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By Brahma Chellaney
Beijing's creeping aggression signals a challenge to U.S. presence in the Asian Pacific
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
Topic - Norman J. Ornstein
As the country hurtled toward the fiscal cliff and sequestration, House Republican leaders apparently couldn't live without their catering, coffee and cars.
Sen. Daniel K. Inouye's death last week ended the more than 50-year reign of the Senate "lions" — a select group of iconic, long-serving members whose presence connected the chamber to some of the most important events of the past half-century.
"Regardless of the final results of the election, Wednesday, Nov. 7 continues a gigantic battle between small-government, constitutional conservatives and the big-government Republicans for the heart and soul of the GOP," longtime conservative maven Richard Viguerie tells Inside the Beltway.
Democrats have vilified super PACs since the Supreme Court deemed the murky megamoney-spenders legal in early 2010. And leading that charge has been President Obama, who, during his State of the Union speech that year, famously chastised the PACs' power for unlimited political spending with little transparency.
While Republicans rarely brought up former President George W. Bush at their convention last week, Democrats gleefully have paraded him through theirs, saying he left President Obama a mess he's still working to clean up.
To many Washington outsiders, congressional ethics is an oxymoron or fodder for late-night comedians, but watchdogs and longtime Washington observers point to one hopeful sign — an office they believe is helping members take ethics rules more seriously.
Bitterly divided Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill aren't making much progress publicly on a legislative deal that would extend the national payroll-tax holiday, continue unemployment benefits to the long-term jobless and grant full payments to doctors who treat Medicare patients.
President Obama has distanced himself from the congressional supercommittee — politically and geographically — in a strategy aimed at avoiding political risk rather than putting his leadership on the line for a long-shot deal, analysts say.
Republicans stand to be the political winners coming out of the 2010 national census, as congressional redistricting will likely make the "average" lawmakers slightly more conservative while cementing GOP control of the House of Representatives, a panel of electoral experts predicted Monday.
Three months after Senate leaders reached a gentlemen's agreement aimed in part at clearing a backlog of judicial nominations, the chamber is on pace to confirm more nominees in 2011 than in several years.
Newly minted Republican lawmakers who stormed state legislatures with vows of fixing the economy and controlling spending also are tackling social issues, such as gun laws and immigration, with minimal Democratic resistance.
OK. Never fear, there is a nativity scene in the White House. Located in the East Room, it's the same one that has been there since 1967, says Semonti Stephens, deputy press secretary for first lady Michelle Obama - whose first words during a press preview Wednesday were, "Happy holidays. All right now, it's Christmas."
The public panned it. Republicans obstructed it. Many Democrats fled from it. Even so, the session of Congress now drawing to a close was the most productive in nearly a half-century.
Fire up your index finger. It's time for another Beltway Read.
An Obama administration effort to rein in states treading toward using new health care laws to fund abortions - and provide political cover for pro-life Democrats - reignited a politically explosive issue that Republicans and pro-life activists are eager to exploit in the lead-up to the fall midterm elections.
"For a lot of people coming in (now), the institution is a vehicle for getting policies they prefer, or even a place where you can be a big shot," Mr. Ornstein said.
"This was not a guy who sought the spotlight, who was eager to go on 'Meet the Press' or 'Face the Nation' every weekend," Mr. Ornstein said. "He was an inside player."