- - Tuesday, February 1, 2011


GOP to target EPA’s powers

In a sharp challenge to the Obama administration, House Republicans will unveil legislation Wednesday to ban the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act and expect to advance the bill quickly, aides said.

The bill would nullify all of the steps the EPA has taken to date on the issue, including a crucial finding that greenhouse gases constitute a danger to the public health and welfare and must be curbed.

In addition, it seeks to strip the agency of its authority to use the law in any future attempts to crack down on the emissions from factories, utilities and other stationary sources.

Many scientists say that carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping pollution contribute to global warming, and attempts at regulating them have been a major priority for President Obama, as well as for environmentalists. Critics argue the evidence is thin and that new rules will drive up the cost of business and cause the loss of jobs.

The officials who described the GOP plans did so on the condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to pre-empt the release of a draft measure prepared by the Energy and Commerce Committee, chaired by Rep. Fred Upton, Michigan Republican.


Democrats reject call to cut Israel aid

Six Senate Democrats are rejecting a deficit-driven proposal by freshman Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky to cut U.S. aid to Israel.

In a letter Tuesday to the top House Republicans on the Appropriations and Budget committees, the Democrats said aid to Israel, the only democratic nation in the Middle East, is imperative. They backed the $3 billion in foreign military assistance that the U.S. provides annually to Israel.

Mr. Paul said last week that the nation faces a fiscal crisis and argued that the U.S. can’t give money away, even to allies, as the debt grows.

Signing the letter were Sens. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Bill Nelson of Florida, Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.


Counsel named in Ensign case

The Senate ethics committee on Tuesday named a special counsel to investigate Sen. John Ensign, whose affair with a campaign aide led to a probe of the Nevada Republican’s attempts to find a lobbying job for the woman’s husband.

Named to the job was Carol Elder Bruce, a Washington defense lawyer specializing in white-collar crime. She has represented politicians in congressional investigations, served as an independent counsel and was a federal prosecutor in the nation’s capital.

Miss Bruce will conduct a preliminary inquiry, which will determine whether a higher-level review is warranted or whether the case should be dismissed. The ethics committee determines whether a senator violated standards of conduct.

The Justice Department previously dropped a criminal investigation of Mr. Ensign. The department had been looking into whether the senator conspired with staff aide Doug Hampton, the husband of the woman with whom Mr. Ensign was involved, to violate federal lobbying restrictions.

When Mr. Hampton found out about the senator’s affair with Cynthia Hampton, Mr. Ensign helped line up jobs for Mr. Hampton with campaign donors. Federal criminal law bars former Senate aides from lobbying in the Senate for a year after they leave their congressional jobs.

Mr. Ensign’s parents provided the Hamptons with $96,000 that they described as a gift. The Federal Election Commission has dismissed a complaint against Mr. Ensign over the payment.


Ex-aide to Kennedy convicted of theft

A former aide to the now-deceased Sen. Edward M. Kennedy was found guilty Tuesday by a federal jury of stealing more than $75,000 from the Senate by giving himself unauthorized salary and bonuses.

Ngozi Pole, Kennedy’s former office manager, was convicted on all five counts of wire fraud and a single count of theft of government property.

Each wire-fraud charge carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years and a $250,000 fine. The theft charge has a maximum prison sentence of 10 years and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is set for July 14.

As office manager, Pole, of Waldorf, Md., was responsible for sending staff salary and bonus information to the Senate Disbursing Office. Prosecutors said during the trial that Pole submitted false paperwork for unauthorized pay and bonuses from 2003 to 2007. Only Mr. Kennedy or his chief of staff were authorized to approve salary and bonus payments.

Pole covered up the excess payments he made to himself by providing false documentation to Kennedy’s chief of staff, prosecutors said during the trial.


Coleman to forgo new Senate bid

ST. PAUL | Republican Norm Coleman won’t seek a return to the Senate in 2012 in a Minnesota race that would have pitted him against Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

Interviewed on the online ABC “Top Line” program Tuesday, Mr. Coleman said he won’t run, rather that he would “leave that task to others.”

No one has formally stepped up as an opponent to Mrs. Klobuchar, who won her race convincingly in 2006.

Mr. Coleman served one term in the Senate, losing a nail-biter in 2008 to Democrat Al Franken. After a recount and court case, 312 votes separated the two.

Mr. Coleman heads up the American Action Network, a group that pumped millions of dollars into congressional races last fall to aid Republicans.

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