The Earlybird: Today's headlines

Ashcroft's challengers, other nominees' hearings, Bush's Midland farewell, Clinton's TV speech, Sharon's peace plan, California's blackouts, Wellstone's return to the ring, Jackson's baby:

  • During yesterday's confirmation hearings, Attorney General nominee John Ashcroft "defended himself as a foe of discrimination," the Washington Post reports.
  • Ashcroft's "chances for confirmation seemed to improve Wednesday" as Sen. Zell Miller, D-Ga., said that he would vote for Ashcroft, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
  • Missouri Supreme Court Justice Ronnie White will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee today to testify on what he considers "Ashcroft's unfair characterization of him as 'pro-criminal' in 1999," Reuters reports.
  • "In what would be an unprecedented move against a Cabinet selection," Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., "said he may launch a filibuster against" Ashcroft, Roll Call reports.
In the Meantime
  • Colin Powell, nominee for secretary of state, faced the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday. A confident Powell "told the committee he would return to ask for more money for the State Department," the Washington Post reports.
  • Powell's hearing, "which is expected to produce a unanimous recommendation to confirm" him, could end as early as today, the Washington Times reports.
  • "Before uttering a word" at her hearing, New Jersey Gov. Christie Todd Whitman (R) "appeared to have won the support of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee" for her nomination to head up the Environmental Protection Agency, the Trenton Times reports.
  • Treasury Secretary nominee Paul O'Neill sat before the Senate Finance Committee for three hours yesterday, saying he "said he favored tax relief because he did not see the harm in lowering the tax burden while the government had big surpluses," the New York Times reports.
  • Housing and Urban Development Secretary nominee Mel Martinez had a two-hour hearing before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs on Wednesday, the New York Times reports. "Nearly every senator cited" his "'compelling personal story' as one reason that Mr. Martinez will win easy confirmation."
  • Interior Secretary nominee Gale Norton is expected to win confirmation in a hearing that begins today, despite "the opposition of most of the nation's environmental groups as well as labor and civil-rights groups," the Wall Street Journal reports.
  • Reuters reports on the following nominees who will also face hearings today: Tommy Thompson for secretary of health and human services, Ann Veneman for secretary of agriculture, Spence Abraham for secretary of energy and Anthony Principi for secretary of veteran's affairs.
Here Comes Dubya!
  • "There was little talk of politics in" President-elect George W. Bush's 10-minute send-off speech in Midland, Texas, yesterday, the Midland Reporter-Telegram reports. "West Texans from San Angelo to Seminole and Colorado City to Fort Stockton" showed up for the event.
  • Inauguration festivities kick off today, the Boston Globe reports. This inauguration promises to be different from those in the past: "Security will be unprecedented. Demonstrations -- and counterdemonstrations--will abound. And the formal festivities, plans for which were cut short by the postelection delay, appear to be less extravagant than in the past."
  • "Street closings and a regular workday for federal employees likely will create traffic congestion during the afternoon rush hour," the Washington Times reports.
  • The New York Times reports that more than $35 million has been raised in the past month to help finance the inauguration, "mainly in $100,000 donations from leading Republican donors."
  • Roll Call reports that current weather forecasts predict a light drizzle on Saturday. "If the weather changes its course, it will be up to" Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., "to decide whether to move the ceremony inside the Capitol Rotunda, leaving a large majority of spectators locked out."
  • A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll shows that six in ten Americans have a favorable view of Bush.
So Long, Farewell
  • President Clinton will deliver a televised farewell address tonight, AP reports. His speech is expected to have "a little bit of an edge."
  • During his final visit to Arkansas as president, Clinton on Wednesday "thanked Arkansans... for helping him win the presidency and giving him the training he needed for the job," the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports.
  • Secretary of State Madeleine Albright gave her farewell address Wednesday in Chicago, saying she is disappointed she could not help achieve peace in the Middle East, the Chicago Tribune reports.
  • National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Jim Hall will resign today, the Los Angeles Times reports. "The leading candidate to head the agency under Bush is said to be American Airlines Vice Chairman Bob Baker."
Around The World
  • Ariel Sharon, the leading candidate for Israeli prime minister, said today that he "will not hand more land to the Palestinians and will aim for a long-term interim agreement that keeps all Jewish settlements in place," AP reports.
  • Congolese officials said Wednesday that President Laurent Kabila--reportedly shot and killed Tuesday--is still alive, the New York Times reports. But other foreign officials disagree, and Kabila's son, Maj. Gen. Joseph Kabila, will take over the Congolese presidency for now.
  • Pavel Borodin, "a high-ranking Russian official at the center of a Kremlin corruption scandal," on Wednesday "was detained after arriving at John F. Kennedy airport in New York," the New York Times reports.
  • OPEC said Wednesday that it will reduce oil production by 5 percent, the New York Times reports.
Problem Solving
  • The Supreme Court said Wednesday that "former prison inmates who are deemed to be 'sexually violent predators' can be locked up indefinitely," the Los Angeles Times reports.
  • Richard Walker, enforcement director of the Securities and Exchange Commission, has written a letter to say he opposes a presidential pardon for convicted financier Michael Milken, which Clinton currently is considering, AP reports.
States Of Emergency
  • California Gov. Gray Davis (D) on Wednesday declared a state of emergency after officials imposed electricity blackouts that they blamed on "utility credit problems and a tight national power supply," the Sacramento Bee reports. Davis "signed an emergency order late Wednesday authorizing the state to buy power to fend off further blackouts."
  • President Clinton on Wednesday declared 21 counties in Illinois to be disaster areas because of heavy snowfall they have received since December, AP reports.
  • New York Gov. George E. Pataki (R) on Wednesday proposed softening the state's drug laws, the New York Times reports. Pataki wants to see "shorter prison terms for many nonviolent drug offenses, replacing mandatory imprisonment with treatment in some cases," and he would like to give "judges greater discretion in sentencing."
Some In, Some Out
  • Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., announced yesterday that he would seek a third term in 2002, breaking "his long-held pledge to leave the Senate after two terms," the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. Wellstone has said that Bush's election "and the historic split between Democrats and Republicans in the Senate had him rethinking the promise."
  • AP reports that former Sen. Rod Grams, R-Minn., said yesterday that he has not ruled out challenging Wellstone in 2002.
  • Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., "indicated this week that he is leaning toward running for a fifth term," Roll Call reports.
  • In Michigan, former Gov. James Blanchard (D) "has filed paperwork to form a gubernatorial campaign committee and explore another run for the office," AP reports.
  • Other Democrats considering a Michigan gubernatorial bid include Attorney General Jennifer Granholm, Rep. David Bonior, state Sens. Gary Peters and Alma Wheeler Smith, the Detroit Free Press reports.
  • In Iowa, state Senate Majority Leader Stewart Iverson (R) "said he wants to stay in the Legislature rather than seek his party's nomination to take on Gov. Tom Vilsack (D)," the Des Moines Register reports.
Names In The News
  • The Rev. Jesse Jackson has admitted he fathered a child with one of his top aides, AP reports. The child is 20 months old.
  • Leonard Woodcock, 89, a former president of the United Automobile Workers and envoy to China during the Carter administration, died Tuesday, the New York Times reports.
  • Dean Bauer, the former chief corruption fighter in the Illinois secretary of state's office, "pleaded guilty Wednesday to obstructing a federal investigation," the Chicago Tribune reports.
Wake Up To The Bipartisan Era
  • Beginning Saturday, the Senate will have its own coffee shop in the Russell Building, Roll Call reports.