- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 4, 2008

CONGRESS

Waxman takes aim at Cheney

A House committee chairman said Tuesday he is seeking more documents from the CIA leak probe because Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff made a significant disclosure to the FBI that warrants further congressional follow-up.

Rep. Henry A. Waxman, California Democrat, said I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby told the FBI it’s possible he was instructed by Mr. Cheney to disseminate information to the press about the wife of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, CIA operative Valerie Plame.

Mrs. Plame’s CIA identity was first leaked to the news media by a State Department official, but several top Bush administration officials in 2003, including Mr. Libby and former top White House political adviser Karl Rove were accused by Democrats and others of orchestrating a plot against the CIA worker.

“This is a significant revelation and, if true, a serious matter,” Mr. Waxman wrote Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey.

Mr. Waxman said the disclosure cannot be responsibly investigated without access to the FBI’s interview of Mr Cheney.

Last July, President Bush commuted Libby’s 2 1/2-year sentence, sparing him from serving any prison time after being convicted of perjury, obstructing justice and lying to the FBI.

Mr. Waxman also drew on new information provided by former White House spokesman Scott McClellan, whose book on his years at the White House has angered administration officials. Mr. Waxman noted that Mr. McClellan says both the president and vice president “directed me to go out there and exonerate Scooter Libby.”

CABINET

Energy secretary, Nevada at odds

Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman said Tuesday he is confident the government’s license application to build a nuclear waste dump in Nevada will “stand up to any challenge anywhere.”

Mr. Bodman spoke at a press conference hours after the Bush administration submitted the formal application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a license to build the underground storage facility at Yucca Mountain more than 80 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

Nevada officials, who have fought the waste dump for years, vowed to file hundreds of specific challenges to the proposed design of the facility, arguing the Energy Department has not proven it will protect public health, safety and the environment from radiation up to a million years.

Responding to the filing, Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons reiterated his promise to fight the waste dump he said “threatens the life and safety of the people of Nevada.”

“As long as I am governor, the state will continue to do everything it can to stop Yucca Mountain from becoming reality,” he said in a statement. Mr. Bodman called the application submission “a big day” for moving the stalled project forward and added he is confident the scientific assessments demonstrate the 77,000 tons of highly radioactive waste from the country’s nuclear power plants can be stored there safely.

SENATE

Debate begins on climate bill

The Senate began debate Tuesday on comprehensive climate change legislation, with opponents citing its cost to the economy and supporters urging action to make the United States an international leader.

The measure, known as the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act, is the first to reach the Senate floor, and its future is murky. Even if Congress approves it, President Bush is expected to veto it.

Still, supporters said the bill would lay down a marker for future action, especially by the next president.

“This bill will signal that the United States, after a long period of doing nothing, is prepared to stand up tall and to lead,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, told the session.

Sen. Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican, said he accepted the science that supports limiting carbon emissions but the bill “squanders … opportunity” in favor of “old-time politics” catering to special interests and raising government spending.

Mr. Corker also indicated he wanted to see more support for nuclear power, which does not emit greenhouse gases but does pose a problem about disposal of spent nuclear fuel.

SENATE

Kennedy walking around hospital

Sen. Edward Kennedy, the sole surviving son of America’s most famous political family, is “recuperating well” from brain surgery and should be released within a week from Duke University Medical Center, his office said Tuesday.

“He is experiencing no complications, and has been walking the hallways, spending time with family and actively keeping up with the news of the day,” the Massachusetts senator’s office said in a statement.

Mr. Kennedy, 76, underwent surgery Monday to remove a cancerous tumor and is expected to be released from the hospital in Durham, N.C. next week.

“Senator Kennedy had a restful night’s sleep and is recuperating well,” the statement said.

“He looks forward to returning home to Cape Cod soon, and is thankful for all the prayers and well wishes,” it said, adding that an update will be given when Mr. Kennedy is discharged.

Meanwhile, the longest-serving senator - Democrat Robert Byrd, 90, of West Virginia, who was first elected in 1958 - also was under hospital care Tuesday.

He was admitted to a Washington-area hospital late Monday after appearing lethargic and found to have a fever, a spokesman said.

Mr. Byrd “will remain in the hospital for several more days for monitoring and antibiotic treatment for a mild infection,” an aide said.

AGENCIES

FDA resists food-coloring ban

A consumer advocacy group called on the Food and Drug Administration Tuesday to ban the use of eight artificial colorings in food because the additives may cause hyperactivity and behavior problems in some children.

Controlled studies conducted over three decades have shown that children’s behavior can be worsened by some artificial dyes, said the Center for Science in the Public Interest. The group noted the British government is successfully pressuring food manufacturers to switch to safer colorings.

Over the years, the FDA has consistently disputed the center’s assertion. The agency’s Web site contains a 2004 brochure that asks the question: “Do additives cause childhood hyperactivity?”

“No. Although this hypothesis was popularized in the 1970s , well-controlled studies conducted since then have produced no evidence that food additives cause hyperactivity or learning disabilities in children,” the agency said.

Julie Zawisza, an FDA spokeswoman, said Tuesday that color additives undergo safety reviews prior to approval for marketing and that samples of each artificial coloring are tested. She said the agency reviewed one of the studies the center cites in calling for a ban.

“[We] didn’t find a reason to change our conclusions that the ingredients are safe for the general population,” the spokeswoman said. “Also note that the European Food Safety Agency has a similar view as FDA’s.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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