Capitol Hillbillies

Let the battles begin

Congressmen returning from their Independence Day break are ready for battle with the White House, with Democrats decrying President Bush’s commutation of former aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby’s prison sentence and fighting Bush’s latest claim of executive privilege.

Both events occurred around Congress’ vacation, inflaming an intense battle between Democrats and Bush over his use of executive power. There was relatively high tension on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue as majority Democrats — and increasing numbers of Republicans — challenged Bush’s Iraq war policy.

More Republicans bail on Bush’s war

The tide of Republican defections from President George W. Bush’s camp swelled Saturday when two more US senators joined the chorus of critics of his Iraq policy, demanding change.

But while expressing sharp disagreement with the strategy of “surging” the number of US troops in Iraq, Senators Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Judd Gregg of New Hampshire stopped short of backing legislation that would force the White House to begin a drawdown of US troops in Iraq.

“It should be clear to the president that there needs to be a new strategy,” said Alexander told The Los Angeles Times. “Our policy in Iraq is drifting.”

Who’s next to defect on Iraq?

After the recent defection of prominent Republicans on the Iraq war, the big question in Washington is who might be next.

More than a dozen Republican senators who are running for re-election next year head the list of lawmakers to watch. But others, too, have expressed concerns that the GOP has grown increasingly vulnerable on the issue. As the clock ticks toward Election Day, voter pressure is building against any lawmaker still standing with President Bush on the war.

DC madam can now tell all

A woman accused of running a prostitution ring in the nation’s capital is free to distribute thousands of pages of phone records after a federal judge lifted a restraining order on Thursday.

U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler’s order granted the request of Deborah Jeane Palfrey, 51, of Vallejo, Calif., to quash restrictions by government prosecutors that prohibited her from giving away the list.

“As a result, Jeane has determined to release those records under certain conditions to qualified individuals or organizations,” wrote her attorney, Montgomery Blair Sibley, in an e-mail.

Lieberman may back Republican

U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, an independent who supports Democrats in Congress despite his backing of the Iraq war, said on Thursday he was not ruling out endorsing a Republican in the White House race.

The 2000 Democratic vice presidential candidate said he also wants to see if an independent enters the crowded field of 2008 presidential hopefuls.

“I’m going to chose whichever candidate that I think will do the best job for our country, regardless of the party affiliation of that candidate,” the Connecticut senator told reporters in the state capital Hartford.

Another GOP Senator breaks with Bush

Another veteran Republican senator Thursday broke with President George W. Bush over Iraq, days before a new war powers tussle was due to start in Congress.

New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici, a senator for more than three decades, up for reelection in 2008, was the third Republican elder statesman to publicly turn against the president’s troop ‘surge’ policy within 10 days.

“I am unwilling to continue our current strategy,” Domenici said at a news conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico, blaming the Iraqi government for not making sufficient progress to merit the sacrifices of US troops.

Bush, Democrats share in hypocrisy

The hypocrisy is unpardonable. President Bush’s decision to commute the sentence of a convicted liar brought out the worst in both parties and politics.

In keeping I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby out of jail, Bush defied his promise to hold wrongdoers accountable and undercut his 2000 campaign pledge to “restore honor and dignity” to the White House. And it might be a cynical first step toward issuing a full pardon at the conclusion of his term.

Democrats responded as if they don’t live in glass houses, decrying corruption, favoritism and a lack of justice.

Lugar: Time to pull troops out

Pressure on the US administration to start pulling out of Iraq deepened Sunday with one of the Senate’s most respected Republicans calling for an “orderly” withdrawal of troops in the months ahead.

Richard Lugar, the most senior Republican yet to break ranks with President George W. Bush over the war, said Bush should embrace moderates from both sides in Congress to chart a new strategy focused on diplomacy.

NRA under fire over gun-control bill

The July Fourth fireworks over the Washington Monument are nothing compared with the sounds of battle accompanying an uncommon war raging on Capitol Hill, gun-rights Web sites and radio talk shows.

Under fire is the National Rifle Association’s embrace in June of what some are calling the most important gun-control measure passed in the House in years.

Defiant Dems challenge Bush, Cheney

Democrats took the first steps Friday in what could be a long march to court in a tug-of-war between the White House and Congress over subpoenas and executive and legislative branch powers.

In a letter to White House counsel Fred Fielding, the heads of the Senate and House Judiciary committees demanded an explanation in 10 days of why the White House claimed executive privilege on subpoenaed documents and vowed to invoke “the full force of law.”