WASHINGTON (CNN) - California Rep. Henry Waxman won the chairmanship of the House Energy and Commerce Committee Thursday, defeating the longtime chairman, John Dingell of Michigan, in a secret ballot vote of the incoming Democratic caucus.
Waxman - first elected to the House in 1974 - defeated Dingell - first elected in 1955 - by a vote of 137 to 122. Dingell has served as the Energy and Commerce Committee's top Democrat for the past 28 years. Waxman was the committee's No. 2 ranking Democrat.
"It was a contentious race, and it was a close one as well," Waxmam said immediately following the vote. "I want to point out... that this in no way diminishes the enormous contribution to our country by Chairman John Dingell." Waxman, a top ally of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, argued that "we needed a change for the committee to have the leadership that will work with this administration... in order to get important issues passed in health care, environmental protection and energy policy."
Regarding Dingell's long tenure in the House and on the committee, Waxman said, "seniority is important, but it should not be a grant of property rights to be chairman for three decades or more."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Defense Secretary Robert Gates has long said he wants to ensure a smooth transition at the Pentagon with the Obama administration, but it may be a while before some of the big secrets are revealed to the new team.
Gates will have his first substantive meeting with members of President-elect Barack Obama's transition team Thursday to discuss key issues the new administration will face as it comes into office.
But CNN has learned that the Obama transition team will not immediately be provided classified information on current military operations and plans, certain National Security Council matters, intelligence programs and future DOD budget plans for the time being, under the terms of a memo sent to senior DOD officials by Gates' top aide.
CNN has obtained a copy of the three-page memo, sent to all top department civilian and military officials November 19 by aide Robert Rangel.
It outlines what can and cannot be shared at this point with Obama's transition staff.
According to the memo, until there is "further guidance," there will be no disclosure of "sensitive information" in the following categories: "current military operations; special access programs; pre-decisional budget information; contingency operations/plans; personnel records; privileged and other legally protected information; competition sensitive information; and active National Security Council policy deliberations."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Republican Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, a fixture in the U.S. Senate for nearly 40 years, gave a brief farewell to fellow senators Thursday, adding that he is confident he can "remove the cloud that currently surrounds me."
Stevens, who turned 85 Tuesday, was convicted in October of seven felony charges for filing false statements over several years on his Senate financial disclosure forms. Prosecutors said Stevens hid hundreds of thousands of dollars in "freebies" from an oil-field services company in his home state.
Stevens maintained his innocence even after the conviction. At a debate days before the November 4 general election, he said he had "not been convicted of anything."
It's not clear if the outcome of his trial influenced voters, who gave Stevens 47 percent of their ballots and 48 percent to his Democratic rival for the seat, Mark Begich. Begich currently serves as the mayor of Anchorage, Alaska.
(CNN) - Remember the date. Thursday, November 20, 2008. Mike Huckabee visits Iowa. Just 16 days have passed since the presidential election, and 2012 is a long, long, long way away.
So what gives? Is the former Republican presidential candidate heading to Iowa because he's thinking of making another run for the White House in the next election?
Not at all, he says. He told CNN yesterday that he's just trying to sell his new book, "Do the Right Thing: Inside the Movement that's Bringing Common Sense Back to America."
On Thursday, his 56-city book tour brings the former Arkansas governor to Cedar Rapids and Des Moines, Iowa. He says he has a lot of fans there. He named the first chapter of the book "I love Iowa" and he thinks he can sell a lot of books in the state.
It was just 11 months ago that Huckabee surprised many political watchers by winning Iowa's Republican caucuses. He went on to win seven more primary contests before giving up his bid for the GOP presidential nomination and backing John McCain in March.
Besides the book, Huckabee is also hosting a weekly TV program and next year begins a radio gig as well. Could all this be an attempt to get ready for another run for the White House?
Wolf Blitzer asked Huckabee just that yesterday on CNN's "The Situation Room." But Huckabee dodged the question about whether he wants to run again, saying "There's a part of me that wants to see some fundamental change. I may not be the one to lead it."
(CNN) – Vote recounting resumes Thursday in Minnesota in the battle for Norm Coleman's US Senate seat. The recount kicked off yesterday and could extend into next month.
Unofficial results from the November 4th election put Coleman, a freshman Republican senator, just 215 votes ahead of his Democratic challenger, Al Franken, known across the country from his days on Saturday Night Live and from his years as a talk show host on Air America, the progressive radio network. The slim margin for Coleman, far less than one half of one percent, triggered an automatic recount, the first time there's ever been a recount of a US senate race in Minnesota.
Now election officials, at 107 sites across Minnesota, are beginning the long process of recounting all of the ballots. They're surrounded by election observers and lawyers from both campaigns, and the media.
According to the Secretary of State's office, 15.49 percent of the more than 2.9 million votes cast in the election were recounted yesterday. It appears Franken made a dent of 43 votes into Coleman's lead of 215, according to the results posted on the Secretary of State's website. The site also reports that 115 ballots were challenged by Coleman's camp and 106 by Franken's camp.
The recount will extend well into December. The recount sites across Minnesota have a deadline of the first week of December to report their results. After that the state's canvassing board meets to rule on disputed ballots and to certify the election. And after that, if one side is not happy with the results, legal action could be possible.
(CNN) – Vice President-elect Joe Biden’s eldest son Beau left his training base in Texas on Wednesday, bound for a year-long tour of duty in Iraq with his Delaware National Guard unit.
The 114 members of the 261st Signal Brigade were training at Fort Bliss, Texas for the past two months ahead of their mobilization to Iraq. Captain Beau Biden, also Delaware’s attorney general, will serve as an assistant Judge Advocate General (JAG) officer in Iraq, enforcing the Uniform Code of Military Justice and helping troops with legal issues back home.
On their way to Iraq, the unit will make two stops before arriving at a staging area outside of Iraq where they will receive additional training and equipment. The location of the staging area is classified, though most U.S. troops stage in Kuwait before going into Iraq.
The Vice President-elect was able to see his son one last time before his mobilization last weekend in Nevada when the unit had ‘R&R’ leave.
Beau was also given special permission to fly to Chicago to join his family on Election Day but declined, instead watching the returns and President-elect Barack Obama’s speech on a laptop at Fort Bliss.
“This is a different brand of kid,” his father remarked to reporters on the flight to Chicago.
Joe Biden often gets emotional when talking about his family and fought back tears during brief remarks at Beau’s deployment ceremony in Dover, Delaware on October 3.
“I’ve come here many times before – as a Delawarean, as a United States senator. But today I come as you prepare to deploy as a father,” Biden told the soldiers and their families gathered in front of the Capitol building. “Like all of the family members that are here today gathered on this green, my heart is full of love and pride.”
“Never before has a Delaware guard unit been deployed that is better qualified,” he added. “You are the best demonstration of both our nation’s greatness and, equally as importantly, our people’s goodness.”
Beau will return to Delaware next September and though he has tried to tamp down speculation, rumors are swirling about the possibility of his running for his father’s Senate seat in 2010.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Democratic Senate leadership is considering a new role for Sen. Hillary Clinton should she decide to remain in the Senate and not accept the rumored offer of a position in President-elect Barack Obama's Cabinet, a Democratic official told CNN Wednesday.
CNN reported last week that Clinton and Obama met to discuss the possibility of Clinton, Obama's chief rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, serving as secretary of state. Multiple sources told CNN that Clinton left the meeting with the impression that the job was hers if she wanted it.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's motivation for considering a new role for Clinton at this time was unclear, although multiple Democratic sources said Clinton made it known to the leadership prior to her meeting with Obama that she wanted a new role.
(CNN) – President-elect Barack Obama's top choice for secretary of homeland security is Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, multiple Democratic sources close to the transition told CNN on condition of anonymity.
One source said he believed the final decision depends on the vetting of the Democratic governor, much like the selection of Eric Holder for attorney general.
Also, multiple Democratic sources say billionaire Chicago businesswoman Penny Pritzker is Obama's leading choice for commerce secretary. Pritzker ran Barack Obama's record-breaking fundraising effort, serving as the campaign's finance chair.
The sources say she would accept the job, which would not be formally offered until vetting is complete. But whether the rigors of the particular Obama vetting process will present a challenge to a business woman with no record in public office - and presumably extensive financial holdings - was
(CNN) – President-elect Barack Obama is poised to restore the United States' image in the international community, but experts say the president-elect must show the world that his actions will live up to his rhetoric.
Receiving a warm welcome is not the same as maintaining one, and Obama has a lot of work to do to improve the U.S. brand.
America's image has declined in nearly every region of the world in recent years, but Obama's victory "enables the United States to start again with a clean slate," according to John Quelch, the senior associate dean at Harvard Business School.
"Americans can actually go to dinner parties and cocktail receptions around the world today and not have to apologize for the United States the way they have had to do the last several years," he said. "The election has made life a little bit easier for Americans living and traveling abroad to hold their head up high again."
The United States' tarnished reputation has been fueled by a combination of factors, including opposition to U.S. policies like the invasion of Iraq and alleged torture and abuse of prisoners, the perception of hypocrisy, unilateralism, lack of contact with Americans and the perceived war on Islam, according to a congressional report released last summer.
CHICAGO (CNN) – The day before Vice President-elect Joe Biden turns 66, President-elect Barack Obama presented his running mate with 12 candlelit cupcakes after their weekly lunch on Wednesday. He also gave Biden Chicago White Sox and Chicago Bears hats as well as a bucket of Garrett's popcorn as presents.
“You’re 12 years old!” Obama told Biden according to a Democratic source.
“Maybe in dog years!” Biden responded, laughing.
Obama and the staff then sang Biden ‘Happy Birthday.’
Rarely did Biden make a stop on the campaign trail and not mention his age. “I want you to know,” he would tell supporters, “there are only four members of the Senate who are senior to me. But the very important thing to know is there are still 39 older than me.”