Domestic Policy

  Keep National Anthem English: BushApril 29, 2006 17:13 In a rare moment when we agree with the president, George W Bush says the national anthem should be sung in English - not Spanish – in a blunt rejection of a new Spanish-language version.

He also expressed opposition to a national work stoppage called for Monday to dramatise the importance of immigrants to the US economy.

"I'm not a supporter of boycotts," Bush said yesterday while restating his support for a comprehensive overhaul of immigration laws.

Bush made his comments at a news conference as a Spanish-language version of "The Star Spangled Banner," hit the airways featuring artists such as Wyclef Jean, hip-hop star Pitbull and Puerto Rican singers Carlos Ponce and Olga.

  Bush Rejects Tax On Oil Companies' ProfitsApril 28, 2006 17:00 President Bush on Friday rejected calls in Congress for a tax on oil company profits, saying the industry should reinvest its recent windfalls in finding and producing more energy.

"The temptation in Washington is to tax everything," Bush said in an exchange with reporters in the White House Rose Garden. Rather than for the government to reap the benefit from oil company profits driven by the recent surge in global oil prices, he said, "the answer is for there to be strong re-investment."

"These oil prices are a wakeup call," Bush said. "We're dependent on oil. We need to get off oil."

With gasoline topping $3 a gallon in some areas, Bush said energy companies should use their increased cash flows to build more natural gas pipeline, expand refineries, explore "in environmentally friendly ways," and invest in renewable sources of energy.

  School Voucher Limits UpheldApril 27, 2006 18:39
The Maine Supreme Judicial Court upheld a controversial state law Wednesday that prohibits parents from using publicly funded tuition vouchers for religious schools.

Writing for the majority in the 6-1 decision, Justice Donald Alexander concluded that the state is not compelled to pay for religious education, even though the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that similar programs are constitutionally permissible.

Alexander wrote that the state can deny access to the funds because it has an interest in avoiding excessive entanglement with religious institutions.

The decision ends, for now, litigation that has moved through Maine and federal courts for almost a decade. Almost identical cases were decided by Maine's high court in 1999, and the 1st District Court of Appeals in 2004.

  Taylor's (R-PA) Stance Draws 9/11 Families' WrathApril 26, 2006 14:40 Congressman Charles Taylor (R-PA) has found himself at the center of an emotional firestorm surrounding a proposed memorial to people killed on Flight 93, the plane that crashed in rural Pennsylvania during the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Taylor, as chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the Interior Department, has blocked millions in funding for the project in the last two years and has expressed opposition to funding it when it comes up again before his committee May 3, said John Scofield, the House Appropriations Committee spokesman.

The White House has requested $5 million for the nearly 1,700-acre site in remote western Pennsylvania as part of a larger spending bill.

Taylor’s opposition has stirred the ire of the family members of the 40 passengers and crew who died while trying to take control of the plane before it crashed near Shanksville, Pa.

“This man is not being a very good American,” said Virginia Bradshaw, who lives in Banner Elk in Avery County.

  Gas Prices May Hit $4 Before Falling BackApril 26, 2006 02:51 The big question motorists want to know right now -- whether filling their gas tanks at $2.54 a gallon in Boise, Idaho or $4 a gallon in Brooklyn, N.Y. -- is how bad will gas prices get?

The short answer: higher for a while and then lower.

Since crude oil topped $75 a barrel last week, the question has quickly become a national obsession. Republican leaders of Congress were asking the Bush Administration on Monday to investigate possible price gouging.

"High gasoline prices drain from the pockets of working families' money that could be used for food, clothing and health care," California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wrote, asking the California Energy Commission to investigate price gouging.

There was even talk about windfall-profit taxes on oil companies from at least one Republican.

  Democrat Leader Casts Republicans As Out-Of-TouchApril 25, 2006 17:29 Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid is trying to derail the conservative agenda by portraying it as out-of-touch with Americans' real concerns.

On Monday, Reid said the Senate, before its current session ends, must focus on the issues that concern the American people most -- not on the "'pet' issues of the right wing."

Just back from the two-week Senate recess, Reid said he got an earful from his constituents in the various towns and cities he visited -- "but not once -- in any of these cities -- did someone talk to me about eliminating the estate tax, or flag burning, or gay marriage.

"Instead, throughout Nevada, I was constantly asked about skyrocketing gas prices, the intractable war in Iraq, taxes, immigration, education, health care, and homeland security."

  Bush Eases Environmental Rules On GasolineApril 25, 2006 16:52 President Bush on Tuesday ordered a temporary suspension of environmental rules for gasoline, making it easier for refiners to meet demand and possibly dampen prices at the pump. He also halted for the summer the purchase of crude oil for the government's emergency reserve.

The moves came as political pressure intensified on Bush to do something about gasoline prices that are expected to stay high throughout the summer.

Bush said the nation's strategic petroleum reserve had enough fuel to guard against any major supply disruption over the next few months.

"So, by deferring deposits until the fall, we'll leave a little more oil on the market. Every little bit helps," he said.

  Specter Pro Windfall Profits Tax on Oil CompaniesApril 24, 2006 03:15 Republican Senator Arlen Specter said the U.S. Congress should consider taxing the "windfall profits'' reaped by oil companies as a result of surging crude oil prices.

Specter, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and other lawmakers are responding to what they say is rising voter anger over gasoline prices, which exceed $3 a gallon in some regions of the country, about 31 percent higher than a year ago.

Specter, of Pennsylvania, earlier this month introduced legislation to strengthen antitrust enforcement of the oil and natural gas industry to counter the consolidation of production and refining operations. Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota is proposing a 50 percent excise tax on profits from oil sold at more than $40 a barrel.

"Windfall profits, eliminating the antitrust exemption, considering the excessive concentration of power are all items we ought to be addressing,'' Specter said today on CNN's "Late Edition" program. "Anybody up for election this year ought to be working very hard, taking it very seriously."

  Changes Could Limit Indian Health CareApril 19, 2006 15:17 Cancer stole enough of Carleta Wilson's lung capacity that even standing up from her wheelchair leaves her breathless.

The Billings woman cannot fathom climbing aboard a transport van to ride 60 miles to Crow Agency for health care.

"The last time I rode it, it took three people to put me in there," said Wilson, who is a member of Crow Tribe. "Even some of the other patients were trying to help. I felt bad about that, but I was so desperate to get that medication."

Wilson, 74, takes three drugs, including one that helps her breathe. For as long as she can remember, she has been able to fill prescriptions at the Crow-Northern Cheyenne Hospital in Crow Agency without having to go there in person. A policy change set to take effect May 1 could force Wilson and hundreds of other urban American Indians -- those who do not live on reservations -- to move their medical care.

  U.S. Inflation Shoots HigherApril 19, 2006 00:00 Consumer prices in the United States shot up in March, reflecting higher costs for gasoline, clothing and hotel rooms, with core inflation rising by the biggest amount in a year.

The Labor Department reported that its closely watched Consumer Price Index rose by 0.4 per cent, far higher than the modest 0.1 per cent gain in February. The inflation surge was led by higher gasoline prices, which jumped by 3.6 per cent.

With oil prices climbing to record levels above $70 (U.S.) per barrel this week, analysts said motorists should be braced for more pain at the pump in coming months.

Core inflation, which excludes food and energy, posted a 0.3 per cent rise in March. It was the biggest gain in core inflation since a similar increase in March 2005 and could be a worrisome signal that higher energy prices are starting to spill over into more widespread inflation pressures.

  Social Issues Top GOP Pre-Election AgendaApril 17, 2006 12:58 Protection of marriage amendment? Check. Anti-flag burning legislation? Check. New abortion limits? Check.

Between now and the November elections, Republicans are penciling in plans to take action on social issues important to religious conservatives, the foundation of the GOP base, as they defend their congressional majority.

In a year where an unpopular war in
Iraq has helped drive
President Bush's approval ratings below 40 percent, core conservatives whose turnout in November is vital to the party want assurances that they are not being taken for granted.

  Massachusetts To Require Health InsuranceApril 15, 2006 04:36 Gov. Mitt Romney signed a groundbreaking measure Wednesday that makes Massachusetts the first state to mandate universal health care.

Supported by Democrats and Republicans in the state Legislature, the law requires residents to buy health insurance by July 1, 2007, just as drivers must have automobile coverage.

It aims to help low-income families buy private health insurance with subsidies and penalizes those who don't get coverage. It will help extend coverage to about 500,000 people in the state who lack health insurance, or about one in 13 residents.

  Bush, Democrat In Immigration SkirmishApril 13, 2006 00:00 President George W. Bush and the leader of Senate Democrats squabbled on Thursday over who was to blame for stalling immigration reform, an issue that has deeply divided the United States in an election year.

The White House said Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada had "single-handedly" blocked efforts to move immigration legislation through the Senate.

Reid slapped back that it was the president's own Republican Party which was to blame.

The finger-pointing between Republicans and Democrats illustrated the divisiveness of an issue that has gained momentum in a midterm election year in which Republicans are struggling to retain control of Congress.

  John Yoo's Tortured LogicApril 13, 2006 00:00 At the Justice Department between 2001 and 2003, Berkeley law professor John Yoo crafted a series of now notorious legal opinions. In them, he spelled out the fundamentals of a secret emergency Constitution under which the President's inherent powers in the "war on terror" are essentially unlimited. In the wake of 9/11, Yoo argued, the United States was at war in a constitutional sense, and consequently Congress and the courts could no longer purport to second-guess or interfere with or even learn about the President's national-security decisions, however momentous. Supposedly vital for fighting mass-casualty terrorism, Yoo's presidential Constitution was never publicly discussed or debated. Instead, it began to leak out, one memo at a time, only after important policy choices had been made on the basis of its presumed authority. The memos claimed to provide legal grounds for a whole range of now hotly contested decisions concerning indefinite executive detention without access to counsel, harsh interrogation techniques, rendition to countries known for torture, the establishment of clandestine prisons for "ghost detainees," the assassination of terrorist suspects by US hit squads worldwide and (we have learned) warrantless surveillance of telephone and e-mail communications between the United States and overseas.
  Congress Shows Little Appetite for Bush's Health-Care AgendaApril 12, 2006 06:01 President George W. Bush's health- care initiatives, which he showcased as his top domestic priorities in the Jan. 31 State of the Union address, are stalled in Congress, with little chance for passage.

While the Senate is scheduled to spend the first week of May focusing on health care, Republicans say there is little hope any legislation will be passed in this election year. Bush had outlined four proposals: allowing small companies to pool health insurance, expanding health savings accounts, overhauling medical liability laws and small cuts to Medicare.

``The agenda this year is small and it may not even be achievable at that,'' said Senator Trent Lott, a Mississippi Republican.

Bush's health-care agenda may join other key domestic initiatives that he has been unable to get through a reluctant Republican-controlled Congress. Bush's Social Security overhaul plan died last year, he has put off a restructuring of the tax code until at least next year and his proposal for changing U.S. immigration law was dealt a setback by senators last week.

``I think his whole domestic agenda has been submerged by Iraq,'' said Darrell West, a political science professor at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.

  Some Democrats Ask Bush For Energy SummitApril 06, 2006 21:21 Fifty-one Democratic lawmakers urged President Bush on Thursday to hold an energy summit to find ways to reduce the country's dependence on oil. The White House showed little interest in such a meeting.

The lawmakers said participants should include representatives "from all facets of life" from oil companies and automakers to environmentalists, academics and consumer advocates.

"Developing a serious long-term strategy to curb our nation's dangerous dependence on oil is long overdue," the Democrats wrote Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

A White House spokeswoman, Dana Perino, said by e-mail that the president "has focused on addressing the root causes of high energy prices and our dependence on foreign sources of energy." She said the administration is working with Congress to expand the availability of alternative fuels.

  Obama Rips Bush's Oil PolicyApril 03, 2006 20:44 Now, after the President s last State of the Union, when he told us that America was addicted to oil, there was a brief moment of hope that he d finally do something on energy.

I was among the hopeful. But then I saw the plan.

His funding for renewable fuels is at the same level it was the day he took office. He refuses to call for even a modest increase in fuel-efficiency standards for cars. And his latest budget funds less then half of the energy bill he himself signed into law - leaving hundreds of millions of dollars in under-funded energy proposals.

This is not a serious effort. Saying that America is addicted to oil without following a real plan for energy independence is like admitting alcoholism and then skipping out on the 12-step program. It s not enough to identify the challenge we have to meet it.

  Confusing CAFE Standards Encourage Building Bigger TrucksApril 03, 2006 15:36 The Bush administration insists that its new fuel economy rules will force SUVs, pickups and minivans to get better gasoline mileage. But skeptics wonder whether the Law of Unintended Consequences will overtake that goal.

Critics say the new standards could encourage automakers to build bigger trucks, potentially wiping out the promised fuel savings. That's because the standards set different fuel economy targets for different-sized light trucks.

The classifications are based on the area bounded by a truck's four wheels, called its "footprint." The bigger the footprint, the lower the mileage requirement.

The new rules also impose a unique fuel economy standard on each automaker, based on its product mix. They amount to the biggest structural change in the 30-year history of the federal corporate average fuel economy, or CAFE, program.

  GOP Senators Seek Deal On Immigration BillApril 03, 2006 00:00 Senate Republicans important to passing a wholesale revision of the nation's immigration laws focused yesterday on a compromise that would get tough on illegal immigrants new to the United States while offering those who have been here at least five years a path to citizenship.

The talks, led by Sens. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) and Mel Martinez (R-Fla.), are aimed at finding a formula that would persuade a majority of Republicans to support an immigration bill now backed largely by Democrats. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) plans to push for a final vote on immigration legislation this week, but it is not clear whether any measure can muster the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster.

Under the compromise proposal, still in the early stages, illegal immigrants who could produce pay stubs, billing records or other documentation showing they have lived and worked in the United States for five years would qualify for a work visa and an opportunity to apply for citizenship. They could stay in the country as they apply for a green card.

Those not meeting the requirements would have to return to their native countries.