Capitol Hillbillies

Right wing vows to keep heat on health care

Conservative activists are vowing to keep up their fight against President Barack Obama’s health care plans, even as the Democratic Party pushes back hard, accusing Republicans of organizing angry mobs.

Democrats and the White House are claiming that the sometimes rowdy protests that have disrupted Democratic lawmakers’ meetings and health care events around the country are largely orchestrated from afar by insurers, lobbyists, Republican Party activists and others.

"This mob activity is straight from the playbook of high-level Republican political operatives," the Democratic National Committee says in a new Web video. "They have no plan for moving our country forward, so they’ve called out the mob."

Rep. Jefferson convicted on multiple charges

Former U.S. Congressman William Jefferson, who was caught with $90,000 in cash in his freezer, was convicted on Wednesday on multiple charges of bribery and money laundering.

The former Congressman from Louisiana, accused in 2007 of soliciting millions of dollars in bribes from companies while using his office to broker business deals in Africa, was found guilty of 11 of 16 counts of bribery, racketeering and money laundering.

In a search of his residence, FBI agents found the $90,000 neatly wrapped in foil and stashed in his freezer.

Jefferson faces up to 150 years in prison and could forfeit payments totaling $456,000, plus stock certificates.

Senate ready to refill clunker coffers

The Senate is poised to add $2 billion to the popular "cash-for-clunkers" program after lawmakers agreed to vote on the government car incentives and give shoppers until Labor Day to visit their local dealerships and make a deal.

Administration officials have estimated the tripling of the $1 billion program could fund an additional 500,000 new car sales, giving automakers a late summer boost after months of ragged sales. The Obama administration has said the program would go broke by Friday without congressional approval of the extension.

Government health plan would pay for abortions

Health care legislation before Congress would allow a new government-sponsored insurance plan to cover abortions, a decision that would affect millions of women and recast federal policy on the divisive issue.

Federal funds for abortions are now restricted to cases involving rape, incest or danger to the health of the mother. Abortion opponents say those restrictions should carry over to any health insurance sold through a new marketplace envisioned under the legislation, an exchange where people would choose private coverage or the public plan.

Abortion rights supporters say that would have the effect of denying coverage for abortion to millions of women who now have it through workplace insurance and are expected to join the exchange.

Insurers lay out cash to buy Congress

As the nation faces a political showdown over health-insurance reform, insurers worried that an overhaul could hurt their bottom line are funneling a wave of cash to members of Congress.

Health and accident insurers and HMOs have spent more than $40 million on current members of Congress over the past 10 years, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which analyzed Federal Election Commission data.

They’ve also spent an additional half-billion dollars lobbying during the decade.

Insurers ramped up their contributions in 2008 when health-care reform emerged as a major campaign issue. So far, the insurance industry has given $3.9 million this year.

Sotomayor headed for historic confirmation

Judge Sonia Sotomayor was expected to win Senate confirmation as early as Thursday as the first Hispanic US Supreme Court justice, in a major victory for President Barack Obama.

The 55-year-old appeals court judge was to become the third woman to sit on the bench that serves as the final arbiter of the US Constitution and is called upon to decide bitter feuds on volatile issues like gun rights and abortion.

Support from all of Obama’s Democratic allies and a handful of Republicans meant the outcome was never seriously in doubt — though the final days brought increasingly harsh debate over the place of race in the nomination.

Democrats grow impatient over health care

With President Barack Obama’s political fortunes on the line, Democrats in Congress vowed on Monday to push healthcare reform through the Senate with or without Republican support.

"No matter what happens we are going to enact healthcare reform by the end of the year," said Senator Charles Schumer, one of the Democrats who has been working with Republicans to craft a bipartisan plan in that chamber.

Obama has made overhaul of the $2.5 trillion healthcare system this year his top domestic priority, saying it is central to long-term economic recovery, and its success or failure could define his presidency.

Senators shrug off NRA threats

The National Rifle Association’s threat to punish senators who vote for Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor has been met with a shrug by Democrats from conservative-leaning states and some Republicans who are breaking with their party to support her.

Senators got ‘special’ loans

Two influential Senate committee chairmen were told they were getting special VIP deals when they applied for mortgages, an official who handled their loans told Congress in closed-door testimony. Democratic Sens. Christopher Dodd and Kent Conrad had denied knowing they were getting discounts when they negotiated their loan terms.