- - Wednesday, November 30, 2011

SENATE

GOP bill would force action on pipeline

Angered by President Obama’s delay of a proposed oil pipeline from Canada, Senate Republicans are moving to force him to act.

A bill introduced by 37 GOP senators, including Nebraska Sen. Mike Johanns, would require the administration to approve the Keystone XL pipeline within 60 days, unless the president declares the project is not in the national interest.

The bill has little chance of approval in the Democrat-controlled Senate, but the measure illustrates Republicans’ frustration about the pipeline delay and their belief that Mr. Obama is vulnerable on the issue. GOP senators called the $7 billion pipeline the ultimate “shovel-ready” project and said it could create as many as 20,000 jobs.

The 1,700-mile pipeline would carry oil from Alberta, Canada, to refineries in Texas.

OHIO

Cain to say next week if he will stay in race

DAYTON — His campaign’s survival in question, Herman Cain plowed ahead Wednesday in an effort to move past a woman’s allegation that they had a longtime affair. But he acknowledged the toll was rising and said he would decide by next week whether to drop out of the Republican race.

Publicly, there were no signs that the former pizza company executive was calling it quits in his campaign for the presidential nomination. In fact, it was just the opposite: Aides were moving ahead with plans for events in New Hampshire, Tennessee, South Carolina and Georgia and prepared to launch a fresh round of TV ads in Iowa.

And Mr. Cain himself, on a one-day bus tour of Ohio, insisted he was seeing “a groundswell of positive support” after the latest allegation threatening his campaign. Still, he acknowledged “we are re-assessing and we are re-evaluating” in light of the woman’s account, which followed accusations of sexual harassment by other women in recent weeks.

In an interview on Fox News late Wednesday, Mr. Cain said the controversy has taken an “emotional toll” on his wife, Gloria.

“I’ve got to think about my family first, especially my wife,” Cain said. “This is why we are reassessing.”

He said he would exit the race if the price proved too high and he would make a decision by the middle of next week at the latest.

At his campaign stops, he renewed what has become a familiar defense: that he is the victim of attacks by liberals and the establishment.

“They want you to believe that with another character assassination on me that I will drop out,” a defiant Mr. Cain told a crowd of about 200 in Dayton. The boisterous crowd greeted him with shouts of “no!” and “boo!”

HOUSE

Panel sets meetings on Dover mortuary

The House’s main investigative panel plans to meet soon with a government whistleblower office and the Air Force as it begins an investigation into mishandling of remains at the military mortuary in Dover, Del.

Within the next few days, the Oversight and Government Reform panel staff will meet with the Air Force and the Office of Special Counsel, the independent agency that conducted the initial investigation based on information from multiple whistleblowers.

Although the oversight panel is partisan on many issues, the request for documents from the Defense Department was signed by two Republicans and two Democrats, including Chairman Darrell E. Issa, California Republican, and the ranking Democrat, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland.

The committee asked Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta for records going back to 2002, a list of everyone involved in allegations of mishandling remains and any discipline imposed. The panel set a Dec. 9 deadline.

The Pentagon is trying to reassure members of the military and their families that it has fixed problems in how human remains were handled. In two cases, body parts were lost.

IOWA

Bachmann balks at payroll tax cut extension

CEDAR FALLS — Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann vows she will fight any effort to extend the payroll tax cut on the verge of expiring.

Mrs. Bachmann said President Obama proposed the tax cut to create jobs but that it has failed in that effort. The Republican presidential hopeful said the tax cut has punched a big hole in the federal budget and threatens programs that benefit the elderly, such as Social Security.

She conceded there can be some political risks of her position.

The tax cut is set to expire Dec. 31, raising taxes by about $1,000 on the average household unless Congress and the president act.

Some congressional Republicans said they would extend the tax cut if spending cuts are found to pay for the extension.

HOUSE

Lawmakers line up to honor Giffords’ aide

Members of the House are honoring a congressional aide to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords who died in January when a man opened fire as the congresswoman met with constituents in Tucson, Ariz.

More than 400 lawmakers signed onto a resolution that would name a room at the Capitol after Gabriel Zimmerman, Ms. Giffords’ community outreach director.

House Speaker John A. Boehner said Wednesday the memorial was fitting and that an attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve.

Zimmerman, a social worker, was one of the first people Ms. Giffords hired after she was elected in 2006.

Nearly 20 lawmakers in both parties spoke in honoring Zimmerman. A vote is expected Thursday, and a plaque bearing his likeness will be unveiled during a formal dedication next year.

CONGRESS

Bills focus on insider trading by lawmakers

Members of Congress, facing single-digit approval ratings, are paying attention to the perception that some lawmakers enriched themselves through insider trading.

Bills in the House and Senate are getting hearings, and the House ethics panel has sent out a memo reminding lawmakers that insider trading could violate the law and House rules.

The interest was sparked by a CBS “60 Minutes” story Nov. 13 that reported members of Congress can legally trade stock based on nonpublic information. The House memo makes clear this is not true.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing Thursday on a bill to prohibit insider trading by members of Congress and their employees.

WHITE HOUSE

Holiday decorating spotlight stolen by Bo

First dog Bo is upstaging the Christmas decorations at the White House this holiday season.

The Obamas’ Portuguese water dog is in almost every room of the ground and state floors, ranging from a miniature licorice and marshmallow version to a felt design 4 1/2 feet tall.

First lady Michelle Obama welcomed military families to the first viewing of the decorations Wednesday. “Shine, Give, Share” is the theme for the Obama family’s third Christmas in the mansion.

Bo made a special appearance in the State Dining Room as military children created holiday ornaments and decorated cookies.

Several decorations honor military families, including a Gold Star Families tree with ceramic ornaments carrying personalized messages by families. Also decorating the executive mansion are 37 Christmas trees and a 400-pound gingerbread White House.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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