- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 20, 2010

WEST VIRGINIA

W.Va. governor running for Senate

CHARLESTON | Gov. Joe Manchin III, a centrist Democrat who received national attention earlier this year for his handling of a coal mine disaster that killed 29 workers, announced Tuesday that he will run for the late Robert C. Byrd’s U.S. Senate seat.

Mr. Manchin’s announcement ended speculation on whether the popular Democratic governor would swap the 26 months that would remain in his second term for a chance to serve a similar amount of time left in Byrd’s term.

The 62-year-old Mr. Manchin’s national profile has steadily increased since the former state lawmaker captured the governor’s office in 2004 after a term as secretary of state. News audiences around the country saw him comfort victims’ families and rally for improved safety and rescue measures following West Virginia coal mining disasters in 2006 and again this year at the Upper Big Branch mine.

“If I am so fortunate and honored to have the support of the people of West Virginia, I can’t fill his shoes,” Mr. Manchin said of Byrd. “I can only hope to follow his footsteps and serve the people of West Virginia as best I can.”

The governor’s announcement came after he and legislative leaders resolved their differences over the succession process. The legislation, approved late Monday, calls for an Aug. 28 primary and Nov. 2 general election for the seat. It also calls for a four-day candidate filing period, which started Tuesday.

SENATE

Credit card protections sought from Fed

Two lawmakers in Congress are prodding the Federal Reserve to provide more protection so that credit card users don’t get socked by exorbitant interest rates when they fall behind on their payments.

“Credit card companies can still double or triple the interest rate when a consumer falls two months behind on payments” despite new Fed rules, Sens. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, and Tom Harkin, Iowa Democrat, said Tuesday. They made their case in a letter Tuesday to Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke.

The lawmakers want the Fed to alter the rules, which take effect Aug. 22, to prevent big rate hikes under such circumstances. If the Fed doesn’t act, Mr. Schumer and Mr. Harkin said they’ll seek legislation to compel the Fed to do so. Both lawmakers have championed measures in Congress to provide consumers with stronger protections.

The Fed had no immediate comment on lawmakers’ request.

Congress directed the Fed to implement the new rules in a sweeping law enacted last year.

In writing the rules, the Fed interpreted the law as covering fees and charges not interest rates.

The Fed rules, among other things, bar credit card companies from charging a penalty fee of more than $25 for paying a bill late. They prohibit credit card companies from charging penalty fees that are higher than the dollar amount associated with the customer’s violation. They also ban so-called “inactivity” fees when customers don’t use the account to make new purchases.

WHITE HOUSE

Obama pushes anew on ‘paycheck fairness’

President Obama is calling on Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which he calls a common-sense bill to ensure that women get paid as well as men for equal work.

The legislation would make it easier for women to sue employers who pay them less than men. The House passed the bill in 2009, but it failed to clear the Senate. Some Republican lawmakers have argued that the bill could aid trial lawyers more than it would help women.

The administration’s Equal Pay Enforcement Task Force also recommended Tuesday that the federal government collect better data from businesses so it can more effectively track wage discrimination in the workplace.

SENATE

Carbon-control bill faces dim prospects

Senate efforts to pass an energy bill with carbon controls appeared in doubt Tuesday as leaders said they still lack the needed votes.

After a closed-door meeting of Democratic senators, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, urged her colleagues to postpone action until the fall, when a better economic climate might help.

But some lawmakers say a delay would push the issue closer to the Nov. 2 elections, in which Republicans hope for major House and Senate gains, making passage even less likely.

Only a handful of GOP senators have said they might back a plan to set prices on heat-trapping carbon emissions. A compromise plan to put controls on emissions from only utilities has not attracted the 60 votes needed to advance it in the 100-member chamber.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Democrats will meet Thursday to seek “a way forward.” Several colleagues said he faces an uphill fight.

The House voted 219-212 last year for a “cap-and-trade” energy plan. It would create economic incentives to limit heat-trapping gases from power plants, vehicles and other sources.

The issue quickly bogged down in the Senate. Now, with time running short, even a sharply scaled-back version is in trouble.

ILLINOIS

Blagojevich: Corruption trial a ‘headache’

CHICAGO | Former Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich says his corruption trial has been a big headache.

As the ousted governor headed to lunch Tuesday, a boy who was touring the court building as part of a children’s group asked him if the trial had been that.

Mr. Blagojevich responded, “It’s one big, continuous headache,” and shook his head. He added that he expects to be vindicated. He then posed for cell-phone photos, smiling and throwing his arms around several of the children.

Mr. Blagojevich has pleaded not guilty to taking part in a scheme to sell or trade President Obama’s old Senate seat and to plotting to launch a racketeering operation in the governor’s office.

TEXAS

Man pleads guilty to Obama threat

DALLAS | A Dallas man has pleaded guilty to posting on the Internet a threat to kill President Obama.

Brian Dean Miller could be sentenced to up to five years in federal prison and fined up to $250,000 after entering his plea in a federal court in Dallas on Tuesday. U.S. attorney’s spokeswoman Kathy Colvin says the 43-year-old man remains detained until his sentencing, which has not yet be scheduled.

A posting titled “Obama must die” turned up on a Craigslist site on March 21, the night Congress passed a health care overhaul bill. The posting said Miller was following through on a vow to become a terrorist if the bill passed.

Authorities were able to track Miller through his e-mail address. He was living with his mother.

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