- The Washington Times - Monday, June 15, 2009

SUPREME COURT

McConnell won’t rule out filibuster

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Sunday left open the possibility of filibustering Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor, but said it is too early to make a decision.

Republican lawmakers have chafed at the timeline for confirmation set by Senate Democrats.

“I have consistently opposed filibustering judges, did it during the Clinton years, but I lost that fight,” said Mr. McConnell, Kentucky Republican, on CBS’ “Face The Nation.” “The Senate will filibuster judges. That precedent was established, ironically enough, on a Hispanic-American nominee, Miguel Estrada.”

Mr. Estrada was nominated to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals by President Bush, but withdrew from consideration after Senate Democrats, then in the minority, successfully filibustered his nomination for six months in 2003.

Senate hearings on the nomination of Judge Sotomayor, who would be the first Hispanic and third woman to sit on the high court if confirmed, are scheduled to begin on July 13. President Obama has said he would like to see her confirmed before members of Congress take their August break.

DEMOCRATS

Biden: Obama ‘kept bargain’

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. says President Obama “values my opinion” and has “kept his end of the bargain” to consult him on important issues.

“There’s not a single decision made he hasn’t asked me my view,” Mr. Biden said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Mr. Biden said that, as a senator, “I used to sit there and react to Supreme Court nominees,” but now finds himself “in a position to help choose who the nominee would be.”

The vice president confirmed accounts that he and Mr. Obama negotiated an advisory role for himself when he agreed to run on the Democratic ticket.

“Whether I am the absolute last person, I can’t guarantee that. But I know that I am one of the last people that gets an opportunity to make the case to him,” Mr. Biden said. “I think he values my opinion. He doesn’t have to accept my opinion, but he’s kept his end of the bargain.”

Mr. Biden also would not rule out another bid for the presidency himself.

REPUBLICANS

Romney urges better message

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said Republican leaders need to improve their message in order to keep themselves from falling into a political “ice age.”

A Gallup poll released last week found that most Americans do not identify anyone as the top spokesman for the Republican Party.

Mr. Romney, an unsuccessful 2008 presidential candidate, joined with Republican leaders House Minority Whip Eric Cantor and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush last month to hear from young voters on the state of the Republican Party.

“Well, what you don’t do is try and change your principles,” Mr. Romney said on ABC’s “This Week.”

“But what you do is make sure that you’re communicating your principles in an effective way to the audiences of America that are listening.”

ARTIFACTS

Raid angers Utah’s senators

LAYTON, Utah | Utah’s U.S. senators say they want Congress to investigate the actions of federal agents who arrested two dozen people in an investigation of the theft of ancient artifacts in the Four Corners region.

Sens. Orrin G. Hatch and Robert F. Bennett, both Republicans, say the raid was overkill.

Federal indictments accuse the people of stealing, receiving or trying to sell American Indian artifacts. Some 300 federal agents - about half from the Bureau of Land Management - were involved in the arrests.

Mr. Bennett called the raid outrageous, saying agents shouldn’t have searched one person’s home for 10 hours for a single item, then handcuff the suspect.

One of the men indicted in the raid was found dead on Thursday in an apparent suicide.

POLITICS

Biden offers advice to son

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. has some political advice for son Beau, who may be considering a run for the U.S. Senate.

Mr. Biden said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that his son would make “a great senator,” but “he’s his own man.”

Mr. Biden said he told his son, “Whatever you decide to do, make sure there’s something you’re willing to lose over. Don’t just do it for - because it’s the next step. If you conclude that you care deeply about something that you’re willing to lose over it in a campaign, then do it.”

Beau Biden, a member of the Delaware Army National Guard, is serving in Iraq.

HHS

Swine flu vaccine is coming soon

Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says production of a vaccine for swine flu is being set up in case a vaccine program is recommended.

Mrs. Sebelius, in an appearance Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” said the government is making every effort to be prepared as the swine flu runs its course. She said the good news is that this swine flu seems not to be a lethal virus, generally.

Still, Mrs. Sebelius said, the government is working with governors as well as health and schools officials in case a major vaccination program is needed. She said production of a vaccine could start as early as late summer and be ready by the fall.

Nearly 18,000 cases of swine flu have been reported across the United States with 45 confirmed deaths.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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