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Lawmakers hiring blog specialists by TimChapman - Capitol Report - Tue, 2006-05-09 14:39

Time runs a piece about the wooing of the blogosphere by politicians. As a result, lawmakers are hiring staff who are blog savvy:

The embrace of the blogs has helped spawn a new kind a staffer on Capitol Hill: the Internet outreach specialist. In Reid’s office, Ari Rabin-Havt, 27, who worked for and on the Internet team for John Kerry’s presidential campaign, spends his entire day reading blogs, responding to hundreds of e-mails from bloggers and figuring out how to get stories favorable to Senate Democrats onto the blogs. The relationship is helpful for both sides; Rabin-Havt will feed documents on key issues to the bloggers, which they like because it helps them post faster, and the close contact helps politicians head off some negative stories before they surface on the blogs.

Jack Kingston, a GOP congressman from Georgia who is one of only a few in his party who blogs regularly, works closely on his posts and his podcasts with blog-savvy press spokesman David All, 27. "My strong recommendation for anybody who is getting on the information highway is to to have a co-pilot who is 25 years old or younger," says Kingston.

H/T - TG Political Wire 

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Pence asked to stay as conservative leader by TimChapman - Capitol Report - Tue, 2006-05-09 13:50

The Hill newspaper reports that some Hill conservatives have asked Republican Study Committee Chairman Mike Pence to stay on as the group's leader after 2006. Pence's role as leader of this committee has been invaluable to the conservative movement:

The RSC has achieved high-profile wins during Pence’s tenure. Perhaps most significant was this month, when House appropriators agreed to include earmark reform in the lobbying reform bill the House passed last week. This requires appropriators to link earmarks — provisions setting aside funds for specific, usually parochial, purposes — in a spending bill with the names of sponsoring lawmakers. House leaders have also promised to give lawmakers knowledge of earmarks contained in a spending bill well before it reaches the floor.

In addition, GOP leaders have promised to extend earmark reform to authorizing committees, such as Ways and Means and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Pence also receives high marks from conservatives for “Operation Offset,” a public campaign House conservatives launched last year advocating spending cuts to pay for hurricane reconstruction. The campaign was a rebellion against the GOP congressional leadership and, although it angered leaders, succeeded in making fiscal discipline one of the top Republican priorities of 2006.

Without Pence's leadership, it is fair to say that much of this would not have happened - or at least would have been less effective. The former radio talk show host understand how to message conservatism better than any politician in Washington, DC. He must remain a leader. More members should approach him and encourage him to stay.

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Pork money diverts troop funding by TimChapman - Capitol Report - Tue, 2006-05-09 07:43

Andrew Grossman, writing on the Heritage Policy blog, highlights a twisted and devious potential plan in regards to the Senate-passed emergency supplemental bill:

The Senate, of course, piled all manner of non-emergency, non-essential spending onto the emergency spending bill meant to fund the troops and disaster relief and thus came in well above the number laid out in the President's veto threat--$109 billion compared to the President's $92.2 billion. The responsible way for the Senate to deal with this would be to just strip out the non-emergency spending and present to the President a clean bill that he can sign without any qualms.

But at least one aide to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is too clever for such a simple move. He proposes what seems, at first blush, like maybe a sensible solution: a 13-or-so percent across-the-board cut in the supplemental spending to bring the bill's total cost into line with the President's initial request and veto threat. Just cut everything by the same amount, it seems, and the bill will slide right under the President's cap. It's an easy way out.

This ploy just highlights the terrible trade-offs that pork-barrel spending leads lawmakers to make. Relative to the President's request for emergency spending, this proposal would cut funding for defense in the supplemental--money for our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq to meet needs that are the very purpose of this legislation--by $9.5 billion. An across-the-board cut would also chop $2.6 billion from funding to respond to the actual emergency of Hurricane Katrina.

Read the whole post here.

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They can't help themselves by TimChapman - Capitol Report - Tue, 2006-05-09 07:23

As sure as the sun rises in the east, Democrats will try to block judicial nominations. The Washington Post reports that Democrats today will attempt to put the brakes on federal appeals court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's nomination.

Like Roberts, Kavanaugh, 41, has spent most of his professional life in the service of conservative causes and bosses. Now White House staff secretary, Kavanaugh was deeply involved in Kenneth W. Starr's investigations of President Bill Clinton regarding Whitewater and Monica S. Lewinsky.

Kavanaugh also is widely described as brilliant, affable and disarming, attributes that prevented Democrats from successfully demonizing Roberts. And as they did with the Roberts nomination, Democrats are focusing largely on what they do not know about the nominee, an approach that gained little traction in the chief justice's confirmation debate.

The Democrats' attempts to slow play this nomination will provide an easy opportunity for the GOP to get on message. Combine this opportunity, with the upcoming opportunity presented in the Hayden confirmation hearings in which Democrats will trot out the NSA wiretap issue, and Republicans are set to score some political points.

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Race-based governing looms by TimChapman - Capitol Report - Mon, 2006-05-08 15:49

Hawaiian Senator Daniel Akaka took the Senate floor today to speak in favor of S. 147, the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act. Akaka's bill would create a new governing entity to govern all Americans with "one drop" of native Hawaiian blood.

Akaka has secured a deal that couples his race-based governing legislation with the Death Tax repeal. As such, the bill may come before the Senate before Memorial Day.

"I will continue to work to bring this bill to the floor as promised by the Majority Leader and the Junior Senator from Arizona," said Akaka, referring to a deal with Bill Frist and Jon Kyl. Akaka insists that his bill has broad bipartisan support in the U.S. Senate.

That is a scary thought.

Akaka today promised to come to the Senate floor everyday from now on to talk about his legislation until the Senate schedules it for a vote.

UPDATE: Akaka's speech today on the Senate floor was in response to a Lamar Alexander speech in which the Tennessee Senator declared his support for a recently issued U.S. Commission on Civil Rights report that urged Senators to vote against the race-based governing legislation. Alexander issued a press release explaining:

The Commission said the legislation “would discriminate on the basis of race or national origin and further subdivide the American people into discrete subgroups accorded varying degrees of privilege.” The legislation would establish a new governing entity for individuals of native Hawaiian descent which would have the authority for government to government negotiations with the United States of America. The legislation is awaiting consideration by the full Senate.

“This bill would create a separate, independent, race-based government for native Hawaiians. Our Constitution guarantees just the reverse: equal opportunity without regard to race,” Alexander said.

“America is a nation based not upon race, but upon our common values, including liberty, equal opportunity, democracy, and the rule of law. I hope my colleagues will join me in opposing this bill.”

Also of note, Akaka claimed broad support among Hawaiians for his bill, but this polling suggests otherwise.

For more on this issue, read Senator Alexander's floor speech in the extended section.

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Is Miers an obstacle for conservatives? by TimChapman - Capitol Report - Mon, 2006-05-08 15:36

According to this report filed by Robert Bluey, many conservatives are viewing White House Counsel Harriet Miers as an obstacle to the continued nomination of solid conservative judges:

White House Counsel Harriet Miers, the Supreme Court nominee who withdrew after a conservative revolt last fall, has allegedly vetoed several recommendations offered by conservatives to fill vacancies on federal courts.

The White House would not directly respond to the charge, which was made this morning during a conference call with more than 40 conservative leaders. Two people on the call—whose identities I promised to keep confidential—said they had inside knowledge of the recommended nominees whom Miers nixed.

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Bush names Hayden by TimChapman - Capitol Report - Mon, 2006-05-08 09:16

This morning President Bush made it official and named Air Force General Michael Hayden as the new CIA director replacing outgoing Porter Goss.

Many in Congress are already criticizing the nomination. Democrats in particular will look to play politics during the Senate nomination process.

To those who wish to do so, Texas Senator John Cornyn today fired back. In a statement released this morning Cornyn said: 

“If Senate Democrats are looking to the Hayden nomination as an opportunity to attack the NSA’s terrorist surveillance program, we welcome that debate. If the President’s opponents hope to argue that we’re doing too much to prevent terrorism, that the intelligence agencies are fighting too hard against terrorists around the world, then we look forward to taking that debate to the American people.

“Gen. Hayden and his colleagues in our intelligence forces need the right tools, the right focus and the right people to ‘connect the dots’ and prevent further attacks.”

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House and Senate work to pass Iraq/Katrina bill by TimChapman - Capitol Report - Mon, 2006-05-08 06:51

Representatives from the House and Senate are working this week to garner a compromise on the two chambers' versions of the emergency supplemental bill. Let's hope the House sticks to its guns and trims back the Senate's exorbitant spending.

Congress Daily AM: 

With costs escalating and wear and tear on troops and their equipment accumulating, the Pentagon says it needs the bill before lawmakers depart for Memorial Day. The chambers largely agree on military, intelligence and foreign aid funds.

The conference sticking points are likely to center on unrelated topics, such as agriculture assistance for farmers hit by natural calamities and high energy prices, border and port security, and aid to the Gulf Coast fishing industry.

At $109 billion, the Senate bill is $17 billion more than the House approved in March, and $14.5 billion more than President Bush requested after accounting for additional funds for pandemic flu countermeasures. Bush has repeatedly said he would veto a bill if it reaches his desk at more than $94.5 billion, which he refers to as "92.2 billion, plus" pandemic flu funds.

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Boehner, House GOP intend to hold the line on spending by TimChapman - Capitol Report - Thu, 2006-05-04 17:29
Robert Bluey reports some good news from the House...Majority Leader John Boehner intends to back the President up in his effort to tamp down the size of the emergency supplemental spending bill.
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Dems object to Alexander pledge bill by TimChapman - Capitol Report - Thu, 2006-05-04 11:45

Senator Lamar Alexander just took the Senate floor to complain about Democrats holding up a bill he introduced that would endorse the National Anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance in English.

Alexander said that a Democrat had anonymously placed a hold on the bill.

He then moved to consider the bill on the Senate floor and Democrat Patty Murray objected on behalf of Democrats.

Alexander said "this proves my point." 

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Senate passes big-spending bill, appropriators flex muscle by TimChapman - Capitol Report - Thu, 2006-05-04 11:34

The Senate just voted to pass the "emergency" supplemental spending bill at a veto-level price tag of $109 billion. Passage of the bill at this level is a direct contradiction of President Bush's request.

Hopes amongst some conservatives in the Senate that the GOP had turned a corner on the spending issue have been dashed. Appropriations Chairman Thad Cochran is on the floor right now declaring victory.

This Congressional Quarterly story says it all:

The appropriators are winning again — as it seems they always do.

Despite a growing outcry against their funding earmarks and some attempts by conservatives to curb their powers, members of the House and Senate Appropriations committees maintain an iron grip on the federal purse strings.

Defying President Bush’s veto threat and a promise by many Republicans to sustain such a veto, Senate appropriators fended off nearly every effort to reduce the cost of their $109 billion “emergency” spending bill (HR 4939) during this week’s floor debate.

By my count, the big spending bill received near 70 votes -- meaning at least some of the 35 members who promised to uphold a Bush veto threat voted for the bill. They will have to flip-flop should Bush follow through on his threat -- which he had better do or he risks looking completely powerless at the hands of politicians like Trent Lott (a pol we all know has no love-loss for the President). Roll call to come...

UPDATE: Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn who fought hard against the spending excesses in this bill explained why a vote in favor of the bill is wrong. His fine speech is in the extended section.

UPDATE: Majority Leader Bill Frist was one of the good guys who voted against this bill. On his blog he explains. 

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