Democrats' Fear of Issa Could Spell House Oversight Panel Shake-Up

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A growing number of House Democrats do not want Rep. Ed Towns, D-N.Y., to retain the party's top post on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee when Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., takes over the panel's reins in January, ABC News has learned.

Towns' critics believe that Democrats will need a stronger presence representing them in what likely will be numerous fights with the GOP's rising star, Issa, as the lower chamber's top investigative committee falls into Republican hands this winter, two Congressional sources familiar with the panel told ABC News.

"I think a lot of people in our party are thinking it's a good idea to look beyond Towns for ranking member," said a senior Democratic aide, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Over the last two years, with Towns chairing the panel and Issa serving as the ranking Republican, Issa "ran roughshod" over the New York lawmaker, the other source said.

In addition to fears among House Democrats, the White House also has concerns about Towns leading the party's fight against Issa, the source said.

But that notion was shot down by a spokesman for the Obama administration. The White House spokesman said the White House has "a productive working relationship" with Towns and officials "fully expect that to continue."

Even though the wheels are in motion to push Towns out, doing so will not be easy. If Towns, an African-American, were to lose the top Democratic spot on the panel, that could cause unrest among members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Out of the possible likely replacements for Towns -- Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y.; Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md.; and Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio -- only Cummings is African-American.

Further complicating matters is another internal Democratic fight, as Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., the most powerful African-American in Congress, duel for the party's number-two leadership spot.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio 


Cindy McCain Opposes John McCain Over 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(PHOENIX) -- Cindy McCain has delivered a double-barreled rebuke to the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy and to her husband, one of the policy's leading supporters. She chose as her forum a new anti-bullying video sponsored by a California gay and lesbian rights group.

"Our political and religious leaders tell LGBT youth that they have no future. They can't serve our country openly," says Cindy McCain. "Our government treats the LGBT community like second class citizens..."

The comments are the first time Ms. McCain has so publicly criticized the ban on openly gay and lesbian service members and exposes a deep divide over the issue of gay rights in one of the country's most prominent conservative families.

Sen. John McCain, a former Republican presidential nominee and decorated Vietnam veteran, has been a spirited supporter of "don't ask, don't tell" and led the effort to block repeal of the policy during a Senate vote in September. McCain's daughter, Meghan, a conservative blogger, has publicly aired her disagreement with her father, tweeting in September, "I am a supporter of LGBT rights and I am against DADT - I fight every day."

An ongoing Pentagon study of potential impacts of lifting the ban on openly gay troops is due to be completed by Dec. 1. But it's unclear how soon the results of that study will be shared with top military brass and members of Congress.

The House has already approved a conditional repeal of "don't ask, don't tell."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Saul Anuzis Challenges Michael Steele for RNC Chair

Photo Courtesy - ThatsSaulFolks [dot] com / ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- In the race for chairman of the Republican National Committee, Saul Anuzis, the former chairman of the Michigan Republican Party, was first out of the starting gate.

Anuzis, an influential party insider, announced on his blog and on Twitter Friday that he’s challenging current Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele for his post.

“Chairman Steele’s record speaks for itself.  He has his way of doing things. I have mine,” Anuzis said. “We will not win in 2012 if the RNC is not able to provide the financial resources we need to support the organizational efforts and ground games of our state parties.”

Steele hasn’t officially announced he’s running again, but party insiders are betting that it’s just a matter of time before he launches a re-election bid.  Anuzis ran against Steele two years ago, but came up short.

Anuzis may be the first challenger to emerge, but he’s unlikely to be the last. Movers and shakers within the GOP have been floating a variety of other names as potential challengers to Steele, including Wisconsin Republican Party Chairman Reince Preibus, former RNC chairman Mike Duncan, former North Dakota GOP chairman Gary Emineth, and former Bush administration official and 2008 Republican National Convention organizer Maria Cino, among others.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


As Pelosi Faces Dissent, President Obama Offers Praise

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi prepares to run for House Minority Leader amidst dissent among Democratic House members, ABC News asked President Obama at a press conference if he feels the Democratic Party would benefit from new blood and new leadership.

“I think Speaker Pelosi has been an outstanding partner for me,” the president said. “I think [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid has been a terrific partner in moving some very difficult legislation forward.  And I'm looking forward to working with the entire leadership team to continue to make progress on the issues that are important to the American people.”

Polls indicate that Pelosi is polarizing, and some Democrats have expressed concern that Democrats lost the House because she pushed an agenda that was too liberal.

Democratic Rep. Heath Shuler of North Carolina this week said that he would challenge Pelosi. 

“It will be very tough,” he said. “It is probably a race we can’t win. But we need a moderate voice in the Democratic Party.”

Even some of Pelosi’s allies in the House have expressed misgivings about her run for House Minority Leader.

“If the Red Sox came in and lost every game of the year and they kept the manager at the end of the year, that’s a problem," Democratic Rep. Michael Capuano of Massachusetts told the Boston Globe. “That’s what we seem to be on the verge of doing."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Congressman Charles Rangel's Ethics Trial Approaches Monday

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- A two-year ethics scandal that saw embattled New York Rep. Charles Rangel lose his powerful position among House Democrats, but not his bid for re-election, will come to a climax when he faces an ethics panel Monday on Capitol Hill.

The ethics trial promises to be a spectacle.  Rangel, 80, a former New York City prosecutor, likely will represent himself as he faces the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct.  The proceeding is formally called an adjudicatory hearing.

Rangel fired his legal team in late October, drawing into question whether the trial would be delayed.  But Rangel is expected  to seize Monday's opportunity to clear his name.

Rangel stands accused of 13 counts of violating House rules, but has emphatically denied any wrongdoing.  He allegedly failed to reveal more than half a million dollars in assets on financial disclosure forms, improperly obtained four rent-controlled apartments in New York City and failed to disclose financial arrangements for a villa at the Punta Cana Yacht Club in the Dominican Republic.

Perhaps the most serious charge surrounds Rangel's fundraising activities for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at City College of New York.  Rangel allegedly used his status as then-chairman on the House Ways and Means Committee to raise money for the center from corporations and foundations that had business before the House of Representatives and his committee.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Tea Party Leader: Romney’s Healthcare Past Won’t Fly

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Mitt Romney could face strong resistance in a potential White House bid from Tea Partiers troubled by the healthcare plan he implemented as governor of Massachusetts. 

In an interview on CBN’s The Brody File Show, Amy Kremer, director of grassroots and coalitions for the Tea Party Express, one of the most public Tea Party groups in the country, was asked if Romney’s hand in the enactment of the Massachusetts healthcare plan would fly with the Tea Party movement.

“I'm being honest here. You can't get away from that,” Kremer told host David Brody.  “These people don't have short memories.  They're digging up everything from the past, and they're not going to let go of the health care.”

In 2006, then Governor Romney instituted a statewide healthcare plan in Massachusetts, mandating each resident buys healthcare coverage and provided subsidies for low-income earners trying to obtain insurance. Meanwhile, similarities between Romney's plan and the president's have been pointed out.

Romney has since attempted to distance himself from the president's healthcare plan, but continued to defend the plan he passed in Massachusetts.  This past March, he called the Massachusetts plan “the ultimate conservative plan” in a television interview.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Health Care Reform Will Lead To More Abortions, Sarah Palin Says

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(DALLAS) -- During a speech in Dallas on Wednesday night Sarah Palin attacked President Obama for being the “most pro-abortion president to occupy the White House” and warned that health care reform would lead to more abortions in America.

"It is even worse than what we had thought. The ramifications of this legislation are horrendous," Palin said at an event hosted by Heroic Media, a faith-based, non-profit group that is working to bring down the rate of abortions in the Dallas area.

The 2008 vice presidential nominee urged the newly-elected Congress to repeal health care reform, which she called the “mother of all unfunded mandates.”

“The biggest advance of the abortion industry in America has been the passage of Obamacare,” Palin said.

Although President Obama signed an executive order prohibiting the use of federal funds for abortions, the former Alaska governor said it was nonbinding. Palin also noted the administration later allowed federal funding for some “high risk” insurance pools in states that allow elective abortions.

Palin did not address growing speculation that she is gearing up for a presidential run in 2012. However, she joked that she has told so many of the same stories recently that “I need to run for office just so I have more material to share in my speeches.”

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Christine O'Donnell Hints at Book Deal, Reality TV, and Dirty Laundry

Photo Courtesy - Jacquelyn Martin-Pool/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- Failed Republican U.S. Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell of Delaware was back in the TV talk show hot seat Wednesday night. But it didn't appear to be the start of her farewell tour.

O’Donnell, whose penchant for TV talk show appearances during the 1990s became a popular fixation during the 2010 campaign, told the Tonight Show’s Jay Leno that a book deal and reality TV show could be in her future.

"The offers have been interesting," she said. "I am not necessarily interested in a reality show, unless it’s something like a 30-minute ad we did for our campaign that highlighted these issues…I would like to do something like a watchdog-type show," said O'Donnell, who also did not rule out another run for public office.

Reflecting on her loss to Democrat Chris Coons -– her third failed bid for the office –- O’Donnell said intra-party politics hurt her campaign.  Many party leaders refused to support O’Donnell’s candidacy, which was backed by Tea Party groups and Sarah Palin.  GOP Rep. Mike Castle, whom she defeated in the primary, also refused to endorse her in the general election.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Sen. Conrad: Extend All Tax Cuts; Time to Get 'Serious' About Deficit

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The White House conceded that in order to get the middle class tax cuts passed in the lame duck session they would need to agree to extend all of them, The Huffington Post reports.  They will also have the full support of Sen. Kent Conrad, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.  He told ABC News Thursday, he “certainly hope[s]” Obama and Congress can come to an agreement before everyone’s taxes go up on Dec. 31.

“I think the president’s remarks are constructive, as you know I proposed some weeks ago that we extend all the tax cuts for a period of time until we are able to fundamentally reform the tax system,” he said. “Because that is what is required in part here along with spending reductions. Both are going to have to be done if we are going to get out of this deep hole.”

The North Dakota Democrat serves on the commission for deficit reduction -- which just came out with a draft proposal that includes tax increases and spending cuts to social security and Medicare. 

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Rand Paul, Incoming Republicans Target Federal Employees

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Some newly-elected Republicans are going after federal employees, or at least their wages.

Among them is GOP Sen.-Elect Rand Paul, who wants to reduce federal wages by 10 percent.  And his views happen to be in line with those of the Federal Debt Commission, which said Wednesday that the federal workforce should be cut by 10 percent and federal government salaries frozen across the board.

Paul made his case on ABC's This Week, arguing that such drastic measures would be justified because, by his calculations, the average government employee earns a six-figure salary.

"The average federal employee makes $120,000 a year," Paul of Kentucky said.  "The average private employee makes $60,000 a year.  Let's get them more in line, and let's find savings.  Let's hire no new federal workers."

But the average government employee earns nowhere near $120,000 per year.  "The median salary is $65,000," said Jennifer Dorsey of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Meanwhile, according to the most recent data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, full-time federal employees earned, on average, $73,765 in 2009; federal civil servants earned $81,258.

"If you look at federal employment, civilian employment, a large faction of those are postal workers, who clearly aren't making $120,000 a year," said Al Lee, director of analysis at, a compensation data company. "If you take those out, over half the remaining work in the Department of Defense as civilian employees, and even with can't get the $120,000."

Federal employees earn a median salary of $61,574, according to

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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