- The Washington Times - Friday, August 1, 2008

HOUSE

Democrats refuse to censure Rangel

House Democrats voted down a public reprimand Thursday that Republicans sought against influential Rep. Charles B. Rangel, New York Democrat, over a questionable housing arrangement that he insists violated no laws.

Mr. Rangel, chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, has come under scrutiny over the past month for his use of four rent-stabilized apartments in a building in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood.

A measure offered by House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, said Mr. Rangel “has dishonored himself and brought discredit to the House and merits the censure of the House for same.”

Mr. Rangel tried to pre-empt the Republican effort by telling colleagues he would support the measure if they deleted the charge that he had discredited Congress and deserved censure.

“I’m asking the minority to allow me to join in with them in this resolution to say this matter should be cleared up, but there’s no need, even for mean-spirited people in the minority, to say that I’m a discredit to the United States Congress,” Mr. Rangel said.

The censure measure was voted down 254-138; two dozen Republicans voting with the Democrats.

HOUSE

First spending bill ups veterans’ care

The House was taking up its first spending bill Thursday after weeks of delays that have left efforts to pass next year’s Cabinet budgets in shambles.

The measure — one of just a handful that may become law before Congress adjourns for the elections — awards very generous increases for veterans’ medical care, military base construction and base closure accounts. It’s easily the most bipartisan of the 12 annual appropriations bills since it funds politically sacred veterans’ accounts, despite exceeding President Bush’s already generous budget increase for veterans and military construction accounts by $3.4 billion.

Despite the increases, the White House has not threatened a veto, even though Mr. Bush has taken pride in clamping down on domestic spending accounts funded by Congress each year and generally has promised to veto bills that exceed his request.

WHITE HOUSE

Bush meets Scouts who survived tornado

President Bush, in a ceremony honoring recipients of “Scouts in Action” commendation, met Thursday with the 114 Boy Scouts who survived a twister that swept through northwest Iowa’s Little Sioux Scout Ranch two months ago.

Four Boy Scouts were killed in the June 11 tornado. The Scouts are members of the Boy Scouts of America Mid-America Council.

“We are honored by this recognition from President Bush and thrilled to visit the White House,” said Lloyd Roitstein, Mid-America Council’s Scout Executive. “We appreciate the president’s support and are grateful for his tribute to the courageous actions taken in response to the tornado at Little Sioux Ranch. The situation at Little Sioux Ranch underscores the value of what we teach and accomplish through scouting.”

SENATE

Agency head disputes report

The head of the Indian Health Service defended his agency on Thursday against accusations that it lost millions of dollars worth of equipment and tried to cover it up.

A report released by congressional investigators last week charged that roughly $15.8 million worth of equipment vanished from the agency, which provides health care to American Indians, over a four-year period. Employees later falsified documents to cover up some of those losses, the investigators charged.

Robert McSwain, the head of the health service since April, told the Senate Indian Affairs Committee that the agency is updating policies and conducting investigations into the missing items. But he insisted the problem had been exaggerated by the Government Accountability Office, which issued the report.

“I believe I have a problem but not to the extent that it’s being portrayed,” Mr. McSwain said. He said the investigators overvalued many of the lost and stolen items and said the falsified documents were “borderline” fabrications.

SENATE

Bill would settle suits against Libya

The Senate passed legislation Thursday to let the State Department settle all remaining lawsuits against Libya by U.S. terrorism victims.

The bill paves the way for healing the last rifts between the U.S. and Libya — but only after the country fully compensates Americans harmed in Libyan-sponsored attacks, including the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 and the 1986 blast in the La Belle discotheque in Berlin.

The Senate passed the measure unanimously Thursday, and the House could follow suit by the end of the week, sending it to President Bush.

It creates a new fund to compensate the victims and grants Libya immunity from terrorism-related lawsuits once the secretary of state certifies that they have all been fully compensated.

SENATE

Brownback lifts hold on nominee

A Republican senator who has been blocking President Bush’s nominee for U.S. ambassador to South Korea has lifted his objection, removing a key obstacle to the confirmation of D. Kathleen Stephens.

The decision by Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas comes ahead of a trip to South Korea by Mr. Bush. Mr. Brownback lifted his hold on the nomination after the chief U.S. envoy at North Korean nuclear talks, Christopher Hill, strongly criticized the North’s human rights record at a Senate hearing Thursday and pledged to confront the North over abuse.

Mr. Brownback had been blocking the nomination over concerns about how human rights were being addressed in six-nation North Korean nuclear negotiations.

HOUSE

Navy defends plan to scrap destroyer

Top U.S. Navy officials on Thursday defended a plan to scrap the DDG-1000 destroyer after spending $13 billion on the program, saying it would cost too much to upgrade the ship to face changed military threats.

The Navy last week said it would truncate the DDG-1000 program after construction of just two ships, opting instead to buy another eight older-model DDG-51 destroyers instead.

General Dynamics Corp., which has a large shipyard in Maine, and Northrop Grumman Corp., with its Mississippi facility, are under contract to build the first two DDG-1000 destroyers. The two companies also build the DDG-51 warship.

“The greatest single threat is the proliferation of advanced ballistic missiles, followed by a burgeoning deep water, quiet diesel submarine capability by potential adversaries,” Vice Adm. Barry McCullough, deputy chief of naval operations, told a hearing held by House Armed Services seapower and expeditionary forces subcommittee.

“The DDG-51 presents more capability in these areas than does the DDG-1000,” he said, adding, “Modifying the DDG-1000s to address these missions is unaffordable.”

POLITICS

Ventura to speak at Ron Paul’s rally

Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura is slated to speak at an alternative rally for Republican Rep. Ron Paul during the Republican convention.

Rally spokesman Jesse Benton says he’s hoping Mr. Ventura’s participation will boost national attention for Mr. Paul’s two-day “Rally for the Republic.”

Supporters of Mr. Paul’s limited-government message are staging the rally at Minneapolis’ Target Center while the Republican Party stages its national convention in St. Paul, Minn. The convention is the first week of September.

Mr. Benton says Mr. Ventura will speak about the two-party system and how it isn’t listening to people.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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