Primary path clears for Bera-Lungren matchup

Democrats have, for the time being, averted a costly primary in Rep. Dan Lungren's (R-Calif.) district.

Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) Director Bill Slaton announced Monday that he will be ending his primary campaign against Dr. Ami Bera. Bera has been among the top fundraising challengers in the country, but Slaton was able to self-fund extensively.

Slaton said he will be supporting Bera.

From Slaton's e-mail to supporters:

Working to develop the new energy economy and the green jobs we need is the challenge I truly want to tackle. Consequently, I am ending my campaign for Congress and will turn my full attention to the tremendous opportunities facing SMUD and the alternative energy start-ups locating here.  

The window of opportunity for establishing our region as one of the nation's hubs for this emerging industry will not stay open long. We have to seize the momentum now.

This morning I shared my decision to withdraw from the Congressional race with Dr. Ami Bera and offered him my support. I wish him well and look forward to working with him on these issues when he is our next Representative in Congress. 

Slaton becomes the third candidate to drop out of the primary, joining Elk Grove City Councilman Gary Davis and 2008 nominee Bill Durston.


Gibbs: Despite research dispute, 'climate change is happening'

The White House on Monday made exceptionally clear that it wants nothing to do with the furor over documents that global warming skeptics say prove the phenomenon is not a threat.

Despite the incident, which rocked international headlines last week, climate science is sound, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs stressed this afternoon, and the White House nonetheless believes "climate change is happening."

{mosads}"I don't think that's anything that is, quite frankly, among most people, in dispute anymore," he said during Monday's press briefing.

Climate change skeptics have asserted over the past week that the publication of more than 1,000 private e-mails and documents once housed in the University of East Anglia's computer system refutes most modern global warming evidence.

The documents, unearthed by a blogger who hacked into Climate Research Unit's (CRU) private system, have since touched off an international debate over the veracity of those scientists' works.

But the dispute is proving especially troublesome for the Obama administration as it prepares to head to Copenhagen next week for a climate change summit -- a forum the president will attend.

Not only has the White House faced criticism from the left for offering too few concessions ahead of the meet, it is now fielding dissatisfaction from the right for participating in a summit sponsored in part by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) -- one of the research organs touched by the CRU spat.

"I think there's no real scientific basis for the dispute of this," responded Gibbs to questions about those scientists' credibility.

Nevertheless, congressional Republicans this week hope to ramp up their criticism of both global warming policy and the science that informs it.

Most vocal seems to be Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee. Inhofe demanded on Friday a hearing into the IPCC's research to determine whether it "cooked the science to make this thing look as if the science was settled, when all the time of course we knew it was not."

"[T]his thing is serious, you think about the literally millions of dollars that have been thrown away on some of this stuff that they came out with," he told reporters, noting it was "interesting" the e-mails surfaced before the Copenhagen summit.


Senate will hold hearing on new Afghan strategy

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday into President Barack Obama's military strategy in Afghanistan.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen will appear before the committee at 9:00 to discuss the Obama administration's new strategy.

Obama will lay out his strategy for U.S. troops in Afghanistan during a prime time address from West Point on Tuesday night. The president is expected to call for an increase in troops tied to a long-term strategy for the U.S. to leave Afghanistan.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday that the president ordered military commanders on Sunday night to begin implementing the strategy he'll outline tomorrow night.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, has been somewhat skeptical of the wisdom of a surge in U.S. troops.

“The key here is an Afghan surge, not an American surge,” the senator said on Sunday.


Reid: 'The next few weekends -- plural -- we will be working'

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) put colleagues on notice on Monday: Cancel your weekend plans, and be ready to work.

In a floor speech kicking off the chamber's healthcare debate, Reid said that the Senate would indeed be working around-the-clock to finish its health bill before the stated deadline of the Christmas holiday recess.

"The next weekends -- plural -- we will be working," Reid said. "There is not an issue more important than finishing this legislation."

The debate kicks off Monday in the Senate, and will feature dozens of amendments offered by members of both parties over the course of weeks.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said the debate should, in fact, last weeks, though he on Monday blamed the around-the-clock schedule on Democrats' intentness on finishing the legislation.

Reid said that senators have known for a while that they'd likely have to cancel their weekend plans.

"We're going to have to work Saturdays and Sundays," Reid said. "This crisis -- and it is a crisis -- is too central to our nation's health to not work."


Huckabee's Wikipedia page hijacked

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's Wikipedia page has been edited to include hostile remarks about his commutation of an individual suspected in the fatal shooting of four police officers.

Huckabee (R) granted clemency to Maurice Clemmons in 2000 who at the time was serving a 60-year sentence for burglary and theft of property. The now-37-year-old Clemmons is suspected in the shooting of four police officers in a suburb of Tacoma, Wash.

Huckabee has faced criticism from some who believe that he wrongly released a man who was convicted of five prior felonies at the time. Clemmons has since been charged with seven additional felonies in Washington state aside from the shooting.


The user, or users, also added "THE IDIOT" to Huckabee's photo caption.

Any Internet user can edit or write Wikipedia entries, it is not clear who edited the page under the site's revision history.

Huckabee is not the first politician to have unwanted information added to their page. The sites of Sens. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) on Jan. 20 were changed to say both had passed away.

Kennedy experienced a seizure the day of President Barack Obama's inaguration, the day the page was changed, but survived the scare. He died in August. Byrd, who is 92-years-old has experienced health problems all year but did not pass away.




Ensign: Resignation would take away resources from defeating Harry Reid

Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) rebuffed calls for his resignation, despite growing concerns that he may have violated congressional ethics rules in connection with his recently unearthed affair.

The senator, who will finish his term in 2012, claimed his absence would "split the resources" available to the party and hamper the GOP's ability to unseat fellow Nevadan, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D), in 2010.

{mosads}"I was elected to a six-year term by the people of Nevada, and I intend on serving that out," Ensign told a local radio station Monday morning, describing the affair he admitted to this June as "a huge mistake ... a terrible thing."

"A lot of people running for office next year, I've met them, and they want me to be involved in their campaigns," the senator added, championing what he said were his conservative credentials on fiscal policy and healthcare reform.

But a brief conversation about those two issues again brought Ensign and his interviewer back to discussing the 2010 election, at which point Ensign set his sights on Reid, who seems to be lagging recently in preliminary polls.

"One of the things people forget, if I resign, we have a second Senate race. For the people who want to beat Harry Reid, if you have a second Senate race in this state you take the attention off of Harry Reid," Ensign said, noting his departure would eventually trigger a special election to fill his seat. "I think that would hurt the conservative cause." 

It has nonetheless been a rough few months for Ensign, who has fought back numerous allegations that he violated congressional ethics rules in an attempt to downplay his 2008 affair with Cindy Hampton. At issue is whether the senator wrongfully helped her husband, Doug, solicit employment in exchange for his silence.

Doug Hampton, however, eventually took the story to Fox News, which prompted Ensign to pre-empt the news with his own admission of the affair.

The furor over Ensign's tryst has somewhat died down, and the senator said Monday he and his wife had reconciled and moved on. But lingering are the ethics charges that Ensign promptly dismissed during his interview.

"It's perfectly legal," he said of his behavior, adding he would supply investigators with all necessary information. "I complied with all Senate ethics rules and applicable laws.”


Republicans to hold ACORN forum

Congressional Republicans will hold a special forum on ACORN tomorrow to call attention to allegations against the controversial group.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), ranking member of the House Oversight and Goverment Reform Committee, and Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, will lead the discussion, along with fellow Republican on their respective committees.

Last week, the Justice Department issued a memo recommending that the federal government honor contracts established with ACORN before Congress voted to cut off funding to the organization.

Witnesses at the forum will include:

Gregory Hall—Former ACORN organizer and founder of Truth to Power          

David Caldwell—Deputy Director of the Criminal Division for the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office

Todd Rokita—Indiana Secretary of State

Hans A. von Spakovsky—Former Member of the Federal Election Commission and Senior Legal Fellow at the Heritage Foundation


Prince Albert II of Monaco visits Washington

His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco rubbed elbows Monday morning with Reps. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) and Howard Berman (D-Calif.) at the opening day of a week-long summit commemorating the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Antarctic Treaty.

It was an early morning for Prince Albert, who followed the two lawmakers' welcoming remarks with a keynote speech at 9:15 a.m. at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. The multi-lateral Antarctic Treaty, signed by 47 countries, designates the frozen South Pole continent for use only in the peaceful pursuit of scientific knowledge.

After the morning conference, Prince Albert headed town to address a lunch at the National Press Club at 12:30 p.m.


Poll: GOP divided on state of their party

Republicans hold overwhelmingly negative views of President Barack Obama, but many are unsure about the state of their own party, a new WaPo poll shows.

Eighty-nine percent of voters who lean Republican are dissatisfied with the president, with 46 percent calling themselves "angry."

But GOPers aren't in agreement about whether their party has taken the right path in countering the president.

Just 49 percent of Republicans think their leaders are taking the party in the right direction. That's down from 76 pecent four years ago.

A majority of Republicans — 56 percent — say GOP lawmakers should work with Democrats, while 41 percent say they should concentrate on opposing the Democratic agenda.

And while conservative actvists have been waging a battle against party centrists, a full 69 percent of Republican voters say it's OK for a candidate to take centrist positions. Twenty-seven percent say a candidate should only take conservative positions.

Finally, there's no clear front-runner to lead the party. Eighteen percent of Republicans say Sarah Palin best represents their values, compared to 13 percent for McCain, 7 percent for Huckabee and 6 percent for Romney.


Durbin says Dems won't let abortion divide sink health bill

Democratic leaders won't let the Senate's health reform effort stall on the issue of abortion, Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) asserted Monday.

Durbin says that as the Senate begins debate on its healthcare bill today, senators would look to reach some "common ground" on the issue of federal funding of abortions.

"We've got to find a common ground here," Durbin said during an appearance on KTRS radio in St. Louis. "We cannot let this important issue hit the rocks over abortion."

{mosads}Some centrist Democrats -- most notably Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) -- have said the Senate bill fails to go far enough to ensure taxpayer dollars don't fund abortions. And with Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) still working to cobble all 60 Democrats together to support a final bill, Nelson or another centrist's recalcitrance could threaten the bill's prospects for final passage, barring some changes.

Durbin explained that abortion, along with the inclusion (and scale of) a public health insurance plan in the bill would be the two major issues facing the Senate in the weeks of debate to come.

"If we can't draw the votes for the public option," Durbin said the question then facing Democratic leaders becomes: "What will the most conservative members of the Democratic caucus accept, if anything?"

The second-ranking Senate Democrat said that the amendment process would bear out some answers on those issues, and that Senate leaders would welcome amendments "as long as they're being offered in good faith with an option to vote."

But, Durbin cautioned, "We have an end date here," adding that the Senate still aims to finish work on its bill by the Christmas holiday recess.