- - Sunday, November 21, 2010


Mullen: End policy on gays soon

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff supports Congress using its lame-duck session to end the ban on gays serving openly in the military.

Adm. Mike Mullen said he backs action before the new Congress in January - if that’s what it takes to end the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy as soon as possible.

A Pentagon report on the impact of lifting the ban is set for release Dec. 1. The Washington Post has reported that the study concludes the military can lift the ban with only minimal and isolated incidents of risk to the current war efforts.

Adm. Mullen told ABC’s “This Week” that he supports ending the ban because asking people to lie about themselves goes against the integrity of the armed forces.


Governor duties seen as changed

COLORADO SPRINGS | The new chairwoman of the National Governors Association is warning the largest group of new governors in U.S. history that the role of governor has changed dramatically over the past decade.

Christine Gregoire, a Democrat from Washington state, said at a summit for new governors Saturday they will have to deal with an unprecedented economic crisis and they need to have teams in place when they take office that are trained and ready to respond at all times to terrorism threats and emergencies.

She said the bitter campaigns are over and voters want bipartisan solutions to the major problems facing every state.

“We are at a historic time in our country. We put the elephants and donkeys aside and we’re prepared to govern,” she said.

This year, 29 new governors have been elected to take office. The last time there was a change of this magnitude was in 1920, when 27 new governors were elected.

The power also has shifted in governor’s offices nationwide - including territories - from 26 Republicans, 28 Democrats and one Independent to 31 Republicans, 21 Democrats and two Independents. Minnesota’s race is still too close to call.


GOP gathers to OK primary

McLEAN | Virginia Republicans have voted overwhelmingly to hold a primary in 2012 to nominate their U.S. Senate candidate.

By a 48-26 vote, the state GOP’s policymaking central committee approved the primary over a convention.

By lopsided votes, the committee also rejected proposals to charge delegates attending statewide Republican conventions up to $50, and to charge candidates for nomination filing fees in the thousands of dollars.

Republicans have quarreled among themselves for years in Virginia over whether to hold primaries or conventions to pick nominees.

Since the mid-1990s, many in the GOP have pushed for conventions, claiming that Virginia’s open primaries and lack of party registration allows Democrats to meddle in their nominations.


Michigan lawmaker to chair panel

Sen. Debbie Stabenow will become the next chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Ms. Stabenow will replace Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, who lost her bid for re-election this year. As chairman, she will oversee drafting of the next five-year farm bill, which is expected by 2012.

The Michigan senator is the fifth-ranking Democrat on the committee, but the senators who outrank her are all chairmen of other committees. North Dakota Sen. Kent Conrad had said he was considering the agriculture post but announced Friday he will keep his position of chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.

Agriculture is Michigan’s second-largest industry, and the state leads the nation in production of cherries and blueberries.


Contract talks for some workers

Negotiators for the U.S. Postal Service and the American Postal Workers Union agreed early Sunday to extend contract talks until noon Tuesday.

However talks with a second union, the National Rural Letter Carriers Association, ended in an impasse at midnight Saturday. The next step will likely be sending the matter to a third-party arbitrator to hammer out contract terms and work rules.

The employees of both unions will continue to work under the terms of their expired contracts. Federal law prohibits postal workers from striking when negotiations stall.

APWU President Cliff Guffey said he believes “there is still potential to negotiate an agreement.”

It was unclear what the sticking points were, but the USPS is trying to cope with huge revenue losses as more people and businesses shift away from traditional mail to digital communications.


Loans pivotal in keeping seats

Routed at the voting booth, House Democrats said Thursday they borrowed millions of dollars late in the campaign in a successful attempt to prevail in 15 or more competitive races.

In a postelection memo to the party’s rank and file, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Maryland Democrat, said moves by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in the final few weeks before the election had helped incumbent lawmakers win new terms in close races in Indiana, North Carolina, Georgia, California and elsewhere.

The memo did not address financial matters, but officials said the campaign organization ended the year owing $17 million on a line of credit.

It is common for major party political committees to borrow money and also to leave some bills unpaid at the end of a campaign, and the size of the DCCC’s total debt was not known. Paying it off represents a major challenge for party leaders as they begin turning their attention to the 2012 elections.

Republicans have gained 62 seats this fall, with a handful of races yet to be called. They will take control of the House in January, ending a four-year period of Democratic control.


Obama helps Biden with debt

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s effort to pay off campaign debt is getting a hand from his boss and former rival, President Obama.

The Federal Election Commission said Thursday that Mr. Obama for America, Obama’s presidential campaign with running mate Mr. Biden, can use leftover money to give Biden’s unsuccessful presidential primary campaign $138,000 to help it cover its bills.

An FEC audit shows that Mr. Biden’s campaign debts include an estimated $219,005 owed to the U.S. Treasury.

Auditors came up with that total after finding the Mr. Biden campaign accepted donations over the legal limit, failed to deal with refund checks that donors didn’t cash, and accepted illegal corporate help by paying less than it should have for a private plane flight.


Trial set in last Abramoff case

A former congressional aide is scheduled to go on trial in January in the last pending case from the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal.

Fraser Verrusio, a former aide to Alaska’s Republican Rep. Don Young, is accused of taking an all-expenses-paid trip to a 2003 World Series game from lobbyists at Abramoff’s firm.

Prosecutors say Mr. Verrusio then helped an equipment rental company represented by Abramoff’s team to get an amendment it wanted in a highway bill.

Twenty lobbyists, congressional figures and Bush administration officials have been convicted in the Abramoff investigation. A judge on Friday scheduled Mr. Verrusio’s trial to begin Jan. 25 in Washington.

The Justice Department will not comment on whether any more charges are pending. The last indictment was over a year ago.

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