Capitol Hillbillies

Craig plans appeal

Sen. Larry Craig says he will file an appeal Monday over a judge’s refusal to allow him to withdraw his guilty plea stemming from his arrest in an airport bathroom sex sting.

In an interview Sunday with KTVB-TV, Craig repeated he will not resign his post in the Senate and said he will continue to work his legal options.

“It is my right to do what I’m doing,” said Craig, an Idaho Republican. “I’ve already provided for Idaho certainty that Idaho needed — I’m not running for re-election. I’m no longer in the way. I am pursuing my constitutional rights.”

Dems push their own spy bill

House Democrats pushed their government eavesdropping bill through two committees Wednesday with only minor changes, setting the stage for a confrontation with the Bush administration.

President Bush said that he will not sign the bill if it does not give retroactive immunity to U.S. telecommunications companies that helped conduct electronic surveillance without court orders.

Bush said the bill, which envisions a greater role for a secret court in overseeing U.S. surveillance of overseas communications, would “take us backward” in efforts to thwart terrorism.

Dems back down on troop withdrawl

Congressional Democrats have put on the back burner legislation ordering troops home from Iraq and turned their attention to war-related proposals that Republicans are finding hard to reject.

The legislative agenda marks a dramatic shift for party leaders who vowed repeated votes to end combat and predicted Republicans would eventually join them. But with Democrats still lacking enough votes to bring troops home, the party runs the risk of concluding its first year in control of Congress with little to show for its tough anti-war rhetoric.

GOP’s sins bite them in the butt

Facing untimely resignations, an unpopular war and a troubling 2008 election landscape, Senate Republicans didn’t need another headache this week.

But they got one anyway when Sen. Larry Craig vowed Thursday to serve out the last 15 months of his term, despite a court ruling that left intact his guilty plea in a sex sting operation.

The Idaho Republican’s decision gives his GOP colleagues two unpleasant choices. They can resume pressuring him to leave, and risk being seen as disloyal politicians who go harder on alleged homosexual misdeeds than on heterosexual wrongdoings.

Another corrupt GOP pol goes on trial

A defense contractor appeared for the first day of his trial Wednesday on charges that he paid 700,000 dollars in bribes to a former prominent US lawmaker who has since been sentenced for corruption.

Federal prosecutors accuse Brent Wilkes, the chief of firm ADCS Inc., of bribing former representative Randall “Duke” Cunningham in exchange for the California politician’s help in winning lucrative government defense contracts.

Cunningham, a 65-year-old Vietnam War veteran, was sentenced to eight years and four months in prison in March 2006 after he pleaded guilty to taking bribes.

House wants Iraq contingency plan

The US House of Representatives on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly to require President George W. Bush to tell Congress how he plans to eventually extricate US troops from Iraq.

Though the measure does not include the timetables for withdrawal that Bush has long resisted, it does require him to lay out how much contingency planning is being done for an eventual pull-back of American soldiers.

The bill, which passed by a vote of 377 to 46 after securing the support of lawmakers from Bush’s Republican Party, would not require the president to change his Iraq strategy.

Senate kowtows to Bush…again

The US Senate Monday passed a mammoth 648 billion dollar defense policy bill, shorn of attempts by disappointed anti-war Democrats to dictate President George W. Bush’s Iraq strategy.

The bill included around 128 billion dollars for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to a Congressional Budget Office estimate.

The legislation passed by 92 votes to three after Democrats lost several attempts to dictate US troop levels in Iraq.

Is Obama really a leader?

Nobody can dispute that Barack Obama opposed the Iraq war from the start and, with striking prescience, predicted U.S. troops would be mired in a costly conflict that fanned “the flames of the Middle East.”

But nobody should accept at face value the Illinois senator’s claim that he was a “courageous leader” who opposed the war at great political risk.

The truth is that while Obama showed foreign policy savvy and an ability to keenly analyze both sides of an issue in his October 2002 warnings on Iraq, the political upside of his position rivaled any risk.

Too much ‘You’ve got mail!’

Interest on Capitol Hill is growing to create a government-run “Do Not Mail” list to fight back against the mountains of junk mail clogging Americans’ mailboxes.

Across the country, at least 15 states are currently considering no-mail lists that are loosely based on the wildly popular Do Not Call list that gave us back our dinner hours free from telemarketers. Now some in Congress are mulling a federal junk-mail registry, as well.

Will the GOP become extinct?

It is gallows humor time for Republicans in Congress, where one lawmaker jokes that “there’s talk about us going the way of the Whigs,” the 19th century political party long extinct.

“That’s not going to happen,” Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., hastens to add, although a little more than a year before the 2008 election, the major leading political indicators still point downward for a party abruptly turned out of power in 2006.

Fundraising for Republican campaign organizations lags. That is strikingly so in the House, where the party committee spent more than it raised in each of the past two months, reported only $1.6 million in the bank at the end of August and a debt of nearly $4 million.