Capitol Hillbillies

Another fine mess we’ve gotten into

Perhaps it’s a good thing that Sens. John McCain, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama are preoccupied with running for president because if they were involved in the budget debate back in Washington they might decide they don’t want the job.

McCain advisers lobbied for Airbus

Top current advisers to Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign last year lobbied for a European plane maker that beat Boeing to a $35 billion Air Force tanker contract, taking sides in a bidding fight that McCain has tried to referee for more than five years.

Two of the advisers gave up their lobbying work when they joined McCain’s campaign. A third, former Texas Rep. Tom Loeffler, lobbied for the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. while serving as McCain’s national finance chairman.

King stands by his Obama slurs

An Iowa Republican congressman on Monday defended his prediction that terrorists would celebrate if Democrat Barack Obama were elected president, despite a rebuke from aides to John McCain, the GOP’s apparent presidential nominee.

“(Obama will) certainly be viewed as a savior for them,” Rep. Steve King told The Associated Press. “That’s why you will see them supporting him, encouraging him.”

National security must be a priority at budget time

Over the coming months, Congress will continue to debate President Bush’s record $3.1 trillion budget request. Although the Democrats and Republicans do not see eye to eye on many issues, they are in total agreement that national security should receive the highest budgetary priority.

Next President will have a nice ride

Whoever wins the White House this year will be ferried to Camp David and elsewhere by the most advanced presidential helicopters ever developed. The helicopter also will be the most expensive, stung by skyrocketing development costs from the start.

Democrats upset with Bush’s waterboard veto

Democrats and human rights advocates criticized President Bush’s veto Saturday of a bill that would have banned the CIA from using simulated drowning and other coercive interrogation methods to gain information from suspected terrorists.

Bush said such tactics have helped foil terrorist plots. His critics likened some methods to torture and said they sullied America’s reputation around the world.

Democrats capture Hastert’s Congressional seat

A longtime Republican district fell to the Democrats Saturday when a wealthy businessman and scientist snatched former House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s congressional seat in a closely watched special election.

Democrat Bill Foster won 52 percent of the vote compared to 48 percent for Republican Jim Oberweis. With 565 of 568 precincts reporting, Foster had 51,140 votes to Oberweis’ 46,270.

“Tonight our voices are echoing across the country and Washington will hear us loud and clear, it’s time for a change,” Foster told cheering supporters Saturday evening.

Meanwhile, back on Capitol Hill…

While everyone seems to be focused on the melodramatic race for the Democratic Presidential nomination, a few things are actually happening in Congress.

The Senate Monday confirmed a Chicago judge to serve as the Number 2 attorney general in the justice department.

The approval of Mark R. Filip, 41, came as part of a deal between the White House and Congressional Democrats to move long-stalled executive appointments.

Such deals have been announced in the past. Most have fallen apart.

Names may change but corruption remains

It didn’t all start with Watergate — the age of Washington ethical lapses, that is — and the ghosts of earlier scandals still haunt the halls of Congress.

Back in the ’60s following a Senate scandal of huge proportions, first the upper chamber of Congress and then the House decided to establish bipartisan committees to convince the public that lawmakers took ethics seriously. Until that time, allegations of ethics violations were handled by standing committees controlled by the majority party.