- The Washington Times - Friday, January 19, 2007

Politics makes for strange deskmates

Rep. Jack Murtha, Pennsylvania Democrat, and former Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Republican, will share a desk Tuesday, each slated to be witnesses before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The topic: alternative plans for Iraq war strategy.

Should be fun to watch.

— Christina Bellantoni, Capitol Hill correspondent, The Washington Times

Overheard

“He’s a crippled, broken man.” — Rep. Charlie Rangel, New York Democrat, when asked about President Bush.

— Christina Bellantoni, Capitol Hill correspondent, The Washington Times

The King of Pork

Sen. Robert C. Byrd’s staunch opposition this week to a Republican proposal to let the president challenge pork spending should have raised few eyebrows.

After all, the West Virginia Democrat has been dubbed the “King of Pork,” a moniker he says he relishes.

And why not? He earned that title racking up earmarks and hiding pet spending projects in complex legislation.

Mr. Byrd has added $2.95 billion in pork-barrel projects for West Virginia to appropriation bills since 1991, according to Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW). Last year, he sent home $239 million in earmark spending, which CAGW calculates to be $131.58 for every West Virginia resident, more than four times the national average of $30.55.

More than 30 public-works projects in West Virginia bear the senator’s name, including Robert C. Byrd Highway, Robert C. Byrd Industrial Park, Robert C. Byrd Federal Correctional Institution, Robert C. Byrd Federal Courthouse and two Robert C. Byrd Federal Buildings.

Mr. Byrd urged his colleagues to protect Congress’ “power of the purse” and oppose the measure, which would authorize the president to remove earmarks from bills and send them back to Congress for another vote.

The fight will continue next week.

— S.A. Miller, Capitol Hill correspondent, The Washington Times

Congressional visitor

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney paid a visit to Capitol Hill this morning for a meeting revealed by his security detail who did a pre-sweep before he arrived.

Romney, who just finished his term as Massachusetts governor, was meeting with Rep. Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican. Yesterday, the 2008 hopeful met with 50 members at an event hosted by another Republican.

— Christina Bellantoni, Capitol Hill correspondent, The Washington Times

Not quite

Democratic leaders have promised the days of holding votes open for hours are long over.

So far, they’ve lived up to that, but most 15-minute votes have been stretched.

This morning, the House took just one vote, on a measure restructuring the page program.

The acting speaker said at 10:50 it would be a 15-minute vote, but held it open until 11:17 a.m.

Some reporters wondered aloud if they were waiting for Speaker Nancy Pelosi to return from her 10:30 a.m. event at the National Press Club. But the California Democrat was one of 18 members who didn’t cast votes on the resolution, which passed unanimously.

— Christina Bellantoni, Capitol Hill correspondent, The Washington Times

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