- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Sabo to retire

Rep. Martin Olav Sabo is retiring after 46 years in state and national politics, saying Congress has become more polarized and less hardworking during his years there.

The 68-year-old Minnesota Democrat, known for his understated style, said he sensed it was time to quit.

“I’ve always believed the fundamental problem with politics today are people who overpromise and overstate. I’ve tried to do the opposite,” Mr. Sabo said Saturday. “I’ve also tried to treat my colleagues with respect. I don’t recall ever making a public statement critical of my colleague, whether it’s Democrat or Republican.”

Mr. Sabo was first elected to the state House the same year John F. Kennedy won the presidency, then spent almost 28 years in Congress. He serves on the House Appropriations Committee and has helped steer millions of dollars to the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.

His retirement at the end of the term is expected to set off a stampede among Democrats eager to succeed him in his liberal Minneapolis district, where John Kerry won 71 percent of the vote in the 2004 presidential election, the Associated Press reports. State Rep. Keith Ellison and Gary Schiff, a member of the Minneapolis City Council, both said they will run in the Sept. 12 state primary.

Nominee blocked

Sen. John Ensign, a former veterinarian, didn’t like the way pet evacuations were handled after Hurricane Katrina, but Senate insiders say that is not why the Nevada Republican has a hold on the nomination of Vice Adm. Thad W. Allen to be the Coast Guard commandant.

Adm. Allen, who took over post-Katrina operations after Mike Brown was fired from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, was nominated by President Bush in January to take over the 200-year-old Coast Guard.

Jack Flynn, Mr. Ensign’s spokesman, says his boss has a “series of questions we want answered from the nominee before the senator is comfortable moving forward,” but declined to say what issues the questions address.

The hold has baffled some former Coast Guard officials, including Stephen Flynn, a retired Coast Guard commander and senior fellow for the Council on Foreign Relations.

“Surely, he can find a better way to advance his pet issue of pet evacuation other than tripping up the appointment of the most highly respected Coast Guard leader of the one agency that earned universal acclaim in the Katrina disaster,” Mr. Flynn said.

Mr. Ensign met with Adm. Allen last fall to discuss rescue efforts and the plight of abandoned animals, but a Capitol Hill source familiar with the hold procedures says it is not related to animal rescues.

Ultrasound images

Michigan Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm will sign a bill requiring abortion providers to give pregnant women the option to see ultrasound images of their fetuses, a spokeswoman says.

Mrs. Granholm, a Democrat, generally has opposed legislation that regulates or limits abortion, but the bill was amended so it no longer requires pregnant women to see the ultrasound images, spokeswoman Liz Boyd said Sunday.

Until now, Michigan law has required that women seeking abortions be allowed to review diagrams and descriptions showing a developing fetus, but not their own.

Pro-life advocates hailed the new law. Right to Life of Michigan said it ensures that pregnant women have fuller access to accurate information before having abortions. Critics called it a further erosion of women’s rights, the Associated Press reports.

No Al in ‘08

Former Vice President Al Gore said yesterday he has no plans to run for president in 2008, but hasn’t ruled out a future in politics.

“I’m enjoying what I’m doing,” Mr. Gore told an audience at Middle Tennessee State University, where he gave a lecture on global warming, according to the Associated Press.

“I’m not planning to be a candidate again. I haven’t reached a stage in my life where I’m willing to say I will never consider something like this,” he said. “But I’m not saying that to be coy. I’m just saying that to be honest — that I haven’t reached that point.”

Mr. Gore, a Democrat, lost the 2000 presidential election to George W. Bush after a bitterly contested recount war in Florida.

Vacation days

The House of Representatives is on track this year to be in session for fewer days than the Congress Harry S. Truman labeled as “do-nothing” during his 1948 re-election campaign, USA Today reports.

Members of Congress are taking an entire week off for St. Patrick’s Day. It’s the latest scheduling innovation to give members more time to meet with constituents. Through Friday, the House was in session for 19 days this year, compared with 33 for the Senate, USA Today reporter Kathy Kiely writes.

If they stick to their current schedule — including two weeks off in April, a week in May and July, plus all of August — House members will spend 97 days in Washington this year. The House was in session 108 days in 1948, according to the chamber’s archives, compared with 141 days last year.

Failure to vote

Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Kathleen Troia McFarland, who repeatedly skipped New York elections, failed to vote for President Reagan even while working for him in Washington, the New York Post reports, citing newly acquired records.

Mrs. McFarland, a Park Avenue matron who says she drafted Mr. Reagan’s “Star Wars” defense proposal while serving as a high-level Pentagon official from 1982 to 1985, didn’t vote in 1984, when the president was seeking re-election, records obtained by the Post show.

An official voter profile from the Washington, D.C., Board of Elections & Ethics shows Mrs. McFarland, who hopes to challenge Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, registered to vote from a Washington address in June 1983, when she served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, a position she describes as equivalent to a three-star general.

Schumer’s ‘skinheads’

“Don’t look now, but we think Charles Schumer just compared Arab businessmen to skinheads,” the Weekly Standard’s Scrapbook column says.

“According to a piece in the New York Observer last week, Schumer’s beating the drums to kill the Dubai ports deal came under fire from many quarters, with some critics suggesting that opposition to the deal was driven by xenophobia or anti-Arab racism. Mr. Schumer heatedly disputes that view. ‘Let’s say skinheads had bought a company to take over our port,’ he said. ‘I think the outcry would have been the same.’

“So why exactly do businessmen who happen to be Arabs deserve to be compared with skinheads, Mr. Schumer?”

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or [email protected]

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