Capitol Hillbillies

Former Senator Claiborne Pell dies

Former Democratic senator Claiborne Pell, who championed the Pell grant program for college students, died Thursday at his Newport, Rhode Island home after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease, US media said. He was 90.

Pell served as Rhode Island senator from 1961 until his retirement in 1997, two years after he announced he had contracted the debilitating disease.

Pell was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 1987 to 1994 and was named US delegate to the United Nations shortly before he retired.

Senate may reject Blagojevich’s nominee

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has named a successor to fill Barack Obama’s Senate seat, but Democratic leaders who control the Senate say they will refuse to seat Blagojevich’s pick, former state Attorney General Roland Burris.

Here are some questions and answers about the power of the Senate to seat Obama’s successor.

Q: What is the Senate’s authority to seat or not seat an appointee like Burris?

Republicans urge caution on stimulus plan

Top Republicans in the US Congress called for more time and public hearings before Democrats present a giant economic stimulus package for Barack Obama to sign after he becomes president on January 20.

Obama and Democrats in Congress hope to have an economic stimulus package of some 850 billion dollars ready when the White House changes hands, putting the economy at the top of the agenda.

John Warner packs it in

After five terms in the Senate, service in two wars and in his third marriage at age 81, John W. Warner still retains the unbent posture and bearing of the Marine he once was.

When he took his seat in the U.S. Senate 30 years ago, he was the rakish husband of Elizabeth Taylor with movie star looks of his own, a gentleman’s drawl and a farm in Virginia horse country.

He became "the senator from central casting."

Biden: Deal near on stimulus plan

The incoming Obama administration is nearing agreement with congressional Democrats on a huge emergency spending bill intended to jolt the weak U.S. economy and create 3 million jobs over two years, Vice President-elect Joe Biden said on Tuesday.

Asked whether an agreement on the shape of the stimulus bill would be reached by Christmas, Biden said: "I think we’re getting awful close to that."

But he refused to divulge how much the measure would cost taxpayers once the team of President-elect Barack Obama takes office on January 20.

What now for the auto industry?

Their efforts in Congress squashed, U.S. automakers are depending upon a reluctant White House to quickly provide a multibillion lifeline to help them avoid imminent collapse.

General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC, which have said they could run out of cash within weeks, have few options left after the dramatic defeat in the Senate of a $14 billion bailout for the domestic auto industry.

Roadblocks for the Obama express

The back-and-forth over when to hold a confirmation hearing for Eric Holder, President-elect Barack Obama’s choice for attorney general, isn’t simply a matter of saving a date on the Senate calendar. It’s an early test of strength for minority Republicans on the eve of one-party Democratic rule in Washington.

Even with a Democrat in the White House and strong Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, Republicans are making clear that they won’t be ignored — and warning Obama that he shouldn’t expect swift confirmation of Holder or any other Cabinet choices.

Jesse Jackson Jr. entangled in Illinois scandal

Four days before the election, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich claimed someone came to him with a deal about filling Barack Obama’s soon-to-be open U.S. Senate seat.

"We were approached `pay to play,’" Blagojevich said as FBI agents listened intently. The candidate would raise $500,000 for Blagojevich, and an emissary would raise an additional $1 million, according to the conversation.

GOP opposition threatens auto bailout

A House-passed bill to speed $14 billion in loans to Detroit’s automakers stands on shaky ground in a bailout-weary Congress, undermined by Republican opposition that could derail the emergency aid in the Senate.

Republicans are challenging lame-duck President George W. Bush on the proposal, arguing that any support for the domestic auto industry should carry significant concessions from autoworkers and creditors and reject tougher environmental rules imposed by House Democrats.

Auto deal reached ‘in principle’

A government "car czar" with the power to force U.S. automakers into bankruptcy would dole out $15 billion in emergency loans to the failing industry under an emerging deal between the White House and congressional Democrats.