- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 31, 2008

POLITICS

Obama says rival on the wrong track

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. | Democratic presidential contender Sen. Barack Obama said Wednesday his Republican rival Sen. John McCain “thinks we’re on the right track,” drawing a chorus of boos from a swing state audience vocal about the status quo.

“These anxieties seem to be growing with each passing day,” Mr. Obama said on a campaign trip in this economically ailing battleground state. “We can either choose a new direction for our economy or we can keep doing what we’ve been doing. My opponent, John McCain, thinks we’re on the right track.”

That elicited boos from some of the 1,500 people who filled a Springfield high school gymnasium. When an AP-Ipsos poll asked the “right track, wrong track” question this month, 77 percent said they thought the country was on the wrong track. The same poll set President Bush’s approval rating at 28 percent. Both were records for the AP-Ipsos survey.

“It’s true that change is hard, change isn’t easy,” Mr. Obama said. “Nobody here thinks that Bush or McCain has a real answer for the challenges we face so what they’re going to try to do is make you scared about me.”

WHITE HOUSE

President signs housing legislation

President Bush has signed a massive housing bill intended to provide mortgage relief for 400,000 struggling homeowners and stabilize financial markets.

A White House spokesman said Mr. Bush signed the measure Wednesday to “improve confidence and stability in markets and to provide better oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.”

The measure, regarded as the most significant housing legislation in decades, lets homeowners who cannot afford their payments refinance into more affordable government-backed loans rather than losing their homes.

It offers a temporary financial lifeline to troubled mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and tightens controls over the two government-sponsored businesses.

POLITICS

Richardson to hold Clinton fundraisers

SANTA FE, N.M. | New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson will hold two fundraisers to help Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton pay off her presidential campaign debt.

Mr. Richardson, who was U.N. ambassador and energy secretary under President Clinton, drew heat from some of the former first lady’s supporters when he endorsed her rival Sen. Barack Obama in March during the Democratic presidential primaries.

Strategist James Carville compared Mr. Richardson to Judas. Several weeks after the endorsement, the former president grew red-faced as he talked to California Democrats at a private meeting about how he expected Mr. Richardson to support his wife or at least stay neutral.

A spokesman for the governor said the fundraisers are part of the Democratic Party’s effort to unify after the hard-fought primary. Both Mr. Richardson and Mrs. Clinton plan to attend the fundraisers, which are scheduled for Aug. 17 in Santa Fe and Albuquerque.

HOUSE

Panel votes to cite Rove for contempt

A House panel voted Wednesday to cite Karl Rove, formerly President Bush’s top political aide, for contempt of Congress.

Voting 20-14 along party lines, the House Judiciary Committee cited Mr. Rove with contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena to testify July 10 on charges of improper White House influence over the Justice Department. For his part, Mr. Rove has denied any involvement with Justice decisions. The White House has said Congress has no authority to compel testimony from current and former advisers.

The committee decision is only a recommendation; a spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said she would not decide until September whether to bring it to a vote by the full House.

POLITICS

McCain campaign ‘sad’ about Stevens

A campaign spokeswoman for Sen. John McCain says the indictment of longtime Sen. Ted Stevens is a “sad reminder” that the next president will have to work to rebuild the public’s trust.

Nicolle Wallace said the Alaska Republican should be presumed innocent at this point of the charges that he lied about accepting gifts from an oil contractor.

She recalled that Mr. McCain and Mr. Stevens famously clashed over the appropriation process. Mr. McCain regularly says on the presidential campaign trail that appropriations are subject to corruption that causes voters to lose faith in government.

The Republican presidential candidate has not personally commented on Mr. Stevens’ indictment, though it could damage his party’s electoral prospects in November.

SENATE

FEMA draws blank on disaster housing

Federal emergency management officials admitted Wednesday that they still have no plan for housing victims of major disasters, more than a year past a deadline set by Congress.

After Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in August 2005, displacing more than a million residents, legislation was approved requiring the Federal Emergency Management Agency to develop and implement a disaster recovery plan by July 1, 2007.

However, FEMA did not submit its plan until this month, and it contained blank pages for seven key elements, including ways to house disaster victims, Cox News Service reports.

At a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, Louisiana Democrat, showed the blank pages to Adm. Harvey Johnson, FEMA’s deputy administrator, and asked when the strategy would be complete.

Adm. Johnson said he did not want to give a specific date for fear of missing another deadline, but said it would be complete by early fall.

“I apologize for FEMA that we did not meet this date, but the time has been well spent as we continue to learn, understand and appreciate the elements of disaster housing,” he said.

WHITE HOUSE

President signs worldwide AIDS bill

President Bush signed legislation Wednesday that triples U.S. funding to fight AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis around the world.

The five-year, $48 billion plan renews a program credited with saving millions of lives in Africa alone and is widely seen as one of the major achievements of the Bush presidency.

Mr. Bush said the program, launched by him in 2003, “is the largest commitment by any nation to combat a single disease in human history.”

The president signed the bill in the ornate East Room of the White House, surrounded by lawmakers and people affected by AIDS whom he met on his February trip to Africa.

The legislation is a rare case of relatively easy cooperation between the Democrat-controlled Congress and the White House. It passed the House last week by a 303-115 vote and the Senate earlier in the month by a vote of 80-16.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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