[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/01/21/art.kaine.gi.jpg caption="Kaine is Obama’s choice to head the DNC."]WASHINGTON (CNN) - After a four-year term that saw Democrats take control of the White House and both chambers of Congress, Howard Dean bid farewell to the Democratic National Committee on Wednesday, but not without offering a hearty endorsement of the incoming chairman, Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine.
Addressing party members at the DNC’s annual Winter Meeting in Washington, Dean called Kaine “one of our party’s great leaders” and said he is “the right choice to lead the Democratic National Committee into this new era of American politics and to support President Obama’s agenda.”
Kaine, President Obama’s choice to succeed Dean, won the uncontested election for the chairmanship with a near-unanimous voice vote from party members (there was a single “nay” from the audience). His first order of business as chairman was to honor Dean, who leaves the committee with an extraordinary level of popularity among its members.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/01/21/art.frank1.gi.jpg caption="Why did Frank tone down the tough talk?"]WASHINGTON (CNN) - When those automakers flew to congress in corporate jets to ask for a taxpayer bailout, no one was more upset than the powerful chairman of the house financial services committee, Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts.
So irate over the use of corporate jets, Frank was determined to make sure it never happened again. His plan: no corporate executives coming to Washington asking for bailout money would be allowed to travel in those multi-million dollar symbols of excess.
To make sure corporate America got the message, Mr. Frank dropped a provision into the latest bailout bill, H.R. 384, the TARP Reform and Accountability Act, requiring would-be recipients of taxpayer funds to dump their corporate fleets. The message: If you want taxpayer money, sell your jet and fly commercial.
That sure sounded tough. And it sure sent a message to the automakers. When they came back to Washington, they drove.
But last week, Rep. Frank quietly stripped the no-jet provision from the bill. Why?
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/01/21/art.ericholder.gi.jpg caption="Holder's confirmation has been held up."]WASHINGTON (CNN) - The initial confirmation vote for Eric Holder, President Barack Obama's pick for attorney general, was postponed for a week Wednesday after a rancorous meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Republicans, who want to question Holder about his role in a controversial presidential pardon when he worked in the Clinton administration, used a procedure that allows them to put off the vote.
A clearly agitated Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat and chairman of the committee, slammed his gavel and walked out after acknowledging that Republicans had the right to ask for the delay.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine officially became chairman of the Democratic National Committee on Wednesday afternoon, succeeding Howard Dean.
"Howard, I have no doubt that any future success that we have will be due in large part to your incredible work," Kaine told Dean. "I feel like I am taking over for someone who just won three Super Bowls in a row."
Kaine’s election wasn’t completely unanimous: When Dean, presiding over his final meeting of the committee, asked for a single voice vote on Kaine’s candidacy, he was answered by party members with an overwhelming chorus of “yea.”
But there was apparently one objection - a single "nay" emerged from somewhere in the audience of DNC members.
Dean is now known as "chairman emeritus."
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/01/21/art.filip.gi.jpg caption="Mark Filip is a Bush holdover."]WASHINGTON (CNN) - Acting Attorney General Mark Filip who served as Deputy Attorney General under former President Bush has taken the reigns at the Justice Department while awaiting the confirmation of Eric Holder.
A Senate committee is currently scheduled to consider Holder's nomination as Attorney General later Wednesday, but some Republicans on the panel have indicated they plan to seek a delay because of lingering questions about Holder's role as Deputy Attorney General during the Clinton Administration.
The balking Republican lawmakers have indicated they want additional answers from Holder, who appeared before the panel last Thursday. The threat of a delay prompted a strong reaction from Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-VT.
"It would look like a horrible double standard for those who enthusiastically voted unanimously for Alberto Gonzales to turn down the first African-American, or hold up the first African American to be Attorney General," Leahy said.
(CNN) - The 300-point drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average Tuesday reinforced just how dire an economic environment President Obama faces, Colin Powell told CNN.
In an interview with American Morning Wednesday, the former Secretary of State under President Bush who endorsed Obama's White House bid earlier this fall, said the economy was the new president's "No. 1 problem."
"The American people I think fundamentally bet on President Obama because of the economic situation we are in," Powell said. "The stock market dropped another 300 points on this glorious Inauguration Day and people are losing jobs, and that will be No. 1 for him."
Powell, who was also Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and National Security Advisor under President George H.W. Bush, reiterated that he has never held political ambitions of his own, and that his wife was not happy with the idea of political life - both reasons he cited for avoiding a presidential run against then-President Bill Clinton in 1996, despite the urging of many leading Republicans.
"I'm a soldier. I never found inside of me the kind of internal passion that you got to have to run for elected office," he said.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/01/21/art.mccain.gi.jpg caption="McCain urged a quick vote to confirm Clinton."](CNN) - John McCain on Wednesday used his first Senate floor speech since the end of the presidential campaign to urge his colleagues to quickly confirm fellow Sen. Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.
"I think the message that the American people are sending us now is they want us to work together and get to work," McCain said. "I think we ought to let Senator Clinton, who is obviously qualified and obviously will serve, get to work immediately."
The Senate is expected to easily confirm Clinton Wednesday afternoon, and McCain's particular support of the New York senator isn't surprising.
McCain confidantes tell CNN the Arizona senator developed a genuinely deep admiration for Clinton during the drawn-out Democratic primary process. Both senators also sit on the Armed Services Committee and had become close on several congressional delegation trips abroad.
WASHINGTON, DC and ST. PAUL, Minnesota (CNN) - Democratic Senate hopeful Al Franken will meet with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid late Wednesday afternoon “to discuss the legislative agenda, especially the economic stimulus” plan, a Reid aide tells CNN.
A Democratic source close to Franken added that the two would not discuss provisionally seating the Minnesota Senate hopeful, and that the meeting was to focus on the latest Senate business.
Franken and former Republican Sen. Norm Coleman are caught fight over the only empty seat in the U.S. Senate. Also Wednesday afternoon: a three-judge panel will hear arguments brought by Franken's attorneys that Coleman's pending legal challenge to contest the recount results should be dismissed.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/01/21/art.boseal0121.gi.jpg caption="President Obama spoke about transparency in government on his first full day in office."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Promising "a new era of openness in our country," President Barack Obama signed several executive orders Wednesday relating to ethics guidelines for staff members of his administration.
"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency," Obama said.
Among other things, Obama said he would issue a pay freeze for his senior staff.
Related: President Obama goes to work
WASHINGTON (CNN) - House Republican leaders Wednesday asked for a meeting with President Obama on Thursday to offer major changes to the $825 billion economic recovery package proposed by House Democrats last week.
"The challenge as we see it is to create a plan that helps middle class taxpayers and small businesses without wasting money or exploding our national deficit," the leaders wrote in a letter to the new president. "We believe the economic recovery plan should primarily create real, long term jobs, encourage entrepreneurs, and help average Americans keep more of their money to save and invest."
Rep. Paul Ryan, the top Republican on the House Budget committee, slammed
the Democrats' proposal.
"We can do better than this. We have to do better than this. This bill is not worthy of our new president's signature," he told reporters Wednesday.
Ryan argued that the bill should be aimed at creating jobs in 2009, and cited a GOP analysis of the plan that finds that less than 10 percent of the spending doesn't occur until 2010 or later.