bit of a chore. In any case, Obama failed in his mission. He changed no Republican minds, but the president got high marks for trying.

Republicans plot roadblocks to stimulus plan

Congressional Republicans, seeing bipartisanship as a one-way street that serves their needs, plan to throw up roadblocks to President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus plans unless he gives in to their demands.

GOP leaders in both the House and Senate say they will urge their followers to vote "no" unless Obama caves in.

So much for the spirit of bipartisanship.

Economy tops Congressional agenda for week

Congress is set to tackle the economy this week by considering President Barack Obama’s choice to head the Treasury Department and by acting on legislation to spur economic growth.

The Senate could confirm Timothy Geithner as Treasury secretary as early as Monday, after delaying a vote because Geithner failed to pay some of his federal taxes earlier this decade. Geithner settled his delinquent taxes shortly before Obama nominated him, and senators from both parties have said they expect him to be confirmed. Geithner would oversee the financial industry bailout approved by Congress.

What seems to be the problem here?

Why is filling a vacant Senate seat suddenly so difficult?

Barack Obama’s victory in the presidential race left his Senate seat vacant and there were a host of qualified Illinois politicians eager to fill it. Gov. Rod Blagojevich had a plan to simplify the selection — sell it to the highest bidder. Unfortunately, this didn’t sit well with federal prosecutors.

Caroline Kennedy drops Senate bid

Caroline Kennedy caught Washington watchers off guard early today by dropping her bid to replace Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as the new junior Senator from New York. 

In a brief note to New York Gov. David A. Patterson, Kennedy withdrew from consideration for appointment to the post, citing "personal reasons." The note followed a phone call by Kennedy to the governor’s office on Wednesday.

Questions may delay Clinton confirmation

Republican Sen. John Cornyn may hold up the nomination of Hillary Clinton to become secretary of state if his concerns about foreign donations to her husband’s foundation are not resolved, a spokesman for the Texas senator said on Monday.

"Senator Cornyn is a strong proponent of complete transparency and has fought for as much throughout his time in office. He is keeping all of his options on the table," said his spokesman Kevin McLaughlin in an email reply to Reuters, when asked if Cornyn could block Clinton’s nomination.

Pelosi wants Bush’s actions investigated

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants an investigation into whether the Bush administration broke the law when it fired a group of federal prosecutors.

She says that what she calls the politicizing of the Justice Department cannot go unreviewed.

House Democrats last week recommended a criminal investigation to see if administration officials broke the law in the name of national security. The report cited the interrogation of foreign detainees, warrantless wiretaps, retribution against critics, manipulation of intelligence and the fired prosecutors.

Democrats seek to repeal tax breaks for banks

House Democrats’ version of the $825 billion recession rescue package would end billions of dollars in tax breaks the Bush administration quietly gave to banks last fall.

Already almost exclusive beneficiaries of a $700 billion Wall Street bailout, banks are largely left out of the House stimulus package that President-elect Barack Obama wants passed quickly through Congress. Those getting financial bailout money wouldn’t even be eligible for one of the main business tax breaks aimed at priming the economic pump.

Holder says waterboarding is torture

Attorney General-nominee Eric Holder Jr. forcefully broke from the Bush administration’s counterterrorism policies Thursday, declaring that waterboarding is torture and pledging to prosecute some Guantanamo Bay detainees in U.S. courts.

It was the latest signal that President-elect Barack Obama will chart a new course in combatting terrorism. As recently as last week, Vice President Dick Cheney defended waterboarding, a harsh interrogation tactic that simulates drowning, saying it provided valuable intelligence.