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Inside Politics

- - Sunday, December 18, 2011

GEORGIA

Gingrich open to marshals rounding up judges

ATLANTA — Candidate Newt Gingrich continues to level harsh attacks on the judicial branch, saying as president he would consider dispatching U.S. marshals to force judges to appear before Congress to explain controversial decisions.

Mr. Gingrich made the comments Sunday in an interview on CBS-TV's "Face the Nation."

As he courts conservatives, the former House speaker has stepped up his attacks on the judicial system in recent days as the Iowa Republican caucuses near. Mr. Gingrich helped fund an effort last year to oust three Iowa judges who upheld a law permitting gay marriage in the state.

Mr. Gingrich said Sunday that he is disturbed by the "steady encroachment of secularism through the courts to redefine America as a nonreligious country and the encroachment of the courts on the president's commander-in-chief powers which is enormously dangerous."

CAMPAIGN

Romney feels ready for Obama's attacks

Mitt Romney is defending his years making millions in private business and says he'll handle attacks from Democrats who are trying to paint him as wealthy and out of touch.

In his first Sunday show interview in more than a year, Mr. Romney told "Fox News Sunday" that if he wins the Republican presidential nomination, he is prepared to handle characterizations by Democrats that he believes that "greed is good."

Mr. Romney said a photo shown of him and Bain Capital partners with dollar bills scattered everywhere was taken after they had raised $37 million for the company's first venture capital fund. He said the fund was ultimately used to help build businesses and create jobs.

Mr. Romney deemed himself ready to handle attacks by President Obama, saying: "The president's going to go after me. I'll go after him."

SENATE

Lawmakers confirm McFaul as ambassador to Moscow

The Senate on Saturday confirmed Michael McFaul, President Obama's top adviser on Russia, to be the next U.S. ambassador to Moscow.

The voice vote to elevate Mr. McFaul to the ambassador's post came on the last day the Senate was meeting this year after several months of delay.

Mr. McFaul is regarded as one of the nation's experts on U.S. relations with Russia, and has been involved in the Obama administration's efforts to restore shaky relations with the Moscow government.

That includes the signing of the new START treaty that set a ceiling of 1,550 strategic warheads in each country's arsenal.

Mr. McFaul, who taught at Stanford University, was a campaign adviser to Mr. Obama on Russia and Eurasia before moving to the National Security Council to become the president's chief Russia adviser.

Mr. Obama nominated Mr. McFaul to the post in September, but a Senate vote on his confirmation was held up by Sen. Mark Kirk, Illinois Republican, over issues with U.S. policies toward Russia.

Mr. Kirk said he wanted written assurances that the United States will not provide Russia with any currently classified information on a missile defense system. The administration said it had no plans to provide Russia with such information.

TEXAS

Democrat drops out of race for Senate

AUSTIN — Retired Lt. Gen. Ric Sanchez, the sole major Democratic candidate in the race to replace Republican U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, is dropping out of the Texas race because of "pressing personal challenges" and a lack of funds.

In an email to supporters Friday afternoon, Mr. Sanchez thanked those who had encouraged him to run but explained he needed to put his family first.

"I am very grateful for the strong support and encouragement I have received from supporters across the country and the wonderful Texans I have met in every part of our great state," Mr. Sanchez said. "However, pressing personal challenges, coupled with the recent loss of our home due to fire and lagging fundraising numbers make a statewide election campaign impractical for me at this time."

While the Republican field to replace Mrs. Hutchison is extremely crowded, Mr. Sanchez was the only major candidate in the Democratic Party.

Mrs. Hutchison announced earlier this year that she is retiring after next year.

Many Democratic strategists hoped that Mr. Sanchez, who was born in the Rio Grande Valley, could marshal votes from the state's growing Hispanic population. But many liberals felt he was a flawed candidate for being the commanding general in Iraq when the abuses of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison occurred.

The official filing period for prospective candidates ends Monday. But because of ongoing litigation over political redistricting in Texas, the filing period will reopen after a federal court approves a final district map, likely in late January, and remain open until Feb. 1.

A new Democratic candidate could emerge after the courts decide the districts for the Texas House, Texas Senate and U.S. Congress.

WHITE HOUSE

Obama naming Treasury aide for research office

President Obama is nominating a senior counselor to Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner to head a new government office set up to provide regulators with improved information to help prevent another financial crisis.

The White House announced Friday economist Richard Berner is the president's choice to be the first director of the office of financial research within the Treasury Department. His nomination must be confirmed by the Senate.

The research office was created by legislation enacted last year to restructure how the financial system is regulated in the wake of the nation's worst financial crisis since the 1930s. It will collect and analyze financial data for early warnings to regulators of potential problems.

Mr. Berner previously held positions at the New York Federal Reserve and the Congressional Budget Office.

From wire dispatches and staff reports