- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 23, 2009


Credit unions balk at mortgage plan

Negotiations between the banking industry and Senate Democrats on a mortgage-relief plan hit a snag Wednesday after a trade association representing credit unions said it could not endorse the proposal.

Officials said the rebuff by the National Association of Federal Credit Unions was disappointing but not a deal breaker.

Other financial institutions still at the table include the larger Credit Union National Association, as well as bank giants JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo. Citigroup Inc. had already endorsed the measure.

“This in no way slows us down,” said a spokesman for Illinois Sen. Richard J. Durbin, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, who is spearheading the initiative.

But NAFCU’s public release of its rejection letter after weeks of tightlipped negotiations signals the industry’s frustration as lawmakers push to let cash-strapped homeowners reduce their mortgage payments through bankruptcy court.


Pelosi knew of Harman wiretap

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday that she was aware a few years ago that Rep. Jane Harman had been overheard on a government wiretap.

“A few years ago, maybe three years ago, they did brief me,” Mrs. Pelosi told reporters at an event hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

She said that when a member of Congress is recorded as part of a wiretapped conversation, intelligence officials inform congressional leaders.

“That happened at that time,” Mrs. Pelosi said. She added that the classified briefing was not detailed, and she did not tell Mrs. Harman at the time.

“All I knew is that she was wiretapped,” Mrs. Pelosi said.

“When you are briefed on something, it isn’t your information to share with anybody else,” she added. “Even if I wanted to share it with her, I would not have had the ability to share it with her.”

Mrs. Harman has said she first learned of the wiretapping last week from a reporter who had knowledge of the transcript of the recording.

Congressional Quarterly reported Monday that Mrs. Harman was overheard agreeing to seek lenient treatment for two former employees of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee who were under investigation and later indicted for unlawfully possessing and disclosing classified information.


Obama standard adopted for detainees

A federal judge has adopted the Obama administration’s standard for continuing to hold terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay.

U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton has signaled he will move quickly to decide whether prisoners can continue to be held at the U.S. naval base in Cuba under the new rule.

He has given attorneys for the detainees 12 days to file arguments for why he should grant an expedited judgment for their release under the new standard.

President Obama has said he plans to close the detention facility within a year and determine where to place the 240 people held there. But federal judges have ordered a few releases in recent months.


Health care bill put on ‘fast track’

Democrats controlling the House went on record again Wednesday in favor of advancing health care legislation while allowing only limited debate, which would minimize the ability of Republicans to wrest concessions on one of President Obama’s top domestic priorities.

By a 227-196 vote, the House affirmed Democrats’ plans to move health care legislation forward under rules that block Republicans in the Senate from being able to slow - or even stop - it from proceeding.

The vote came as senior House and Senate Democrats negotiated the issue in private talks on the 2010 budget. Republicans are passionately against the idea of putting health care on a “fast track,” saying it is too important and too complicated to be rushed through Congress under rules permitting just 20 hours of Senate debate.

But the White House is insisting on having the fast-track process - known as “reconciliation” under the arcane rules governing the congressional budget process - available to them, though they claim their preference is for a bipartisan measure.


Ex-officials urge look at Siegelman

MONTGOMERY, Ala. | A group of 75 former state attorneys general from across the country has asked U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to investigate whether former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman’s corruption prosecution should stand.

Both Democrats and Republicans signed the letter asking Mr. Holder to conduct an investigation similar to one that led the Justice Department to drop its case against former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens.

Earlier this month, Mr. Holder asked a judge to toss Mr. Stevens’ corruption conviction because prosecutors withheld evidence from his defense team during his trial.

If similar misconduct is found in the Siegelman case, the once-popular Democrat’s corruption conviction should be dismissed, the attorneys general told Mr. Holder in their letter, dated April 13.

Prosecutors say Siegelman appointed former HealthSouth CEO Richard M. Scrushy to an influential hospital regulatory board in exchange for Scrushy arranging $500,000 in contributions to the governor’s campaign for a state lottery in 1999.

Siegelman was sentenced to seven years in prison but is free while he appeals. Scrushy is serving an almost seven-year sentence.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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