Capitol Hillbillies

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.

More ethical problems for Hillary

On the wall of Hsiao Yen Wang’s apartment, a cramped, 17th-floor public housing unit on the city’s Lower East Side, are photographs of her husband, David Guo, a cook who specializes in Fujian cuisine.

One photo stands out: Guo shaking Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s hand, a memento from a $1,000-a-person fundraiser for the New York senator held in New York’s Chinatown last April.

‘Bring us the head of Condi Rice’

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice fought off an inquisition by lawmakers Thursday over claims that Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki was shielding top ministers from corruption probes.

Democratic lawmaker Henry Waxman, who has demanded answers from Rice on various aspects of the US operation in Iraq for months, got his chance at a hearing of a key House of Representatives committee.

He raised claims that Maliki had issued a decree requiring his approval before any minister or official in the presidential office was brought before a court on corruption charges.

Dems tout new children’s bill

Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday unveiled a revised bill to expand health insurance for needy children, hopeful they will muster enough support to override another possible veto by President George W. Bush.

Drafted with input from some Republicans, the bill was set for a vote Thursday by the Democratic House, and would then be sent to the Democratic-led Senate for anticipated concurrence.

Martinez out as RNC chairman

Mel Martinez, the public face of the Republican National Committee as its general chairman, announced Friday he was stepping down from his post after serving only 10 months.

“I believe that our future as a party and nation is bright and I have every intention of continuing to fight for our president, our party and our candidates,” the Florida senator said in a statement.

His resignation came months earlier than anticipated. Martinez wasn’t expected to step down until a Republican presidential nominee was selected, and the earliest that could occur is February.

Immunity from…whatever

Congress and the White House are not as far apart on rewriting an eavesdropping bill as they seem — or at least they shouldn’t be.

It is clear that the government needs a criminal and terrorism surveillance authority that’s flexible, fast and capable of handling rapid technological change. The administration would have unfettered authority to eavesdrop on foreign targets and communications but it seems clear that if there is an American involved the Constitution requires some kind of warrant, preferably one judicially approved.