Washington (CNN) - Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-Rhode Island, blasted national reporters Wednesday for focusing on trivialities instead of the war in Afghanistan.
While delivering a speech, Kennedy spotted only a handful of reporters sitting in the press gallery overlooking the House floor. But because House floor debates are televised, reporters often monitor the proceedings from their desks outside the chamber where they can more easily take notes and work on computers.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - An unlikely tome has been seen in the Obama West Wing: "Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight," the new memoir by ex-Bush adviser Karl Rove.
A copy of the book was spotted Wednesday in the office of White House senior adviser David Axelrod, who is arguably Barack Obama's Rove. Axelrod confirmed to CNN he got a copy of the book from White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and is planning to check it out.
"I will read it," said Axelrod, who noted that he and Rove also were planning to have dinner a few months ago but the event was canceled because of scheduling reasons.
Axelrod hopes to re-schedule dinner with Rove down the road, undoubtedly trying to glean some insights about serving in the White House, dealing with midterm elections, and possibly looking ahead to a presidential re-election battle.
Oh, to be a fly in the wall for that one.
Washington (CNN) - Rep. Bart Stupak, the pro-life Democrat from Michigan who has made legislative language over abortion funding a flashpoint in the debate over health care reform, is now facing a primary challenger from the left. Connie Saltonstall, a former Charlevoix County commissioner and retired businesswoman from Charlevoix, Mich. who announced her primary challenge Tuesday.
"The main issue is he was willing to sacrifice health care reform because of abortion funding," Saltonstall told CNN. "He's been my congressman for many years. I have compromised voting for him because of his position on choice. Health care and choice are two issues I am especially concerned about."
Saltonstall also says she will continue her campaign regardless of the final abortion language in the health care bill, or Stupak's vote.
"The people in our district lost trust in him. At dinners, he did powerpoint presentations on health care telling us he was going to introduce amendments, but telling us he would support health care regardless of the amendment. But then when the amendment passed, at his press conference he stated if his amendment language was not included, he would take the bill down. He has continued to say he would not vote for the health care bill unless his language was put in," she explained.
St. Charles, Missouri (CNN) - President Obama took his increasingly populist health care overhaul pitch to the political battleground state of Missouri Wednesday, turning up the heat on private health insurers in a speech.
"What we're proposing is a common-sense approach to protecting you from insurance company abuses, and saving you money," said Obama, his shirtsleeves rolled up in the 75-degree heat. "That's the proposal and it's paid for. I believe Congress owes the American people a final up-or-down vote on health care reform."
He added, "The time for talk is over. It's time to vote."
Obama said many of the changes would be paid for by cutting waste in health care, which he said is estimated to have cost taxpayers almost $100 billion last year.
He likened the national debate about proposed changes to the current system to previous debates that swirled around the topic, including the passage of Medicare in 1965, and before.
"We've been debating it for 70 years," he said.
(CNN) – The Republican congressman who lost to New York Democrat Eric Massa in 2008 announced Wednesday that he will not run again for the now vacant seat.
"Over the last week, I have heard from hundreds of my former constituents urging me to run for my old congressional seat," Randy Kuhl said in a written statement. "Their emotional plea to me was humbling and most appreciative. But, after careful consideration, I have decided to forgo a run for Congress. I want to sincerely thank everyone who has supported me during my 28 years of public service."
In the statement, Kuhl also urged his neighbors and friends to support Republican Tom Reed's candidacy for Massa's old seat. Reed announced his bid prior to Massa's surprise decision last week not to seek re-election in November which was followed by another surprise announcement that Massa would resign effective Monday evening.
–CNN's Deirdre Walsh and Martina Stewart contributed to this report.
Washington (CNN) - House Democrats said Wednesday they will ban earmarks
directed to for-profit companies.
The move, announced by the Appropriations Committee and its Defense subcommittee, would apply to government spending bills Congress is considering for next year. But the committee said in a written statement the new rules are also "intended to become a long term proposition."
Out the door will be earmarks directed to private firms, many of them military contractors who frequently obtain multi-million dollar, no-bid contracts through the process. Instead, those companies will be allowed to
apply directly for funding to the Defense Department, which will decide what projects it wants to fund.
Defense earmarks include research proposals, systems upgrades and equipment production.
The Appropriations Committee said the earmark restrictions would have prohibited 1,000 earmarks this year, amounting to $1.7 billion.
In addition to the ban on earmarks aimed at for-profit businesses, the Appropriations Committee said it plans greater oversight of earmarks going to non-profits, directing executive agencies to audit 5 percent of all of those earmarks to make sure they are, in fact, being used as intended.
"Earmarks" refer to federal funding designated for particular projects, with taxpayer money allocated by members of Congress to home-state and home-district projects, often with an eye toward re-election.
(CNN) - Add another Republican to the race for Vice President Joe Biden's old Senate seat.
Christine O'Donnell formally announced her candidacy Wednesday. O'Donnell, a conservative commentator and marketing consultant who ran unsuccessfully for the Senate in 2006 and 2008, had been talking about running again since last summer. She will now face off for her party's nomination against Rep. Mike Castle, Delaware's 9-term at-large congressman and a former 2-term governor of the state,
"Delaware voters deserve a candidate who understands that governments can't spend their way to recovery and they cannot tax the country into prosperity. That is why I have made the decision to run for US Senate," said O'Donnell at a kick-off event at the University of Delaware's Wilmington campus. "The problem is we don't have enough elected leaders who understand that, far too often, the actions of Congress kill job growth and lead to higher taxes and bigger deficits."
Castle's campaign tells CNN that "Mike welcomes all candidates who enter the race for United States Senate and looks forward to this campaign. He is committed to keeping both Congress, and this campaign, focused on solutions to issues that voters care about– economic growth, runaway federal spending, and getting Delawareans back to work."
Washington (CNN) - Simmering tension between the White House and the Supreme Court spilled into public this week when Chief Justice John Roberts labeled the political atmosphere at the recent State of the Union address "very troubling."
With six members of the court just a few feet away in the audience, President Barack Obama used the occasion to directly criticize the conservative majority's ruling in a campaign finance case.
Roberts told students at the University of Alabama on Tuesday that such partisanship at the annual address in Congress leaves him questioning whether members of the court should continue to attend, as most do, in accord with tradition.
"It does cause me to think whether or not it makes sense for us to be there" said the 55-year-old Roberts. "To the extent the State of the Union has degenerated into a political pep rally, I'm not sure why we're there."
Roberts was among the five justices who ruled in favor of loosening previous congressionally mandated restrictions on so-called "corporate" spending in federal elections. The decision opened up spending for a range of corporations, unions and advocacy groups.
The White House was quick to attack Roberts indirectly, focusing on the ruling itself, and Obama continued the criticism in his address, saying, "With all due deference to the separation of powers, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests - including foreign corporations - to spend without limit in our elections."
Washington (CNN) – Call it "back wax-gate."
The Democratic National Committee is out with a new Web video Wednesday poking fun of Florida Gov. Charlie Crist's recent suggestion that his primary opponent Marco Rubio might have charged a back wax to the tab of the state GOP.
Rubio's spokesman Alex Burgos has denied Crist's allegation that a $134 charge on Rubio's Republican Party of Florida credit card might have included a back waxing.
"Marco paid $20 for a haircut with a razor on the neck, and he bought some items that went into a silent auction, including gift certificates," Burgos said.
Burgos said the salon in question, Churchill's Barber Shop, sells "travel kits and other gift sets that people usually buy around the holidays as gifts."
Rubio's denial hasn't stopped the DNC from trying to make hay of the increasingly contentious race between Crist and Rubio.