- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 21, 2009

SOTOMAYOR

GOP decides against filibuster

Senate Republicans, divided over whether to confirm Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor as the first Hispanic justice, aren’t planning a drawn-out floor debate on her nomination.

Republican senators on the Judiciary Committee plan to block a panel vote scheduled for Tuesday, delaying the committee’s action on President Obama’s first high court nominee until July 28. But Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, the No. 2 Republican, said he thought the subsequent Senate debate on Judge Sotomayor’s confirmation could be completed in four days.

That’s a standard timetable for recent Supreme Court nominees, and it underscores the Republican Party’s intent to refrain from filibustering Judge Sotomayor, which would risk alienating Hispanic voters, a fast-growing part of the electorate, given her lopsided and growing chances of being confirmed.

Judge Sotomayor has solid support from Senate Democrats, who control a 60-vote majority, and at least three Republicans have said publicly they intend to vote for her.

LEGISLATION

Senators press for Iran sanctions

Four senators Monday stepped up pressure on President Obama to ready tough new economic sanctions on Iran in the event Tehran fails to freeze its suspect nuclear program by later this year.

Republican Sens. Jon Kyl and John McCain of Arizona, independent Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, and Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana urged Mr. Obama to prepare sanctions targeting the Central Bank of Iran in the event of diplomatic stalemate.

The lawmakers introduced legislation calling on the president to act if Iran does not accept his offer of direct talks before a late September summit of the Group of 20 or fails to freeze uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities 60 days after that.

“Whether one believes ‘engaging’ directly with the regime in Tehran will accomplish anything, there is no question that time is of the essence,” said Mr. Kyl, the chamber’s No. 2 Republican.

WHITE HOUSE

Obama hails Apollo 11 ‘heroes’

Hailing the Apollo 11 astronauts as “three genuine American heroes,” President Obama said Monday that exploration spurs ingenuity and inspires students in math and science.

In an Oval Office ceremony commemorating the day 40 years ago when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took man’s first steps on the moon, Mr. Obama compared their accomplishment to his goal of the United States having the highest college-graduation rates in the world by 2020.

Mr. Obama said he wanted to use the anniversary of the Apollo moon landing to show that “math and science are cool again.”

Mr. Obama praised Mr. Armstrong, Mr. Aldrin and command module pilot Michael Collins for their “calm under pressure, the grace with which these three gentlemen operated.”

Mr. Obama didn’t talk about future NASA missions. Mr. Aldrin, Mr. Collins and six other Apollo astronauts used the anniversary to make a pitch for a mission to Mars.

GAO

Report says FDA unable to budget

The Food and Drug Administration, which has struggled to fulfill its mission of regulating food, drugs and other consumer goods that make up nearly a quarter of the U.S. economy, does not have the expertise to forecast its own budget needs, according to congressional investigators.

While many lawmakers and consumer advocates have long complained that the agency lacks the staff and equipment to accomplish its mission, the Government Accountability Office says the agency doesn’t even have “the data to develop a complete and reliable estimate of the resources it needs.”

The GAO places some of the blame on the FDA’s lopsided budget, which dedicates significant resources to approving new products, but far less to tracking their safety once they’ve reached the market.

FDA officials acknowledged the problems uncovered by the GAO, saying they are working to get a better picture of the agency’s spending and how much additional funding it needs.

The GAO report, released Monday, is the latest in a series to document the problems facing the agency.

HOUSE

NBA defends age requirement

The NBA defended its minimum age requirement to Congress, but a critical lawmaker was unmoved and is asking to meet with top league officials to discuss it, according to letters obtained Monday by the Associated Press.

The rule, which is part of the league’s collective-bargaining agreement with the players union, requires that players be at least 19 years old and a year out of high school before entering the league. Last month, Rep. Steve Cohen, Tennessee Democrat, urged the league and union to scrap the requirement in the next collective-bargaining agreement, calling it unfair.

NBA President Joel Litvin told Mr. Cohen in a recent letter the purpose of the requirement is to promote the league’s business interests by “increasing the chances that incoming players will have the requisite ability, experience, maturity and life skills” to perform at a high level. The policy also helps teams make informed hiring decisions, he wrote.

COURTS

Judge lambastes CIA and Panetta

A federal judge has ruled that CIA officials committed fraud to protect a former covert agent against an eavesdropping lawsuit and is considering sanctioning as many as six who have worked at the agency, including former CIA Director George J. Tenet.

According to court documents unsealed Monday, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth referred a CIA lawyer, Jeffrey Yeates, for disciplinary action. Judge Lamberth also denied the CIA’s renewed efforts under the Obama administration to keep the case secret because of what he calls the agency’s “diminished credibility” in the case.

The judge also criticized CIA Director Leon E. Panetta, saying he’s given conflicting accounts about what should be revealed in the case. The ruling led to the unsealing Monday of more than 200 unclassified versions of classified filings in the 13-year-old case.

The eavesdropping lawsuit was brought by a former agent with the Drug Enforcement Agency, Richard Horn, who says his home in Yangon, Myanmar, was illegally wiretapped by the CIA in 1993. He says Arthur Brown, the former CIA station chief in Myanmar, and Franklin Huddle Jr., the chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Myanmar, were trying to get him relocated because they disagreed with his work with Myanmar’s officials on the country’s drug trade.

From wire dispatches and staff reports


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