- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 9, 2009

SENATE

‘Loser pays’ costs Minnesota GOP

ST. PAUL | In the last chapter of a stinging loss to now-Sen. Al Franken, Minnesota’s Republican Party has sent the Democrat almost $96,000 to cover legal fees associated with the epic recount battle under the state’s “loser pays” law.

Republican Party spokesman Mark Drake said a check was sent via courier Monday to Mr. Franken’s campaign committee. It arrived Tuesday, the same day Mr. Franken took his oath of office for the seat.

Minnesota law required Republican incumbent Norm Coleman to reimburse Mr. Franken for some costs because Mr. Coleman’s lawsuit challenging the election results did not change the outcome. The judgment excluded Mr. Franken’s attorney fees. The Republican and Democratic parties have each chipped in to help pay the candidates’ legal bills.

The check included $872 in interest that accrued in the month since Mr. Coleman was ordered to pay up.

IMMIGRATION

Senate wants real border fence

The Senate voted Wednesday to require actual fencing along 700 miles of the border with Mexico rather than vehicle barriers and high-tech equipment.

The plan by Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican, won approval on a 54-44 vote as the Senate began a second day of debate on a $42.9 billion measure to fund the Department of Homeland Security for the budget year beginning Oct. 1.

Mr. DeMint said the U.S.-Mexico border “has become a battleground” where drug and weapons traffickers, along with illegal immigrants, move too freely. He said the department is spending too much on “virtual” fencing such as motion detectorsthat he said don’t work as well as a real fence designed to block people crossing the border on foot.

Sen. George V. Voinovich, Ohio Republican, countered that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency was the best judge of the preferred fencing for various parts of the border. He said some stretches of physical fencing can cost up to $5 million per mile.

Separately, Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican, pushed through a plan to extend permanently the E-Verify program, which uses the Social Security database to check whether workers are illegal immigrants. His plan also would require companies doing business with the federal government to use the system.

TOXIC DEBT

Treasury taps fund managers

The U.S. Treasury on Wednesday named BlackRock Inc., Invesco Ltd. and seven other asset managers for its Public-Private Investment Program (PPIP) in an effort to remove as much as $40 billion in troubled assets from banks and other financial firms.

The Treasury will invest as much as $30 billion in the program, and the nine managers may raise a combined $10 billion, the department said in a statement. The other seven are: AllianceBernstein LP, Marathon Asset Management LP, Oaktree Capital Management LP, RLJ Western Asset Management LP, the TCW Group Inc., Wellington Management Co., and a team of members from Angelo, Gordon & Co. and GE Capital Real Estate.

The fund managers each must contribute a minimum of $20 million of their own capital and also raise at least $500 million from private investors within 12 weeks. The first closing on an established PPIP fund is expected in August, the Treasury said.

“While utilization of legacy securities will depend on how actual economic and financial market conditions evolve, the programs are capable of being quickly expanded if these conditions deteriorate,” Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Sheila C. Bair said in a joint statement.

PPIP funds will initially target commercial mortgage-backed securities and non-agency mortgage-backed securities issued before 2009, with an initial rating of AAA or its equivalent, the department said. If the program goes above $40 billion, it could utilize the Fed’s Term Asset-Backed Securities Lending Facility.

WHITE HOUSE

CIA legislation draws veto threat

The White House is threatening to veto a bill that would require the president to increase dramatically the number of lawmakers who must be notified about covert CIA activities.

The annual intelligence authorization bill the House will consider Thursday contains a provision that would require the president to inform more than 40 members of Congress - rather than eight members currently - about secret actions taken overseas to influence events in other countries.

The provision is an effort to wrest back oversight power ceded to former President George W. Bush during his two terms in office, when U.S. intelligence agencies expanded their surveillance authority and used harsh interrogation tactics that President Obama now calls torture.

WHITE HOUSE

NIH nominee was gene hunter

President Obama has chosen an influential scientist who helped unravel the human genetic code - and is known for finding common ground between belief in God and science - to head the National Institutes of Health.

Mr. Obama called Dr. Francis Collins “one of the top scientists in the world” in announcing his nomination Wednesday.

“His groundbreaking work has changed the very ways we consider our health and examine disease,” Mr. Obama said.

The NIH is the nation’s premier medical research agency, overseeing a $29.5 billion budget to spur innovative science that leads to better health.

Dr. Collins led the Human Genome Project that, along with a competing private company, mapped the genetic code - or, as he famously called it, “the book of human life.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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