Capitol Hillbillies

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.

GOP’s sins bite them in the butt

Facing untimely resignations, an unpopular war and a troubling 2008 election landscape, Senate Republicans didn’t need another headache this week.

But they got one anyway when Sen. Larry Craig vowed Thursday to serve out the last 15 months of his term, despite a court ruling that left intact his guilty plea in a sex sting operation.

The Idaho Republican’s decision gives his GOP colleagues two unpleasant choices. They can resume pressuring him to leave, and risk being seen as disloyal politicians who go harder on alleged homosexual misdeeds than on heterosexual wrongdoings.

Another corrupt GOP pol goes on trial

A defense contractor appeared for the first day of his trial Wednesday on charges that he paid 700,000 dollars in bribes to a former prominent US lawmaker who has since been sentenced for corruption.

Federal prosecutors accuse Brent Wilkes, the chief of firm ADCS Inc., of bribing former representative Randall “Duke” Cunningham in exchange for the California politician’s help in winning lucrative government defense contracts.

Cunningham, a 65-year-old Vietnam War veteran, was sentenced to eight years and four months in prison in March 2006 after he pleaded guilty to taking bribes.

House wants Iraq contingency plan

The US House of Representatives on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly to require President George W. Bush to tell Congress how he plans to eventually extricate US troops from Iraq.

Though the measure does not include the timetables for withdrawal that Bush has long resisted, it does require him to lay out how much contingency planning is being done for an eventual pull-back of American soldiers.

The bill, which passed by a vote of 377 to 46 after securing the support of lawmakers from Bush’s Republican Party, would not require the president to change his Iraq strategy.