- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 3, 2009


Congressman hands off panel

Rep. Peter J. Visclosky says he is temporarily giving up his chairmanship of a powerful House appropriations subcommittee, a sign that an investigation into a troubled lobbying firm is weakening his standing in Congress.

The Indiana Democrat’s announcement Tuesday came less than a week after he disclosed that his congressional and campaign offices have been subpoenaed in a criminal investigation of the now-defunct lobbying firm, PMA Group.

Giving up his chairmanship of the House energy and water subcommittee, even temporarily, deals a significant blow to Mr. Visclosky’s power in Congress.

Mr. Visclosky said in a statement that he would ask Rep. Ed Pastor, Arizona Democrat, to handle an energy and water appropriations measure being worked on in the House.


Governor says he won’t run again

ST. PAUL, Minn. | Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced Tuesday that he will not seek a third term, while declining to say whether he’ll set his sights on the White House.

Mr. Pawlenty dismissed talk of a 2012 Republican presidential campaign as premature, saying he would focus on the next 19 months to finish his term strong. But he said he wouldn’t hesitate to travel the country on behalf of a party he thinks needs refreshing. He’ll be in Washington on Friday to address the College Republicans.

“I’m going to try to lend voice to the need to raise issues and ideas for my party here and elsewhere if I’m asked,” Mr. Pawlenty said, “because I think we need new ideas and faces in the party. That’s a collateral activity - something I will do as a volunteer.”

Mr. Pawlenty has spoken in the past of the Republican Party’s need to remake itself to attract “Sam’s Club Republicans.”

While Minnesota doesn’t have term limits, Mr. Pawlenty said he’d impose them on himself. “Time marches on, and now it’s time to give someone else a chance.”


3 free weekends at national parks

The National Park Service will allow visitors free entry during three weekends this summer to encourage Americans to visit national parks such as the Grand Canyon, Yosemite and Rocky Mountain National Park.

The fee waivers - one each month in June, July and August - will apply to all 391 national parks, from Alaska to Florida.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said the free weekends should help American families struggling with the recession afford a memorable vacation.

Entry fees at all 147 Park Service sites will be waived from June 20-21, July 18-19 and August 15-16, Mr. Salazar said.

Entry fees being waived range from $3 to $25. That does not apply to fees charged for camping, reservations, tours or concessions.


Convicted judge delays resignation

HOUSTON | A convicted federal judge says he will resign from the bench in June 2010, nearly a year after he enters prison for lying about sexually abusing two assistants.

U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent would draw a full salary of $174,000 a year and benefits until the resignation takes effect, said his attorney, Dick DeGuerin. Kent decided on the delay so that his wife, who has a brain tumor and other serious medical problems, could retain health benefits, Mr. DeGuerin said.

The resignation was submitted a week after denial of Kent’s request to retire on disability because of depression - which would have allowed him to continue receiving his full salary for the rest of his life. By resigning, he gets nothing after next year.

Kent, 59, is resigning to try and avoid the “spectacle” of an impeachment process by Congress, Mr. DeGuerin said. The House Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing for Wednesday, and both women he victimized are scheduled to speak.

Last month, Kent was sentenced to two years and nine months in prison, fined $1,000 and ordered to pay $6,550 in restitution to his former secretary and his case manager, whose complaints resulted in the first sex-abuse case against a sitting federal judge.


FDA cigarette bill advances in Senate

The Senate took a step Tuesday toward giving the government some control over the tobacco industry, bolstering the chances that a long-sought goal of anti-smoking advocates finally will be realized.

The 84-11 Senate vote to consider the bill came a month after the House overwhelmingly passed a similar measure giving the Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate cigarettes and other tobacco products.

Sixty votes were needed to advance the legislation, and the success in reaching that threshold increase the likelihood that the Senate will move to a final vote by the end of the week. If the House concurs with the Senate measure, it would go to President Obama, who is ready to sign it into law.


FDA considers more openness

Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg announced Tuesday that she has created a task force to make recommendations on how the agency can release more information in such areas as drug evaluation and enforcement matters. She wants a report in six months.

The FDA has long operated under strict confidentiality rules. Its scientists routinely handle reams of private information from drug companies, medical device manufacturers, even laboratories working on genetically engineered animals.

The clinical data are critical for government experts to make decisions about the safety and effectiveness of products that could be sold to the public.

Dr. Hamburg said she believes the need for secrecy may have been taken too far and is harming the FDA’s credibility within the medical community and among consumers.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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