(CNN) - New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson spoke out foir the first time since withdrawing his nomination as secretary of commerce, citing the distraction of a federal investigation into ties to a company that has done business with his state.
Speaking to reporters Monday, he said that he underestimated how long the investigation would take, calling it an "untenable delay" likely to hinder his confirmation process.
Watch: Richardson speaks out
Two Democratic officials told CNN the investigation involves a California company that won municipal bond business in New Mexico after contributing money to various Richardson causes.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - CNN has learned that one possible compromise idea being considered by some in the Senate Democratic leadership is allowing Roland Burris to be seated in the Senate as long as he agrees not to run in 2010.
A senior Democratic source familiar with Senate leadership deliberations tells CNN that a Democratic concern about seating Burris is that his association with Rod Blagoveich would make him so tainted that he would lose the Democratic seat if he ran in the next election. This idea would clear the field for other Democratic candidates the leadership considers more viable to run in 2010. The source would not be named because of the sensitivity of the discussions.
Democratic sources cautioned that this is just one idea being discussed and that the Democratic leadership hasn’t formally settled on making this offer to Burris.
(CNN) - Tennessee Rep. Zach Wamp, a Republican, announced Monday he is entering his state's 2010 gubernatorial race.
The announcement comes one day after former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, also a Republican from Tennessee, said he was not interested in the job.
"While so much is good in Tennessee, I know in my heart we can continue to do better. From education, economic development, infrastructure and transportation to safer cities and healthier children, I will lead our state with vision, planning and implementation while setting goals and achieving results for a better Tennessee," Wamp said in a statement posted on his Web site.
Wamp has served in Congress since 1995 and represents Tennessee's 3rd district, which covers a north-south strip of the eastern part of the state and includes Chattanooga. In November, he was reelected with nearly 70 percent of the vote.
The current Tennessee governor, Democrat Phil Bredesen, is unable to run again due to term limits.
(CNN) - The secretary of the U.S. Senate on Monday rejected the certificiate of appointment for Roland Burris, named by Illinois' controversial governor to fill Barack Obama's Senate seat, according to an aide to the secretary.
The aide said Secretary of the Senate Nancy Erickson rejected Burris' appointment because it does not conform with the Senate rule requiring that the secretary of state - in this case, Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White - must sign the certificate of appointment along with the governor.
White has declined to sign the certificate, siding with some Senate Democrats who say Burris should not be seated because of the cloud over Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who is accused of trying to sell Obama's Senate seat.
According to a Democratic source and a Democratic Senate leadership aide, without the signed certificate Burris will be denied access to the Senate floor.
But Burris insists he has the legal right to serve as senator, and has said he will appear at the Senate's door Tuesday.
"I am going (to Washington) to be seated. I am the junior senator from the state of Illinois - that's all I can say," he said Monday at an airport news conference in Chicago before leaving for Washington.
He said he is not bothered by controversy surrounding his appointment by Blagojevich because "the appointment is legal. What has been done here is legal."
Pressed by reporters on what he would do if he is refused admission to the Senate floor, Burris said, "If I am turned away, my lawyers will take it from there and we'll see what happens."
He said he has not been contacted by anyone from the Obama team, and he insisted that he is not upset at the situation surrounding his appointment.
Watch Burris today on The Situation Room beginning at 4 pm ET
(CNN) - The White House announced Monday that the First Cat had passed on.
"The President, Mrs. Bush, Barbara, and Jenna are deeply saddened by the passing of their cat India ('Willie'),” said spokeswoman Sally McDonough.
“The 18 year-old female black American Shorthair died Sunday, January 4, 2009 at home at the White House. When Barbara was nine years old, she named India after the former Texas Ranger baseball player, Ruben Sierra, who was called 'El Indio.' When Barbara and Jenna moved away to college, India, affectionately called “Kitty” by the family, stayed at the White House with the President and Mrs. Bush. India was a beloved member of the Bush family for almost two decades. She will be greatly missed."
The cat’s name became in issue in 2001 after Hindu nationalists said the original moniker was an insult — and urged followers to call their dogs ‘George Bush.’
Update: The First Lady's office said the cat's name did not change as a result of the Indian protests; the Bush daughters had both named and nicknamed the cat before arriving in the White House.
MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota (CNN) - In a move that leaves a post-election legal challenge the last remaining hope for Republican Sen. Norm Coleman, Minnesota's high court has denied his campaign's request to consider about 650 additional rejected absentee ballots his attorneys claimed should have been included in the count of mistakenly rejected ballots that were tallied this weekend.
The Coleman campaign had contended there was no uniform standard for local officials and campaigns to review and tabulate these improperly rejected ballots. The court had previously ordered that only ballots local officials and both campaigns could agree were rejected in error could be counted. A consensus was met on about 950 of 1,350 originally found by local officials.
(CNN) - The Obama inauguration committee announced Monday that the president-elect will host the first "Neighborhood Inaugural Ball,” a celebration they’re plugging as the night’s “premier event.”
Tickets for the ball will be free or sold at reduced prices, according to the committee. The event will be held at the Washington Convention Center, with a bloc of tickets reserved for the city’s residents.
"This is an Inauguration for all Americans," the president-elect said in a statement released by the committee this morning. "I wanted to make sure that we had an event that would be open to our new neighborhood here in Washington, D.C., and also neighborhoods across the country. Michelle and I look forward to joining our fellow Americans across the country during this very special event."
The event will also be broadcast over the Web, with an interactive element for those unable to attend in person that will link the celebration to neighborhood balls across the country. The committee said further information about ticket distribution would be released shortly.
President-elect Obama flew on a U.S. military aircraft for the first time for his trip to Washington Sunday night and was greeted with the trappings of his upcoming status as the country's next commander-in-chief. (Getty Images)
WASHINGTON (CNN) - He arrived here for his new job feeling a bit melancholy about the move from Chicago, but President-elect Barack Obama has little time to mull over his emotions - he's been immediately hit with the sobering realities of the task ahead.
There's the still-unfolding war in Gaza, a fresh reminder of the monumental national security crises ahead. And then the political challenges here at home, starting with two so-called "pay-to-play" scandals - Bill Richardson out as the Secretary of Commerce nominee, and Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich still causing heartburn with his selection of Roland Burris to replace the President-elect in the Senate.
In other words, the candidate of "change" is dealing with unexpected change that keeps popping up, threatening to throw him off stride. But he signaled Monday in the first of a series of meetings on Capitol Hill that he intends to stay focused on his economic recovery plan, with aides signaling that he plans to sweeten it with a bigger-than-expected tax cut for individuals and businesses in the neighborhood of $300 billion.
"The reason we're here today is the peoples' business can't wait," Obama said. "We have an extraordinary economic challenge ahead of us."
That poise stands in stark contrast to the emotional Obama I got an up-close look at while flying on his plane from Chicago to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on Sunday evening. It was bitter cold on the tarmac at Midway Airport, but he did not seem to be in any rush to board the plane. He was lingering with friends, hugging and saying his good-byes.
Related: 'I choked up,' Obama said
But then the President-elect looked up and saw a massive Air Force jet from the presidential fleet waiting for him, with a crew wearing jackets that say "Air Force One" in script on the front.
As a reporter, it's one of those little moments that can signify a big shift. In this case, it was a sign of just how close the President-elect is to formally taking the reigns of power in one of the most dramatic transfers of power America has ever seen. So long to the chartered jets from United Airlines that took the President-elect to Hawaii - or the commercial flights the rest of us endure - for the next four years he'll be riding that big bird known simply as Air Force One.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President-elect Barack Obama's transition team announced Monday that four former Clinton administration officials have been tapped to serve in the Justice Department under attorney general nominee Eric Holder.
For the high-profile job of solicitor general, who represents the Justice Department before the Supreme Court, the president-elect chose Elena Kagan, currently dean of the Harvard Law School. She served as a key domestic policy adviser for President Bill Clinton and, according to the transition team, helped formulate and implement law and policy in such areas as education, crime and public health.
Kagan was nominated as an appeals court judge in 1999, but Republicans held up confirmation until their party took over the White House.
Legal observers will be watching the positions taken by the new Justice Department in several upcoming key Supreme Court cases, including one in which a defendant - Ali al-Marri, a legal U.S. resident - is contesting his detention for more than five years as an enemy combatant in a military brig without the government bringing any charges against him.
(CNN) - Former Attorney General Griffin Bell, who served in the Carter administration, has died, according to the Carter Center in Atlanta. He was 90.
Former President Jimmy Carter said in a statement that he and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter were "deeply saddened" by Bell's death.
"A trusted and enduring public figure, Griffin's integrity, professionalism, and charm were greatly valued across party lines and presidential administrations," Carter said.
"As a World War II veteran, federal appeals court judge, civil rights advocate, and U.S. attorney general in my administration, Griffin made many lasting contributions to his native Georgia and country. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family."