- - Thursday, April 7, 2011

SENATE

Lawmaker vows to forgo salary

Sen. Joe Manchin III says he will forgo his taxpayer-funded salary should the government be forced to shut down, and he urged the rest of Congress — and President Obama — to do the same.

In a letter sent Thursday to colleagues, the West Virginia Democrat said it would be unfair for Congress and the president to continue drawing pay while thousands of government employees won’t receive a paycheck during a shutdown.

The senator said he will donate his pay to charity or return it to the Treasury Department for as long as the shutdown is in effect.

“The bottom line is this: I cant imagine that the president, vice president or any member of Congress -Republican or Democrat — thinks they should get paid when the government has shut down,” Mr. Manchin wrote.

The Senate recently passed legislation that would prohibit Congress and the president from being paid during a shutdown, though the measure has stalled in the House.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee immediately denounced Mr. Manchin’s pledge as nothing more than a publicity stunt.

ARMY

Link feared between pirates, al Qaeda

The U.S. military commander for Africa says he believes Islamists fighting the U.N.-backed Somali government are getting some funding from piracy there and that al Qaeda militants will link with the pirates one day, too.

Army Gen. Carter Ham told senators at a hearing Thursday that the extremist threat coming from East Africa is the biggest concern of his U.S. Africa Command.

Gen. Ham says he believes the al-Shabaab movement fighting the government gets at least some economic support from pirate activity. Gen. Ham says that given that al Qaeda has links to al-Shabaab, it’s only a matter of time before al Qaeda becomes associated with pirates as well.

ELECTION

Trump hammers at citizenship

Real estate tycoon Donald Trump said Thursday that he isn’t convinced that President Obama was born in the United States, but he says he hopes the president can prove that he was.

Officials in Hawaii have certified Mr. Obama’s citizenship, but “birthers” have demanded additional proof. And Mr. Trump, who is weighing whether to seek the Republican presidential nomination, says not all the questions have been answered.

In an interview broadcast Thursday, Mr. Trump told NBC News that he plans to decide by June whether to run, and that if he is the GOP nominee, “I’d like to beat him straight up,” not on the basis of the question of where Mr. Obama was born.

Mr. Trump insisted he didn’t introduce the citizenship issue, but he isn’t letting go of it either. Since he was asked about it during an interview several weeks ago, the real estate executive said he has looked into it and now believes “there is a big possibility” Mr. Obama may have violated the Constitution.

“I’d like to have him show his birth certificate,” Mr. Trump said. “And to be honest with you, I hope he can.”

Asked in the interview how genuine his presidential ambition is, Mr. Trump said, “I always take things seriously, but I’ve never taken it seriously like this. I wish I didn’t have to do it.”

HOUSE

GOP seeks to end EPA regulations

The Republican-led House moved Thursday to take away the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases in a vote largely negated by Senate action a day earlier to reject such a repeal.

Despite the apparent dead end for the legislation, EPA regulatory authority remained a sticking point in the negotiations to avoid a government shutdown. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, said one of the holdups to reaching an agreement was that Republicans “want to roll back the Clean Air Act.”

House Republicans have cast the EPA’s effort, under the Clean Air Act, to regulate emissions blamed for climate change as one of the clearest examples of government overreach and have made rescinding the EPA authority a cornerstone of their anti-regulatory campaign.

“This legislation will remove the biggest regulatory threat to the American economy,” said Rep. Fred Upton, Michigan Republican and chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The vote was 255 to 172, with Republicans unanimous in supporting it. The White House has issued a veto threat against the bill, presumably now unneeded following a 50 to 50 vote Wednesday in the Senate to defeat an identical bill.

WHITE HOUSE

$311 million given for home-energy aid

The Obama administration is releasing $311 million to states to help poor families struggling to pay high home-energy bills.

Officials said Thursday that the latest money for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program brings the total to $4.2 billion for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30.

Advocates say that many poor families have been hard hit this year by rising fuel prices, particularly in the Northeast, where people depend more on heating oil.

The program is expected to help a record 8.9 million households for the current fiscal year.

HAWAII

Court nixes bid for Obama birth papers

A Hawaii appeals court unanimously rejected a man’s request to “inspect and copy” President Obama’s birth certificate, saying the plaintiff failed to state a valid claim to having access to the document.

Chief Judge Craig Nakamura wrote in an opinion issued Thursday that Robert V. Justice didn’t show there were “compelling circumstances” requiring the state Department of Health to show him the birth certificate of the president. Two associate justices of the Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals concurred.

Hawaii’s privacy laws bar the release of birth records unless the requester is someone with a tangible interest, such as a close family member. Mr. Justice said he could, under a provision of the law that makes exceptions if there are “compelling circumstances affecting the health or safety of any individual.”

From staff dispatches and wire reports

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