- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 11, 2009

POSTAL SERVICE

Stamp price to rise May 11

The price of a 1 ounce first-class stamp will rise to 44 cents May 11, the U.S. Postal Service said Tuesday.

Postmaster General John Potter said the price of a stamp is going up because operational costs for the Postal Service are rising while the recession is dragging down mail volume.

“The Postal Service is not immune to rising costs, which are affecting homes and businesses across America today,” Mr. Potter said.

The new price is expected to add about $3 to the average household’s annual mailing expenses, according to the Postal Service. The price for each additional ounce of first-class mail will remain at 17 cents.

Consumers weary of the 2-cent rise in the price of stamps can stock up on Forever Stamps for 42 cents each until May 11. They can be used on 1 ounce letters no matter what price they are purchased for.

CONGRESS

House to freeze pay for fiscal ‘10

In one more sign of the depth of the country’s economic woes, members of the House of Representatives will not be getting a pay raise in the coming fiscal year.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer broke the news to a caucus of House Democrats, saying the House Appropriations Committee will be instructed not to include the annual “cost-of-living adjustment” (COLA) in its spending bills for fiscal 2010. When the 111th Congress convened last month, members received a $4,700 pay boost to an average of $174,000. Since 1989, House members have been given the pay raise by default unless members vote to reject it.

Mr. Hoyer said he had long been a supporter of the annual pay boost, citing past political battles over congressional pay scales. A number of senior House Republicans and freshmen lawmakers from both parties have raised the idea of forgoing the pay increase this year.

Mr. Hoyer said he and Mrs. Pelosi agreed to the pay freeze “in the context of extraordinary pain in our economy, of people losing jobs, and our economy under great stress.”

President Obama last month ordered a pay freeze for top White House staff, citing the poor economy and the need for shared sacrifice.

FCC

Many stations reject digital delay

About 40 percent of the nation’s hundreds of TV stations will be broadcasting completely in digital signals next week, even after regulators delayed a mandatory nationwide switch to “DTV” by months.

The Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday said 681 of the nearly 1,800 television broadcast stations will have already stopped broadcasting in older, analog signals, or will by next week.

The House last week voted to delay the mandatory change by four months - to June 12 from Feb. 17. President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law shortly.

The switch is intended to free up spectrum for public safety and provide better television viewing.

But the delayed bill gave television stations, which say they’ve spent millions of dollars preparing and educating viewers of the switch-over, the option to transition to all digital on the original date, next Tuesday.

PENTAGON

Obama nears Afghan buildup

President Obama is days away from approving a new Afghanistan troop buildup, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Tuesday, as the new administration confronts a worsening war and the prospect of fiercer fighting in the spring.

Mr. Obama is likely to send fresh forces to the Afghan battle even before concluding a wide review of U.S. strategy and goals there, in part because time is short to have new units in place for the expected increase in fighting that comes with warmer weather.

“The president will have several options in front of him,” Mr. Gates said at a Pentagon news conference, adding that he expects a decision “in the course of the next few days.”

SALMONELLA

Panel subpoenas peanut-firm chief

A congressional committee issued a subpoena Tuesday for the top executive of a small company that reportedly shipped the tainted peanut products responsible for a national salmonella outbreak.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee voted to compel Peanut Corp. of America President Stewart Parnell to appear at a hearing Wednesday, as a wide-ranging investigation focuses on who was responsible for an outbreak that has sickened at least 600 people and may have contributed to eight deaths.

“Hopefully, people are going to be held accountable,” said Rep. Bart Stupak, Michigan Democrat, chairman of the committee’s investigations panel. The full committee approved the subpoena by voice vote, without opposition.

Mr. Stupak said he wants to know how Peanut Corp. managed to sell supposedly tainted goods month after month without triggering action by state and federal health authorities.

HOUSE

Vote allows Rangel to keep chairmanship

House Democrats voted down an attempt Tuesday to remove Rep. Charles B. Rangel as chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee during an ongoing ethics investigation.

The action came on the same day the House ethics committee voted to reauthorize a subcommittee of three Democrats and three Republicans to investigate Mr. Rangel, New York Democrat, who has served in Congress for nearly 40 years. The investigation began last year - at Mr. Rangel’s request - but the subcommittee needed reauthorization because a new Congress was sworn in last month.

The ethics committee is looking at Mr. Rangel’s failure to pay taxes on about $75,000 in rental income from a beach house he owns in the Dominican Republic and his use of three rent-stabilized apartments in Harlem, including one for a campaign office. Also under scrutiny are letters Mr. Rangel wrote on congressional stationery looking to drum up donors for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at the City College of New York.

HEALTH CARE

Neas to lead new coalition

Ralph Neas made his mark fighting conservative judicial nominations. Now he’s moved on to health care reform as the new chief executive officer of the National Coalition on Health Care.

The coalition consists of unions, business groups, patient groups and others. Mr. Neas said his appointment marks a shift for the coalition from “think tank mode to campaign mode.”

He said that the coalition grew markedly in recent months and that members think the coming year marks the best opportunity since 1994 for changing the health care system.

“Organizations inside and outside the coalition have been rejuvenated and the prospects for success are so much better now,” Mr. Neas said.

Mr. Neas resigned 18 months ago as president of People for the American Way, a liberal organization that fought President Bush’s conservative judicial nominations.

The health coalition is nonpartisan and will remain that way, he said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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