WASHINGTON (CNN) – Sen. Arlen Specter continues to feel the love from the White House, with Vice President Joe Biden penning a campaign e-mail Thursday for the Republican-turned-Democrat.
"Over the years, we've certainly had our disagreements," Biden writes in the note that was sent to 500,000 Pennsylvanians on the Democratic National Committee/Organizing for America e-mail list. "During that time, however, Arlen has been my friend, my confidant, and my partner in enacting many pieces of significant legislation."
The e-mail includes hyperlinks that direct people to a page dedicated to Specter on the DNC Web site.
President Obama and national Democrats pledged to support Specter in his 2010 re-election run after he switched his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat last month. For now, Specter does not have a primary opponent, but Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak has not ruled out a bid for the party's Senate nomination.
The Specter Web site is the only candidate presence on the DNC Web site, a spokesman told CNN.
"It provides a place for folks who want to learn more about Senator Specter's record of integrity and service, and when they visit we are sure they will see why the President and Vice President see Senator Specter as a key ally in helping to advance an agenda for change on major issues including reforming America's health care system," DNC spokesman Hari Sevugan told CNN.
Another one of the three bullet points highlighted by the DNC is "Judiciary Confirmations: Senator Specter has played an important role in nine different Supreme Court nominations since 1981."
What the DNC doesn't mention is that Specter voted for Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito to join the U.S. Supreme Court, and for then-Justice William Rehnquist to be chief justice. None of the men were exactly Democrats' most beloved justices on the Court.
Full text of Biden's e-mail after the jump
The top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce committee, Texas Rep. Joe Barton, has been threatening to force the committee clerk to read the 900-plus page bill as a way to drag out the markup of the Democrats' climate change legislation. Worried that this could jeopardize his goal of voting the bill out of committee before the Memorial Day break, Democratic Chairman Henry Waxman of California hired a speed reader, in case one was needed to publicly race through the massive bill.
Barton decided not to follow through on his threat - but he wanted to find out what a speed reader sounded like. He requested that one of the Republican amendments be read in full, and asked that the new hire take over for the full time committee clerk. Waxman obliged, and Douglas Wilder sat before the committee and began reading rapidly. He spoke so quickly it was impossible to decipher his words, as listeners began to laugh and applaud.
Barton decided he'd heard enough, and said he didn't need to finish. He then joked with Waxman, that since he went to all that trouble, "we should at least get the benefit of the gentleman's expertise." Smiling, Waxman asked Wilder to state his name and asked if he was available for hire. Wilder enthusiastically told the committee: "yes!"
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Attorney General Eric Holder's Guantanamo Review Task Force is struggling to sort the prison detainees into five neatly ordered lists, as government lawyers try to somehow fashion a plan which will clear expected legal challenges while satisfying skeptical lawmakers and a nervous public.
Every turn appears more complicated as the weeks pass.
On the immediate heels of a demand by Congress for a clear and specific plan for emptying Guantanamo, one of President Barack Obama's top aides, David Axelrod, promised Thursday that Congress would receive such a plan, and declared the president's address Thursday represented a "framework for a plan." Administration officials indicate the plan itself is probably months away.
During an address on national security at the National Archives in Washington, Obama defended his decision to close the detention center at Guantanamo, and he outlined categories in which to separate the remaining detainees.
The framework calls for putting the names of the 240 remaining detainees into five piles, then trying to resolve the legal complexities of each.
WASHINGTON (CNN) –The Senate late Thursday easily passed a $91 billion spending bill for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. After stripping it of funds to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and placing restrictions on the transfer of its detainees, the bill was adopted 86 to 3.
The Senate included an amendment to prevent the public release of photographs that reportedly document the mistreatment of post-Sept. 11 detainees in U.S. custody.
The language is aimed at preventing a court from ordering their release in response to a freedom of information lawsuit.
President Obama, who initially wanted the photos released, changed his mind earlier this month - saying the release of the images could endanger U.S. troops and civilians by inciting violence in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – President Obama's push for a new energy policy got a major boost Thursday when a key House panel approved a plan aimed at addressing climate change.
The House Energy and Commerce committee passed the bill largely along party lines, 33-25. One Republican, Rep Mary Bono Mack, of California, voted with the Democrats in favor of the bill.
The bill, drafted by Democrats, would create a so-called "cap and trade" system for U.S. businesses to sell credits for pollution.
It sets a target for cutting greenhouse gases by 17 percent from their 2005 levels by 2020. An auction for the credits, which effectively starts in 2014, allows businesses who meet the new energy standard to sell their credits to those who are still working to become more energy efficient.
"We are now one step closer to delivering on the promise of a new clean energy economy that will make America less dependent on foreign oil, crack down on polluters, and create millions of new jobs all across America," Obama said in a written statement.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – The Obama administration is making government data more accessible with the launch of a new Web site Thursday.
An Office of Management and Busget representative tells CNN that in the next two to three weeks, the administration expects to use the new site, data.gov, to host more than 200,000 'datasets' - groupings of governmental information like the results of the last government survey of residential energy use.
The site is currently home to 46 'raw' datasets and 27 information tools, the OMB said in a statement announcing the site.
The site "will open up the workings of government by making economic, health care, environmental, and other government information available on a single website, allowing the public to access raw data and transform it in innovative ways," OMB Director Peter Orszag said in the statement. "Data.gov is going to be a one-stop shop for free access to data generated across all federal agencies. As we develop Data.gov, it will allow the American people to find, use, and repackage data held and generated by the government, which we hope will result in citizen feedback and new ideas."
The Obama administration says the site is an early step in making government data more available to the public.
"Moving forward, we want the default assumption to be that federal information is available at Data.gov," Obama's Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra also said in the statement. "This can be a creative platform that drives readable, machine-ready information across the government, giving the American people a greater voice in the government's priorities and broader access to the government's results," added Kundra.
The tools available on the site include a number of online widgets that users can embed in their own Web sites, blogs, or social networking profiles on sites like MySpace or Facebook.
Access and use of data on the new site is governed by the site's data policy.
Data.gov is part of the Obama administration's "Open Government Initiative."
WASHINGTON (CNN) – President Obama intends to nominate Chicago businessman Louis Susman to be the country's next U.S. ambassador to the Court of St. James's, according to sources familiar with the nomination.
Susman is 71 and retired in February as the vice chairman of Citigroup. Susman was a prominent fundraiser and "bundler" from Obama's presidential campaign and was also a key fundraiser for Sen. John Kerry's presidential bid.
The pick has been approved by the British government and Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – President Barack Obama on Thursday sent a controversial civil nuclear agreement with the United Arab Emirates to the Senate for ratification, but its passage remains uncertain, thanks to a recently disclosed video.
Senior U.S. officials told CNN that lawmakers critical of the deal could use the video - which shows a member of the UAE government's royal family torturing a man - to argue the United States should not have such nuclear cooperation with a country where the rule of law is not respected and human rights violations are tolerated.
The senior officials said the Obama administration deliberately held off sending the deal to Congress for ratification because of fears some lawmakers would try to use the video to undermine the agreement.
(CNN) – The Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers made the traditional winner's trip to the White House Thursday - but one of the team's star players was conspicuously missing from the lineup.
Linebacker James Harrison told reporters earlier this week he'd be a no-show at the White House. He denied any political motivation for his decision. "This is how I feel - if you want to see the Pittsburgh Steelers, invite us when we don't win the Super Bowl. As far as I'm concerned, he would've invited Arizona if they had won," said Harrison, who later joked that he was staying away because the White House was located in a "bad neighborhood."
This isn't the first time Harrison has declined an invitation to visit 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue - he turned down an invite from former President Bush after the Steelers won Super Bowl XL. "Let me ask you a question," he said Wednesday, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "Why is it a big issue now that I'm not going if it wasn't a big issue the last time?
"...Hey, James ain't changed. I guess my profile did, but I didn't change. I'm not going because I don't want to go," he said. "They're making a big deal out of this: 'Oh, my, James Harrison is not going to the White House; he must be a devil worshipper!'"
WASHINGTON (CNN) - House Republicans' effort to push the resolution to create a bipartisan investigation of Speaker Nancy Pelosi failed Thursday afternoon.
When Utah Republican Rob Bishop offered the resolution on the House floor, the presiding officer in the House ruled it out of order. House rules require that any resolution must pertain to the House itself - the GOP resolution called for an evaluation of statements made by the executive branch (the CIA).
Republicans appealed the ruling and called for a vote, but Democrats rejected the appeal, and it was defeated largely on party lines - 272-172. Two Republicans - Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas - voted with the Democrats.