Friday, April 28, 2006

Kean and Menendez Still Looking Close in NJ Senate Race

According to a Quinnipiac University Poll of registered voters, incumbent Bob Menendez has a 6-point lead over challenger Tom Kean (Jr.) in this year's New Jersey Senate race. The actual poll data is available here.

It's truly amazing that Kean is this close in a state where 69% of voters disapprove of the job Bush is doing as President, and where 39% want all US troops withdrawn from Iraq. My incredibly insightful observation is that Kean is likely to continue to try to distance himself from the President for the remainder of the Senate race.

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I'll Get this Round

Michelle's post from Los Angeles, combined with the insane actions of the California legislature, make me thing it's time for a drink. This is something our of Homer Simpson's dreams, and it works for a host of settings. Get your own here.

I think it's already in widespread use.

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So Two Nurses and a Traveling Salesman...

save the life of a heart-attack victim. Talk about right place, right time.

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AQ and Hezbollah on the Southern Border

Blogger and independent researcher Thomas Joscelyn posts a must-read on the terrorist threat along the southern border.

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More on Moscow and the Iran Crisis

Here's an interesting article on a proposed civilian nuclear energy agreement between the United States and Russia and the potential that it might encourage Russia to curtail nuclear cooperation with Iran.

I certainly applaud the concept. Approaching Russia as a potential partner is likely to get more results than lecturing them at the Security Council. And at this point the United States could use all the energy cooperation it can get, regardless of the Iran crisis.

However, I have to say I'm skeptical. Not because it's a bad idea, but because I'm not sure we're offering very much. As one source said:

"It would provide a foundation for greater (U.S.-Russia) cooperation but
doesn't commit the sides to any particular project and could be a way of
demonstrating to the Russians how much larger our market is than what exists
in Iran,"
Clearly, the United States is a much larger potential market for nuclear cooperation, but unless I missed something, my understanding is that public opinion and government regulations still make the United States a pretty unfriendly place for the nuclear power industry.

It's easy to scoff a these sorts of initiatives so I'm hesitant to just dismiss it. An agreement like this can have real benefits in the long run, but in this case I'm doubtful that long term potential benefits can compete with Russia's desire to maintain her influence in the Middle East.

Russia is certainly not above playing both sides of the street. This week Russia launched an Israeli spy satellite meant to monitor Iran's nuclear program. It's that willingness to play both sides that convinces me Russia's goal isn't to support Iran per se but rather to reestablish herself as a major diplomatic actor in the region. The undefined benefits of civilian nuclear cooperation with the United States are unlikely to change that.

Points North: Freedom Tower and Self Serve

It's been my experience that a great many DC residents are just former New York and New Jersey residents. Therfore, I hope that many around the DC area will be happy to hear that the Empire State is finally getting down to work it should have begun four years ago and the Garden State is considering doing something it should have done twenty five years ago.


Did the best show on TV just take that first step on the way to jumping the shark? I'm not sure. Obviously starting a second series could dilute the franchise. But the people behind Battlestar Galactica have demonstrated a lot of talent so far, particularly with the overall vision and their ability to weave multiple plotlines. They may be able to handle a second storyline.

Have a Happy International Socialist Workers Day!

Or Soviet May Day Parade! Or Illegal Immigration Rationalization Day! Or whatever they're calling it nowadays. After all, what's in a name? That which we call a path to citizenship, by any other word would still smell like amnesty.

All snarky kidding aside, I don't see the logic of trying to "close cities". This is either going to fizzle or it's going to succeed in disrupting peoples' lives. And if it succeeds in disrupting peoples' lives it will just convince that many more people that the time has come to draw the line.

I guess the silver lining is that if they do succeed in shutting down some cities, people will use less gasoline.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

House of Representatives to Debate Iraq War

The Hill reports that because of Republican defections, the House will be forced to debate a resolution on the Iraq War:

House will debate Iraq
By Alexander Bolton

House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) told Republican colleagues yesterday that they will have a full and lengthy floor debate on the Iraq war, a dramatic change of course for GOP leaders who had previously resisted Republican and Democratic calls for such a debate.

Four House Republicans have signed a Democratic-sponsored discharge petition that would begin 17 hours of debate over Iraq on the House floor. The Republicans signed on because GOP leaders had ignored their requests for a debate, said Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.), one of the four mavericks.

Boehner told colleagues about his plan for debate on Iraq yesterday morning during a closed-door meeting of the Republican Conference that was mostly devoted to discussing soaring gas prices. Boehner’s remarks, which were unexpected, caused a hush to fall over the audience, said Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R-Md.), who attended the meeting and is one of the four GOP signatories to the Democratic discharge petition.

In an interview, Jones confirmed that Boehner promised a “lengthy debate on Iraq” during yesterday’s meeting.

House Republicans have clearly been trying to avoid this debate, and that's no surprise. Elected officials are primadonnas, and they don't want to be put on the record defending the President's policies. Plus, Republicans as well as Democrats will have to work hard to come up with a statement of what they believe about Iraq.

But that said, I think this is more positive than it is negative. Right now Congressional Democrats are having a lot of fun criticizing the President for every aspect of the Iraq action; this would force them to actually say what they favor and what they oppose.

In fact, reading the resolutions that Democrats have introduced is very instructive. Neil Abercrombie's resolution (which was introduced last June) includes the following findings:

(9) The armed forces of Iraq number more than 76,000 troops as of June 8, 2005, and are growing in number and capability daily.

(10) The forces of the Iraqi Interior Ministry number more than 92,000 personnel as of June 8, 2005, and are growing in number and capability daily.

(11) The United States has in place a timetable for training, equipping, and employing Iraqi security forces to take over the counterinsurgency mission from coalition forces.

Did you know that Neil Abercrombie and 66 of his colleagues are so upbeat about Iraq? Anyway, Abercrombie also wants to make sure that the President:

[takes] all necessary steps to ensure the completion of Iraq's political transition to a constitutionally elected government by December 31, 2005, as called for in United Nations Security Council Resolution 1546 (2004), which was supported by the United States.

Had you realized how supportive of the President Neil Abercrombie is? And he is one of the most liberal members of the House. (Of course, that's not saying much, because House Democrats are so far to the left that half of them qualify as 'among the most liberal').

The only major difference between the Abercrombie position and the White House is this:

to initiate such a withdrawal as soon as possible but not later than October 1, 2006.

Abercrombie wants us to tell the insurgents when we're leaving.

John Murtha has another of the Democrats' resolutions on Iraq. It says:

SECTION 1. The deployment of United States forces in Iraq, by direction of Congress, is hereby terminated and the forces involved are to be redeployed at the earliest practicable date.

SEC. 2. A quick-reaction U.S. force and an over-the-horizon presence of U.S. Marines shall be deployed in the region.

SEC. 3. The United States of America shall pursue security and stability in Iraq through diplomacy.

This is currently the main Democratic alternative to whatever Republicans come up with. And if I were they, I would not lead with it.

In the House, there is a longstanding tradition of trying to show up the other side through resolutions like this. However, the language is typically so broad that the other side - if they are sensible - will realize that they can simply vote 'yes.' Eg, all House Democrats voted for the vague, feel-good resolution that House Republicans advanced to embarrass Cynthia McKinney after she punched a cop (oops! - allegedly punched a cop, right?)

Anyway, House Republicans are going to be able to draft a resolution that looks a lot like this one. And if Democrats insist on the language 'terminating the deployment,' they can fairly be characterized as wanting to cut and run. Even they realize that's not a winning position - as they showed when they voted 187-3 against a resolution to terminate the deployment in Iraq, last November.

Now that's just my idea off the top of my head. The House leadership will have more time to craft a resolution that makes things difficult for the Democrats, and they will also schedule it for a vote at the most politically advantageous time.

This is likely to wind up a debate full of sound and fury, signifying... very little.

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Kavanaugh Nomination Delayed

National Journal reports this afternoon that the Senate Judiciary Committee delayed their consideration of the Kavanaugh nomination to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. The account is a little unclear. Is Specter willing to hold the hearing that the Democrats want, or not? It sounds like no, but it's a little unclear.

All-in-all, a disappointment. They should get moving.

Judiciary. The controversial nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia was delayed today as Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats demanded another hearing on the White House staff secretary. Senate Majority Leader Frist has served notice he wants the full Senate to take up the Kavanaugh nomination before Memorial Day, and is ready for an expected battle with Democrats. While Judiciary Chairman Specter put off a vote on Kavanaugh for a week, he refused to yield to Democratic requests for another hearing. Kavanaugh, 41, was first nominated to the court in 2003 and was given a hearing in 2004. But Judiciary ranking member Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said Democrats wanted to question Kavanaugh to determine what role, if any, he played in White House activity on warrantless surveillance, military abuse of prisoners and the bribery scandal involving lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Specter said he would hold a hearing if it were to be productive, but he doubted it would "shed any light" on the issues raised by Leahy. Democrats have accused Kavanaugh of lacking legal experience to sit on what has been called the second highest court of the land.

Confirm Them reports on the delay here.

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Was this trip really necessary?

If Nanman's economic evidence of consistent gasoline prcing doesn't make you feel better, keep in mind, it could always be, and occasionally has been, worse.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Are Gas Prices all that High?

Glenn posts a pair of great pieces that shed perspective on today's gasoline prices. The first points out that energy intensity is falling, and the second shows that once adjusted for inflation, gas prices have remained relatively steady over the last 30 years or so.

If that doesn't make you feel better the next time you fill up, then go in and pick up a six-pack, too.

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Roll Call: Senate Moving Ahead on Nominees

The Capitol Hill publication Roll Call reports today that Arlen Specter has given notice (subscription required) that the Senate Judiciary Committee will vote Thursday to send the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Senate floor:

Less than three hours later, Specter emerged from a meeting in Majority Leader Bill Frist’s (R-Tenn.) office and declared that there would be a committee vote Thursday on a quintessentially controversial nominee, White House Secretary Brett Kavanaugh. He was a deputy to Kenneth Starr during his tenure as independent counsel investigating the Clinton White House.

Specter predicted a “party-line vote” in favor of Kavanaugh, sending the nominee to the floor in what could be the first real showdown involving a potential Democratic filibuster since last May’s “Gang of 14” deal settled that issue. Kavanaugh, notably at the time, was not mentioned in that deal that averted attempts to end filibusters.

But, back in the committee Tuesday, there was no talk of filibusters or the “nuclear option.” There weren’t even any tough questions. Hatch did little more than ask the handful of nominees to introduce their families.

The great bulk of the article is about the non-controversial hearing the Committee held yesterday on other nominees.

It's good to see that Frist is moving forward on stalled nominees. As others have noted, the key now is to make sure that Frist guarantees that this debate receives the public attention it warrants, rather than becoming a late-night sideshow.

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"Good Morning, Senator Harris" Sounding Even Unlikelier

Readers know that I am an optimist when it comes to Republican chances this Fall. Even I can't spin the Florida Senate race, however. The Hill reports on more bad news for the Katherine Harris campaign:

Fla. Poll holds more bad news for Harris
By Andrew Barr

If retired Gen. Tommy Franks were to jump into the Florida Senate race, he would lead Rep. Katherine Harris by 4 percentage points in the Republican primary, according to a new poll of Florida voters conducted by Strategic Vision LLC, a GOP polling firm.

In a gracious move, the Hill avoides piling on. They save the real bad news for the last line:

The poll also shows Harris trailing Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson 56 percent to 24 percent in a potential general election.

Obviously this is bad news for Katherine Harris. It turns to terrible news if you read the poll, as only 21% of likely voters have yet to form an opinion of her, while 54% have a negative opinion. I'm not always great at math, but it's tough to win an election when your ceiling of support is 46%.

The only good news for Republicans is that other Republicans would have a chance in a race against Nelson. In fact, retired General Tommy Franks (is he a Republican?) ties Nelson in the poll.

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Republicans Helped on Immigration

After finishing up my past post, I came upon Jack Fowler's item at the Corner, noting that Republicans are doing very well among voters who say that their primary concern is immigration. If you have any doubt that these immigration-concerned voters are those who want illegal immigration stopped, note that 73% of them want to see a barrier built along the Mexican border.

Fowler carries over Rasmussen's title for the post: Dems Make Progress on Immigration Issue. I suppose that's true as far as it goes: in a poll of all Americans, Democrats are more trusted to handle the immigration issue. But as true as that may be, it's worthless politically. 'All Americans' don't vote in elections. The most committed 30%-40% do. And I think Republicans are making headway among that group.

My question still stands however, about whether the northern or southern border is a greater security concern.

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GOP Triangulation on Immigration?

The Washington Times this morning reports that the President has forged an agreement with key Senators on the core provisions of a comprehensive immigration bill. The central element is an amnesty - or 'earned legalization' - whatever you want to call it:

Bush, senators agree on alien citizenship, shut out critics
By Stephen Dinan
Published April 26, 2006

President Bush and a group of senators yesterday reached general agreement on an immigration bill that includes a pathway to citizenship for many illegal aliens.
But left out of the closed-door White House meeting were senators who oppose a path to citizenship. The meeting even snubbed two men who had been considered allies of Mr. Bush on immigration -- Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican and chairman of the immigration subcommittee, and Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican.
Mr. Bush in brief remarks to the press said there was agreement to get "a bill that does not grant automatic amnesty to people, but a bill that says, somebody who is working here on a legal basis has the right to get in line to become a citizen." But senators, speaking afterward, said Mr. Bush was far more specific in the meeting.
"There was a pretty good consensus that what we have put into the Hagel-Martinez proposal here is the right way to go," said Sen. Mel Martinez, Florida Republican. "I think he was very clear [on] pathway to citizenship, so long as it goes to the back of the line, and he even opened the door here for something we've haggled back and forth on, that you can shrink the time for people to become citizens by simply enlarging the number of green cards."

I have to say though, I still don't see anything like this becoming law. Much has been made of the President's falling poll numbers. A key effect of this is that Members of Congress feel more comfortable dissing the President. In the House, there are lots of Republicans who feel that their political standing is helped greatly by opposition to illegal immigration. Indeed - they feel that it may be the just about the only thing standing between them and minority status. They are not going to vote for an amnesty. John Boehner has clearly been hearing from them:

Even as Mr. Bush is moving in that direction, the House majority leader yesterday rejected it.
"This idea that was being kicked around the Senate about providing some sort of amnesty for those who have been here five years or more, I just think it was a very big mistake," House Majority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, said yesterday. "You are just inviting more people to come."

Now it's possible that House leadership will ultimately bring up a bill that many Republicans hate, and pass it with Democratic votes. I still don't think that will happen, but it's possible. It will be the only way to get this compromise enacted, I suspect. There are likely to be dozens of Republicans voting against any such compromise; I'll guess somewhere around 50. Significant Democratic support will be needed.

I'm starting to wonder whether we are going to see a period of a few months where the President and the Republican Congress start to almost run against one another on a few key issues. Certainly conservative Republicans can tell their base that they differ with the President in their opposition to illegal immigration, their commitment to increasing petroleum supply, and their opposition to pork-barrel spending. The President can say that he is pushing a recalcitrant Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform, that he wants to see a greater commitment to ending our addiction to oil, and that he's willing to veto spending bills if Congress cannot control their big-spending ways.

Can each side benefit from using the other as a foil? I'm not sure. But they are speaking to different audiences. The President merely wants to get the focus off of Iraq and gasoline, and to raise his standing with independent voters. Republicans in Congress want to give their conservative base a reason to turn out in November, and to support them. For that reason, they might both benefit from highlighting their differences to their respective target audiences.

I'm not sure that this is going to work, but I bet it's going to happen.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Blast from the Past

Greek shipbuilders to reconstruct Jason's ship the Argo, and head off to retrieve the golden fleece. Pretty cool. Obviously, I should have read more in High School.

And if you find yourself wondering how anyone invented a plot device as novel as 'golden fleece,' this site explains that it was probably real.

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Coolest Baseball Site Ever?

The Major League Baseball website allows you to look up the hitting patterns of any major league player. You can see where he hit singles, doubles, triples, and homeruns, as well as where he flies out or grounds out. I'm not sure if it has any practical use, but that's a completely secondary consideration.

Scratch that - it has a practical use: if you're actually involved in professional baseball, it may help you predict what a given hitter may do in a given ballpark, based on how he tends to hit the ball. Got a hitter who consistently flies out to the warning track in rightfield? You might want to put him in Yankee Stadium.

Speaking of Yankee Stadium, this is the chart for Jason Giambi, but you can go to player search and look up anyone you want. If you're a San Francisco Giants fan for example, you can look up where Barry Bonds hit his home run this year.

The site also allows you to look up batter vs. pitcher and all sorts of other stuff. It's a good place for a baseball geek to kill a morning.

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Blackstar, I Hardly Knew You

Aviation Week and Space Technology reports that the Pentagon may have mothballed a supercool space plane that might - or might not - exist. The "Blackstar" is a two-stage-to-orbit military spaceplane designed for reconnaissance, satellite insertion, and possibly weapons delivery - unless there is no such thing. The plane might be completely built and run by contractors - including Boeing and Lockheed Martin - giving government officials deniability.

It might even be used for Tom Maguire's "smart spears" - er, assuming that they're real, also.

It's cool enough that you sure hope it's real.

Update: Thanks, Ace, for the traffic. And a bronx cheer to Dave at Garfield Ridge, who points me to a site that rains on the parade.

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Kerry Forgives Administration for Plame Leak?

Others are doing a great job of covering all the hypocrisy and silliness surrounding the firing of Mary McCarthy. I won't try to duplicate their efforts.

I will point out though, that I was pleased to see John Kerry give the White House an implicit pass on the leaking of Valerie Plame's identity. As has been reported in lots of places, Kerry said this to George Stephanopolous about the CIA leaks and Mary McCarthy's firing:

A CIA agent has the obligation to uphold the law and clearly leaking is against the law, and nobody should leak. I don't like leaking. But if you're leaking to tell the truth, Americans are going to look at that, at least mitigate or think about what are the consequences that you, you know, put on that person. Obviously they're not going to keep their job, but there are other larger issues here.

Of course, the administration leak(s) about Valerie Plame were intended to suggest that:

1) Joe Wilson's wife at the CIA helped him get assigned to go to Niger; and,
2) Wilson had misrepresented his findings there.

Both of these allegations were upheld by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, in its report on the problems with intel that led to incorrect conclusions about Saddam's program of WMD.

So it seems to me that to the extent that Kerry is saying that truth is a defense, then Patrick Fitzgerald might need to think about closing up shop.

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Harry Reid Losing Support at Home

As I've noted before, Harry Reid's job as Senate Democratic leader is incompatible with being extremely popular in his home state. A typical Senator can have reasonable success in being all things to all people, and catering his message to his constituents. A leader however, is the face of his party - for good or ill. And in a relatively conservative state such as Nevada, Reid's role is going to cost him some fans.

The Las Vegas Sun reports that Reid is working hard at home to make sure that he gets his message out, and to avoid being badly damaged by his job in Washington. Read past the headline though ("As Reid's power grows in D.C., his support slides in NV"), because the article offers only a few named and unnamed analysts to back up that assertion.

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Al Qaeda Update

If you're interested in the fate of Al Qaeda members who aren't necessarily named Zarqawi or Moussaoui, the Los Angeles Times has a couple of articles for you. The first is on the status Mohamedou Ould Slahi who some believe is connected to both the millennium plot to bomb LAX and the Sept 11 attacks. The second is on Khaled Mohammed Abdullah Batati. Batati was one of the 23 inmates to escape from a Yemeni prison back in February.

More Special Forces in More Places

The Washington Post gave front-page treatment this Sunday to this story on a revamp to the Pentagon's strategy behind the global War on Terror. The bottom-line: a heavier emphasis on special operations forces. I can't say I disagree with the approach, but in DC you can't swing a stick without hitting somebody with a new plan or strategy. Fortunately, this piece in Monday's Washington Times makes it seem like the State Department could actually be making the international arrangements necessary to put the new Pentagon strategy into action someday. I love it when a plan comes together.

Monday, April 24, 2006

If Only They Could Help with the Food...

I'm quite tall, so it's been my experience that all airplane coach seats are too small, and have no leg room. That said, this site is very useful for finding the best seats on any given plane.

If you wind up using the site, be gracious to those taller than 6'4" - please leave us the emergency exit seats. Oh - and is there any way you could maybe, not recline?

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Senate Appropriators Stick with Tradition

Roll Call (subscription required) notes that the Senate's 'emergency supplemental' funding bill - which will pay for the cost of the Iraq war and Hurricane Katrina rebuilding - will still contain a host of extraneous funding and policy provisions. And this time, Bill Frist will join Tom Coburn in fighting to eliminate pork from the bill:

Earmarks Seek Aid for Fishing, Vaccines
April 24, 2006
By John Stanton,
Roll Call Staff

Thanks to more than $3 billion in earmarks inserted by Senate appropriators, Gulf Coast fishing interests and vaccine makers could be two of the biggest financial beneficiaries of the $106.5 billion emergency supplemental spending package, which is primarily intended to fund military needs in Iraq and recovery efforts from Hurricane Katrina.

Amid growing restiveness among fiscal conservatives over the federal budget’s rapid growth in GOP-controlled Washington, D.C. — and amid concerns that earmarking may have contributed to a run of Congressional scandals — Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) has set aside the next two weeks to work through the measure, during which he hopes to whittle down the bill’s price tag.

Although critics of the supplemental see these and other additions as examples of classic pork barrel spending, supporters argue they are all necessary federal expenditures needed to either restore the Gulf Coast economy or avert potential future disasters like an Avian influenza outbreak.

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), who wrote the fishing industry provisions in the bill, defended the additional spending last week as key to the region’s economic recovery. “I was pleased to work with Chairman Cochran and Appropriations Committee members to include additional funding for the Gulf Coast fisheries recovery effort. The seafood industry is an important part of the Gulf Coast economy and this funding will provide much needed assistance to fisherman, their communities, and the supporting industry and infrastructure,” Shelby said.

His spokeswoman, Katie Boyd, added, “An essential element to the recovery process is to restore a semblance of normalcy to people’s lives, which includes allowing them to earn a living. Sen. Shelby’s amendment would provide funding to restore essential fisheries’ infrastructure that would ultimately allow people to regain their employment and their way of life.”

It looks like Frist has finally realized that Republican Presidential primaries are dominated by small government conservatives:

Frist’s quest to slim the bill has the backing of budget hawks, including Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.). Coburn, who has long opposed earmarks, has prepared dozens of amendments targeting individual pieces of the bill, a Coburn aide said. Although the Oklahoman has frequently been isolated in his efforts to block excessive spending during his short time in the Senate, Coburn appears to have the backing of Frist, which could bolster his offensive.

Don't get worried that the Senate is willy-nilly embracing reform, however:

The Senate Appropriations Committee included a variety of earmarks unrelated to either the Iraq war effort or the Gulf Coast disaster that appear to have broad support within both parties. For instance, the committee agreed to an amendment by Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) barring the Bonneville Power Association from increasing rates, plus nearly $4 billion in emergency agricultural and drought relief funding sought by farm-state lawmakers.

The bill also includes language replacing millions of dollars in relief funds to Pennsylvania, Hawaii and other states that were reprogrammed last year to help pay for the initial rounds of hurricane relief spending, as well as funds to accelerate flood control projects and studies in California and Hawaii.

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) — who has a $1 million earmark in the bill relating to an international air show in his home state — has marshalled his Caucus to use the bill as a platform to push his party’s agenda. Senate Democrats have prepared a series of amendments adding new avian flu and homeland security spending to the bill, and they have given no indication that they would back significant cuts to the existing proposal.

It will be interesting to watch the debate.

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Roll Call Notes Mollohan's Troubles

The Capitol Hill weekly Roll Call (subscription required) today reports on Alan Mollohan's political troubles.

Ethics Switch Eases Pressure, for Now

The decision by Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.) to step down as ranking member of the House ethics committee has ended, at least for now, an escalating controversy over his financial dealings, but in the long run his departure from the panel may undermine one of the most promising political messages House Democrats are wielding against Republicans in the midterm elections — that the GOP has been corrupted by 12 years of control of the House.

Roll Call then talks a little more about the allegations against Mollohan and the political trouble he faces at home. He can't be happy to hear a Democratic leadership staffer comment that he 'had to go:'

With the question of his service on the ethics panel resolved, at least for now, Mollohan still faces a growing scandal that threatens to loosen his hold on a seat that has been in the family for decades. Mollohan’s father, the late former Rep. Robert Mollohan (D-W.Va.), served for 18 years in the House. Alan Mollohan has been a Member since 1984.

The younger Mollohan has been dogged by questions over his personal finances since the National Legal and Policy Center, a conservative watchdog group, revealed earlier this month that it had filed a complaint with the Justice Department regarding the West Virginia Democrat.

The NLPC claimed that Mollohan had improperly reported his assets on annual disclosure forms filed with the House, a charge that Mollohan vehemently denied.

More seriously, Mollohan was accused of steering $250 million in federal earmarks to non-profit groups he founded or controlled. Officials from those groups in turn donated nearly $400,000 to Mollohan’s re-election campaigns...

In the end, while he was not forced out, Mollohan was faced with an increasingly nervous Democratic leadership that knew that if he continued serving as ranking member of the ethics panel, it could threaten the political gains made by the party since the scandal surrounding former lobbyist Jack Abramoff began two years ago. A number of GOP lawmakers and former aides are under investigation by a DOJ task force in that case.

“Mollohan had to go,” said one Democratic insider, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “It’s not that he has done anything wrong, necessarily. It’s that he may have done something wrong, and we just can’t have that while he serves” on the ethics committee.

The Rothenberg political report lists the Mollohan race as an opportnity for Republicans.

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