- The Washington Times - Monday, February 15, 2010

CAPITOL HILL

Lobbying hits record $3.5 billion in 2009

What recession?

Health care and business interests led the way as clients spent a record $3.5 billion on lobbying last year, prompted by Obama administration drives to reshape federal policy for the medical, financial and energy industries.

Amid a stagnant national economy and the worst unemployment in nearly three decades, lobbying expenditures grew by 5 percent from the $3.3 billion spent in 2008, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. The growth also came despite efforts by President Obama to curb lobbyists’ influence.

The figures underline the vast and growing sums that industries, unions and ideological groups are spending to shape laws and regulations. Put another way, the $3.5 billion is about half what the government expects to spend this year on the entire federal court system.

IMMIGRATION

Thousands of Haitians apply for legal status

Thousands of Haitians are applying for the chance to stay legally in the U.S. while their country struggles to recover from last month’s earthquake.

The Homeland Security Department says it has received 12,583 applications from illegal immigrants from Haiti hoping to remain briefly in the U.S. and work here legally. The deadline for the applications is July 20. Application fees to stay and for work permits are $470.

Because it is unsafe to return the immigrants to Haiti, the agency is granting the immigrants temporary protected status. Successful applicants can remain and work for 18 months without fear of deportation.

HOUSE

Kennedy to help substance abusers

Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy wants to help people with substance abuse problems after he leaves Congress next year.

The Rhode Island Democrat said Friday in a phone interview with the Associated Press that he wants to focus more on his personal life after spending roughly half his life in elective office. He will not seek re- election this year.

In Congress, Kennedy has used his struggles with depression and substance abuse to champion better care for the mentally ill.

The son of the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy has been in and out of treatment for substance abuse since crashing his car outside the U.S. Capitol in 2006. He has struggled with alcoholism, depression and drug addiction for much of his life.

SUPREME COURT

Explanation sought in Uighurs’ case

The Supreme Court is asking the Obama administration and lawyers for Chinese Muslims at Guantanamo Bay to explain how Switzerland’s decision to resettle two detainees affects a pending high court case.

The administration already has said the court may wish to dismiss the case now that the Swiss have agreed to provide a home to two of the seven Chinese Muslims, or Uighurs, who remain at the U.S. naval base in Cuba. All seven now have received offers of resettlement. The Uighurs’ lawyers have said the court should hear their case arguing that courts have the authority to release the detainees into the United States.

The court on Friday gave lawyers on both sides a week to provide a fuller explanation of their positions.

COMMERCE

Businesses trim inventories

Businesses reduced inventories in December, a sign they remain cautious about the strength and durability of the economic recovery.

The Commerce Department said Friday that businesses trimmed stockpiles by 0.2 percent in December, a weaker performance than the 0.2 percent gain that economists had expected. Total business sales rose 0.9 percent in December following a 2.4 percent increase in November.

The hope is that further gains in sales will persuade businesses to make sustained increases in their inventories, a development that would boost factory production and help support a recovery from the deepest recession since the 1930s.

From wire dispatches and staff reports


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