WASHINGTON (CNN) - Rep. Joe Wilson's wife Roxanne has been diagnosed with swine flu, the congressman's office confirmed to CNN on Thursday.
The South Carolina Republican who gained instant notoriety in September for shouting "You lie!" at the president told The Hill newspaper on Thursday that he plans to keep his distance from his wife when he returns home this weekend.
Wilson said he plans to get the H1N1 vaccination soon, but only after "the majority of the American people" receive it.
Rep. Greg Walden, R-Washington, is the only member of Congress to have contracted swine flu. He tweeted the news on Monday, revealing plans to head off to "seclusion for a while" while he recovers.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Sarah Palin and Tim Pawlenty, two Republicans widely viewed as possible 2012 White House hopefuls, weighed in Thursday night on the closely-watched special election in New York's 23rd congressional district. They chose very different approaches - but neither endorsed the GOP candidate.
Calling it a matter of principle, Palin - the 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate - bucked her party and enthusiastically endorsed Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman over Republican Dede Scozzafava. The race has attracted national attention, especially from grassroots activists who accuse Scozzafava of not being conservative enough to run under the Republican party mantle.
"Doug Hoffman stands for the principles that all Republicans should share: smaller government, lower taxes, strong national defense, and a commitment to individual liberty," the former Alaska governor wrote on her Facebook page. "Political parties must stand for something."
Palin then urged her supporters to donate to Hoffman, who she said "has not been anointed by any political machine."
Just minutes before she made the announcement, Pawlenty happened to be speaking to reporters in Washington after a fundraiser for his new political action committee. The Minnesota governor refused to make an endorsement when asked about the race.
"You know I haven't been following that, I haven't studied the race at all," he said. "It's not that I would or wouldn't, I just don't know anything about it. I haven't taken the time to study their positions, their records, so I haven't taken a position on it."
The Minnesota governor did venture to make a prediction in two other high-profile campaigns, the Virginia and New Jersey governor's races. Pawlenty predicted victory for Republicans, but quickly hedged on New Jersey.
"I think we're going to win them both," he said. "In New Jersey, I don't want to get ahead of ourselves. But it sure looks like Republicans are going to win in Virginia. New Jersey's going to be a closer call, but that's also a tougher state for Republicans. But if the election were held today I think we'd win them both."
Scozzafava and Hoffman are on the ballot along with Democrat Bill Owens. Election Day is November 3.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Senate Democratic leaders met Thursday night with White House officials to consider including a government-funded public health insurance option, along with a provision allowing states to opt out of it, in a health care overhaul bill.
Two senior Democratic Senate sources told CNN that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is leaning toward a public option with the state opt-out provision in the Senate health care bill that will reach the full chamber in coming weeks.
According to one source familiar with the White House meeting, the matter was discussed with President Barack Obama but no decisions were made.
Republicans and some moderate Democrats oppose a public option, threatening the chances for a bill that includes the provision to get the 60 votes necessary to overcome a Senate filibuster.
The state opt-out provision is considered a possible way to get moderate Democrats to support a bill with a public option. However, the spokesman for Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, a key moderate, said Nelson opposes the idea of a national public option with an opt-out for the states.
In addition, the idea is opposed by Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, the only Republican to support any kind of health care proposal so far. Snowe's spokesman, John Gentzel, confirmed to CNN her opposition to the modified public option.
(CNN) - White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs fired back Thursday at the latest criticisms from Dick Cheney, and suggested the Bush administration did not send U.S. troops into foreign conflicts responsibly.
"What Vice President Cheney calls 'dithering,' President Obama calls his solemn responsibility to the men and women in uniform and to the American public," Gibbs said. "I think we've all seen what happens when someone doesn't take that responsibility seriously."
Gibbs' comments come a day after the former vice president issued a blistering a wide-ranging critique of the Obama administration's foreign policy, saying Obama appears "afraid to make a decision" when it comes to troop levels in Afghanistan, and the president's indecision is "hurt[ing] our allies and emboldening our adversaries."
In his comments Thursday, Gibbs said the delay over a troop decision in Afghanistan is largely due to the fact the Bush administration did not adequately assess the conditions in the country ahead of sending troops there.
"I think it is a curious comment," Gibbs also said, "I think it is pretty safe to say that the vice president was for seven years not focused on Afghanistan. Even more curious given the fact that an increase in troops sat on desks in this White House including the vice president's for more than eight months - a resource request filled by President Obama in March."
"I find it interesting that he's blaming us for something that he didn't see fit to do over, best I can tell, seven years of a war in Afghanistan," he added.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Federal Communications Commission took the first step Thursday in a process intended to formalize and further define principles governing management of the Internet's infrastructure by the nation's broadband access service providers.
The federal agency published two pages of proposed rules which the FCC says are intended "to preserve the open Internet," an approach to the nation's information super highway that seeks to make access open to all under fair and equal conditions.
In a statement announcing its proposal, commonly termed "net neutrality," the FCC explained its aims in drafting the new rules.
"In addition to providing greater predictability for all stakeholders, the [proposed rules are] aimed at securing the many economic and social benefits that an open Internet has historically provided," the agency's statement says, "[The proposal] seeks to do so in a manner that will promote and protect the legitimate needs of consumers, broadband Internet access service providers, entrepreneurs, investors, and businesses of all sizes that make use of the Internet."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Senate on Thursday passed groundbreaking legislation that would make it a federal crime to assault an individual because of his or her sexual orientation or gender identity.
The expanded federal hate crimes law now goes to President Barack Obama's desk. Obama has pledged to sign the measure, which was added to a $680 billion defense authorization bill.
The measure is named for Matthew Shepard, a gay Wyoming teenager who died after being kidnapped and severely beaten in October 1998.
Several religious groups have expressed concern that a hate-crimes law could be used to criminalize conservative speech relating to subjects such as abortion or homosexuality.
Attorney General Eric Holder has asserted that any federal hate-crimes law would be used only to prosecute violent acts based on bias, as opposed to the prosecution of speech based on controversial racial or religious beliefs.
(CNN) - Before an extramarital affair came to light in June that effectively ended his future political ambitions, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford said repeatedly that he was not thinking about running for president in 2012, despite clear indications that he was working to build a national profile among conservatives.
But he admitted Thursday that his once busy itinerary was distracting him from his official duties as governor.
"My life before had become stupidly busy with all of my responsibilities - fundraising, speaking engagements across the country, a book deal," Sanford said in an interview with the Florence Morning News editorial board. "I haven't been this focused on my job in a long time because I don't have all those responsibilities anymore."
"I have my family and whatever's going to happen there," he continued. "And I have my job and whatever's going to happen there. You can drive yourself crazy sitting around thinking about 'the might have beens' of life. I'm here, because I think I can still make a difference."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen warned fellow Democrats Thursday that they are heading into a challenging midterm election, but assured them that everything is being done to head off major losses in 2010.
"Historically, we're facing a headwind this cycle with a record number of Frontline Members, a smaller playing field of challenger races, and a difficult fundraising environment," Van Hollen wrote in a six-page memo sent to House Democrats and obtained by CNN. "We've known about that challenge from the start and have been aggressively preparing for it, applying the lessons from the last two successful cycles."
Van Hollen, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, points to 20 Republican seats that he thinks can turn Democratic in 2010. Of those 20, Van Hollen singled out open seats in Delaware, Illinois and Pennsylvania, as well as the Louisiana seat held by GOP Rep. Joseph Cao, as "four strong pick up opportunities."
"As we discussed at the beginning of this year, after House Democrats' big wins over the past two cycles – 54 seats in some of the reddest districts in the country – our best defense this cycle is a strong offense," Van Hollen wrote.
(CNN) - If Democrat Bill Owens manages to claim victory in next month's special congressional election in upstate New York, he'll have some unlikely benefactors to thank.
In an echo of the Sen. Arlen Specter-Pat Toomey fight that prompted the Pennsylvania senator to abandon the GOP - many of the toughest attacks on the Republican nominee, state assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava, are coming from voters who identify themselves as conservatives. The catcalls from the right became a chorus Thursday, with simultaneous noon editorials from major conservative media outlets - including the National Review, Washington Times, and RedState.com - all calling on Scozzafava to withdraw from the race, citing a run-in earlier this week with a conservative journalist.
The GOP candidate, said the Washington Examiner, "should withdraw from the special election campaign for New York's 23rd congressional district. And donors to the Republican National Committee (RNC) and the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), which funded Scozzafava, should demand their money back."
The national party re-affirmed its support for Scozzafava. "The NRCC supports Dede in this race," said National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Paul Lindsay. "We will continue to remind central and northern New Yorkers that a vote for Doug Hoffman or Bill Owens is a vote for Nancy Pelosi and her far left, radical agenda."
Both Owens and Scozzafava - but particularly the Republican candidate - have been hit hard by conservatives backing third-party candidate Doug Hoffman, who has now pulled within single digits of the GOP's pick in the most recent survey of district voters.
The campaign for this House seat is the latest display of disaffection from the conservative base over the national GOP's recent candidate recruitment efforts. Hoffman has nabbed the backing of New York's Conservative Party, which generally supports Republican nominees – a nod that, in a state where candidates can run under multiple party lines, can often provide the edge in narrow races.
(Update after the jump: Sarah Palin weighs in)
WASHINGTON (CNN) - An interest group supported by energy companies is attacking Sen. Lindsey Graham in his own backyard over his willingness to support cap-and-trade legislation.
The Republican has been collaborating with moderate senators to put together bipartisan energy legislation that would link a cap-and-trade program to expanded nuclear energy production and offshore oil and gas drilling. But many in Graham's party view a cap-and-trade program as a tax on energy companies that would be passed along to consumers.
Now the American Energy Alliance, a group funded in part by oil and gas companies that back offshore drilling, is launching a week of radio ads in South Carolina accusing Graham of supporting policies that will weaken the state's already suffering economy.
"So why would Senator Lindsey Graham support new energy taxes called cap-and-trade that will further harm our economy and kill millions of American jobs?" a narrator asks in the radio spot, which went up Thursday. "If that wasn't bad enough, Senator Graham's new energy taxes will have all of us paying more at the pump for a gallon of gas while seeing a 53 percent jump in electricity bills. Who can afford that in this economy?"
The quarter million dollar campaign against Graham will also include television and online ads in the coming weeks.