- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 13, 2010

SUPREME COURT

Source: Montana judge among contenders

President Obama’s candidates for the Supreme Court include a new name, federal appeals court Judge Sidney Thomas of Montana, and at least six others who were considered contenders when Mr. Obama chose his first high court nominee last year, the Associated Press has learned.

Among the others under consideration are former Georgia Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears, federal appeals court Judges Diane Wood and Merrick Garland, Solicitor General Elena Kagan, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

The president is seriously reviewing about 10 people for a nominee to replace Justice John Paul Stevens, who is retiring this summer.

Seven of those names are now confirmed to the AP by the administration.

Judge Thomas, 56, of Billings, Mont., serves on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the largest of the nation’s appellate courts.

Also Monday, the White House quickly ended speculation about another potential nominee: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Her name had been floated as a possibility by Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican, but White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Mr. Obama “is going to keep her as his secretary of state.”

IRAQ

Sources: New U.S. commander for Iraq

The senior U.S. general in Iraq for nearly three years, Gen. Ray Odierno, will be succeeded by a top Pentagon general at the end of the summer.

Military officials spoke about the change on the condition of anonymity because the announcement has not been made.

Gen. Odierno plans to remain in Iraq through the drawdown of U.S. combat forces by September.

His replacement is Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin, the staff director for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Gen. Odierno then takes over a command that trains forces from all branches of the military to work together.

WHITE HOUSE

Obama to raise money for Boxer

A White House official says President Obama will go to Los Angeles on April 19 to raise money for Sen. Barbara Boxer., California Democrat.

The president’s intentions to head to California had been known for weeks, but not the date. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the trip Monday has not been announced.

Mrs. Boxer is a three-term senator in a tough re-election climate this year, with California enduring one of the highest unemployment rates in the country.

Three Republicans are vying for their party’s nomination to challenge Mrs. Boxer.

Mrs. Boxer hopes to persuade first-time voters who turned out for Mr. Obama in 2008 to come back to the polls again.

HOUSE

Judge denies bail in Pelosi case

SAN FRANCISCO | A judge has refused to release a man accused of making threatening phone calls to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, over her support of health care legislation.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Bernard Zimmerman said Monday that Gregory Lee Giusti, 48, appears to be a danger to the community and the speaker.

The judge ordered Giusti held without bail, citing the allegations and Giusti’s criminal record, which includes two felony and 13 misdemeanor convictions.

Giusti is charged with one count of making obscene, threatening or harassing phone calls to a member of Congress. Authorities say he called Mrs. Pelosi’s home and offices at least 48 times.

TREASURY

March budget deficit declines to $65.4 billion

The budget deficit for March showed a dramatic decline as the Obama administration formally entered a lower ultimate cost for the government’s financial bailout program.

The Treasury Department said the deficit for March totaled $65.4 billion, compared with a $191.6 billion imbalance a year ago.

However, $115 billion of that improvement occurred because the administration lowered its estimate of the total costs for the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

Even with the change, the administration is still projecting that the budget deficit for the entire year will surpass last year’s record high of $1.4 trillion.

FEDERAL RESERVE

Interest rate unit gets a new chief

The Federal Reserve division that helps shape interest-rate policy is getting a new chief.

Fed official William English will be promoted to director of the division of monetary affairs on July 23, the central bank announced Monday. He will succeed Brian Madigan, a seasoned veteran of the Fed. Mr. Madigan plans to retire later this year after more than 30 years of service, including three years as head of the influential division.

In his new job, Mr. English will advise Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke, members of the Federal Reserve Board in Washington and members of the Fed’s chief policymaking group, called the Federal Open Market Committee, on interest-rate policy.

Mr. English began his career at the Fed in 1992 as an economist. He has served as deputy director of the monetary affairs division since February 2008.

To help nurture the economic recovery, Mr. Bernanke and other Fed officials have repeatedly stated that interest rates will need to stay at record-low levels near zero for an “extended period.”

The soonest the Federal Reserve will begin raising short-term interest rates is the fourth quarter, according to 34 of the 44 economists polled in an AP Economy Survey that debuted Monday.

SENATE

Probe finds fraud in mortgage lending

Senate investigators say they found that the mortgage lending operations of Washington Mutual Inc., the biggest U.S. bank ever to fail, were threaded through with fraud.

And the bank’s own probes failed to stem the deceptive practices, the investigators say in a report on the 2008 failure of WaMu.

The panel says the bank’s pay system rewarded loan officers for the volume and speed of the subprime mortgage loans they on which that close.

The report says extra bonuses even went to loan officers who overcharged borrowers on their loans or levied stiff penalties for prepayment.

Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, said the panel won’t decide until after the hearings whether to make a formal referral to the Justice Department for possible criminal prosecution.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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