Tales from the Trail

McCain, Napolitano shoot it out, rhetorically speaking, over US-Mexico border

OIL-RIG/LEAK

USA-SECURITY/When Arizonans John McCain and Janet Napolitano started arguing over border security in the Senate on Wednesday, it sounded briefly like the pair could be heading for a modern day shootout at the O.K. Corral.

But it ended in a Mexican stand-off instead, with each cow poke flanked by an imaginary posse of sympathetic sheriffs.

The trouble started when McCain, a Republican senator, got his chance to ask questions at a hearing of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano, a former Democratic governor of Arizona, was a testifying witness in discussions that had been all about Islamist militancy up to then.

But McCain turned the conversation sharply toward the southwest to ask about security along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Reuters-Ipsos poll: Senate Majority Leader Reid barely ahead in Nevada race

Perhaps it will become known as a tale of two Reids.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is barely ahead of his Republican opponent Sharron Angle in the Nevada race for U.S. Senate, and his son Rory Reid is slipping against Republican Brian Sandoval in the governor’s race, according to a Reuters-Ipsos poll.

Looking at likely voters, Reid is up 46-44 percent against Angle. Among registered voters, Reid is up 46-38 percent and among independents, he is up 29-15 percent. USA-ELECTIONS

When it comes to Nevada voters views of the Tea Party, which supports Angle, 51 percent of registered voters, 56 percent of Republicans and 57 percent of independents said it would make no difference on whether to support or not support Angle.

Senator Durbin has small tumor removed, “resting comfortably”

The Senate’s number two Democrat Richard Durbin had a small tumor removed from his stomach on Thursday and was “resting comfortably” after the operation, his office said.

USA HEALTHCARE/Durbin should be out of the hospital in Chicago in a couple of days and expects to resume a full schedule by next week, the statement from his spokesman Joe Shoemaker said. 

“According to Durbin’s doctors, there was no evidence that the tumor had spread beyond the site from which it was removed,” the statement said, adding that preliminary biopsy results “demonstrate a favorable prognosis.”

Should U.S. oil royalties pay for studies of BP spill’s environmental impact?

OIL-SPILL/Oil caused the mess in the Gulf of Mexico. Should U.S. oil royalties pay for scientists to study what happened, and what’s still happening, to this complex environment?

At least one scientist thinks so. Ed Overton of Louisiana State University figures the billions of dollars collected in royalties by the now-defunct and much-reviled Minerals Management Service — re-named and re-organized as the Bureau of Ocean Energy — must have enough money to pay for research into the environmental impact of the Deepwater Horizon blowout and spill.

Speaking at a Senate hearing last week on the effects of oil-dispersing chemicals, Overton and other experts called the BP spill an unintentional “grand experiment” into what deep water oil exploration can do to animals, plants, water and land in the Gulf. As Overton put it, the oil and dispersants are out there now. Best to study them over the months and years ahead to figure out what they’re doing to the environment.

Al Franken’s moment of backsliding…

It was one of those moments Al Franken seems to work hard to suppress.

The comedian-turned-politician has kept a mostly straight face through his first year as a senator — listening seriously to hours of committee testimony and posing pointed questions with only the flicker of a smile crossing his face.
USA-COURTS/SOTOMAYOR
Thursday’s Senate debate over Elena Kagan was evidently too much for the clown in him to bear.

As Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell argued that Kagan was too inexperienced and political to be confirmed as a justice of the Supreme Court, Franken couldn’t contain himself.

The liberal Democrat from Minnesota, who was presiding over the Senate at the time, rolled his eyes, let out his breath and finally began to shake his head, a Senate Republican aide said.

Washington Extra – Obama’s BlackBerry 10

Tempers ran high in the Senate today as Republicans blocked a $30 billion Democratic plan to help community banks boost lending to small businesses. Democrats are fast running out of time to show they are doing something to cut unemployment ahead of November’s elections, but this is just the latest bill to founder on objections from Republicans and some centrist Democrats, who argue extra spending should be covered by cuts elsewhere in the budget.

This time Republicans complained they were shut out of the amendment process and that a billion dollars of agriculture spending had been attached to the legislation. Mindful that voters think his administration is not doing enough to create jobs, Obama had been calling for the Senate to pass this bill, and he will likely be dismayed by this latest setback. OBAMA/

If that was the thorn in Obama’s day, the rose was probably his appearance on ABC’s ”The View”, sitting on a couch peppered with questions by five women, including Barbara Walters and Joy Behar. Referring to how his family discuss the highs and lows of their lives, he talked about the “roses” and “thorns” of his life as president, revealed he hadn’t been invited to Chelsea Clinton’s wedding and said his i-Pod included Jay-Z and Frank Sinatra but thankfully nothing by teen sensation Justin Bieber.

Republicans create caucus ‘to listen’ to Tea Party

There are scores of U.S. congressional caucuses that focus on specific issues — including ones to combat hunger and cancer, advance the arts, protect the environment and promote the rights of black, Asian, Hispanic and other Americans.

The conservative Tea Party movement scored a milestone on Wednesday in its drive to be heard in Washington when two dozen Republican members of the House of Representatives held the first meeting of the new Tea Party Congressional Caucus. USA-HEALTHCARE/

“We decided to form a Tea Party Caucus for one very important purpose, to listen to the concerns of the Tea Party,” Representative Michele Bachmann, chief organizer, told a Capitol Hill news conference afterward.

Snowe says “yes” to Wall St. bill

The decision is in….snowe2

Senator Olympia Snowe has ended the suspense, announcing that she will support the financial regulatory reform bill.

Snowe, a moderate Republican from Maine,  joined fellow Republicans Scott Brown and Susan Collins – the other senator from Maine — in saying “yes” to the measure that most in their party strongly oppose.

Their backing leaves Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Democrats just one vote shy of the 60 needed for the measure to advance.

Will she or won’t she?

USAThe suspense continues…

All eyes are on Senator Olympia Snowe, a moderate Republican from Maine, who has not yet decided on how she will vote on financial regulatory reform.

Snowe’s could be the crucial 60th vote after Republican Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown said on Monday that he will support the bill.

On Saturday Snowe said she hadn’t decided and that the most important thing was “to get it right.” Her view had not changed so far today, a staffer tells me.

‘If I could live another 100 years, I’d like to continue in the Senate’ – Robert Byrd

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – It was a sight that would have seemed unimaginable when Senator Robert Byrd was growing up in West Virginia.

On Friday at a memorial service for the longest-serving member of the U.S. Congress, the first black American president paid tribute to a man who in his youth had belonged to the Ku Klux Klan.

OBAMA/It was just a moment in time, but reflected the sweep of social and political change in U.S. history during the 92 years of Byrd’s life.