- The Washington Times - Friday, January 23, 2009


Officials say Gillibrand likely Paterson pick

Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat, emerged as a leading contender Thursday night as New York Gov. David Paterson closed in on a decision to fill the state’s vacant U.S. Senate seat, according to party officials monitoring events in the wake of Caroline Kennedy’s abrupt withdrawal from consideration.

Several officials said Mr. Paterson had summoned fellow New York Democrats to Albany for a meeting immediately before he is expected to announce his pick Friday.

The seat became vacant when Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton resigned to become secretary of state in the Obama administration. Ms. Kennedy, the daughter of former President John F. Kennedy, had been viewed as the front-runner until her abrupt decision to withdraw late Wednesday.

Mrs. Gillibrand, 42, is a second-term lawmaker from upstate New York.

The officials who described the events did so on the condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to discuss them. They stressed that the appointment still could go elsewhere, including to New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.


Two senators seek probe of meltdown

Two senators are proposing a Sept. 11-style commission with subpoena powers and a $3 million budget to investigate what caused the banking and financial crisis.

Sens. Johnny Isakson, Georgia Republican, and Kent Conrad, North Dakota Democrat, said Thursday that the bipartisan panel would conduct a comprehensive “forensic audit” to find out what went wrong and recommend ways to keep it from happening again.

“I’ve never personally seen anything like the economic times we’re in now,” said Mr. Isakson, who built a fortune in Atlanta-area real estate before coming to Congress. “We must learn exactly what happened and why. We must hold people accountable. If institutions or individuals broke the law, they must face the consequences.”

Under the proposal, the commission would consist of seven members appointed by the president, congressional leaders of both parties and the Federal Reserve chairman.


Chamber passes wage-equity bill

The Senate has passed wage discrimination legislation reversing a Supreme Court decision that made it more difficult for workers to file claims after discovering they get paid less than their colleagues.

The House is expected to move quickly to approve the bill and send it to the White House, where is could be one of the first major bills signed by President Obama.


Biden swears in Colorado senator

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. returned to the floor of the Senate on Thursday to swear in new senator, Michael Bennet, Colorado Democrat.

The ceremony marked Mr. Biden’s official debut as president of the Senate, where he served six terms as a senator from Delaware.

Mr. Bennet, a lawyer by training, has been superintendent of Denver’s public schools since 2005, earning a national reputation as an education reformer.

He succeeds fellow Democrat Ken Salazar, who resigned his seat Tuesday after being confirmed as interior secretary in the Obama administration.


GAO criticizes federal oversight

The U.S. regulatory structure policing the financial sector is outdated, federal oversight of medical products is inadequate and the government’s tracking system for toxic chemicals is in danger of becoming obsolete, the investigative arm of Congress said Thursday.

Shortcomings in regulation topped a list of 30 programs needing broad-based transformation or at high risk for waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) concluded in a report it issues at the start of every new Congress.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers pledged cooperation with the Obama administration to help fix the problems, which ranged from soaring cost overruns in weapons procurement to long backlogs in handling disability cases at the Social Security Administration, the Defense Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs.


Clemens attorney tapped for top post

A lawyer who represented Roger Clemens last year when he denied under oath that he used performance-enhancing drugs has been chosen to lead the Justice Department lawyers now investigating the retired pitching great.

President Obama announced Thursday that Lanny Breuer, an accomplished lawyer in private practice, was his choice to run the department’s criminal division. Mr. Breuer also represented Bill Clinton during his impeachment trial.


Gates injures arm, to undergo surgery

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Thursday that he injured his left arm manhandling snow equipment over Christmas and will have to wear a sling for the second time in a year.

A sheepish Mr. Gates told reporters that he will briefly hand off his duties to a deputy during surgery Friday to repair the damage.

“The injury, a torn ligament, is tractor-related, which I consider to be a step up from falling on the ice,” Mr. Gates said. He broke his right arm when he slipped outside his home in February.

Mr. Gates said he had the latest accident as he tried to attach a snowplow blade to a tractor.

Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England will remain in his job at least long enough to fill in for Mr. Gates as he recuperates, Mr. Gates said. He said he expects to be back on the job Saturday.


Army blames contractor in death

An Army investigation called the fatal shocking of a U.S. soldier in Iraq a “negligent homicide” caused by contractor KBR Inc. and two of its supervisors, according to a document obtained by the Associated Press.

An Army criminal investigator said the manner of death for Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth, 24, of Pittsburgh, has been changed from accidental to negligent homicide because the contractor failed to ensure that “qualified electricians and plumbers” worked on the barracks where Sgt. Maseth died, according to the document.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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