- The Washington Times - Monday, May 25, 2009

SUPREME COURT

Sen. Kyl won’t rule out filibuster

The Senate’s No. 2 Republican on Sunday refused to rule out a filibuster if President Obama seeks a Supreme Court justice who decides cases based on “emotions or feelings or preconceived ideas.”

Sen. Jon Kyl made clear he would use the procedural delay if Mr. Obama follows through on his pledge to nominate someone who takes into account human suffering and employs empathy from the bench. The Arizona Republican acknowledged that his party likely does not have enough votes to sustain a filibuster, but he said nonetheless he would try to delay or derail the nomination if Mr. Obama ventures outside what Mr. Kyl called the mainstream.

“We will distinguish between a liberal judge on one side and one who doesn’t decide cases on the merits but, rather, on the basis of his or her preconceived ideas,” Mr. Kyl said.

STATE DEPARTMENT

Agency liberalizes gay-partner policy

In a policy shift, the State Department will offer equal benefits and protections to same-sex partners of American diplomats, the New York Times reported Sunday.

The newspaper said the shift was spelled out in an internal memorandum that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton sent last week to an association of gay and lesbian foreign service officers.

Mrs. Clinton said the policy change addressed an inequity in the treatment of domestic partners and would help the State Department recruit diplomats, because many international employers already offered such benefits, the report said.

“Like all families, our foreign service families come in different configurations; all are part of the common fabric of our post communities abroad,” Mrs. Clinton said in the memorandum, a copy of which was provided to The Times by a member of the gay and lesbian association.

“At bottom,” the paper quotes Mrs. Clinton as saying, “the department will provide these benefits for both opposite-sex and same-sex partners because it is the right thing to do.”

A senior State Department official confirmed the new policy, but did not say when it would take effect, the paper said.

Among the benefits are diplomatic passports, use of medical facilities at overseas posts, medical and other emergency evacuation, transportation between posts, and training in security and languages, according to the report.

ATTORNEY GENERAL

Deportations irk Caribbean states

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados | The United States should review its policy on deporting West Indian criminals back to their home countries, Caribbean nations told Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Saturday.

The issue is a major irritant between Caribbean states and their larger neighbor. Others include the regulation of tax havens and the use by criminal networks of the West Indies as a staging post for illicit drugs bound for U.S. consumers.

Large numbers of people migrate from the West Indies to the United States each year seeking education and employment.

But under a 1996 U.S. law, criminals convicted of offenses ranging from murder to shoplifting as well as low-level drug infractions can face deportation from the United States.

“That vexed issue of repatriation of offenders from the United States of America” dominated a meeting between Mr. Holder and West Indian attorneys general in the Barbados capital Bridgetown, Barbados Attorney General Freundel Stuart said.

Mr. Holder stressed the need for a mutual diplomatic relationship, comments aimed at soothing West Indian governments who seek give-and-take in their relations with the United States.

BORDER PATROL

Vermont wins border station

MONTPELIER, Vt. | Vermont’s congressional delegation says the U.S. Border Patrol is going to build a new station in the state, instead of in New Hampshire.

The decision to put the building in Canaan, Vt., comes after a nearly two-year selection process that had been narrowed to also include Colebrook, N.H.

Canaan is just minutes from the Canadian border; Colebrook is about 10 miles south of Canaan.

The station will be capable of supporting 50 agents who could patrol the border.

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, said the decision will mean jobs for Canaan and ensure a continued law enforcement presence in Essex County.

LEGISLATION

Post office frets about tobacco ban

The U.S. Postal Service, already so financially strapped it wants Congress to allow it to end Saturday mail delivery, is about to take another big revenue hit. The House this past week voted overwhelmingly to prohibit the delivery of tobacco products through the mail, and the Senate is likely to follow suit soon.

The Postal Service estimates that such a ban would mean a loss of as much as $40 million in revenue each year, which comes from delivering smokes bought on the Internet, often from Indian reservations, which sell cartons cheap because they don’t pay federal taxes.

Anti-smoking advocates already had gotten FedEx and UPS to voluntarily agree not to ship tobacco goods, so the USPS was the only means left.

BUDGET

Government to go on a hiring binge

Uncle Sam is going to be hanging out thousands of “help wanted” signs if President Obama’s 2010 budget is approved.

Though it doesn’t tally all of them, the budget says the federal government will hire “several hundred thousand new civilian employees during the next four years.”

Among them: 33,800 for the Pentagon; 7,000 for the Department of Homeland Security; about 10,000 for the Department of Veterans Affairs; and 3,200 for the Social Security Administration.

From wire dispatches and staff reports


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