- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 4, 2009

POSTAL SERVICE

1,000 post offices on chopping block

The U.S. Postal Service is considering closing as many as 1,000 local offices as it battles staggering financial problems.

The agency has been struggling with a sharp decline in mail volume as people and businesses switch to e-mail both for personal contact and bill paying. The agency is facing a nearly $7 billion potential loss this fiscal year, despite a 2-cent increase in the price of stamps in May, cuts in staff and removal of collection boxes.

Also on the block are branch offices across the country and postal officials sent a list of nearly 700 potential candidates to the independent Postal Regulatory Commission.

More may be added, the Postal Service says. The current list of potential candidates can be viewed at www.prc.gov.

DEMOCRATS

Obama invites senators to lunch

President Obama has invited all of his Senate allies to lunch Tuesday - his birthday - his spokesman said Monday.

Mr. Obama invited all 58 Democrats, and the two independents who typically vote with them, to the White House “to continue to talk about the priorities that they have,” press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters.

“I don’t doubt that health care will be discussed. I believe the economy will also be heavily discussed,” he said. “They’ll go through and discuss energy legislation.”

Mr. Obama, who turns 48 on Tuesday, also plans to press senators to inject roughly $2 billion more into a program that lets consumers trade in gas-guzzling cars and trucks for more efficient vehicles, Mr. Gibbs said.

SENATE

McCain to vote against Sotomayor

Sen. John McCain, the Republican Party’s failed 2008 presidential contender, announced Monday that he will join the vast majority of other party members to vote against Judge Sonia Sotomayor, who’s on track to be confirmed this week as the first Hispanic justice of the Supreme Court.

Mr. McCain’s decision, the day before the Senate debates President Obama’s first high court nominee, underscored the degree to which Republicans - even those who, like the Arizonan, represent large Hispanic populations - have turned against Judge Sotomayor. Conservatives argue she’d bring her own biases to the bench.

At the same time, Sen. Ben Nelson, Nebraska Democrat - who had been publicly on the fence on Judge Sotomayor and under pressure from gun rights activists to oppose her - announced he’d side with Democrats and vote “yes.”

Just six Republicans have announced they’ll break with their party to vote for Judge Sotomayor, while nearly three-quarters of Republican senators say they’ll oppose her. No Democrat has said she or he will oppose Judge Sotomayor.

PENNSYLVANIA

Democrat readies Specter challenge

It appears that Republican turned Democrat Sen. Arlen Specter is formally getting challenged in Pennsylvania’s Democratic primary.

Rep. Joe Sestak, a former Navy vice admiral, has scheduled five campaign stops throughout the state Tuesday. At the first, at a VFW hall in his suburban Philadelphia district, he’s expected to announce his candidacy.

The announcement would not be a surprise. Mr. Sestak has already heavily campaigned in the state.

The five-term senator in April severed his decades-long ties with the Republican Party. He said, in part, it was to avoid a primary challenge with former Rep. Pat Toomey, who nearly beat him in the 2004 primary.

WHITE HOUSE

Obama praises Kuwait as ‘host’

President Obama says Kuwait has been an “outstanding host” for U.S. military stationed there during the war in Iraq and he looks forward to even stronger relations with the Persian Gulf nation.

Mr. Obama commented Monday in the Oval Office before a meeting with the Amir, Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al Sabah.

The U.S. military used Kuwait as a staging ground from which it led the coalition that invaded Iraq in 2003.

Mr. Obama said he and the Amir planned to discuss important regional issues, including making progress toward peace between the Arabs and Israelis, the war in Afghanistan, joint counterterrorism efforts and Iran.

REPUBLICANS

Pardon boxer, 2 lawmakers urge

Two Republican lawmakers are urging President Obama to issue a posthumous pardon for boxer Jack Johnson, the black heavyweight champion who was imprisoned because of his romantic ties with a white woman.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Rep. Peter T. King of New York wrote to Mr. Obama about the pardon in a letter obtained by the Associated Press.

Congress has passed a resolution offered by the two lawmakers urging a pardon, which they call “long overdue.” Mr. McCain and Mr. King say a pardon would remove a stain on the nation’s history.

The White House had no immediate comment on the letter.

Mr. Johnson became the first black heavyweight champion 100 years before the nation elected Mr. Obama its first black president.

DIPLOMACY

Mubarak sets White House visit

President Obama will welcome Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Aug. 18 to discuss the Middle East peace process and other issues, the White House said Monday.

“The two leaders will discuss the full range of issues of common concern - including Middle East peace, combating extremism and other regional threats, and promoting reform across the Arab world - as well as how to strengthen the bilateral relationship,” spokesman Robert Gibbs said in a statement.

“The president looks forward to building on his discussions with President Mubarak during his visit to Cairo on June 4th,” when Mr. Obama delivered a passionate speech to the Muslim world, Mr. Gibbs said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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