Domestic Policy

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  Alito Confirmed 58-42, Then Sworn InJanuary 31, 2006 19:09 Samuel Alito was confirmed to the Supreme Court today after a contentious and partisan battle in the Senate, becoming the nation's 110th justice to serve on the high court.

The Senate approved Alito 58-42, one of the most divided tallies in modern history as all but four Democrats opposed him. Alito, an appellate judge whose conservative ideology was honed as a young lawyer in the Reagan administration, succeeds Sandra Day O'Connor, who shaped the court through her voice of moderation for more than two decades.

Alito watched the confirmation vote with his family from the Roosevelt Room of the White House. Chief Justice John Roberts swore in Alito at a private ceremony, only hours before he was to sit alongside fellow justices at the State of the Union address.

  Bush Pushes For Spending On Energy, EducationJanuary 31, 2006 00:00 President Bush delivered his State of the Union address tonight, seemed intent on pushing more empty spending initiatives and pushing us farther into debt by only cutting 'non-security, discretionary spending.' His emphasis on cutting so-called entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid is shameful, but hidden in that message is a longterm intent to cut spending on everything that can't be privatized... probably including road and bridge construction, border security, and VA administration. Everything that is 'non-security' is entitlement according to this administration.
  Bush Expected To Push Health Savings AccountsJanuary 30, 2006 20:02 President Bush's expected call for expansion of health savings accounts in Tuesday's State of the Union address will likely stoke the debate over the accounts.
Under the law, the accounts must be coupled with health insurance policies that carry at least a $1,050 annual deductible for individuals or $2,100 for families. They allow people to set aside money, tax free, to cover medical costs. This year, the maximum allowable deposit is $2,700 for individuals and $5,450 for families. Bush wants to increase those contribution levels.

When more than 35 million Americans live below the poverty line ($18,000 for a family of four), who cares about setting aside double the amount they could set aside before when they actually have nothing to set aside.

  $36 Billion Profit for Exxon in 2005January 30, 2006 19:42 Can it be doubted that Bush has been good for big oil?

Exxon Mobil Corp., the world's largest publicly traded oil company, on Monday reported a quarterly profit of $10.7 billion, capping a year of record earnings dominated by surging oil and gas prices.

The results pushed up Exxon's profit for the year to a staggering $36.13 billion -- bigger than the economies of 125 of the 184 countries ranked by the World Bank. Profit rose 42 percent from 2004.

  Halliburton Swings To $1.1 Billion ProfitJanuary 27, 2006 16:32 Oilfield services conglomerate Halliburton Co. swung to a profit in its fourth quarter on robust sales and increased rig activity, and called last year the best in its 86-year history.
The income reversed a loss from a year earlier for Houston-based Halliburton, the company once led by Vice President Dick Cheney. Its KBR unit has become known for its support work for troops stationed in the Middle East.
Net income was $1.1 billion, or $2.08 a share, including a gain of $540 million or $1.02 a share, for a future tax allowance. That compared to a net loss of $203 million, or 46 cents a share last year, which included a $384 million loss from discontinued operations.
  Sen. Barack Obama InterviewJanuary 27, 2006 00:00 Text of an interview with Sen. Barack Obama on January 27th.
  The Hsus Honors Sen. Ensign And Other Members Of Congress For Their Animal Welfare Work In 2005January 26, 2006 22:24 A list of the Senators and Congressmen recognized for their work on the defense of animal rights and leadership in animal welfare causes.
  What To Expect After You Enroll In Medicare Part DJanuary 25, 2006 00:00 Medicare's new drug benefit was supposed to bring peace of mind to many seniors, including people who previously lacked drug coverage and individuals of modest means who qualify for extra help paying for their medications. But enrolling in a Part D drug plan does not necessarily mean that seniors can rest easy, consumer advocates caution.

"The 'buyer beware' sign needs to say up," says Robert M. Hayes, president of the Medicare Rights Center, a national organization that counsels and assists seniors who have questions about Medicare.

Part D is arguably more complicated than Medicare's hospital and physician insurance programs, in part because it is administered by private plans that decide what drugs to cover and how to share the costs with enrollees. Plus, the cost-sharing rules change throughout the year as a senior's drug spending increases.

  White House Accused Of Gag OrderJanuary 25, 2006 00:00 The White House is hindering the Senate's investigation into the government's response to Hurricane Katrina by prohibiting federal officials from talking about their hurricane-related communications with the administration, the two senators leading the probe said Tuesday.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., the top Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, accused the White House of "a near total lack of cooperation." Some officials from the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services, he said, are refusing to be questioned by congressional investigators or provide requested documents.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said the administration has provided hundreds of thousands of documents and access to 230 government witnesses. But she said she finds it "completely inappropriate" that witnesses "have told us when we begin to ask about any communications with the White House" that they cannot respond, even if the discussions don't involve specific advice to the president that could "legitimately" be held back under executive privilege.

  Energy Fees Face ReviewJanuary 24, 2006 00:00 Lawmakers in both political parties demanded that the Bush administration address concerns that energy companies may have been underpaying the government for oil and gas they produce on publicly owned land and in coastal waters.

Representative Richard Pombo, a California Republican and chairman of the House Resources Committee, ordered the Interior Department on Monday to provide "all relevant data so that we can ensure the public is getting full compensation for the production of oil and gas on lands belonging to them."

  Bush Administration to Allow Pesticide Testing on ChildrenJanuary 24, 2006 00:00 The Bush administration would allow some limited pesticide testing on children and pregnant women under controversial rules set to be made final as early as this week.
After fielding some 50,000 public comments on its earlier human-testing proposals, the Environmental Protection Agency is setting out final rules that officials call tough and fair. But California Democrats and environmentalists are raising an outcry, and courts could remain busy sorting it all out.

  Documents Show Katrina Warnings IgnoredJanuary 24, 2006 00:00 Documents released today by Congress show that two days before Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, the White House received detailed damage forecasts from Homeland Security officials predicting that the city's levees might be overtopped or breached.

Yet in the days after the storm struck on Aug. 29, federal officials, including President Bush, said the levee breaches could not have been foreseen.

Embattled former FEMA Director Michael Brown said, "I think we were all taken aback by the fact that the levees did break in so many places and caused such widespread devastation."

  Halliburton News: KBR Awarded Contract to Build US Domestic Detention CentersJanuary 24, 2006 00:00 Yep... you read right. Now you can read all about your future home behind bars in this press release.
  Gas Companies Underpay U.S. For Rights Even As Profits SoarJanuary 23, 2006 00:00 At a time when energy prices and industry profits are soaring, the U.S. government collected little more money last year than it did five years ago from the companies that extract more than $60 billion in oil and gas from publicly owned lands and coastal waters.
If royalty payments in fiscal 2005 for natural gas had risen in step with market prices, the government would have received about $700 million more than it actually did, a three-month investigation by The New York Times has found
  College Graduates Not as Smart as You ThinkJanuary 23, 2006 00:00 A new study that measured the skills of students nearing graduation from a four-year university found that more than half lacked the literacy skills to handle complex tasks, such as analyzing arguments in newspaper editorials or understanding credit card offers.
Students at two-year colleges fared even worse, with at least 75 percent lacking the skills to perform complex tasks, according to a study released Thursday by the American Institutes for Research.
  Poll: Most Find Medicare Program PuzzlingJanuary 23, 2006 00:00 Most people, particularly senior citizens, say they are having a hard time understanding the new Medicare prescription drug program, an AP-Ipsos poll found.
The drug benefit requires people to choose from among dozens of competing private insurance plans. Along with senior citizens, those most likely to acknowledge difficulties live in rural areas or are college graduates.
"I pretty much completed a master's degree in psychology and I can't understand it," said Raymond Lloyd, a Republican-leaning retiree from Silt, Colo. "For the elderly who don't have their full faculties and the poor people who are not well educated, God help 'em."
  Medicare Fallout: From Win-Win To Watch OutJanuary 23, 2006 00:00 From hidden caps on benefits to confusing choices, the ill-implemented Medicare prescription drug plan is sure to spell trouble for the Republicans in November.
  A Test Of Principles, Not PresidentsJanuary 22, 2006 00:00 The Office of Citizenship is designing a new US citizenship test, to be administered starting in 2008. It will ask aspiring citizens about what it means to be American, rather than quiz them on picayune facts. Officials say it is more important to ask immigrants about such principles as freedom of speech and religion, than for them to know trivia quiz items like how many amendments there are to the Constitution.
  Hispanic Leaders Speak Out Against AlitoJanuary 22, 2006 00:00 Several leaders of Hispanic organizations expressed opposition Thursday to the likely Senate confirmation of Samuel Alito as a Supreme Court justice, predicting his accession to the bench would erode civil rights and advances made by Hispanics in the United States.
  High Costs , Eroded Wages, High ProductivityJanuary 19, 2006 00:00 As George W. Bush claims the economy is strong working family inflation-adjusted income has dropped by $2,000 a year according to the Labor Bureau. Dick Cheney is paid three times the average household income in deferred compensation alone from Halliburton. Health care costs have soared fifty percent since Bush took the White House. Home heating costs are 79 percent higher than the winter of 2001. The number of people in poverty is nearly twenty percent higher than in 2000. And while wages are down, productivity of the American worker is up by more than 13 percent.
  Bush: Make Tax Cuts "Permanent"January 19, 2006 00:00 Despite record spending levels, record budget deficits, record national debt, record trade deficits, and rising poverty levels (30% of the country qualifies for the national underfunded Low Income Heating Assistance Program), our uncompassionate president is still pushing to have the upper income tax cuts made permanent. Sad.
  Schoolgirls Protest New Orleans' ConditionJanuary 13, 2006 00:00 As President Bush returned to the city for the first time in three months, teenage protesters donned life jackets, goggles and inner tubes Thursday to symbolize their flooded homes and protest New Orleans' lack of defense against future storms.
  President Avoids Endorsing Baker BillJanuary 13, 2006 00:00 The president is touring non-devestated areas of New Orleans and declaring that the city shows dramatic improvement from four months ago.
  Millions Hit By Shortfall In Heating AidJanuary 11, 2006 00:00 Even before the coldest weather has set in, federal funding of the LIHEAP fuel assistance program has badly lagged the rise in energy prices. This year, LIHEAP has been able to help fewer than 15 percent of the estimated 32 million households who qualify for assistance.
  Problems Plague Rollout Of New Medicare Drug PlanJanuary 11, 2006 00:00 Medicare's new prescription drug benefit is off to a rocky start. Dozens of plans, overloaded computers and an entirely new system have left seniors nationwide scratching their heads. The problems are particularly serious for the 6.5 million low-income Americans who get both Medicare and Medicaid -- and whose Medicaid drug coverage ended Dec. 31.
  Courant.Com | Enemies All Aboard AmtrakJanuary 10, 2006 00:00 Here we go again. President Bush puts highly unqualified political supporters in charge of a vital public service, and Americans pay the price. But this time it isn't the Federal Emergency Management Agency. It's our national passenger railroad: Amtrak. The current head of the Amtrak board is another Bush Posse member who raised $100,000 or more for the Bush-Cheney campaign.
  Republican Economic Policies Putting US in JeopardyJanuary 10, 2006 00:00 Financial policies of the Bush administration and the Republican Congress have the nation headed for serious economic trouble, U.S. Rep. Allen Boyd said Monday. Boyd points out that Medicare and other social programs have lifted the average retiree well above the poverty level, but that our government's current policies can't sustain those programs.
  Record Share Of Economy Is Spent On Health CareJanuary 10, 2006 00:00 Rising health care costs, already threatening many basic industries, now consume 16 percent of the nation's economic output -- the highest proportion ever, the government said yesterday in its latest calculation. The nation's health care bill continued to grow substantially faster than inflation and wages, increasing by almost 8 percent in 2004

  Alito Faces First Confirmation QuestionsJanuary 10, 2006 00:00 Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito faced his first series of questions Tuesday when Sen. Arlen Specter asked President Bush's nominee about privacy rights and a woman's right to choose an abortion. Alito is doing his best to assuage senators' fears about his conservative views, but he has some work to do.
  Book Claims 2004 Presidential Election Was StolenJanuary 09, 2006 00:00 A new book, 'Fooled Again: How the Right Stole the 2004 Election and Why They'll Steal the Next One Too (Unless We Stop Them)' by Mark Crispin Miller, details the voting abuses that the Republicans played on the system in 2004. If this is even close to right, then it's pretty scary.
  Frist For President: Better Health Care For FarmersJanuary 09, 2006 00:00 Sen. Bill Frist promised 6,000 farmers better access to health care, a plan to research alternative energy sources such as ethanol, a temporary worker program for immigrants and an end to the inheritance 'death tax' during a speech yesterday. The speech was clearly another step down the path toward a 2008 presidential campaign.
  Florida: Court Throws Out VouchersJanuary 06, 2006 00:00 The Florida Supreme Court knocked the wind out of Gov. Jeb Bush's education revamp Thursday, ruling that the private-school voucher program violates the state Constitution's promise of a 'uniform system of free public schools.'
  $222 Billion, 10-Year Proposal: Governor's Ambitious Program for CA InfrastructureJanuary 06, 2006 00:00 California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is taking a page from the Bush playbook and proposing a jaw-dropping spending initiative to combat his falling poll numbers. Republicans, who have turned into the Spend and Awe party, now pretend to be shadows of FDR. By proposing huge public works initiatives. The only problem is that they are undercutting American workers by promoting illegal immigration and dropping minimum wage rate requirements for government contracts. It ain't gonna work that way.
  Senate Judiciary Committee ProfilesJanuary 04, 2006 00:00 A decent profile of the 18 Senators who will make up the Judiciary Committee that will interrogate Samuel Alito, the next possibly appointee to the US Supreme Court.
  Bush Hints At More Troop Withdrawals in time for US November ElectionsJanuary 04, 2006 00:00 The Bush administration is hinting at further troop withdrawals from Iraq, conveniently in time for our Fall election season. Murtha and others predicted it.
  Bush's Former Energy Adviser Expects Oil To Hit $250 Per BarrelJanuary 03, 2006 00:00 Bush's former energy adviser, Matthew Simmons, expects oil to hit between $200-$250 in the next few years. Ouch.
  President Bush Delivers A Stunning Blow To America s Steel Pipe WorkersJanuary 03, 2006 00:00 President George W. Bush turned his back on several thousand U.S. workers who make steel pipes when he refused Dec. 30 to place limits on Chinese-made steel pipe imports flooding the U.S. market.