- The Washington Times - Friday, July 11, 2008

HOUSE

Subpoena fails to deliver Rove

Former White House adviser Karl Rove defied a congressional subpoena and refused to testify Thursday about purported political pressure at the Justice Department, including whether he influenced the prosecution of a former Democratic governor of Alabama.

Rep. Linda T. Sanchez, chairman of a House subcommittee, ruled with backing from fellow Democrats on the panel that Mr. Rove was breaking the law by refusing to cooperate - perhaps the first step toward holding him in contempt of Congress.

The White House has cited executive privilege as a reason he and others who serve or served in the administration should not testify, arguing that internal administration communications are confidential and that Congress cannot compel officials to testify. Mr. Rove says he is bound to follow the White House’s guidance, although he has offered to answer questions specifically on the Siegelman case - only with no transcript taken and not under oath.

A decision on whether to pursue contempt charges now goes to the full Judiciary Committee and ultimately to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

white house

President signs eavesdropping bill

President Bush signed a bill Thursday that overhauls rules about government eavesdropping and grants immunity to telecommunications companies that helped the United States monitor Americans in suspected terrorism cases.

He called it “landmark legislation that is vital to the security of our people.”

Mr. Bush signed the measure in a Rose Garden ceremony a day after the Senate sent it to him, following nearly a year of debate in the Democrat-led Congress over surveillance rules and the warrantless wiretapping program Mr. Bush initiated after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. It was a battle that pitted privacy and civil liberties concerns against the desire to prevent terrorist attacks and Democrats’ fears of being portrayed as weak when it comes to protecting the country.

Its passage was a major victory for Mr. Bush, who has been able to prevail over Congress on most issues of national security and intelligence disputes.

Even before Mr. Bush signed the legislation, the American Civil Liberties Union said it would challenge the new law in court.

FEC

Long-idle agency rises, chooses chief

Republican election lawyer Donald F. McGahn was named chairman of a newly seated Federal Election Commission on Thursday, taking the helm of the regulatory agency on his first day on the job.

The FEC convened for the first time in more than six months, a period of inactivity caused by a confirmation standoff in the Senate.

With four of six commissioners new to their jobs, the FEC faces a backlog of work that has accumulated during an election year marked by a hard-fought and financially record-breaking presidential campaign.

Among the top issues that the FEC must sort through are a Supreme Court decision invalidating a campaign-finance law that governs congressional contests involving wealthy candidates who spend large sums of their own money. It also is behind schedule in writing rules addressing candidate air travel as well as new rules on lobbyist fundraisers.

Commissioner Steven T. Walther, a Nevada Democrat, was named vice chairman.

CAPITOL

Visitor Center to open in December

The Capitol Visitor Center, the largest and most costly construction project in the U.S. Capitol’s history, will open to the public on Dec. 2, congressional leaders said Thursday.

The opening would come eight years after ground was broken on the three-story underground complex on the east side of the Capitol between the Capitol building and the Supreme Court. Final costs were recently estimated at $621 million, more than double the $265 million anticipated when the project began.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader John A. Boehner said the official public opening would come on the 145th anniversary of the completion of the Capitol dome - Dec. 2, 1863 - when the Statute of Freedom was placed atop what was then the new dome.

The 580,000-square foot visitor center features two large orientation movie theaters and an exhibition hall with documents and artifacts from the National Archives and the Library of Congress. It will also boast a 550-seat cafeteria, gift shops and other amenities for visitors who now must wait in line outdoors for tours of the Capitol.

The project was originally scheduled to be completed in January 2005, but the date was pushed back several times after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as lawmakers decided to add security components to the center, including emergency evacuation routes. They also expanded the project to include more work space and meeting rooms.

Workers have also planted nearly 100 trees and restored fountains, lanterns and seat walls on the plaza above the center, to revitalize the parklike setting designed in 1874 by Frederick Law Olmstead.

POLITICS

Greens ready to crown McKinney

Former U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney’s trek back from defeat takes her to Chicago this week and an improbable political rebirth, Cox News Service reports.

She is expected to be nominated as the presidential candidate for the Green Party of the United States and could appear on the ballot in as many as 36 states, making Miss McKinney the second black presidential candidate in the November race.

Miss McKinney will not be on the ballot in Georgia, where the Green Party failed this week to deliver a petition to the Secretary of State’s office with enough signatures by the July 8 deadline.

Miss McKinney, 53, a lightning-rod figure in her six terms as a Democratic congresswoman from Georgia, was defeated for re-election in 2006 by Hank Johnson after a much-publicized run-in with a U.S. Capitol Police officer and her accusations that the Bush administration was covering up information about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

HOUSE

Trail would mark Revolutionary War

The 600-mile route taken by the armies of Gen. George Washington and his French partner in the climactic campaign of the Revolutionary War would become a national historic trail under legislation passed by the House Thursday.

The trail, along existing roads and waterways in eight states from Rhode Island to Virginia, commemorates the 1781 march of Washington’s Continental Army and the Expedition Particuliere of French Count Rochambeau that culminated in the surrender of British Gen. Charles Lord Cornwallis to Washington at Yorktown, Va., on Oct. 19 of that year.

The designation allows for historical markers along the route running through Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.

The bill passed 345-69. A companion measure is pending in the Senate.

SENATE

Energy official nixes ethanol cut

The Energy Department frowned on relaxing federal requirements to boost the use of ethanol in gasoline.

Any reduction in the renewable fuel standard would sap investment in biofuel technology and undermine efforts to wean the nation off oil and reduce greenhouse gases, Deputy Assistant Energy Secretary Steven Chalk said Thursday.

“Keeping that in place is very important to us,” Mr. Chalk told the Senate Environment clean air subcommittee.

Mr. Chalk made the comments as the Bush administration is considering a request by Texas Gov. Rick Perry to halve the ethanol requirement this year, from nine billion gallons to 4.5 billion gallons, because of high corn prices.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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