- - Thursday, October 13, 2011


Romney working state quietly for caucus upset

DES MOINES — Make no mistake: Mitt Romney is competing in Iowa.

After months of lying low in the leadoff caucus state, Mr. Romney is stepping up his public presence in Iowa with hopes of generating momentum for the follow-up New Hampshire primary.

It’s not the $10 million effort he waged in Iowa four years ago. Then, he finished second to surging social conservative Mike Huckabee, then governor of Arkansas. This time, Mr. Romney’s approach is gradual and includes keeping in touch with past supporters and targeting voters focused most on economic issues.

Mr. Romney’s team sees an opening in January’s Republican caucuses, given that influential evangelicals haven’t rallied around any one candidate. The former Massachusetts governor is scheduled to return to Iowa next week and is planning a conference call with thousands of GOP activists in coming days.


Lawmakers confirm gay woman as federal judge

Without Republican support, the Senate on Thursday narrowly confirmed an openly gay woman to become a federal judge in New York.

The 48-44 party-line vote made Alison Nathan, who has served as an adviser to President Obama, the third openly gay person confirmed to the federal bench. Ms. Nathan, 39, will serve on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Republicans said they opposed her confirmation because she indicated in a book that judges should consider foreign law in rulings on human rights law.

“Suffice it to say, I believe her record evidences an activist viewpoint,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Democrats praised Ms. Nathan’s work in the gay community. During the 2008 presidential campaign, she was a senior adviser to Mr. Obama. The next year, she was appointed an associate White House counsel, advising the president on judicial and legal affairs.

Ms. Nathan now serves as special counsel to the solicitor general of New York. She graduated from Cornell University and received her law degree there. She was editor-in-chief of the law review.


Agriculture panels suggest $23 billion in savings

The House and Senate agriculture committees are planning to suggest $23 billion in farm and nutrition savings over 10 years to the congressional supercommittee charged with reducing debt.

Concerned about major cuts, the top Democrats and Republicans on the two panels have been working together to find savings. Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, the top Republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee, confirmed the $23 billion figure Thursday.

Another member of Congress familiar with the negotiations said the agriculture panels are likely to recommend eliminating a $5 billion-a-year farm subsidy called “direct payments.” The member, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the talks, said the panels are also looking at cutting nutrition programs such as food stamps by about $4 billion, a small fraction of its $700 billion cost over 10 years.


Lugar opponent works to gain traction

The tea party movement’s best remaining hope for picking off an incumbent Republican in the Senate has boiled down to one state, Indiana, where six-term Sen. Richard G. Lugar still faces a challenge from the right.

Polls show Mr. Lugar is vulnerable, despite decades as one of the Senate’s foreign-policy experts. But the tea party candidate challenging him in the GOP primary, state treasurer Richard Mourdock, lacks Mr. Lugar’s heft and name recognition.

It looked for a time as if three longtime Senate moderates — Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, Olympia J. Snowe of Maine and Mr. Lugar — were in danger of challenges from the right. But the upstart campaigns in Utah and Maine have fizzled.

That leaves Mr. Mourdock, running for months with little attention, as the tea party’s best shot in the Senate.


LaHood says he’ll leave at term’s end

A spokeswoman for Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says the former Illinois Republican congressman will leave the Obama administration at the end of the president’s current term.

The spokeswoman, Jill Zuckman, said Mr. LaHood was asked about his intentions at a media luncheon Thursday. She said he gave no reason for his decision and hadn’t discussed his intentions with President Obama.

Mr. LaHood was congressman for 14 years until retiring in 2008, and a top aide to then-House Minority Leader Bob Michel before that.

He had a reputation in Congress as a moderate who tried to foster greater cooperation between Democrats and Republicans. While those skills made Mr. LaHood an attractive Cabinet choice, he has become better known as a plain-speaking advocate for safer driving and job-creating transportation projects.


Hearings set nationwide on children and violence

The Justice Department says a newly established Attorney General’s National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence will hold four public hearings around the country while drawing on the knowledge of 14 leading experts to help identify promising strategies for preventing the problem.

The task force is part of Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.’s Defending Childhood initiative and the panel’s co-chairman is former New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers manager Joe Torre, himself a witness to domestic violence as a child.

The first public hearing will be in Baltimore on Nov. 29-30 at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. Subsequent hearings will be in Albuquerque, N.M.; Miami; and Detroit.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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