WASHINGTON (CNN) – The legal battle for Minnesota's Senate seat may be far from over, but Democrat Al Franken isn't waiting for a resolution: on Monday, he announced his first Senate staff hire.
Franken said that Alana Petersen, a former staffer for Minnesota Rep. Jim Oberstar, will serve as his state director - even though the Democrat's election has yet to be certified. "I want Minnesotans to be able to rely on me for assistance with the federal government. Whether it's a Social Security check, a small business loan, or help for a returning veteran, my office will be there for the people of our state," Franken said in a statement. "Drawing on her wealth of experience and her ability to reach out to every constituency in Minnesota, when I have the privilege of being certified, she'll work with me to ensure that we hit the ground running on Day One."
State GOP chair Ron Carey derided the move as a "publicity stunt."
"This is another shameful episode of disenfranchising voters from Al Franken, and his disrespect for the constitutional rights of all citizens. While the due process and equal protection rights of our fellow citizens are being denied, Al Franken is determined to thumb his nose at the Minnesota Supreme Court," he said in a statement.
Monday's announcement comes exactly a week after a three-judge panel declared Franken the winner of the Senate race over Coleman, by a margin of 312 votes. Republican Norm Coleman has vowed to file an appeal of the decision with the Minnesota Supreme Court.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Republicans criticized Democrats for not using "common sense" as they proposed an alternative solution to address the nation's ongoing housing crisis on Wednesday.
House Republican Whip Eric Cantor blasted the administration's plans to strengthen the housing market, saying they are pushing "policies that frankly don't make a lot of sense."
GOP leaders propose expanding tax credits for home owners and buyers while cracking down on fraud in the housing market. "We are committed to trying to pull the agenda back to mainstream," said Cantor, calling homeowner assistance central to reviving the economy.
Provisions in the new proposal, which would be affective until July 2010, include a $5,000 tax credit to help families refinance their homes, whether or not they are backed by the ailing Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae; tax incentives for mortgage lenders who help homeowners refinance these homes; and a $15,000 home buyer credit to all home buyers who can put at least 5 percent down.
Republicans also proposed working with the FBI, Department of Justice and other government housing agencies to fight fraudulent mortgage companies and borrowers.
GOP leaders were unable to provide an estimate of how much their proposed plan would cost.
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Just two weeks after withdrawing his name from consideration for Commerce Secretary, Sen. Judd Gregg has finally accepted an invitation from President Obama: The New Hampshire Republican will attend the Fiscal Responsibility Summit at the White House at the end of the month.
“Reform is urgently needed, especially as long-term entitlement spending threatens to strangle our economy, and action must be taken sooner rather than later,” Gregg said in a statement released Wednesday. “I will certainly do everything I can to work with the President and others in Congress to set a course for the long-run that addresses the issue of how we pass on to our children a government they can afford.”
Gregg, the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, will join other members of Congress to help the administration develop a plan to reduce the costs of entitlement spending programs like Social Security and Medicare.
Last week, Gregg cited “irresolvable conflicts” with Obama administration policy for his decision to pull out of the nomination process.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - One of President Obama's leading economic advisors called Wednesday for major changes in the way the financial system is regulated - especially firms whose failure could sink the nation's troubled economy - and warned that this oversight would come with a major price tag.
“It’s not going to be cheap,” Paul Volcker told the Senate Banking Committee Wednesday, suggesting that it would cost "billions of dollars" more.
Volcker, chairman of the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board and former Federal Reserve Board chairman, called for radical changes in the regulation of the country’s financial system. His recommendations were based on the global financial report, “Financial Reform: A Framework for Financial Stability.” The report was released in January from the Group of Thirty (G30), a committee he co-chaired that included Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Director of the White House National Economic Council Larry Summers.
(CNN) - Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus released his first public statement on Tom Daschle’s nomination Monday, laying out his panel’s plan to investigate questions swirling around the embattled Health and Human Services nominee.
“The ability to advance meaningful health reform is my top priority in confirming a Secretary of Health and Human Services, and I remain convinced that Senator Daschle would be an invaluable and expert partner in this effort,” said the Montana senator in a statement. “I am eager to move forward together.”
Daschle sent Baucus and ranking Republican Chuck Grassley a letter earlier Monday saying that he is “deeply embarrassed” for a series of errors which include failing to report $15,000 in charitable donations, unreported car service and more than $80,000 in unreported income from consulting. The former Senate Majority Leader recently filed amended tax returns, and paid more than $140,000 in back taxes and interest for 2005-2007.
Baucus said the Finance Committee, which is responsible for moving Daschle’s nomination to the full Senate, will release the final version of a statement on the nominee’s “vetting issues” as soon as remaining issues in the draft version are resolved. Sens. John Kerry and Patrick Leahy have spoken out on Daschle’s behalf.
(CNN) - Surprised to hear Illinois might have had a Senator Oprah? So was Winfrey herself.
The talk show host said Monday she’d had no clue Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich had considered tapping her for the state’s open Senate slot before he confirmed the news in a Monday morning TV interview.
Watch: Ill. governor on considering Winfrey
"If I had been watching [the ABC interview], as I watch from the treadmill, I probably would have fallen off the treadmill," Winfrey told friend Gayle King in a radio interview after hearing the news.
Blagojevich admitted Monday he once considered asking the media mogul to fill the senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama, before deciding to appoint former state attorney general Roland Burris.
“She seemed to be someone who had helped Barack Obama in a significant way to become President,” he told ABC, adding that Winfrey “had a much broader bully pulpit than a lot of senators."
The embattled governor - currently facing impeachment proceedings for allegedly plotting to sell the vacant position to the highest bidder - will take calls from viewers tonight on CNN’s Larry King Live at 9 pm ET.
Related: Blagojevich takes his case to TV
(CNN) - Sen. James Inhofe called President Barack Obama’s plan to allow 14 states to regulate their own fuel emission standards “environmental thuggery” in an interview published Monday.
Obama’s executive order seeks to reduce greenhouse gases by allowing states like California to require stricter fuel standards for cars.
The Oklahoma senator a ranking member of the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee and a longtime global warming skeptic, told CNN Monday the proposed plan would too costly for the beleaguered auto industry. “I think you’re going to see them coming in requesting more bailouts now as a result of this,” said Inhofe.