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Inside Politics: USPS chief lays out plan for agency’s survival

- - Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The head of the financially struggling U.S. Postal Service says the agency must be allowed to ease the terms of prepayments into a retiree health care fund and eliminate general mail delivery on Saturday.

Patrick R. Donahoe tells "CBS This Morning" the agency isn't asking Congress for money.

He says, "I think most people don't realize, we're 100 percent self-sufficient. We pay our own way." But the postal chief notes that the agency is losing $15.9 billion this year.

Mr. Donahoe says the post office needs to refinance retirement health fund payments to $1 billion a year instead of $5 billion.

He says the Postal Service would continue package delivery on Saturday and keep post offices open. In this scenario, he says the agency could be $8 billion in the black each year.

VETERANS AFFAIRS

Lawmakers see tougher oversight after review'

The chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee is warning the VA to expect much more aggressive oversight in the coming months as lawmakers review the department's conference and travel spending.

Republican Rep. Jeff Miller of Florida said Wednesday the "truce is over" at the end of a contentious hearing into two training conferences that took place in 2011 in Orlando, Fla. The department's inspector general cited about $762,000 in questionable spending at those conferences.

W. Scott Gould, a deputy secretary at the VA, told lawmakers that the department had taken several steps in response to the inspector general's report, including ethics training for all VA personnel involved in planning and overseeing conferences. He also noted that four employees had been suspended and another had resigned.

ILLINOIS

Disgraced ex-lawmaker latest to seek Jackson seat

CHICAGO — Just a few blocks from a courthouse where he was convicted of fraud and a few miles from another where he was convicted of having sex with a minor, former U.S. Rep. Mel Reynolds announced Wednesday he is running for the congressional seat vacated by Jesse Jackson Jr.

The former congressman is just the latest entry in a race that has unleashed a frenzy of ambition, with politicians from every level seeing a once-in-a-lifetime shot at Washington. The list runs from a former congresswoman to a former NFL star to former Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich's theatrical defense attorney.

Mr. Reynolds adds an additional layer of intrigue, startling even by the standards of Chicago — a city with a healthy reputation for corruption and that recently sent a politician back to the legislature despite being under federal indictment.

The former congressman, who was released from prison in 2001 after President Bill Clinton commuted his sentence, announced his latest political plans Wednesday at a news conference in Chicago. "People are human. They make mistakes," said Mr. Reynolds, who spoke in front of a sign that read in all capital letters: "Redemption." 

HOUSE

Reyes' ethics probe continues after findings

An independent House panel has concluded that is substantial reason to believe Rep. Silvestre Reyes, Texas Democrat, violated ethics rules and federal law by conducting campaign meetings on House property and using campaign money to pay expenses for his daughter's residence.

The Office of Congressional Ethics report was sent to the House Ethics Committee, which released the findings Wednesday and said it was continuing its own investigation of the eight-term lawmaker.

The office, run by a board of non-legislators, investigates complaints and makes recommendations to the House Ethics Committee.

In Mr. Reyes' case, the office recommended that the ethics committee investigate and subpoena Mr. Reyes, who refused to cooperate with the office's probe. The House committee said the referral does not reflect any final judgment that violations occurred.

Reyes spokesman Jose Borjon said in a statement that the lawmaker was "pleased that the ethics committee took no further action on this matter, while making clear that the [ethics office's] referral did not indicate that any violation occurred."

The statement said Mr. Reyes "fully responded to these unsupported allegations and cooperated with the ethics committee to resolve them" while carrying out his official duties "with the highest level of integrity, strictly adhering to the rules governing" the House.

CONGRESS

Feinstein: Gitmo detainees could safely be held in U.S.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein says a new government report shows the controversial detention facility at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, could be closed and the detainees moved to the United States without harming national security.

Mrs. Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, released a Government Accountability Office study Wednesday that says U.S. prisons could safely absorb all 166 detainees now held at Guantanamo. Many of the detainees are accused of plotting terrorist acts against the U.S.

The California Democrat says the study shows that U.S. prisons already hold 373 prisoners convicted of terrorism in 98 facilities across the country, with no known security problems reported.

The report does say that existing facilities would need to be modified and current inmates may need to be relocated to make room.

PENNSYLVANIA

Gubernatorial election 2 years off has candidate

HARRISBURG — Former state environmental protection chief John Hanger on Wednesday became the first declared candidate for governor in an election nearly two years away, vowing to boost spending for education and to tax natural-gas production.

Mr. Hanger announced his candidacy for the 2014 Democratic nomination at Philadelphia's Reading Terminal Market and planned to ride in a school bus to the Capitol for a similar news conference. He also planned to visit Pittsburgh on Thursday.

The 55-year-old Mr. Hanger touted his record as a state utility regulator and the Rendell administration's environmental protection secretary. He laced his speech with attacks on Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, who plans to seek re-election.

"Tom Corbett's politics are damaging Pennsylvania's schools, our economy and our future," he said in prepared remarks. "The governor is sincere in his beliefs, but he must be a one-term governor for the good of the commonwealth."

Mr. Hanger vowed to make education the top priority for state funding and to end Pennsylvania's status as the only major natural-gas-producing state that does not tax production, but he warned that gas alone "will never create prosperity" for the state.

"I will develop all our energy resources, including wind, solar and energy efficiency," he said. "Saving energy remains the cheapest and cleanest energy resource available."

From wire dispatches and staff reports