(CNN)–Too many congressional Republicans have stood in the way of legislative progress Senator Harry Reid said Saturday.
"The immigration vote we had this week was just the latest example," the Nevada senator said in the weekly Democratic radio address. "With that bill, we had a rare chance to make progress on one of the country's top problems. The overwhelming majority of Democrats voted to move forward on a bill even President Bush supported, but just a handful of Republicans joined us."
Reid was also critical of Republicans regarding legislation currently pending in the Senate. "The ethics reform bill passed by a vote of 96-2, but now Republicans are blocking it. The 9/11 commission bill passed with heavy Republican support, but they are also blocking this critical legislation."
In his remarks, Reid said putting partisan politics aside was the best way forward. "This can start next week with the Defense Authorization Bill, which is a new opportunity to change course in Iraq." The bill is expected to include measures that would seek to hasten a pull out of U.S. troops from Iraq. "While a growing number of Republicans are saying the right things on Iraq, we'll soon find out if they have the courage to vote the right way also."
– CNN Political Desk Editor Jamie Crawford
(CNN)–With the last of the troop reinforcements arriving in Iraq earlier this month, President Bush said Saturday the full troop surge has begun.
"And its goal is to help the Iraqis make progress toward reconcilation and build a free nation that respects the rights of its people, upholds the rule of law and is an ally in the war on terror." Bush made the comments Saturday in his weekly radio address.
"The enemy continues to carry out sensational attacks, but the number of car bombings and suicide attacks has been down in May and June." he said. "And because of our new strategy, U.S. and Iraqi forces are living among the people they secure, with the result that many Iraqis are now coming forward with information on where the terrorists are hiding."
Speaking to the upcoming Fourth of July holiday, Mr. Bush said it was important to remember the men and women in uniform who have given their lives in the struggle. "They've helped bring freedom to the Iraqi people. They've helped make Americans more secure. We will not forget their sacrifice."
Bush is in Kennebunkport, Maine this weekend. He will host a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
– CNN Political Desk Editor Jamie Crawford
WASHINGTON (CNN) - In presidential politics, money can create the perception of momentum, which is why the herd of 2008 White House hopefuls will be trying to stuff as much cash as they can in their coffers by midnight Saturday to show off their fund-raising prowess ahead of an upcoming federal report.
The Federal Election Commission requires presidential candidates to report their contributions and expenditures quarterly, and Saturday is the end of the second quarter. And although they have until July 15 to actually file their report with the FEC, many campaigns - especially those that did well - are likely to release the figures sooner.
In fact, several campaigns were providing estimates of their second quarter fund-raising even before the reporting period closed.
A spokesman for New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said he has raised at least $7 million from April through June, which would be about $800,000 more than he raised in the first quarter. Richardson's overall total will top $13 million, which would put him near the top of the second-tier of Democratic candidates.
Of course, he would still be far behind the front-runners, Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, who each raised more than $25 million in the first quarter.
Howard Wolfson, a spokesman for Clinton, indicated Thursday that the former first lady would raise "in the range of $27 million" in the second quarter, which would put her total take for the year north of $53 million. But,trying to tamp down expectations, he said the Clinton campaign expects to be outraised by Obama.
Obama's campaign, which raised $25 million in the first quarter, has set a goal of getting donations from 350,000 people during the second quarter, although it did not attach a dollar total. To beat Clinton's estimate, each of those donors would to give an average of about $78.
Another Democratic hopeful, former Sen. John Edwards, e-mailed supporters Friday morning, telling them that his campaign was within "striking distance" of raising $9 million for the quarter. The campaign later put up a running total on its Web site, saying that $8.7 million had been raised and asking supporters to help top the $9 million mark.
However, even at $9 million, Edwards' fund-raising total for the last three months would be sharply lower than it was during the first quarter, when he raised more than $14 million.
During the second quarter, former Republican Sen. Fred Thompson began raising money to test the presidential waters. However, because he is not a declared candidate and his fund-raising committee was incorporated in his home state of Tennessee, rather than at the federal level, he will not be required to report.
The campaign of another GOP candidate, Sen. John McCain, said it had reached its goal of raising $3 million online during the quarter, although it did not detail any numbers for its non-Internet fund-raising.
McCain shook up his fund-raising operation in April, after his take in the first quarter - $13 million - put him behind both former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Senator John McCain, R-Arizona
(CNN) - Normally VIP visits to Iraq are kept under wraps, at least until the day of the trip. But Senator John McCain Friday night said he’s going to Iraq next week.
Responding to a question in Chicago about whether the Iraq strategy can succeed, the Republican presidential candidate said, “I understand the sorrow of the American people. I visit the wounded quite often at Walter Reed and Bethesda. I’m going to Iraq on Monday. And I’m going to be proud. I would rather spend the 4th of July with the men and women in Iraq than anywhere else in the world.”
McCain told reporters, “I’ll be at a re-enlistment ceremony for a large number of them who have decided while in combat to re-enlist because they believe in the mission. And they believe what they’re doing. And they believe the consequences of failure can be catastrophic.”
This will be McCain’s sixth trip to Iraq.
He was last there in April, shortly before he officially announced his candidacy, and came under criticism for comments on progress he said he saw in Baghdad. After a visit to an outdoor market under heavy military protection, McCain said, “I've been here many times over the years. Never have I been able to drive from the airport. Never have I been able to go out into the city as I was today." He later said he regretted the comments, telling CBS’ “60 Minutes,” “Of course I am going to misspeak and I've done it on numerous occasions and I probably will do it in the future.”
– CNN's Jamie Crawford and Steve Brusk
Richardson's camp released its second quarter fundraising numbers Friday.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson will show that he has raised at least $7 million for his presidential campaign in the past three months, a spokesman tells CNN, one day before the books on the second fundraising quarter are closed.
Richardson has raised more than $13 million for his White House bid from more than 38,000 contributors this year. The New Mexico Democrat raised $6.2 million in the first three months of 2007. And Pahl Shipley, Richardson's spokesman, notes that all of the money raised can be used in the primary.
Richardson's campaign is the second to estimate how much money it raised in the second quarter. On Thursday, Sen. Hillary Clinton's spokesman indicated that the New York Democrat will raise "in the range of $27 million" in this same time period.
– CNN Political Editor Mark Preston
Romney is taking heat for the way he transported his dog on family trips.
(CNN) - Under fire from a leading animal rights group, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney defended the family dog's mode of transportation to a 1983 summer vacation.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) criticized the Republican presidential hopeful after The Boston Globe reported that Romney transported his dog in a rooftop carrier when the family drove from Boston to Ontario.
"If you wouldn’t strap your child to the roof of your car, you have no business doing that to the family dog," Ingrid Newkirk, president of PETA said in a statement. "I don’t know who would find that acceptable."
The article noted that Romney had built a wind shield carrier to make the ride more comfortable for the family's Irish Setter.
But on the campaign trail in Pennsylvania Thursday, Romney defended his chosen mode of transportation for the family dog.
"He scrambled up there every time we went on trips, got in all by himself and enjoyed it," Romney said of the Irish Setter.
Romney also conceded any endorsement of his candidacy by the group was unlikely.
"PETA has not been my fan over the years. PETA was after me for having a rodeo at the Olympics," he said in reference to his role as chief executive of the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, Utah. "PETA was unhappy when I went quail hunting in Georgia, and they're not happy that my dog likes fresh air."
– CNN Political Desk Editor Jamie Crawford
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards and his wife Elizabeth disagree over whether same-sex marriage should be legalized, but Elizabeth Edwards told CNN Friday it's not an issue the two spend much time discussing.
"We don't sit around and talk about gay marriage at home," Elizabeth Edwards told CNN's Wolf Blitzer Friday. "Honestly, I don't think many American couples do because it doesn't honestly affect our lives."
"It certainly doesn't threaten our marriage," Edwards added.
John Edwards has said he does not believe same-sex marriage should be legal, while Elizabeth Edwards has said she thinks it should.
Clinton's camp promises a behind the scenes look on the campaign trail.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - As a top tier presidential candidate, Sen. Hillary Clinton is surrounded by cameras nearly everywhere she goes.
But one more will follow the New York Democrat and her husband on the trail next week in Iowa, when her campaign debuts what it is calling the "HillCam," described as a "groundbreaking effort" that will show viewers a "totally unvarnished" Clinton.
"The HillCam will follow Hillary and Bill Clinton as they travel from Des Moines to Davenport, capturing their spontaneous and unscripted moments," according to a statement from the campaign. "Taking supporters beyond the soundbites, the HillCam will offer an unvarnished look at the Clintons’ first joint-campaigning of the 2008 race."
The Clintons will spend Monday-Wednesday in the crucial early-voting state.
– CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney
Brownback defended his immigration vote switch Friday.
In an interview with CNN Radio Friday, the presidential hopeful claimed he was trying to send two messages at once.
"I wanted to send a clear signal that I am for comprehensive immigration reform but now is not the time, this is not the vehicle,” Brownback said.
The Kansas Republican initially voted in favor of cloture, or keeping the bill alive, during the pivotal Thursday roll call. But 15 minutes after he cast that vote, a flurry of opposition crystallized into 45 fatal votes against the bill and it became clear the bill was going to die. At that point, Brownback changed position.
The cloture vote ultimately would fail 46-53, 14 votes short of the 60 it needed to survive. Brownback is among 18 Senators who voted for cloture on one aspect of the bill Tuesday, but then voted against it Thursday.
He is the only senator known to change votes during the roll call.
When pressed, Brownback again insisted the fast change was a conscience message about immigration policy change.
"This vehicle’s not the right vehicle to do it, that’s why I did it that way," he said.
– CNN Radio's Dick Uliano and Lisa Goddard contributed to this report
Edwards said Friday he is close to his $9 million fundraising goal.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - With the second quarter filing deadline looming, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards is hinting that he has raised nearly $9 million since April.
In an e-mail to supporters Friday morning, Edwards appealed for last minute contributions and wrote, "We're in striking distance of our $9 million fundraising goal."
It is not clear what Edwards' definition of "striking distance" is though.
In the same e-mail, the presidential hopeful continued his effort to capitalize off of his wife Elizabeth's on-air clash with conservative commentator Ann Coulter earlier in the week. He is now encouraging supporters to let "Elizabeth know how proud we are of her by leaving a personal message for her when you contribute."
The second quarter deadline ends Saturday at midnight.
– CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney