Capitol Hillbillies

Irag tops Congressional to-do list

Congressman Brian Baird, D-Wash, was kidding when he said he brought his flak jacket back with him after visiting Iraq a few weeks ago.

Maybe he should have.

Baird, who initially opposed the war and as recently as May voted to set a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. forces, now says President Bush’s military surge is showing signs of working and that current troops levels should be maintained until at least spring.

Bridge over troubled politics

A 40-year-old highway bridge suddenly dropped into a major American river during the afternoon rush hour, with deadly results.

New bridge inspections were ordered, Congress held hearings, and bold federal programs were begun.

It was 1967 — the same year work near downtown Minneapolis was completed on the I-35W bridge, which dropped just as precipitously into the Mississippi River a month ago, sparking a fresh round of national soul-searching on bridge safety.

Larry Craig rethinks resignation

Sen. Larry Craig says he may still fight for his Senate seat, a spokesman says — if the lawmaker can clear his name with the Senate Ethics Committee and a Minnesota court where he pleaded guilty after his arrest in an airport men’s room sex sting.

Since announcing Saturday he intended to resign on Sept. 30, the Republican lawmaker who has represented Idaho for 27 years has hired a prominent lawyer to investigate the possibility of reversing his guilty plea.

Republicans defend hypocrisy on Craig

A GOP leader Sunday denied a double standard in pushing Sen. Larry Craig to resign after a sex sting guilty plea, while remaining silent over GOP Sen. David Vitter’s involvement with an escort service.

A senior Democrat said a double standard by Republican leaders is exactly what occurred.

Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., the Senate Republican campaign chairman, said Craig “admitted guilt. That is a big difference between being accused of something and actually admitting guilt.”

“David Vitter never did that. Larry Craig did,” continued Ensign on ABC’s “This Week” program.

Larry Craig resigns from Senate

Idaho Sen. Larry Craig resigned Saturday over a men’s room sex sting, bowing to pressure from fellow Republicans worried about a scandal dimming their election prospects.

“I apologize for what I have caused,” Craig said.

Craig’s resignation completed a stunning downfall that began Monday with the disclosure that he had pleaded guilty to a reduced charge following his arrest during a sex sting in a Minneapolis airport men’s room.

Larry Craig will resign from Senate seat

Idaho Republican Sen. Larry Craig’s decision to quit spares his party the embarrassment of an indefinitely prolonged scandal following his arrest during a sex sting in a Minneapolis airport bathroom.

Craig will announce his resignation, effective Sept. 30, at a news conference in Boise Saturday morning, GOP officials in Idaho and Washington told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Still, opting to wait a month before officially bowing out raises questions of what Craig hopes to accomplish in Washington once the post-Labor Day session begins.

Warner says ‘no’ to another Senate term

Republican Sen. John Warner of Virginia, one of the most authoritative voices in Congress on the military and a key figure in the debate over Iraq, said Friday he will not seek a sixth term in 2008.

Warner, 80, has held the seat since 1979, when the dashing former Navy secretary campaigned alongside his wife at the time, Elizabeth Taylor.

Warner is leaving what would have been a safe seat for the Republicans if he had chosen to run again. His departure gives Democrats a better chance to protect or even expand their one-seat majority in the Senate.

A pessimistic report on Iraq

Congressional investigators have weighed in on the Iraqi government’s progress in meeting 18 benchmarks Congress mandated this past spring when it passed a huge bill continuing the U.S. presence there.

A leaked draft of the report by the Government Accountability Office to be delivered formally next Tuesday is considerably harsher and more pessimistic than the White House’s own report card issued last month.

Ah, the hyprocrisy of it all

“Guilt, I mused, has an interesting way of twisting one’s thoughts.” — Sherlock Holmes

If you were a prominent “family values” politician caught making gestures indicative of a sexual proposition in a public restroom to an undercover police officer but you were innocent of any such intent, would you plead guilty to a misdemeanor and pay a $575 fine hoping to avoid publicity?

Tim Johnson remains determined

Sen. Tim Johnson endured some dark days after his life-threatening brain hemorrhage, but he says he never considered resigning.

All political eyes were focused on the second-term Democrat from South Dakota after he fell ill Dec. 13, mainly because of his party’s slim margin of Senate control.

In chatter online and elsewhere, some have suggested that Johnson, up for re-election next year, should resign. But on Thursday, Johnson said he intends to run in 2008, while noting it would be premature to make an official re-election announcement just yet.