- - Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Congress is taking its first look at problems voters had in November, including long lines that left many waiting for hours to cast ballots.

A rise in the use of provisional ballots delayed the results for days in some cases. And growing photo-ID requirements placed on voters by Republican-controlled legislatures in some states sparked intense partisan fights.

The Senate Judiciary Committee was to examine last month’s balloting during a hearing Wednesday on the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The law requires federal approval for election changes in all or parts of 16 states with a history of racial discrimination.

The panel’s chairman, Democratic Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, described the long lines and new tools for policing voter fraud as evidence of abusive practices intended to disenfranchise minority voters.


Boehner under fire on own website for ‘Plan B’ for ‘cliff’

House Speaker John A. Boehner is being savaged on his own Web page, with commenters fiercely denouncing him for proposing a plan that would see income-tax rates rise for the wealthy.

Mr. Boehner’s approach, which he labeled “Plan B,” would extend the lower Bush-era income-tax rates for all but those with incomes above $1 million, who would see their rates rise from 35 percent to the Clinton-era rate of 39.6 percent.

But in the open comments forum on the speaker’s official Web page, there is scant support for his move.

“John Boehner communicates as poorly as George W. Bush,” said commenter TruthPolice60, who said President Obama appears to be pushing Mr. Boehner around. “He is Obama’s ‘House boy.’”

Commenter Potvin said Mr. Boehner, who claims to have naturally dark skin, has instead been baking too long under artificial lights.

“Your tanning bed is frying your brain. Walk away from Obama. Now,” Potvin said.


It’s more of everything for 2nd Obama inaugural

Inaugural officials are planning more staff, signs and metal detectors to prevent the pedestrian jams that clogged the National Mall the first time President Obama was sworn in.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, who is chairing the committee in charge of next month’s swearing-in ceremony, said Wednesday one of the panel’s first priorities was to prevent the obstacles that many ticketholders faced in 2009.

The Third Street tunnel, where thousands of ticketholders were trapped in what became known as “the purple tunnel of doom,” is going to be closed.

Mr. Schumer, New York Democrat, announced other crowd-control plans, including more magnetometers to speed security lines and an increase in signs and personnel directing attendees. Committee staff also plans to monitor social media to detect logjams so officials on the ground can help.


Congresswoman seeking appointment to Inouye’s seat

HONOLULU — Rep. Colleen W. Hanabusa will apply for the Senate vacancy created by the death of Sen. Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii, her spokesman said Wednesday.

Ms. Hanabusa, 61, is the early favorite for the post, having won the endorsement of Mr. Inouye, a fellow Democrat.

Mr. Inouye said in a letter to Gov. Neil Abercrombie dated Monday that his last wish was for Ms. Hanabusa to succeed him. Mr. Inouye died that day from respiratory complications. He was 88.

On Thursday, Mr. Inouye will be the first person to lie in state at the Capitol Rotunda since President Gerald R. Ford.

Mr. Abercrombie will decide Mr. Inouye’s replacement. His spokeswoman, Louise Kim McCoy, declined to comment Wednesday on how much weight the governor might give to Mr. Inouye’s request in appointing his replacement.

Mr. Abercrombie will choose Mr. Inouye’s successor from a list of three candidates submitted by the state Democratic Party. The party’s central committee plans to meet Dec. 28 to select the candidates. The application deadline for prospective candidates is Monday. Under state law, candidates must come from the same party as the prior incumbent.

Ms. McCoy said Mr. Abercrombie has no plans to apply for the vacancy himself. Neither does retiring U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Akaka, who is supporting Hanabusa for the job, according to his spokesman.Whoever is appointed will have to stand for election in 2014.


Undersecretary being probed over providing info for film

The Pentagon says its top intelligence official, who has been mentioned as a possible candidate to be the next CIA director, is under investigation in connection with information he provided to makers of a movie about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

Pentagon press secretary George Little said Tuesday evening that the investigation of Michael Vickers is being conducted by the Pentagon’s inspector general.

Mr. Vickers is the undersecretary of defense for intelligence.

Mr. Little said Mr. Vickers only provided unclassified information to the makers of the movie “Zero Dark Thirty,” and that the session was arranged in July 2011 by the Pentagon’s office of public affairs.

Mr. Little said Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has full confidence in Mr. Vickers.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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