Washington (CNN) – It has long been the dream of many a liberal advocate: to have an unabashedly outspoken, cleverly articulate justice who can take on the conservative majority and inspire young progressives for decades to come - a "Scalia for the Left," as many have called it.
If confirmed, Elena Kagan may or may not turn out to be that intellectual counterweight to conservatives Justice Antonin Scalia or Chief Justice John Roberts. But Kagan displayed in her confirmation hearing Tuesday what those two men share - a ready public wit and disarming sense of humor.
Time and again, the nominee sought to subtly charm lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee, many of whom tried to press her for candor on a range of contentious issues such as gun rights, executive power and military recruiting on campus.
Kagan's funny asides during 10 hours of questioning appeared spontaneous, and colleagues say that is her style: someone who is serious about the law but who enjoys a good laugh, often at her expense.
Washington (CNN) – President Barack Obama has agreed to waive a Pentagon rule and let outgoing Gen. Stanley McChrystal retire at his full four-star rank, a White House spokesman said Tuesday.
While the general is short of the time needed to retire at his current pay grade, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Obama would ensure he keeps his rank as he steps down.
"The president believes and has talked with Secretary Gates about this, and we will do whatever is necessary to ensure he, somebody who has served the country as he has, can retire at a four-star level," Gibbs told reporters.
McChrystal resigned as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan last week after he and his staff were quoted in a Rolling Stone magazine article criticizing and mocking key administration officials, and he announced Monday that he would retire from the Army.
Washington (CNN) - Former President Bill Clinton announced Tuesday that he is endorsing challenger Andrew Romanoff in the battle for Colorado's Democratic Senate nomination, rather than support incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet. The move puts the former president at odds with his national party.
In an email to supporters, Clinton said that he supports Romanoff, "and I hope you will too. Please make a generous contribution to his campaign today."
In the email, the former president says he first met Romanoff in 1992. Clinton then goes on to describe what he calls the many accomplishments by Romanoff as a state lawmaker and then as Colorado's first Democratic House speaker since 1976.
"Colorado is far better off today because of Andrew Romanoff's leadership. America will be too," add Clinton.
(Updates with Democratic response)
(CNN) – House Minority Leader John Boehner is stepping up criticism of his Democratic colleagues, telling the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that "they're snuffing out the America that I grew up in."
Boehner's comments are the latest indication the Ohio Republican is aggressively setting his sights on the November elections as it appears increasingly possible his party could take control of the House.
"Right now, we've got more Americans engaged in their government than at any time in our history," he told the paper in comments published Tuesday. "There's a political rebellion brewing, and I don't think we've seen anything like it since 1776."
Washington (CNN) - The House of Representatives failed Tuesday to pass a bill that would extend long-term unemployment benefits through the end of November.
The legislation would have made the benefits effective retroactively, allowing those who may have been cut off from unemployment insurance at the end of May to collect those federal payments.
The House last month approved an extension of unemployment benefits in a larger package that also included an extension of health care insurance for the unemployed and some popular tax breaks, but that package is stalled in the Senate.
"We believe that passing unemployment insurance is critical for individuals, for families, for communities, for the country and for the economy," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, said at his weekly session with reporters.
Washington (CNN) - Rep. Mark Kirk, the Illinois Republican hoping to capture President Obama's old Senate seat in November, apologized Tuesday for mischaracterizing his military record.
"I've made mistakes when characterizing certain aspects of my accomplishments and experiences. I apologize for my mistakes and I pledge to correct any errors. I am not perfect, and I was careless. I will do better and make sure this never happens again," Kirk said.
The initial controversy began weeks ago, after his Democratic opponent, Alexi Giannoulias, raised questions about a naval award Kirk claimed to have received. The Kirk campaign and the candidate himself falsely claimed he was awarded the Navy Intelligence Officer of the Year Award – a prestigious honor that is given to only one individual a year.
Six days after the allegations came to light, Kirk apologized to the Chicago Tribune editorial board, saying the discrepancies were the result of trying to communicate his accomplishments in "civilian-speak."
(CNN) – The Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday approved the nomination of Gen. David Petraeus to be the top commander in Afghanistan.
The nomination now heads to the full Senate.
Washington (CNN) - The Supreme Court has affirmed a congressional ban on "soft money"– the unlimited contributions to political parties for so-called "party-building" activities.
The justices in a brief order rejected an appeal from the Republican Party, urging the court to quickly step in and decide whether the soft money ban was unconstitutional. This after the Supreme Court in January eased long-standing restrictions on "independent spending" by corporations and unions in political campaigns.
The conservative majority ruling gave big business, unions and non-profits more power to spend freely in federal elections, threatening a century of government efforts to regulate the power of corporations to bankroll American politics.
Washington (CNN) - Former president Bill Clinton stepped up the pace of his paid speaking engagements in 2009, bringing his total haul from these speeches to $65 million since leaving office in 2001.
According to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's annual financial disclosure report released Monday, the former president earned $7.5 million from 36 paid speeches last year, up from the $5.7 million he earned for 25 speeches in 2008. Almost half of his speech earnings last year, $3.2 million, came from 13 speeches delivered in nine other countries, ranging in distance from Canada and Mexico to Turkey, Slovenia, and the United Arab Emirates. The remainder was earned in 23 speeches delivered in seven states and the District of Columbia.
Washington (CNNMoney.com) - An increasingly troubled Wall Street reform bill may not make the Democrats' July 4 deadline for final passage.
In fact, lawmakers are considering re-opening the conference committee created to meld the two different versions of Wall Street reform to address a revolt by Republicans who don't like a provision that taxes the largest banks and hedge funds.
Also, a planned Thursday memorial for Sen. Robert Byrd, the West Virginia Democrat who died Monday, means that if the Senate doesn't finish work passing the bill by Wedneday, they could run out of time this week.