- - Sunday, January 23, 2011

HOUSE

Cantor: Birthplace question no issue

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, said Sunday he thinks President Obama is a natural-born U.S. citizen and that questions on the issue have no place in Capitol Hill policymaking discussions.

“I don’t think it’s an issue that we need to address at all,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “It is not an issue that even needs to be on the policymaking table right now whatsoever.”

Still, Mr. Cantor said there was no need to denounce as crazy the so-called “birthers,” who think Mr. Obama’s Hawaii birth certificate is fake and that he was born outside the U.S. and thus ineligible to be president.

“I don’t think it’s nice to call anyone crazy, OK?” Mr. Cantor told the show’s host David Gregory. “Why is it that you want me to go and engage in name calling?”

Mr. Cantor added: “I think the president’s a citizen of the United States. … I believe this president wants what’s best for this country. It’s just how he feels we should get there, that there are honest policy differences.”

SENATE

Hutchison says victory was hers

Retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Texas Republican, said Sunday she thinks she would have won re-election in 2012 and defended herself as a strong conservative, but she acknowledged that attacks from some tea party groups and bloggers have been “depressing.”

“I am a reliable conservative,” she said on ABC’s “This Week.” “I read the blogs, and it gets kind of depressing, frankly, to read those blogs.”

Mrs. Hutchison acknowledged criticism from the fiscally conservative tea party movement that she fought too hard to bring federal money to her home state, but she defended her actions.

“I think I’m elected to support my state, and I have supported every spending cut, every overall spending cut,” she said.

Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican, is among the leaders of the tea party movement who have questioned Mrs. Hutchison’s conservative credentials, saying almost immediately after her Jan. 13 retirement announcement that her departure gives the GOP a chance to replace her with a strong conservative.

SENATE

Allen to announce Virginia run Monday

RICHMOND | Republican George Allen plans to announce Monday that he will seek to reclaim the U.S. Senate seat from Virginia that he lost five years ago to Democrat Jim Webb.

A person close to Mr. Allen told the Associated Press on Sunday that he will make his plans official in a video to be e-mailed Monday afternoon to longtime supporters.

The person was not authorized to pre-empt Mr. Allen’s announcement and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The 58-year-old Mr. Allen joins a Republican field with candidates already staking out positions to his right. Tea party activist Jamie Radtke has announced her intent to seek the GOP nomination and conservative state Delegate Bob Marshall, is also considering another bid for the U.S. Senate.

HOUSE

Democrat urges hardship targeting

The top-ranking black man in Congress called on President Obama on Friday to sharpen his focus on hard-hit minority communities in his plans for bolstering the economy.

Rep. James E. Clyburn, South Carolina Democrat, said the recession has devastated communities of color, leaving them with extraordinarily high unemployment rates. He said previous government recovery programs have left minorities behind and called on Mr. Obama to broadly incorporate a so-called “10-20-30” policy directing at least 10 percent of any recovery efforts into communities with 20 percent poverty rates for 30 years.

“I believe that something of this order needs to be done across the board as we go forward,” Mr. Clyburn said in a conference call with reporters accompanying the release of a report on minority economic conditions from the Center for American Progress, a liberal advocacy group.

NORTH DAKOTA

Departures leave state without clout

BISMARCK | On the bluffs overlooking the Missouri River loom two trophies won by North Dakota’s congressional muscle - a four-lane bridge and a gleaming college energy center.

But all the members of the Democratic team that landed these projects have left Congress or will do so soon. And their departure is raising concerns that the state could lose its considerable political influence - and with it many millions of dollars from Washington.

By the start of 2013, no one in the state’s congressional delegation will have more than two years of experience. North Dakota hasn’t been so junior in Congress since the 1940s.

Sen. Byron L. Dorgan retired this month. Then Sen. Kent Conrad announced he wouldn’t run for re-election.

Rep. Earl Pomeroy lost his bid for a 10th term in November.

FLORIDA

Governor holds Twitter town hall

TALLAHASSEE | New Florida Gov. Rick Scott is tweeting to his constituents, answering a long list of questions in 140 characters or less. The Republican governor was sitting in his office Thursday using Twitter for the first time.

He’s choosing and answering as many questions he can for 30 minutes.

He said as he began, “You have to figure out ways to communicate with everybody.”

The first question was about how the state can compete with the private sector for the best employees if benefits erode.

His response, “make sure the retirement benefits are secure and other benefits are fair.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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