Archive for January 4th, 2007


“Thank you, Leader Boehner.

“I accept this gavel in the spirit of partnership, not partisanship, and look forward to working with you on behalf of the American people.

“In this House, we may belong to different parties, but we serve one country. We stand united in our pride and prayers for our men and women in the armed forces. They are working together to protect America, and we, in this House, must also work together to build a future worthy of their sacrifice.

“In this hour, we pray for the character, courage, and civility of a former Member of this House – President Ford. He healed the country when it needed healing. This is another time, another war, and another trial of our American will, imagination, and spirit. Let us honor his memory, not just in eulogy, but in dialogue and trust across the aisle. Let us express our condolences and appreciation to Mrs. Ford and the entire Ford family for their decades of service to our country.

“With today’s convening of the 110th Congress, we begin anew. I congratulate all Members of Congress on their election, especially our new Members. The genius of our Founders is that every two years, new Members bring to this House their spirit of renewal and hope for the American people. This Congress is reinvigorated by your optimism, your idealism, and your commitment to our country. Let us acknowledge your families, whose support has made your leadership possible.

“Each of us brings to this new Congress our shared values, our commitment to the Constitution, and our personal experience.

“My path to the Speakership began in Baltimore where my father was Mayor. I was raised in a large family that was devoutly Catholic, deeply patriotic, proud of our Italian American heritage, and staunchly Democratic. My parents taught us that public service was a noble calling, and that we had a responsibility to help those in need. My parents worked on the side of the angels and now they are with them.

“I am so proud that my brother Tommy, also a Mayor of Baltimore, is here with my D’Alesandro family today.

“Forty-three years ago, Paul Pelosi and I were married. We raised our five children in San Francisco, where Paul was born and raised. I want to thank Paul and our children Nancy Corinne, Christine, Jacqueline, Paul, and Alexandra and our six magnificent grandchildren for giving me their love, support and the confidence to go from the kitchen to the Congress.

“And I thank my constituents in San Francisco for the privilege of representing them in Congress. Saint Francis of Assisi is our city’s patron saint, and his prayer is our city’s anthem: ‘Lord, make me a channel of thy peace; where there is darkness may we bring light, where there is hatred, may we bring love, and where there is despair, may we bring hope.’ It is in that spirit that I was sent to Congress.

“And today, I thank my colleagues. By electing me Speaker, you have brought us closer to the ideal of equality that is America’s heritage and hope.

“This is an historic moment – for the Congress, and for the women of this country. It is a moment for which we have waited more than 200 years. Never losing faith, we waited through the many years of struggle to achieve our rights. But women weren’t just waiting; women were working. Never losing faith, we worked to redeem the promise of America, that all men and women are created equal. For our daughters and granddaughters, today we have broken the marble ceiling.

“The election of 2006 was a call to change – not merely to change the control of Congress, but for a new direction for our country. Nowhere were the American people more clear about the need for a new direction than in Iraq.

“The American people rejected an open-ended obligation to a war without end. Shortly, President Bush will address the nation on the subject of Iraq. It is the responsibility of the President to articulate a new plan for Iraq that makes it clear to the Iraqis that they must defend their own streets and their own security, a plan that promotes stability in the region, and that allows us to responsibly redeploy American forces.

“Let us be the Congress that rebuilds our military to meet the national security challenges of the 21st century.

“Let us be the Congress that strongly honors our responsibility to protect our people from terrorism.

“Let us be the Congress that never forgets our commitment to our veterans and first responders, always honoring them as the heroes they are.

“The American people also spoke clearly for a new direction here at home – they desire a new vision, a new America, built on the values that made our country great.

“Our Founders envisioned a new America driven by optimism, opportunity, and courage. So confident were they in the new America they were advancing, they put on the great seal of the United States, ‘novus ordo seclorum’ – a new order for the ages. They envisioned America as a just and good place, as a fair and efficient society, as a source of hope and opportunity for all.

“This vision has sustained us for more than 200 years, and it accounts for what is best in our great nation: liberty, opportunity, and justice.

“Now it is our responsibility to carry forth that vision of a new America.

“A new America that seizes the future and forges 21st century solutions through discovery, creativity, and innovation, sustaining our economic leadership and ensuring our national security.

“A new America with a vibrant and strengthened middle class for whom college is affordable, health care accessible, and retirement secure.

“A new America that declares our energy independence, promotes domestic sources of renewable energy, and combats climate change.

“A new America that is strong, secure, and a respected leader among the community of nations.

“The American people told us in the election that they expect us to work together for fiscal responsibility, with the highest ethical standards and civility.

“After years of historic deficits, this new Congress will commit itself to a higher standard: pay as you go, no new deficit spending. Our new America will provide unlimited opportunity for future generations, not burden them with mountains of debt.

“In order to achieve a new America, we must return this House to the American people. So our first order of business is passing the toughest ethics reform in history. This new Congress doesn’t have two years or 100 days to renew itself.

“Let us join together in the first 100 hours to make this Congress the most honest and open in history. This openness requires respect for every voice in the Congress. As Thomas Jefferson said, ‘Every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle.’ My colleagues elected me to be Speaker of the House – the entire House. Respectful of the vision of our Founders, the expectations of our people, and the great challenges we face, we have an obligation to reach beyond partisanship to serve all Americans.

“Let us all stand together to move our country forward, seeking common ground for the common good.

“We have made history, now let us make progress for our new America.

“May God bless our work, and may God bless America.

“For all of America’s children, the House will be in order.”


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Congress convenes with Dems in power

WASHINGTON – The 110th Congress convened Thursday with Democrats in control of both the House and Senate for the first time in a dozen years. “Today we make history. Today we change the direction of our country,” exulted Rep. Nancy Pelosi (news, bio, voting record), poised to become the first woman speaker in history.

With her grandchildren joining her for the historic moment, Pelosi beamed as her name was placed in nomination and the party-line roll call commenced.

Both Democrats and Republicans alike pledged cooperation despite years of bitter partisanship and gridlock, to try to get the 110th Congress off on a productive note.

“The voters are upset with Congress and the partisan gridlock,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. “The voters want a government that focuses on their needs. The voters want change. Together, we must deliver that change.”

House Democrats also were ready to impose a ban on gifts from lobbyists and a clampdown on travel funded by private interests — measures crafted in response to the ethics scandals that weakened Republicans in last fall’s elections.

“The Democrats are back,” Pelosi said earlier Thursday. She will lead a fractious House divided 233-202, with Democrats claiming control for the first time since 1994.

In remarks prepared for delivery later after her swearing in later Thursday, Pelosi said: “The election of 2006 was a call to change — not merely to change the control of Congress, but for a new direction for our country. Nowhere were the American people more clear about the need for a new direction than in
Iraq. The American people rejected an open-ended obligation to a war without end.”

Democrats maintain a tenuous hold on a Senate divided 51-49, with ailing South Dakota Democrat Tim Johnson slowly recovering in a Washington hospital weeks after suffering a brain hemorrhage. There are 49 Democrats and 49 Republicans and two independents, who both vote with Democrats.

The fragile Senate margin ensures little Democratic-sponsored legislation can pass without support from at least some Republicans.

“Our efforts are going to be to work in a bipartisan basis in an open fashion to solve the problems of the American people,” said Reid.

Taking the oath of office were 10 new senators — eight of them Democrats, Republican Bob Corker of Tennessee and independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Joe Lieberman returned to the Senate for a fourth term after losing a raucous Democratic primary in Connecticut but winning in November running as an Independent.

Vice President Dick Cheney swore in the new and returning senators, beginning with a group including Senate President Pro Tem, Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va. — third in the line of presidential succession — elected for a record ninth term. In the gallery overhead, former President Clinton and daughter Chelsea applauded and waved to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, who was sworn in for a second term.

The House has 55 new members, all but 13 of them Democrats. Two of them, Baron Hill of Indiana and Nick Lampson of Texas, had previously served.

As the House gathered, dozens of lawmakers’ children and grandchildren joined them on the floor, including Pelosi’s six grandchildren.

The day capped the rise of several Democratic veterans to powerful committee posts — including Charles Rangel of New York as chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee and David Obey on the powerful Appropriations panel — after 12 dispiriting years in the minority.

House Republicans, meanwhile, adjusted to their unaccustomed roles out of power, grousing about being shut out of any chance to affect the early agenda.

The convening of the Democratic-led Congress also opened a new chapter in the presidency of Bush, who faces divided government as he cements his legacy in his final two years in the White House. Bush had a light public schedule Thursday, intended at least in part to let the new Congress have its day.

House Democrats planned quick action on legislative priorities that included boosting both the minimum wage and stem cell research. Democrats also said they would pressure President Bush to bring the troops home from Iraq.

Reid, a soft-spoken but tough inside player — took the reins of the notoriously unwieldy Senate, hosting both Democrats and Republicans at a rare closed-door conference Thursday morning in the Old Senate Chamber. The aim was to set a bipartisan mood after years of political rancor.

The meeting, said top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, gave senators in both parties “a chance to express some of their quiet frustrations that we get past the level of partisanship that we’ve witnessed in recent years.”

The Democratic-led Congress also opened a new chapter in the presidency of Bush, who faces divided government as he cements his legacy in his final two years in the White House.

Anti-abortion protesters greeted Pelosi, D-Calif., as she began the day at a prayer service at a Catholic church on Capitol Hill before being sworn in as speaker in the afternoon by Rep. John Dingell (news, bio, voting record), D-Mich., the longest serving member of the House. Pelosi then was to address the House — and the nation — in a speech carried live on C-SPAN, which broadcasts all House proceedings, and on cable news networks.

Dingell administered the same oath to former Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., 12 years ago when Republicans seized the House after 40 years of Democratic control — and he’s set to get back his gavel as the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

House Democrats promised speedy passage of the first six bills on their agenda and a series of stiffer ethics rules.


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Dems set to elect Pelosi first female House Speaker

Washington- A 66-year-old lawmaker from California was set to become the first female speaker of the US House of Representatives on Thursday, making history as President George W Bush’s centre-left opponents take control of Congress. Nancy Pelosi – not exactly a household name for most Americans – helped the Democrats recapture both houses of Congress in November elections and has spearheaded a platform of measures the party wants to pass swiftly in the lower House.

Now, Pelosi’s fellow lawmakers are due to elect her to the House speaker’s post, making the San Francisco representative the most powerful woman in US politics.

Pelosi, a Roman Catholic mother of five, represents one of the most left-wing districts in the US and has been vilified by Republicans as a tax-happy left-winger.

Aware of that reputation, she sought to position herself as a centrist in the buildup to Thursday’s swearing-in ceremonies in the 435-seat House and the 100-member US Senate. One of her mantras is that Democrats, newly empowered by US voters, are ready to reach out to Bush to solve the nation’s pressing problems.

Topping the list is the war in Iraq, which along with political scandals in Washington cost Bush’s Republicans their majority in both houses of Congress for the first time since 1994.

But Democrats have centred their six-point agenda for the first 100 hours of lawmaking on domestic measures such as increasing the national minimum wage, ethics reform and boosting government help with university education loans and prescription drugs.

Bush bluntly reminded the Democratic-led Congress of his power to veto legislation and his opposition to new taxes.

“If the Congress chooses to pass bills that are simply political statements, they will have chosen stalemate,” he said in a commentary in Wednesday’s edition of the Wall Street Journal.

Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who is to sit on the money-approving House Appropriations Committee, called Bush’s suggestion that her party may seek easy political points “insulting.”

The domestic focus partly reflects a lack of unity among Democrats about how quickly to leave Iraq and the fact that Bush retains broad presidential powers to set foreign and military policy.

Bush has consistently rejected Democratic calls for a timetable to disengage US forces from Iraq, though he is expected to unveil a strategy review as early as next week.

Pelosi, who calls herself a “very strong” person but shies away from “tough,” has branded the US-led invasion of Iraq a mistake – a view shared by a majority of Americans. As Democratic opposition leader in the House since 2003, she helped focus the 2006 election on the war that has sent Bush’s approval ratings into a slump.

First signs of conflict emerged even before lawmakers assembled under the white dome of the Capitol building to take the oath of office.

Republicans complained that despite Democratic pledges for more legislative transparency, they were kept out of the drafting of the first package of measures Pelosi wants the new House to pass.

Meanwhile, Republicans signaled they would resist the planned rise in the US minimum wage – the first in a decade – unless it is offset by tax breaks for small businesses.

And while the Democrats have a 16-seat edge in the House, they won only a minimal 51-49 majority in the Senate, limiting their room for manoeuvre.


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W pushes envelope on U.S. spying

New postal law lets Bush peek through your mail

WASHINGTON – President Bush has quietly claimed sweeping new powers to open Americans’ mail without a judge’s warrant, the Daily News has learned.

The President asserted his new authority when he signed a postal reform bill into law on Dec. 20. Bush then issued a “signing statement” that declared his right to open people’s mail under emergency conditions.

That claim is contrary to existing law and contradicted the bill he had just signed, say experts who have reviewed it.

Bush’s move came during the winter congressional recess and a year after his secret domestic electronic eavesdropping program was first revealed. It caught Capitol Hill by surprise.

“Despite the President’s statement that he may be able to circumvent a basic privacy protection, the new postal law continues to prohibit the government from snooping into people’s mail without a warrant,” said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the incoming House Government Reform Committee chairman, who co-sponsored the bill.

Experts said the new powers could be easily abused and used to vacuum up large amounts of mail.

“The [Bush] signing statement claims authority to open domestic mail without a warrant, and that would be new and quite alarming,” said Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies in Washington.

“The danger is they’re reading Americans’ mail,” she said.

“You have to be concerned,” agreed a career senior U.S. official who reviewed the legal underpinnings of Bush’s claim. “It takes Executive Branch authority beyond anything we’ve ever known.”

A top Senate Intelligence Committee aide promised, “It’s something we’re going to look into.”

Most of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act deals with mundane reform measures. But it also explicitly reinforced protections of first-class mail from searches without a court’s approval.

Yet in his statement Bush said he will “construe” an exception, “which provides for opening of an item of a class of mail otherwise sealed against inspection in a manner consistent … with the need to conduct searches in exigent circumstances.”

Bush cited as examples the need to “protect human life and safety against hazardous materials and the need for physical searches specifically authorized by law for foreign intelligence collection.”

White House spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore denied Bush was claiming any new authority.

“In certain circumstances – such as with the proverbial ‘ticking bomb’ – the Constitution does not require warrants for reasonable searches,” she said.

Bush, however, cited “exigent circumstances” which could refer to an imminent danger or a longstanding state of emergency.

Critics point out the administration could quickly get a warrant from a criminal court or a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge to search targeted mail, and the Postal Service could block delivery in the meantime.

But the Bush White House appears to be taking no chances on a judge saying no while a terror attack is looming, national security experts agreed.

Martin said that Bush is “using the same legal reasoning to justify warrantless opening of domestic mail” as he did with warrantless eavesdropping.


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New era as Democrats take power

Democrats are taking control of the US Congress after 12 years as a minority – with a woman at the helm of the House of Representatives for the first time.

Nancy Pelosi will become speaker in a ceremony at 1200 (1700 GMT), and will be the second in line to the presidency, after the vice-president.

In another first, a representative will use the Koran not Bible for their vow.

Correspondents say the shift in power could lead to challenges to the authority of the White House.

Unity appeal

Ms Pelosi, who will be referred to as “Madam Speaker”, has vowed to clean-up Congress, saying: “It takes a woman to clean house” – a reference to the corruption seen as widespread on Capitol Hill.

Click here to see the new balance of power in Congress

She is one of 86 women set to serve in this Congress – the highest number in US history – although the institution remains overwhelmingly male.

In the face of a Democratic majority in both the Senate and the House, Mr Bush, who has already held talks with Ms Pelosi, made an appeal for congressional unity.

We’ve all been entrusted with public office at a momentous time in our nation’s history and together we have important things to do,” Mr Bush said in a speech on Wednesday morning.

“It is time to set aside politics and focus on the future,” he added, urging Democrats not to pass “bills that are simply political” statements.

Leading Democrats have also called for a new spirit of bi-partisanship in Washington.

Senator Charles Schumer said: “We certainly want to work with the president. We hope that when the president says compromise, it means more than do it my way, which is what he’s meant in the past.”

Ms Pelosi has published a manifesto for the Democrats’ first 100 hours. Along with a promise to stamp out corruption, it includes plans to boost the minimum wage, increase stem cell research, and end subsidies for large oil companies.

Democrats have also said they will put pressure on Mr Bush to begin a phased withdrawal from Iraq.


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Group: ExxonMobil paid to mislead public

ExxonMobil Corp. gave $16 million to 43 ideological groups between 1998 and 2005 in a coordinated effort to mislead the public by discrediting the science behind global warming, the Union of Concerned Scientists asserted Wednesday.

The report by the science-based nonprofit advocacy group mirrors similar claims by Britain’s leading scientific academy. Last September, The Royal Society wrote the oil company asking it to halt support for groups that “misrepresented the science of climate change.”

ExxonMobil did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the scientific advocacy group’s report.

Many scientists say accumulating carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases from tailpipes and smokestacks are warming the atmosphere like a greenhouse, melting Arctic sea ice, alpine glaciers and disturbing the lives of animals and plants.

ExxonMobil lists on its Web site nearly $133 million in 2005 contributions globally, including $6.8 million for “public information and policy research” distributed to more than 140 think-tanks, universities, foundations, associations and other groups. Some of those have publicly disputed the link between greenhouse gas emissions and global warming.

But in September, the company said in response to the Royal Society that it funded groups which research “significant policy issues and promote informed discussion on issues of direct relevance to the company.” It said the groups do not speak for the company.

Alden Meyer, the Union of Concerned Scientists’ strategy and policy director, said in a teleconference that ExxonMobil based its tactics on those of tobacco companies, spreading uncertainty by misrepresenting peer-reviewed scientific studies or cherry-picking facts.

Dr. James McCarthy, a professor at Harvard University, said the company has sought to “create the illusion of a vigorous debate” about global warming.


On the Net:

Union of Concerned Scientists: http://www.ucsusa.org

ExxonMobil: http://www.exxonmobil.com/corporate


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