Capitol Hillbillies

Anti-poverty bill ignites blogosphere

It isn’t a high-profile bill, but the Global Poverty Act has lit up the conservative blogosphere, and even Rush Limbaugh has gotten into the act.

Quietly approved by the House last fall with bipartisan support, the measure would require the president to develop a comprehensive strategy to help reduce extreme global poverty.

A deadly place called Congress

The death of Rep. Tom Lantos this week brought to seven the number of Capitol Hill lawmakers who have died during the 110th Congress, which still has almost another year to go.

Like most of the others, the California Democrat succumbed to cancer.

The current congressional death toll is the highest in at least a decade, but it pales next to the 76th Congress (1939-41), when 29 members passed on.

Leaving town in disgrace

Both the White House and the U.S. House ended the week on a mutually sour note.

As he has with all his terrorism legislation, President Bush tried to stampede Congress into passing a wiretap bill, saying the country was “in more danger of an attack” if it didn’t enact the law precisely the way he wanted.

The prior law, a temporary measure smarmily called the Protect America Act, expires this weekend and very little will change. Wiretapping foreign communications will be governed, as it has been for the last 30 years, by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Bush, Congress try to out-politic each other

With a deadline looming, President Bush and congressional Democrats are locked in a standoff over the government’s authority to spy on foreign phone calls and e-mails that pass through the United States.

A temporary law that makes it easier to carry out that spying expires Saturday night at midnight, and Bush and his top intelligence officials say the consequences are dire. Al-Qaida, Bush says, is “thinking about hurting the American people again,” and would be helped if U.S. eavesdropping is hampered.

Senate panel faults Larry Craig’s behavior

The Senate Ethics Committee said Wednesday that Idaho Sen. Larry Craig acted improperly in connection with a men’s room sex sting last year and had brought discredit on the Senate.

In a letter to the Republican senator, the ethics panel said Craig’s attempt to withdraw his guilty plea after his arrest at a Minneapolis airport was an effort to evade legal consequences of his own actions.

Craig’s actions constitute “improper conduct which has reflected discreditably on the Senate,” the letter said.

Senate votes waterboarding ban

The Senate passed legislation Wednesday to bar the CIA from using harsh interrogation methods including waterboarding, a simulated drowning technique denounced by rights groups as torture.

The Democratic-led Senate voted 51-45 in favor of a bill calling for the Central Intelligence Agency to adopt the US Army Field Manual, which forbids waterboarding and other types of coercive interrogation methods.

Republicans face reality of life with McCain

In John McCain, congressional Republicans are grappling with the notion of a presidential nominee most didn’t expect or want.

Now, struggling under a raft of retirements that has dimmed their chances of regaining control of the House and Senate, Republicans are coming to terms with the idea of the Arizona senator at the top of their ticket in November.

Don’t ask, don’t tell may be on way out

That faint crumbling sound coming from the Pentagon appears to be heralding the beginning of the end of the controversial "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy on gays in the military. Or at least the end of its diligent enforcement.

It’s been more than a year since Army Sgt. Darren Manzella told his superiors that he was gay, and nearly two months since he told his story on "60 Minutes." So far, the medic — who spent a year in Iraq — continues to serve without penalty.

Rep. Tom Lantos dead at 80

Rep. Tom Lantos, who as a teenager twice escaped from a Nazi-run forced labor camp in Hungary and became the only Holocaust survivor to win a seat in Congress, has died. He was 80.

Spokeswoman Lynne Weil said Lantos, a Californian, died early Monday at the Bethesda Naval Medical Center in suburban Maryland. He was surrounded by his wife, Annette, two daughters, and many of his 17 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Annette Lantos said in a statement that her husband’s life was “defined by courage, optimism, and unwavering dedication to his principles and to his family.”

An old game of Liar’s Poker

While America’s super-sized attention was diverted and divided among the superlatives of Super Bowl Sunday and Super Tuesday, Official Washington began playing its favorite old parlor game: Liar’s Poker — also known as the old budget game.

On Monday, with all the non-fanfare of an errant husband tiptoeing home after a bad boys’ night out, President Bush lamely gave Congress his lame-duck, legacy-lap budget. It was the first to break the $3 trillion mark. But the most crucial parts of Bush’s budget were written in two types of ink: red and disappearing.