- - Tuesday, January 18, 2011

JUSTICE

Unit established for misconduct

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.’s chief of staff is leaving to head a new Justice Department unit that will decide on discipline in cases of serious misconduct by the agency’s career lawyers.

The new Professional Misconduct Review Unit is designed to cut the time to handle cases of intentional or reckless professional misconduct and to provide consistent and fair resolutions.

Justice announced Tuesday that Kevin Ohlson will be the unit’s chief. He’s served as chief of staff and counselor to Mr. Holder since February 2009. Mr. Ohlson served previously as director of the Executive Office for Immigration Review and as an assistant U.S. attorney.

In his new job, Mr. Ohlson will decide whether misconduct findings by the department’s Office of Professional Responsibility are supported by evidence and the law and what discipline is appropriate.

HOUSE

Quick start backs pledge

A top House Republican on Tuesday promised a vote next week to back up the GOP’s promise to cut spending for most Cabinet agencies back to the levels in place before President Obama took office. That’s about $1 of every $6 that domestic agencies spend on their-day-to-day budgets.

Such a vote would put all House members on record behind cutting $100 billion from Obama’s proposal for the operating budgets of agencies like the Commerce and Education departments, NASA and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia announced the vote, which is symbolic. The actual cuts would be made in a subsequent spending bill.

Mr. Obama and Democratic lawmakers oppose the idea, and it’s not likely to pass Congress. At the same time, the cuts could cause even some conservatives to blanch because the cuts would fall on popular agencies like NASA and the FBI.

COLORADO

Tancredo returns to GOP after bid

DENVER | Former Republican congressman Tom Tancredo, who quit the party last year to run as a third-party candidate for Colorado governor, is headed back to the GOP.

Mr. Tancredo told the Associated Press Tuesday he is coming back to the GOP “because they’re the only game in town.”

Mr. Tancredo said his decision to join the American Constitution Party was opportunistic, but he and the party had an understanding that he would not stay.

GOP state Chairman Dick Wadhams, who clashed publicly with Mr. Tancredo over criticism of the Republican Party, said everyone is welcome to join the Colorado GOP. He refused to say whether he thought Mr. Tancredo would be welcomed back.

WHITE HOUSE

Obamas attract gift windfall

Foreign leaders showered President Obama and his family with hundreds of thousands of dollars in art, jewelry, rare books and other presents during their first year in the White House. Saudi Arabia’s king was the most generous gift-giver.

Government documents released on Tuesday show that Saudi King Abdullah gave the Obama family nearly $190,000 in luxury baubles in 2009. That includes the single-most valuable gift reported: a ruby and diamond jewelry set worth $132,000 for the first lady.

The king also presented Mrs. Obama with a $14,200 pearl necklace, the president with a marble-based clock adorned with gold palm trees and camels valued at $34,500 and their daughters with diamond earrings and necklaces worth more than $7,000.

The gifts have all been turned over to the National Archives.

HEALTH

Transplant decision looms for Cheney

Former Vice President Dick Cheney said in an interview aired Tuesday that he will have decide whether to undergo a heart transplant to replace the heart pump that is now keeping him alive.

“I’ll have to make a decision at some point whether or not I want to go for a transplant,” he told NBC News. “But we haven’t addressed that yet.”

Mr. Cheney, who turns 70 later this month, has had five heart attacks, the latest in February 2010.

He opted for a heart pump in July after experiencing increasing congestive heart failure, a chronic condition that develops as the heart loses its ability to pump properly and gradually enlarges.

Mr. Cheney already has had bypass surgery and other procedures including balloon angioplasty. He also had a defibrillator implanted to monitor his heart and shock it back into a normal rhythm if abnormal beating occurred. That device was replaced in 2007 because of a low battery.

The former vice president, who served under President George W. Bush, told NBC that he has adapted to the heart pump and its accessories, which include a vest that holds the pump control, two batteries and a power cord that runs to the mechanism inside his chest.

NEW YORK

Group backing governor relents

ALBANY | A business group called the Committee to Save New York has agreed to register as a lobbyist after criticisms of its TV ad campaign backing Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Group spokesman Bill Cunningham confirmed the decision.

Registering as a lobbyist will force the group to disclose the amounts of its funding and spending. Some sources of funding also may be disclosed.

Mr. Cuomo ran on a platform to reduce the power of special interests in Albany. The Democrat encouraged people to join the group last week.

Government watchdogs criticized the group’s ad campaign.

The New York Times in Tuesday’s editions said the group was formed at Mr. Cuomo’s urging after a series of meetings last year.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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