WASHINGTON (CNN)– House Democratic aides denied Wednesday that work is already underway on another stimulus package. The push back came a day after Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested more stimulus spending might be needed and the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee said he had already instructed his staff to begin working on a bill.
But multiple Democratic aides told CNN another stimulus plan is not in the works, and they maintained that Democratic leaders believe it will take more time to know whether the first recovery package is effective before taking up another bill.
One leadership aide said that House Appropriations Chairman David Obey got ahead of himself when he told CNN Tuesday evening that his committee was considering another stimulus package, though he had cautioned there was no timeline for moving it.
This aide said House Democratic leaders are letting the current stimulus play out, and that it will be "at least several months, as we get toward the end of the year and see where we are" before they would consider another stimulus bill.
Another Democratic aide said that the Appropriations committee "is not putting pen to paper. We think it's too soon to do [a second stimulus] now."
(CNN) – Former President Bill Clinton got personal in a wide-ranging interview with CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who is filing in for Larry King on Wednesday's Larry King Live.
When Gupta raised the issue of Clinton’s trademark finger wag, the former president interrupted the neurosurgeon.
“Sometimes it shakes,” Clinton said. “See, it’s a little shake,” he added as he lifted both hands, “but no shake here. I’ve been tested for it, I don’t have Parkinson’s.”
Clinton told Gupta he was “quite concerned” when he noticed his hands were shaking sometimes. “Because if I had Parkinson’s, I wanted to know so I could prepare. And I had it tested and the doctor said ‘no,’ he says it’s just a normal aging phenomenon.”
During the interview Clinton also discussed health care reform; stem cell research; and President Obama’s ambitious agenda on health care, energy, and education.
Watch Clinton and Gupta on CNN’s Larry King Live Thursday beginning at 9 pm Eastern time.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Just days after issuing a directive that has the potential to limit the impact of his predecessor’s prolific use of presidential signing statements, President Obama issued his first statement setting forth his administration’s “constitutional concerns” with a federal law.
In a two-page memo that accompanied his signing of the $410 billion spending bill Wednesday, Obama delineated five areas where the Department of Justice has advised him of potential constitutional problems with the bill – limits on negotiating with foreign governments or organizations foreign affairs, authority to control the military, communications with Congress, requirements to seek approval from congressional committees, and instructions for submitting budget requests to Congress.
In what may be a sign of potential turf battles to come between the White House and Capitol Hill, Obama states that the spending bill’s instructions to seek Congressional committee approval before spending or reallocating funds “are impermissible forms of legislative aggrandizement.”
Therefore, “spending decisions shall not be treated as dependent on the approval [from the committees].”
(CNN) - The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is putting heat on Louisiana Sen. David Vitter for a reported run-in with a Dulles Airport employee last Thursday as he scrambled to make a flight back to his home state.
“Sooner or later Senator Vitter should learn how to control himself,” said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman Eric Schultz, in an apparent reference to the Louisiana Republican's past involvement with Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the so-called "DC Madam."
According to the Capitol Hill publication Roll Call, Vitter arrived at the gate 20 minutes before his flight was set to depart and went "ballistic" when he saw that the gate had already been closed.
Upon trying to open the door to the jetway himself, the senator set off a security alarm and quickly grew heated with an airport employee. Vitter ultimately backed down when the employee called security, Roll Call also reported.
But Vitter suggested Wednesday the report was overblown.
"In a rush to make my flight home for town hall meetings the next day, I accidentally went through a wrong door at the gate," Vitter said in a statement. "I did have a conversation with an airline employee, but it was certainly not like this silly gossip column made it out to be."
The Louisiana senator is expected to face a tough re-election bid in 2010, still vulnerable after his phone number appeared in Palfrey's "Black Book" in the summer of 2007.
(CNN) - President Obama signed an executive order Wednesday to establish the White House Council on Women and Girls.
The newly created panel, which aims to ensure that the government considers how its policies impact females, is asking each federal agency to analyze its policies to make certain the agencies are "focused internally and externally on women."
Valerie Jarrett, a senior advisor to the president, will head the committee by serving as council chairwoman. Deputy Assistant to the President, Tina Tchen, will join Jarrett in leading the panel as the council's executive director.
"The purpose of this Council is to ensure that American women and girls are treated fairly in all matters of public policy," said President Obama in a statement released Wednesday. "My Administration has already made important progress toward that goal. I am proud that the first bill I signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act. But I want to be clear that issues like equal pay, family leave, child care and others are not just women’s issues, they are family issues and economic issues. Our progress in these areas is an important measure of whether we are truly fulfilling the promise of our democracy for all our people."
During the first year, the council maintains that it will focus on improving the economic status of women, developing strategies to establish a balance between work and family, working with agencies to prevent violence against women, and improving women's health care.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – The high interest in receiving grant money from the White House’s $787 billion stimulus package has the potential to overwhelm http://www.grants.gov, White House Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag said in memo issued Wednesday.
In recent months, the Web site, the central online portal where the public can search and apply for competitive grants from the federal government, has suffered from “noticeably degraded performance,” Orszag wrote. “In addition, [the stimulus bill] is expected to result in an approximately 60 percent additional increase in application volume to Grants.gov, putting the system at a significant risk of failure and thus potentially hampering [the bill’s] implementation.”
Read: Orszag's memo
In order to keep the site up and running, Orszag has instructed the Department of Health and Human Services, the federal agency that operates grants.gov, and the General Services Administration to develop improvements that will deal with the anticipated increase in traffic.
In the memo, Orszag also instructs federal agencies to identify alternative methods for accepting grant applications during the coming months when high interest in seeking stimulus money is expected by OMB.
(CNN) – President Obama nominated two seasoned veterans Wednesday to serve as U.S. ambassadors to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Obama announced that Christopher Hill would be his nominee for U.S. ambassador to Iraq, while Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry was picked as his U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan.
“These extraordinarily accomplished individuals have served their country with great distinction, and they have each agreed to take on tough assignments,” Obama said in a statement released by the White House.
See official biographies of Hill and Eikenberry released by the White House
(CNN) - Democratic governors are urging South Carolina’s legislature to override Gov. Mark Sanford’s decision to reject a portion of the funds from the stimulus package.
“Every state should be laser-focused right now on one issue: jobs, jobs, jobs," said Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, vice chair of the Democratic Governors Association, in a statement. "Governors are supposed to get things done, and nothing is more important than putting people to work using every tool you have to create jobs. This rejection is less about the people of South Carolina than it is Sanford's political ambitions.”
Sanford maintains that spending the funds would only make the state’s financial situation worse in the long term. The governor on Wednesday slammed President Obama’s stimulus plan, saying it could make the United States like Zimbabwe. “What you're doing is buying into the notion that if we just print some more money that we don't have, send it to different states - we'll create jobs. If that's the case why isn't Zimbabwe a rich place?” he said. “Because they're printing money they don't have and sending it around … that same logic is being applied there with little effect.”
The Republican governor wants to use a quarter of his state’s stimulus money to pay down its debt instead of using it on new spending, according to a letter he sent state legislators Tuesday. He plans to ask Obama for permission to do so.
Sanford’s request applies only to the $700 million in stimulus funds that he has discretion over, according to the terms of the stimulus bill. The remaining 75 percent - or roughly $2.1 billion - due to South Carolina will be spent as directed by federal law, Sanford said in his letter.
The governor told his state’s lawmakers that he believed spending the funds would only make the state’s financial situation worse in the long term. But, he said, because taxpayers will still be required to pay for the federal spending in other states, “a blanket rejection of the funds would be unwise.”
In the news release from the DGA, Nathan Daschle, the DGA’s executive director, said: “If this weren't really happening, it would be a joke.
"Real people in South Carolina are suffering. They've been laid off. They're struggling to put food on the table. They are poring over want ads that get thinner every day. And now their governor thinks he's too good for this help, even as the economy gets worse. He even wants to give cash to banks instead of putting it back in the economy. If I were them, I'd move to North Carolina,” he said.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – President Barack Obama on Wednesday signed the $410 billion omnibus spending bill, despite complaints that it is loaded with earmarks.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – If you paid any attention to last year's presidential campaign, John McCain's stinging Wednesday attack on President Obama over earmarks probably sounded familiar.
Just minutes after the president called for reform of the much-maligned federal earmarking process by having Congress and the White House embrace a new set of guiding principles, his one-time presidential opponent took aim at his comments.
"The President's rhetoric is impressive, but his statement affirms we will continue to do business as usual in Washington regarding earmarks in appropriations legislation," McCain said in a statement released by his office Wednesday. "The President could have resolved this issue in one statement – no more unauthorized pork barrel projects – and pledged to use his veto pen to stop them. This is an opportunity missed."
Yesterday, the Senate passed a $410 billion spending bill for the remainder of this fiscal year. The bill includes nearly 9,000 earmarks, in which funding is designated for particular projects, often at the request of individual lawmakers, to benefit their state or district.
Obama said Wednesday that he would sign the current spending bill, but that future earmarks should "have a legitimate and worthy purpose."