- The Washington Times - Monday, May 17, 2010


GOP filibuster on Kagan unlikely

Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan is unlikely to face a Republican attempt to block a final vote on her confirmation but should expect difficult questions from lawmakers who will decide whether she deserves the lifetime appointment despite having no judicial experience, the Senate’s second-ranking Republican said Sunday.

“The filibuster should be relegated to the extreme circumstances, and I don’t think Elena Kagan represents that,” said Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican and a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. A filibuster is a legislative maneuver used in the Senate to delay a final vote on a measure.

The committee chairman, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, said he hoped to have Ms. Kagan on the bench this summer, succeeding retiring Justice John Paul Stevens, well ahead of the new term that begins in October.

Republican senators are placing great weight on her testimony in determining the fate of President Obama’s second nominee for the high court. At issue is her lack of a judicial paper trail.

Ms. Kagan is now solicitor general, the top government lawyer, who argues the administration’s cases before the Supreme Court, and was dean of Harvard Law School. But she has never been a judge.


Pelosi issues new rules for travel

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has issued new rules requiring House members to fly tourist class on most official trips abroad and reminding them that souvenirs must come out of their own pockets and not those of the taxpayers.

Mrs. Pelosi, in a letter to committee chairmen, makes clear that lawmakers and their staff will be allowed to book only business-class seats on flights of more than 14 hours.

She says that any per-diem provided to lawmakers on official trips must be used for official purposes — not personal purchases — and that if there is any money left, it must be returned to the Treasury.

Mrs. Pelosi says she wants to improve transparency and accountability with the new rules, which come as Congress tries to clean up its image before midterm elections.


First lady tells grads: Keep giving

First lady Michelle Obama challenged George Washington University graduates at their commencement Sunday to “keep giving” through community service work and to “keep engaging” with the world.

Mrs. Obama spoke to about 5,000 graduates and their families at the ceremony on the National Mall. She agreed to be their speaker after students, faculty and staff met her challenge to complete 100,000 hours of community service.

“I have one more request to make of you, one more challenge,” Mrs. Obama said during her speech. “Keep going. Keep giving. Keep engaging.”

Graduates in black robes cheered as Mrs. Obama spoke with the Capitol behind her. The university said that 163,000 hours had actually been worked. Mrs. Obama noted many of the accomplishments: improving a Washington school, visiting with veterans, teaching English to refugees and shoveling snow during a record winter snowstorm.

But she urged students to continue the work, both in the United States and abroad. She said serving would make “the world safer” and make the students “more competitive.”


Trade panel OKs case versus China

A U.S. trade panel Friday approved a Commerce Department investigation that could lead to duties on hundreds of millions of dollars of aluminum goods from China.

The U.S. International Trade Commission voted 6-0 that there was enough evidence that U.S. producers of aluminum “extrusions,” used in the auto industry and other sectors, have been harmed by the imports to proceed with the probe.

The United States imported more than $500 million of the goods from China in 2009. The Commerce Department launched its investigation last month after receiving a petition from U.S. producers complaining of unfair Chinese practices.

The manufacturers have asked for anti-dumping duties of roughly 33 percent to offset what they says are below-market prices on the Chinese-made product. They also want additional duties to offset Chinese government subsidies.

The Commerce Department will set preliminary duties in coming months and final duties within a year or so. The ITC will vote a second time and could strike down any duties.


Obama thanks cops for risking lives

President Obama is thanking the nation’s law enforcement officers for risking their lives to keep Americans safe.

The president on Friday honored more than two dozen officers who won “Top Cop” awards for unusual bravery in taking action beyond the call of duty.

In the White House Rose Garden, Mr. Obama said the award winners represent thousands of officers who serve without accolades. He said his administration is committed to spending more money to hire new police officers and equip and train them well.


CEO to testify at coal mine hearing

The head of Massey Energy Co. will face lawmakers next week for the first time since an explosion killed 29 workers at his company’s Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia.

Massey Chief Executive Don Blankenship will testify before a Senate subcommittee considering mine-safety spending after the worst mine accident in 40 years.

Mr. Blankenship’s company was repeatedly cited for problems with its methane-ventilation system and other issues in the months before the accident.

Some lawmakers blame the company for clogging the system with legal challenges to safety citations to delay stronger penalties. Massey has defended its safety record.

The hearing will include testimony from the nation’s top mine regulator and the Labor Department’s top lawyer.


Obama: Feds ready for ‘catastrophic’ spill

President Obama says it’s unclear how much oil is leaking into the Gulf of Mexico, but the government is prepared to handle a potentially “catastrophic event.”

Mr. Obama said Friday that no one knows exactly how much oil is leaking because human inspectors cannot reach the mile-deep wellhead.

He said he would not rest until the leak is stopped, the oil is contained and cleaned up, and people of the Gulf region resume normal lives.

Mr. Obama spoke in the Rose Garden after discussing the oil spill with Cabinet members.


Beef in schools get new standard

Students will be eating safer beef in school cafeterias when they return to school in the fall.

The Agriculture Department announced Friday that the government will require higher standards for ground beef purchased for schools starting in July. The standards will force producers to test the beef for contamination more often and will prohibit certain trimmings from being used.

USDA, which oversees the school-lunch program and coordinates food purchases with schools, will also prohibit the purchase of beef produced on the same day that E. coli O157 or salmonella is found through testing at a plant.

The department announced in February that the National Academy of Sciences will review the government’s beef purchases.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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