Capitol Hillbillies

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.

Surgeon general nomination on hold

Three months after Dr. James Holsinger answered some sharp questions from senators, his nomination to be the next surgeon general appears to be on life support.

The 68-year-old Kentuckian, whose critics cried foul about a paper he wrote years ago condemning homosexual sex, needs Senate confirmation to become the nation’s 18th surgeon general.

Melissa Wagoner, a spokeswoman for Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., who chairs the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said members are waiting for the nominee to answer follow-up questions.

Voters mad at Bush AND Congress

Deepening unhappiness with President George W. Bush and the U.S. Congress soured the mood of Americans and sent Bush’s approval rating to another record low this month, according to a Reuters/Zogby poll released on Wednesday.

The Reuters/Zogby Index, which measures the mood of the country, also fell from 98.8 to 96 — the second consecutive month it has dropped. The number of Americans who believe the country is on the wrong track jumped four points to 66 percent.

Yet another Pelosi stumble

It is not unusual for members of Congress to put their own political welfare above the nation’s interests. It happens all the time to one degree or another. But every time it occurs, it punctuates the fallibility of the system.

Craig: ‘Romney sold me out’

U.S. Sen. Larry Craig, who flip-flopped over whether he would quit after being caught in a restroom sex scandal, said in remarks released on Monday that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney “threw me under his campaign bus.”

Craig, an Idaho Republican, resigned from Romney’s White House campaign after it was disclosed in August that he had been snared in an undercover sting operation in a Minnesota airport men’s room.

The case has been particularly embarrassing for Republicans, since they have long billed themselves as the party of conservative family values.

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.