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Impeach Bush

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 Americans Discount Tax Cuts
 US Deals with Terrorists *
 Speaker to Fight EU Tax
 Bush Bans Cloning *
 A New Balanced Budget Amendment
 U.S. Slaps Penalty on Canadian Lumber Shipments
 Legal Experts Question Military Tribunals *
 Bush Oil Drilling Plan Facing Senate Defeat
 Enron spent $2.5 million to lobby Bush
 Welfare jobs and minimum wage
 Bush Fires Army Corps Chief

By WILL LESTER, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - Four in five Americans in an Associated Press poll say they feel that tax cuts generally benefit someone else, a sentiment they hold even after 86 million tax rebate checks worth almost $40 billion were mailed last year by the Bush administration.

A substantial majority, 72 percent, also said they would vote for a congressional candidate who supports a balanced budget over one who prefers tax cuts, according to the poll conducted for the AP by ICR of Media, Pa., a few weeks before the annual mid-April deadline for filing taxes.

"I don't think tax cuts are helping any of us very much," said Betty Perry, a 75-year-old retiree from Spokane, Wash. "I don't know if we ever see them."

The number who said tax cuts generally benefit somebody else, 80 percent, is higher than the 61 percent who said in a September 2000 survey that they felt that way about "targeted tax cuts."

During the presidential campaign, George W. Bush repeatedly said tax cuts should include everyone, and the administration worked hard to draw the public's attention to last year's mailing of tax rebate checks.

The public also is decidedly more sympathetic to congressional candidates who place a higher priority on balancing the budget than they do on cutting taxes ---- with three-fourths preferring the budget-balancers and only a fourth supporting the tax-cutters.

"As the (baby) boomers get toward their older years, Social Security and Medicare are going to become more important to us," said Dave Tipple, 52, a graphic designer from Columbus, Ohio. "If we keep deficit spending, it will put all that in jeopardy."

Congressional leaders apparently are aware of public sentiment on the issue. GOP leaders expressed worries this winter about the reaction of voters in November if lawmakers do not pass a balanced budget. Both parties are looking for approaches that would balance the budget, while dealing with numerous spending pressures.

A year ago, a third of Americans thought their taxes would not go down at all as a result of the tax cuts proposed by President Bush (news - web sites). More than half say now their taxes will not go down at all even after Congress passed tax cuts. The telephone poll of 1,008 adults was taken March 22-26 and has an error margin of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Half the Republicans say they expect their taxes to go down, while a third of Democrats and about four in 10 independents feel that way.

Republicans were three times as likely as Democrats ---- by 27 percent to 8 percent ---- to say tax cuts were aimed more at them and not someone else. Just over one in 10 independents felt that way.

"They're going in the right direction if they're cutting taxes," said 42-year-old Monique Maddox, an insurance agent from Cumming, Ga., who usually votes Republican. "If it's a true tax cut, it would help people."

Lee Long, a 29-year-old highway department worker from Sparta, Mo., said he wants politicians to strike a balance between cutting taxes and balancing the budget.

"I think they've got to do both," he said. "They've got to keep the budget in balance, but they've got to help the people now and then."

Six in 10 expect to get a tax refund this year, about the same number who expected one in AP polls in recent years.

Additionally, just over half said they were unwilling to give up deductions to simplify the tax system, while a third were willing to give up some. About six in 10 adults from ages 18 to 44 were willing to give up deductions, while just over four in 10 adults over 45 were willing to make the trade-off.

"I would trade some deductions if they gave me the option," said Tipple, the Ohio graphic designer. "A flat tax would be the best thing that ever happened."

Despite efforts to give everyone a stake in tax cuts, the public apparently still has doubts about who's getting the most help, the poll suggests.

Commentary:
72% of Americans's clearly oppose conservatism, their deficits, tax cuts and spending. That's gotta hurt.


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US Deals with Terrorists *
Reuters.com

By Charles Aldinger

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States recently took part in an abortive $300,000 attempt to ransom two American hostages held by radical Muslim rebels in the Philippines, a senior U.S. official said Thursday.

The official, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters the move was made despite objections from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

The official did not make clear exactly who made the payment under the auspices of Washington "several weeks ago."

The Muslim guerrilla group, Abu Sayyaf, is said to be demanding $2 million for the release of American missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham, who were kidnapped from a tourist resort off Palawan island in May 2001.

"He [Rumsfeld] spoke out pretty forcefully against it, the official told Reuters, confirming broadcast reports by ABC and NBC of the ransom attempt.

A senior U.S. Defense official refused to comment on any such deal, but noted that Rumsfeld has recently supported Washington's long-standing prohibition on ransom payment.

The United States government has for years stood publicly against paying ransom for hostages on the premise that such payments encouraged capture for ransom.

But Bush administration officials in a recent policy adjustment appeared to leave the door open to payments in some cases.

The State Department announced in February a change in policy on kidnappings making a subtle change in the wording on ransom.

ABC and NBC, citing unnamed sources, reported that the U.S. government helped arrange a ransom payment of $300,000 in private money that was given to an individual about a month ago. The reports said U.S. officials had not been able to verify whether the money had been passed on to Abu Sayyaf.

ABC said the payment was turned over to a person who claimed to have ties to Abu Sayyaf, a rebel group linked by the United States to the al Qaeda network of Islamic dissident Osama bin Laden, prime suspect in the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

The Abu Sayyaf has demanded a ransom of $2 million for the Burnhams.

Asked about the reports, a State Department spokeswoman said there were ongoing efforts to free the Burnhams, who were kidnapped from a tourist resort in May 2001.

"The United States continues to work closely with the government of the Philippines in its effort to secure the safe release of the hostages and to bring the kidnappers to justice," said State Department spokeswoman Eliza Koch.

U.S. special forces in the Philippines are currently training local troops in counterterrorism to help defeat the Abu Sayyaf.

Commentary:
You'd think after Reagan's Iran/Contra and his weapon deals with terrorists, plus the terrorist attack on the US Bush would be convinced that you can't deal with terrorists. Giving aid and comfort to our enemy is treason.

On this day, Mr. Bush becomes eligible for articles of   impeachment and removal from office for violating Article 3, section  3  of the Constitution.


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House Speaker Ready to Fight EU Tax Sanctions
Reuters.com

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - House Speaker Dennis Hastert on Thursday declared he was ready to "stand and fight" to defend U.S. tax policy in the face of possible European Union trade sanctions over American tax breaks for exporters.

Hastert, clearly angered by the European challenge, said it made the hair stand up on the back of his neck.

"My hair bristles on the back of my neck when we have Europeans tell us how to run our government," Hastert told reporters in a briefing at the Capitol when they asked about the tax dispute. "We fought a revolution several years ago to make sure we could have some independence.

"When they try to manipulate how we run our country and how we tax our people to give them an economic advantage in the world, I think it's unacceptable," the Illinois Republican said.

U.S. Treasury officials warned Congress Wednesday that the European Union could impose trade sanctions on billions of dollars of American goods as early as May in a trade case involving U.S. tax breaks for exporters such as Boeing Co. and Microsoft

In testimony before a House tax policy panel, the Bush administration repeated its view that major changes must be made to the U.S. corporate tax code to comply with a Jan. 14 World Trade Organization decision.

While Hastert clearly did not like the idea of changing tax policy to accommodate the Europeans, he did not offer a solution when a reporter asked him to do so.

"We'll work that out in Ways and Means," he said, referring to the House tax-writing committee.

"We may have an economic revolution, but I will stand and fight for our rights and especially the French or anybody else who wants to tweak this country's policies.

"I think we need to be very very plain that we're not going to be played around with by the bureaucracy of the European Union."

The EU's challenge of U.S. tax breaks for exporters dates back to the Clinton administration. A WTO panel is to decide by April 29 on the amount of sanctions the EU could impose in the trade spat.

Commentary:
The EU warned the US that if we put up tariffs to protect our steel, they'd react. Now that they react, Hart and other republicans are in a tizzy. Maybe free-trade is better than all this huffing and puffing.


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Bush Bans Cloning *
Reuters.com

By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - In a speech evoking images of embryo farms, custom-made children and desperate women pressured into selling their eggs, President Bush urged the Senate on Wednesday to outlaw all forms of human cloning.

Saying human cloning had moved from science fiction into science, Bush pressed for a ban not only on cloning aimed at producing a baby but on techniques aimed at helping patients grow their own tissue transplants.

His opinion clashes with that of many in the scientific community, which has broadly backed research using cloning techniques, but Bush said he had moral authority on his side.

"As we seek to improve human life, we must always preserve human dignity," Bush said in a White House address. "And therefore we must prevent human cloning by stopping it before it starts."

To allow cloning would be to move toward a society "in which human beings are grown for spare body parts and children are engineered to custom specifications -- and that's not acceptable."

Bush praised a bill sponsored by Kansas Republican Sen. Sam Brownback and Louisiana Democrat Mary Landrieu that would ban all forms of cloning, including somatic cell nuclear transfer, the method used to make cloned sheep, mice and pigs.

It involves clearing the nucleus from an egg and replacing it with the nucleus from an adult cell, which can program the egg to start dividing as if it had been fertilized by a sperm. If implanted into a womb, the embryo can grow into a baby.

Also called therapeutic cloning, many scientists want to experiment with this method to see if it offers a source of embryonic stem cells, which have the potential to become any kind of cell in the body. They say the initial ball of cells is only technically an embryo and is in no way destined to become a human baby.

RIVAL BILL GETS BIPARTISAN SUPPORT

Senators who support therapeutic cloning said on Wednesday they were teaming up with a bill to rival Brownback's that would outlaw reproductive cloning -- meant to create a living baby -- but allow therapeutic cloning.

Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Arlen Specter and Democratic Sens. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, Dianne Feinstein of California and Tom Harkin of Iowa said they would combine two existing bills into one and try to drum up support for it.

"It would be unconscionable for Congress to prohibit medical research that offers hope to so many people with crippling and often incurable diseases," Feinstein said.

"Ideology has no place when it comes to medical science," Specter told reporters. "There have been attempts by government to stifle science. Galileo was imprisoned because he followed Copernicus who said the world was not flat."

The House of Representatives has already passed a comprehensive ban on all forms of cloning. To become law, a bill must be passed by both the House and Senate and then signed by the president. Bush says he will veto any bill that allows any kind of human cloning.

"Do we impede progress in some of the most debilitating diseases known to man or do we allow research to go forward as long as we ban human cloning?" Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle asked, adding that he is certain of at least 51 votes to support the Specter bill.

"The president wants to ban it all and I think he's wrong and I think the American people are on our side."

Brownback says he has 29 co-sponsors. "This issue must be addressed by the Senate before the technology overtakes the debate," he told a news conference.

Forty Nobel laureate scientists, including leading genetic and cancer researchers, released a letter on Wednesday urging support of legislation that would allow therapeutic cloning.

"Senator Brownback's legislation ... would have a chilling effect on all scientific research in the United States," they wrote.

Commentary:
So much for less government. I'd like to see where in the Constitution we've given the president or congress the power to decide what research is done in this country. And where is it written in their holy grail that science is bad?

On this day, Mr. Bush becomes eligible for articles of   impeachment



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Lawmakers Seek to Revive Balanced Budget Amendment
Reuters.com

By Andrew Clark

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - With the United States again facing deficits for the first time in several years, a bipartisan group of lawmakers said on Wednesday they would try to resurrect the idea of amending the U.S. Constitution to require Congress to balance the federal budget.

The Balanced Budget Amendment was a staple of political debate in the mid-1990s, falling a single Senate vote short of adoption in 1995, but it faded from the scene as a booming economy fueled four straight years of budget surpluses through 2001.

The effects of the current U.S. economic recession, last year's tax cuts and the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks are expected to end that run this year however. White House and congressional budget plans project sizable deficits in 2003.

"We must spend whatever it takes to protect America in this time of crisis," said Oklahoma Republican Rep. Ernest Istook, who will introduce the legislation on Thursday with Texas Democratic Rep. Charles Stenholm. "But that's no excuse for loading up the budget with unrelated extra spending, or to continue deficit spending after we conquer this crisis."

The amendment, which would require approval by two-thirds majorities in the House of Representatives and Senate, would make it harder for the government to spend more than it receives in any year, except in times of war or national emergency.

Istook said the bill had already attracted 117 co-sponsors, including five Democratic fiscal conservatives.

SUPPORT UNCERTAIN

But while House leaders have in the past spoken in support of the effort, introduced unsuccessfully in the last three congressional sessions, they have not sought a vote on it.

"I don't know of any plans to bring it up," said a spokesman for House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois.

Opponents of the idea, who include Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota, also argue a constitutional amendment would unnecessarily restrict the ability to use fiscal policy to manage the economy.

The move comes with the 2003 congressional budget process in limbo. The House has cleared a $2.1 trillion budget funding President Bush's request for the largest defense buildup in two decades while curbing domestic spending.

But Democrats may not have the votes to move their competing budget, which would spend more than Bush in areas like education, health care and policing by eliminating his request for new tax cuts, through the closely-divided Senate.

"We don't know," Daschle told reporters on Tuesday. "We'll have to figure out when we get to the budget, but there are other issues that have some priority as well."

An impasse would raise the prospect that the House, Senate and White House will have to informally agree on spending levels for 2003. Congress has failed to agree on a budget only once before, in 1998.

Commentary:
Conservatives continue to argue the constitution is the reason for our deficits. Those who have half a brain know it's conservative policies that give us massive deficits. Bill where are you?


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U.S. Slaps Penalty on Canadian Lumber Shipments
Reuters.com

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Bush administration slapped duties on nearly $6 billion worth of Canadian softwood lumber on Friday after the collapse of marathon negotiations to end a U.S.-Canada trade dispute.

The duties -- averaging about 29 percent on imports of wood to build houses, kitchen cabinets and patio decks -- mark the second time in less than a month that Washington has taken action to shield a domestic industry from foreign competition.

On March 5, the United States hit some major foreign steel producers with tariffs up to 30 percent. Canada was exempted.

But as the U.S. lumber duties were being unveiled, Canada announced it was taking steps to ensure cheap steel imports do not flood its market as a result of the new U.S. tariffs.

In the lumber case, the United States accused Canadian provinces of unfairly subsidizing softwood, then dumping it at cheap prices in the American market. Canada denied the U.S. accusations, saying Washington is simply protecting a less efficient domestic lumber industry.

The U.S. Commerce Department issued its final decision on duties just as a seasonal upturn in U.S. construction activity gets under way and wood shipments from Canada intensify. Canada supplies about one-third of the U.S. softwood lumber market.

The levies were adjusted only slightly downward from the average 32 percent duties sketched out last year.

Countervailing duties, to discourage Canadian provinces from providing illegal production subsidies, were increased slightly in this final ruling, to 19.34 percent from 19.31 percent set last year.

Average anti-dumping duties were scaled back to 9.67 percent from a proposed 12.58 percent last year.

Six companies were at the center of the U.S. probe.

They face anti-dumping duties ranging from Weyerhaeuser Inc at 15.83 percent to West Fraser Timber Co Ltd at 2.26 percent. Abitibi-Consolidated was hit with a 14.6 percent duty, Tembec, 12.04 percent, Slocan Forest Products Inc was assessed 7.55 percent, and Canfor Corp was set at 5.96 percent.

CANADA SAYS DECISION 'OBSCENE'

Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien said he was "very disappointed" in the U.S. decision, but rejected the notion of retaliating against U.S. goods.

Canadian Trade Minister Pierre Pettigrew denounced the U.S. decision, calling the duties "obscene" and said they would have a deplorable impact on Canadian workers.

Just as predictably, American politicians representing lumber-producing states, including Sen. Max Baucus, a Democrat from Montana, praised the decision.

"The Commerce Department decision is a sound reflection of these facts -- Canada perpetuates unfair trade practices that distort the free market," Baucus said. "Commerce must act quickly to implement its decision," he said."

Attempts by the two countries to settle this trade dispute, which has been raging for at least two decades in one form or another, collapsed late on Thursday. President Bush and Chretien had urged negotiators to reach a deal to avert penalties against Canadian shipments, which account for a third of the American market.

Pettigrew said Canada would challenge the lumber duties before World Trade Organization or NAFTA panels, but has left open the possibility that Ottawa might return to U.S. negotiations in the future.

U.S. officials, keenly aware of Canada's status as their nation's biggest trading partner, sought to downplay the impact of the duties.

"We tried to use the final (duty) determination as an action-forcing event," said a senior U.S. official. "We want to press ahead as quickly as possible to reach a durable resolution of this dispute."

NEW HOME PRICES TO RISE?

U.S. lumber companies initiated the trade case, but a group of their customers, including giant Home Depot Inc., claim the duties may hike the price of a new home by $1,500.

The U.S. lumber industry challenged that figure, saying lumber comprises only 2.1 percent of new home costs and that recent record low lumber prices did not result in lower new home prices.

Under complicated rules for trade disputes, the U.S. International Trade Commission will hold a hearing on Tuesday and decide by early May on whether the U.S. lumber industry was injured or threatened by Canadian lumber exports.

A positive ruling by the commission could require Canadian firms to begin posting cash deposits by late May related to the duty rates. That money would be collected by the U.S. Customs Service and held until all litigation has ended in the case.

Commentary:
For a free trader Bush seems to find reasons not to support free trade. Bush like his father and Reagan before him talked about free trade but never practiced it as president. President Clinton however was a free-trader and the economy prospered.


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Legal Experts Question Military Tribunals *
An Impeachable Offense
Reuters.com

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has toned down its original plans for military trials for foreign terror suspects but legal experts said some of the rules announced on Thursday fell short of international legal norms.

The limited right to appeal, lack of civilian review and use of the death penalty were major areas of concern for U.S. military commissions that are likely to try Taliban and al Qaeda fighters captured in the U.S.-led war on terrorism.

"The overall architecture of the courts is likely to be problematic for many Europeans," said Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice.

However, he said the Bush administration had moved away from the "draconian" tone of the original order issued last November that was broadly criticized by U.S. allies.

The rules announced by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld on Thursday specified legal rights for defendants, including that suspects would be presumed innocent and a guilty verdict would require proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

"Let there be no doubt that commissions will conduct trials that are fair and impartial," said Rumsfeld, who shrugged off criticism. "There will always be critics," he said.

Under the rules, two-thirds of the military panel would be required to reach a guilty verdict and a unanimous verdict by the seven-member panel would be needed to impose the death penalty.

Most proceedings would be open to the media and defendants would be given a military lawyer or allowed to hire a civilian lawyer at their own cost.

APPEALS PROCESS QUESTIONED

Fidell praised these protections but questioned why the Bush administration would not allow defendants to take appeals to a higher court such as the Court of Appeals for Armed Forces, which is open to suspects convicted by court martials.

"It is a fact that the genius of the American military justice system has been civilian review at the top," he said, pointing out that after the Court of Appeals for Armed Forces, the ultimate arbiter was the Supreme Court in court martials.

Under the U.S. plan, a three-member review panel would be appointed by Rumsfeld and could include civilians temporarily appointed as officers.

"Everyone has a right to appeal to a higher court, which is something found not only in the international covenant on civil and political rights but also in the Geneva Conventions," said Vienna Colucci, an international justice specialist for the human rights group Amnesty International.

Colucci said it made no sense for a military official such as Rumsfeld, who had an obvious bias, to appoint such a panel.

But Yale law professor Ruth Wedgwood, who is currently at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, said she believed the process was fair and that significant civilian element had been included in the process.

"What these rules show is that this is not a hermetically sealed process," she said, pointing out that defendants also had the right to civilian counsel.

Colucci disagreed and said the commissions were "inherently discriminatory" in that foreign nationals were afforded a lower standard of justice than would be given to U.S. citizens.

For example, U.S. Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh was being tried in a federal court in Virginia, unlike fellow Taliban fighters held at a U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, who were likely to be tried by military commissions.

DEATH PENALTY AT ISSUE

Colucci said the use of the death penalty, strongly opposed in Europe, also went against international legal norms. "It's worth noting that in international courts, in ad hoc tribunals and even in genocide courts, they do not provide for the death penalty," she said.

Another area of concern was the indefinite detention of suspects, said Michael Noone, a law professor from Catholic University in Washington, pointing out that the British had used a similar tactic for Northern Ireland.

Several experts complained the rules were developed without consulting Congress first and that they should not be unilaterally decreed by the executive branch of government.

Robert Levy, a senior fellow with the Cato Institute, said the military order showed too little respect for separation of powers, a centerpiece of the U.S. Constitution.

Another difference from civilian courts will be that prosecutors will be allowed to introduce hearsay, a relaxation of evidence rules used in federal courts.

Noone and Fidell did not foresee international criticism of the use of hearsay, pointing out that this form of evidence was routinely admitted in many European courts.


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Bush Oil Drilling Plan Facing Senate Defeat
Reuters.com

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush's proposal to open a remote and pristine Alaskan wildlife refuge to oil drilling seems doomed in the Democratic-led U.S. Senate, a Reuters survey of lawmakers showed on Thursday.

Fifty senators, including five Republicans, said they are opposed to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, according to the poll.

Despite intensive lobbying by the Teamsters labor union, which favors drilling for the thousands of jobs it would create, only 40 senators surveyed by Reuters were willing to go on record in support of Arctic drilling.

Ten senators said they were undecided.

However, even if pro-drilling forces were able to win over all 10 undecided senators, they would still far fall short of the 60 votes needed to end a promised filibuster by Democrats opposed to opening the refuge.

Under the Senate's rules for dealing with controversial measures, 60 votes are needed in the 100-member chamber to cut off debate and allow a vote.

Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle said on Thursday he is ready to force a showdown on the matter when lawmakers return on April 8 from their two-week spring recess.

The vote looms as a key battle in the debate over U.S. energy policy as senators decide how to boost domestic energy supplies yet still protect the environment. It could also surface in the November election campaigns of some senators.

The refuge, which holds a potential 16 billion barrels of oil, is deemed critical by the White House to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign crude. Environmentalists and Senate Democrats want to keep the refuge closed to protect polar bears, migratory birds and wildlife.

The remote wildlife refuge, stretching over 19 million acres (7.7 million hectares), is located on Alaska's north coast. The U.S. government's Energy Information Administration said recently that it would take about two decades before crude oil from the Arctic refuge could reduce U.S. imports.

10 UNDECIDED SENATORS

If the Senate is able to pass a broad energy bill, it must still work out differences with energy legislation passed by the Republican-controlled House last year. The House bill won overwhelming support for drilling in the Arctic refuge, due in part to the strong lobbying arm of labor.

The Reuters poll showed five Democrats would cross party lines to vote for drilling. The same number of Republicans said they would go against their party and oppose drilling.

Republican vote counters said they expected to pick up eight or nine of the 10 undecided senators, but that still falls short of the number needed to get the issue to a vote.

Undecided lawmakers include two Democrats: Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Robert Byrd of West Virginia.

The undecided Republicans are John McCain of Arizona, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, Mike DeWine of Ohio, Richard Lugar of Indiana, John Ensign of Nevada, Sam Brownback of Kansas, Pat Roberts of Kansas and Strom Thurmond of South Carolina.

Analysts said McCain and Specter might cross party lines and vote against drilling.

"You just never know with McCain because he's a gadfly," said Andy Laperriere, a political analyst with the ISI Group. "Specter tends to be more liberal but the unions matter in his home state of Pennsylvania and he often votes with the Republican leadership in a pinch."

Other undecided senators in the spotlight are Democrats Lincoln and Byrd.

Lincoln, a first-term senator from Arkansas who has focused on farm issues, could come under pressure to go with her party and vote against drilling. "I don't plan on making a decision on (drilling) until it comes up for a debate," she said.

Byrd, a senator since 1959, represents the energy-producing state of West Virginia where labor unions are important.

The Teamsters, which sees the issue as a crucial vote for its interests, plans to step up lobbying during the two-week congressional break. "We will remember in November," said Teamsters President James Hoffa recently, referring to the Nov. 5 congressional election date.

Commentary:
Just recently Bush said the auto industry doesn't have to improve fuel efficiency from which we can assume we don't have an energy crisis. But, he still says we need more oil from Alaska, is this because we have an energy crisis? Is there anyone in this WH with a brain?


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Enron spent $2.5 million to lobby Bush
CbsNews.com/Reuters

(REUTERS) The collapsed energy trading company Enron Corp reportedly spent nearly $2.5 million lobbying the Bush administration in the first half of 2001, not $825,000 as it said in an earlier filing to Congress.

That's according to USA Today, which cites an amended lobbying report Enron filed with Congress earlier this month.

The newspaper says the firm spent at least $2.46 million on efforts to influence the White House, Treasury and Commerce departments and other agencies early in the term of President Bush, a top beneficiary of Enron campaign contributions.

The company initially reported spending $825,000 on Washington lobbying from January through June 2001. USA Today said Enron filed an amendment after a January analysis by the Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics, a campaign finance watchdog group, raised questions about the accuracy of the initial report.

The newspaper said the Enron amendment was not signed by anyone at the company but was filed with a letter from the firm's lawyer, Kenneth Gross. Gross was cited as saying that the remaining Enron employees found it difficult to compile definitive lobbying data after the firm's December filing for bankruptcy protection and mass layoffs.

"Unfortunately, virtually all the Enron employees who worked in the Washington, D.C., office are no longer with the company," Gross wrote.

Ten congressional committees, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department are investigating Enron's collapse, which destroyed thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in investor equity. An internal inquiry ordered by Enron's board alleged senior managers used off-the-books partnerships to hide losses, fool investors and enrich themselves.

Commentary:
In the scheme of things this is no biggy. With a president who lies as much as this one we can't expect more from those who support him.


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Welfare jobs and minimum wage law
latimes.com

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration is moving to allow states to place welfare recipients in jobs that pay less than the minimum wage--a reversal of federal policy that is sparking ire among public employee unions and advocates for the poor.

The White House idea is that such cut-rate jobs could provide work experience for many thousands of welfare recipients who have not moved into the labor force. Such work could take the form of community service, including tasks like cleaning up at parks and helping out in offices.

The Bush administration has concluded that this "supervised work experience" does not amount to a real-world job and should not be governed by the Fair Labor Standards Act, which sets the national minimum wage at $5.15 an hour, officials said this week. Some states, including California, have higher minimums.

"It's intended to give them some work experience and give them an understanding of work," said Andrew Bush, a welfare official in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "That is not something that should be subject to minimum wage laws."

The proposal is part of the administration's push to impose much stricter work rules on welfare recipients, as Congress reexamines the sweeping welfare overhaul of 1996. The law expires later this year, and political leaders are starting to debate how to change it, with initial disputes emerging on the work rules that states would be required to follow.

"You need to have a program that's very well-focused, and you need to have your clients very focused--and that focus needs to be on employment," said Bush, who heads the Office of Family Assistance.

The welfare rolls, which peaked at 5 million families in 1994, have dropped by more than 50%.

Today, 1 in 3 welfare recipients holds a job. The Bush administration wants to increase that figure significantly, to 7 in 10. But welfare recipients who seek to enter the work force face a weaker economy than in the booming mid- and late-1990s. In addition, many of the most readily employable welfare recipients found jobs during those robust years, in many cases leaving behind those with fewer job skills.

One way states could achieve the big gains sought by the White House would be to expand community service jobs for welfare recipients, creating opportunities for some of the hardest to place.

"What you're really trying to do is inculcate regular work habits and expectations," said Jason Turner, who formerly ran New York City's job program for welfare recipients.

Government has been in the business of creating jobs for many years, notably in efforts to help unemployed victims of the Great Depression in the 1930s. But the federal strategy of designing work experience in return for welfare checks is more recent, gaining attention in the 1990s when political leaders agreed to make the goal of work the centerpiece of welfare.

While the Bush administration would leave states various options to meeting its work requirements, it is placing a new emphasis on government-designed work experience.

But whether such jobs should pay less than minimum wage, as the Bush administration would allow, is stirring a debate over fair treatment of society's least able workers. Already, the White House proposal is starting a backlash among those who claim that sub-minimum-wage welfare jobs inevitably displace real jobs held by low-income workers. More broadly, critics argue, sub-minimum-wage jobs threaten to pull down wage levels and working conditions for other workers who toil at the bottom rungs of the wage ladder.

"Our view is that if someone is doing work, and they're a worker, they ought to be treated like any other worker," said Nanine Meiklejohn, a lobbyist for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees in Washington. She added that placing welfare recipients in jobs "shouldn't be used as an excuse to pay people sub-minimum wages."

"We will certainly fight it," she said of the Bush administration plan.

The Bush administration would require that most welfare recipients work for at least 24 hours a week. It also would tighten the definition of allowable work for those hours. For example, welfare recipients would no longer be able to count time spent in vocational education and job searches as substitutes for the 24-hour work requirement.

Given the tougher hurdles, some experts say states that spend less money for their welfare programs could face significant new pressures to create jobs for welfare recipients, particularly if the economy remains weak.

"Many states will have to consider creating or expanding [community service programs] to meet the new requirements," said Sheri Steisel, director of human services policy at the National Conference of State Legislatures.

In the past, scattered programs, including those in Wisconsin and New York City, emerged to provide public work activities for welfare recipients. In 1997 and again in 1999, the Clinton administration made clear that most such jobs--frequently referred to as "workfare"--were generally covered by federal laws on the minimum wage. Under the Clinton policy, which remains in effect, a person's welfare and food stamp benefits could be counted as the compensation. The Bush administration plans to use welfare reform legislation as the way to enact its minimum wage provision.

Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), who has introduced a major Democratic proposal on welfare reform, questioned in an interview whether the White House emphasis on publicly created work experience would ultimately benefit those who do it. As for sub-minimum wages, he said: "It's just not right. It's not fair to people involved that they should not have these protections."

California and other states are only just learning details of the Bush welfare plan, and few were prepared to give substantive reaction Tuesday. But Andrew Roth, a spokesman for the California Department of Social Services, said the state "would pay at least the prevailing minimum wage" of $6.75 an hour for such work.

In fact, relatively few states have established large public work programs for their welfare recipients, in part because the private economy generated so many jobs during the 1990s. Also, less-affluent states that tend to spend less on welfare programs would face difficulty in setting up large-scale work programs if they are required to pay minimum wages, some pointed out.

Community service jobs would be just one way that states could satisfy the stiffer work requirements proposed by the Bush administration. Private-sector jobs, publicly subsidized jobs and on-the-job training could meet the standards. According to one administration document, the minimum-wage provision applies to "supervised work experience" and "supervised community service."

At the same time, administration officials maintain that there are many ways a welfare recipient can enter the work force, with traditional private-sector jobs remaining a real possibility even in a weaker economy.

In a recent meeting with reporters, HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson maintained that the economy continues to generate many low-wage opportunities for welfare recipients, such as in health care. "I think there's plenty of opportunities like that in every state in America."

Commentary:
Any congressman or president who agree's with such nonsense should have his wages reduced to less than minimum wage for the rest of his term.


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Bush Fires Army Corps Chief
Washingtonpost.com

The sudden ouster of Army Corps of Engineers civilian chief Michael Parker prompted waves of outrage on Capitol Hill today, as members of Congress accused the Bush administration of firing their former colleague for telling the truth about the Corps budget.

Parker was forced to resign Wednesday after failing to defend President Bush's budget cuts for his embattled public works agency and publicly proclaiming his disdain for the Office of Management and Budget. At a budget hearing this morning, members of a House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee heaped praise on Parker for defending Corps projects in their districts and blasted OMB for trying to rein in the Corps and stifle dissent elsewhere.

Rep. Gene Taylor (D-Miss.) argued that Parker deserved a tickertape parade. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) denounced the "thugs" and "idiots" at OMB. Outside the hearing, Rep. Sonny Callahan (R-Ala.), chairman of the appropriations subcommittee overseeing the Corps, called Parker's ouster "a national tragedy." Sen. Christopher Bond (R-Mo.) said the move would only increase the resolve of Congress to jack up spending on the Corps. Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.) called it "one of the darkest hours in the 226 years of the Army Corps."

"I'm sure the thugs at OMB are happily gnawing on Mike Parker's bones," DeFazio said. "I think Congress may end up gnawing on their bones."

Parker did not return calls, and an OMB spokeswoman said Director Mitch Daniels did not want to "engage in name-calling." But the battle over Parker clearly foreshadows a nasty battle over Corps spending, which the Bush budget wants to slash by 12 percent. Earlier this week, Sens. Robert Smith (R-N.H.), John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) introduced a bill that would revamp the way the Corps does business, requiring independent reviews of all controversial projects and much tougher environmental standards.

Critics have accused the Corps of building wasteful and ecologically destructive pork-barrel projects, and an internal Pentagon investigation found that the Corps had a systemic bias toward large-scale construction projects. But Parker had argued that he saw no need for "fundamental changes" at the Corps, even though OMB had argued the opposite.

"As a member of Congress, a lobbyist and an administration official, Mike Parker was little more than a cheerleader for the Corps," said Steve Ellis, water resources director for Taxpayers for Common Sense. "Now the Bush administration has made it clear they will defend their budget proposal and embrace a more responsible role for the Corps."

Ellis was the only Corps opponent invited to testify Thursday morning. He was joined by officials from the American Coastal Coalition, which supports Corps beach-replenishment projects; Waterways Work, which supports Corps navigation projects; the National Association of Flood and Stormwater Management Agencies, which supports Corps flood-control projects, and two groups supporting Corps port-dredging projects. The subcommittee members made it quite clear that they support those projects, too, and resent OMB's efforts to stop them.

This morning, Rep. Nick Lampson (D-Tex.) argued for more spending for the Port of Houston. Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) wants to rebuild aging locks on the Monongahela River. Rep. Marion Berry (D-Ark.) proudly noted that he is president of the Mississippi Valley Flood-Control Association. Everyone who spoke suggested that OMB's cuts would not stand, and they praised Parker for pointing out the potential impact they could have on the national economy.

"This is a travesty," Berry said. "I am shocked and amazed."

Parker, an undertaker from Laurel, Miss., was elected to Congress as a Democrat in 1988. He switched to the GOP in 1995.

While there was plenty of criticism of Daniels and OMB, no one attacked President Bush by name.

"We all know Daniels isn't doing anything the president doesn't want him to do," said one GOP aide. "But it's a lot safer to attack Daniels. We're just punching at shadows here."

Commentary:
The congress appears to be afraid of Bush. Why? The era of poll driven presidencies is finally here. Without the polls Bush would be a sitting duck. Without the war, there would be no Bush presidency. The war must continue............


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