Capitol Hillbillies

How to swamp a veto

George W. Bush and Jimmy Carter now have something in common. Congress has slapped down both presidents over costly water projects.

When Carter took office, he cut out of the federal budget a “hit list” of 19 water projects that he deemed wasteful pork-barrel spending. There are fewer things dearer to the lawmakers’ hearts than water projects. Carter was ultimately forced to accept most of them, but the bad start with Congress dogged him the rest of his term.

Appearance of impropriety

The term “appearance of impropriety” became a standard measurement in assessing conflicts of interest during the Supreme Court confirmation battles of the Nixon administration. It first came to prominence when the Senate rejected Judge Clement Haynsworth’s nomination because of his ownership of a small amount of stock in a company that came before his court, even though a favorable ruling he handed down did not impact that stock in any appreciable way.

Senate confirms Mukasey

The US Senate late Thursday confirmed Michael Mukasey as the country’s new attorney general, despite criticism of his refusal to say whether an interrogation method called “waterboarding” was legal.

Mukasey was confirmed on a 53 to 40 vote in the Democrat-controlled senate.

President George W. Bush’s pick for the country’s top law enforcement officer had appeared to be in jeopardy until this week because Mukasey had declined to declare that waterboarding was torture and therefore illegal.

A first! Congress overrides Bush veto!

The US Congress on Thursday overturned a veto by President George W. Bush for the first time in his presidency, giving approval to a bill on river and waterway projects.

“In overriding President Bush’s veto today, the Senate stood up for America’s waterways and water infrastructure,” said the influential Michigan Senator Carl Levin.

The Senate voted by 79 to 14 in favor of overturning Bush’s veto of the ambitious 23-billion dollar bill which the US leader believed was too costly.

House votes to protect gay workers

The Democratic-led House of Representatives on Wednesday defied a White House veto threat and voted to protect millions of Americans by outlawing workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation.

“This is truly a historic day,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, told her colleagues. “Discrimination has no place in America.”

The measure passed 235-184, falling far short of the two-thirds majority that would be needed to override a possible veto by President George W. Bush.

GOP surprise in Cheney impeachment

House Democrats on Tuesday narrowly managed to avert a bruising debate on a proposal to impeach Dick Cheney after Republicans, in a surprise maneuver, voted in favor of taking up the measure.

Republicans, changing course midway through a vote, tried to force Democrats into a debate on the resolution sponsored by longshot presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich.

The anti-war Ohio Democrat, in his resolution, accused Cheney of purposely leading the country into war against Iraq and manipulating intelligence about Iraq’s ties with al-Qaida.

Finally! A Bush veto override!

For the first time in his seven-year presidency, the US House of Representatives voted Thursday to override a veto by President George W. Bush.

In an effort to force through the 23 billion dollar “Water Resources Development Act” to fund numerous water projects, the Democrat-controlled House voted 361-54 — more than the two-thirds required — to override Bush’s veto last week of the bill.

Bush had condemned the bill, backed by both Democrats and members of Bush’s Republican party, as being too lavish and packed with plumb projects for members’ districts.

Specter will vote for Makasey

The top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee said Sunday he is bothered by Michael Mukasey’s refusal to say whether waterboarding is torture but will support his nomination for attorney general anyway.

Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., joins two key Senate Democrats in saying he will back Mukasey because the retired judge has said that if Congress passes a law banning waterboarding, “the president would have absolutely no legal authority to ignore such a law.”

McCain: The mouth that roared

John McCain has stocked his arsenal with a variety of weapons over the years, like fists when he was in school and bombs when he was at war. But his WMD is a mouth that won’t quit. He possesses wisecracks of mass destruction.

Who else would refer to the Arizona retirement community of Leisure World as “Seizure World,” as he did in his first Senate campaign? Just for fun, out loud? He couldn’t help himself. (He won anyway.)

Consider McCain’s life as a series of impolitic one-liners, each one illuminating complex threads of the past.

Hillary gets what she deserves

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is looking for sympathy, support and political cover as her rivals show the temerity to run aggressively against the Democratic presidential front-runner. But don’t feel sorry for her — Clinton is no stranger to “piling on.”

In fact, she’s an expert at it.

Ask anybody who stood on the marble floor of the state Capitol rotunda in 1990 and heard the click, clack, click of her low-heeled shoes approach the news conference of Tom McRae, a mild-mannered public servant who had the nerve to challenge then-Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas for re-election.