- The Washington Times - Monday, January 12, 2009

SENATE

Voinovich to retire, party officials say

Two-term Sen. George V. Voinovich, Ohio Republican, is telling associates he intends to retire rather than run again in 2010, according to officials inside the party.

A formal announcement is expected Monday.

Mr. Voinovich would become the third Republican in recent weeks to announce retirement plans in traditionally competitive states, giving Democrats a chance to pad their already strong majority. Veteran Sen. Christopher S. Bond, Missouri Republican, said last week that he will retire at the end of his term. First-term Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida also has said he will not seek re-election.

Republican Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas also has announced plans to retire, although his state is more reliably Republican than Ohio, Missouri or Florida.

SENATE

Burris to return to D.C. this week

Roland Burris said Sunday that he will return to Washington this week to pursue being sworn in to fill President-elect Barack Obama’s vacant Senate seat before Mr. Obama is inaugurated as president Jan. 20.

The Senate’s second-ranking Democrat, Richard J. Durbin, said the chamber would try to decide Mr. Burris’ fate fairly and quickly, without waiting to see whether the embattled official who appointed Mr. Burris, Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich, is removed from office.

Mr. Burris told CBS’ “Face the Nation” that his lawyers will be in the capital Monday to meet the Senate parliamentarian, adding that he would follow them to Washington “in a day or two.”

“It is our position that we have done everything that’s required and that, yes, I should be seated, and I should be seated forthwith, and I should be seated prior to the inauguration of our - our 44th president,” Mr. Burris said.

“I am the junior senator from the state of Illinois. There is no question of my legality of appointment,” said Mr. Burris, 71, a former Illinois attorney general.

INAUGURATION

Woman to preach at prayer service

The Rev. Sharon Watkins, pastor of a Protestant denomination with about 700,000 members in the United States and Canada, will deliver the sermon at the National Prayer Service that caps the inauguration activities for Barack Obama.

Mrs. Watkins will be the first woman to give the sermon at the traditional event, to be held Jan. 21 at the National Cathedral in Washington.

In a statement from the Presidential Inaugural Committee, Mrs. Watkins called her selection an honor. “I hope that my message will call us to believe in something bigger than ourselves and remind us to reach out to all of our neighbors to build communities of possibility,” she said.

Mrs. Watkins is the president and general minister of Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada, the first woman to hold that job.

The church says its work is “influenced by its founding ideals of our unity in Christ with openness and diversity in practice and belief.”

The National Prayer Service will include prayers, readings and hymns delivered by religious leaders of a variety of faiths.

VICE PRESIDENCY

Cheney offers advice to Biden

Vice President Dick Cheney is offering some advice to his successor, Joseph R. Biden Jr.: Make sure you know what the president wants you to do.

Mr. Cheney said that will determine what kind of meetings the vice president attends and what kind of policy matters the vice president gets involved in.

How influential is the vice president? Mr. Cheney said that depends almost entirely on the president and what he wants.

Mr. Cheney said being vice president is nothing like being senator. It’s a combination of jobs, including being a surrogate for the president sometimes, he told CNN’s “Late Edition.”

SAFETY

Ban of cell phones while driving urged

A national safety group is advocating a ban on cell phone use while driving, saying the practice is clearly dangerous and leads to fatalities.

States should ban drivers from using hand-held and hands-free cell phones, and businesses should prohibit employees from using cell phones while driving on the job, the congressionally chartered National Safety Council says, taking those positions for the first time.

The group’s president and chief executive, Janet Froetscher, likened talking on cell phones to drunken driving, saying cell phone use increases the risk of a crash fourfold.

“When our friends have been drinking, we take the car keys away. It’s time to take the cell phone away,” Miss Froetscher said in interview.

No state currently bans all cell-phone use while driving.

Six states - California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Utah and Washington - along with the District ban the use of hand-held cell phones behind the wheel, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Also, 17 states and the District restrict or ban cell-phone use by novice drivers.

Council officials acknowledged a total ban could take years.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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