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Tuesday, April 12, 2005; Page A05

Senate Confirms First Judge of Second Term

The Senate confirmed the first of President Bush's second-term judicial nominees yesterday as senators continued to argue over Democrats blocking the White House's most wanted candidates.

Senators on a 95 to 0 vote confirmed Paul A. Crotty as a U.S. district judge for New York state. With Crotty's confirmation, Bush has put 205 trial and appellate judges on the federal court since becoming president.

"It is my hope that we will be able to move other nominees to the Senate floor for confirmation," said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.).

Democrats have blocked 10 of Bush's 52 appeals court nominations through filibuster threats and allowed Republicans to confirm 34 others.

They have said they plan to keep blocking those 10 if they are brought up for confirmation again. In return, the GOP has threatened to change the Senate rules to ban filibusters of judicial nominees.

Bush Calls Embattled Rep. DeLay a Friend

President Bush considers House Majority Leader Tom DeLay a friend and hopes to keep working with him, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said yesterday.

McClellan was asked in Crawford, Tex., whether Bush was among those who believe the embattled Texas Republican should resign, or at least answer allegations of ethical misconduct.

"Majority Leader DeLay is someone the president considers a friend. And he is someone he has worked closely with to get things done in Washington," McClellan said.

"The president looks forward to continuing to work closely with the majority leader to get things done on behalf of the American people," McClellan said. "We support the work that he's doing."

DeLay has come under criticism from Democrats and even some of his GOP colleagues, who say his continuing ethics problems are harming the Republican Party.

GOP, Democrats Raise Millions in 1st Quarter

The House Republicans' fundraising committee raised $19 million in the first three months of the year, ending the quarter with millions in the bank. Its Democratic counterpart raised $12.4 million and is close to paying off election debts.

The National Republican Congressional Committee said it finished March with $8.5 million on hand and no debt. The NRCC is raising money to help the GOP keep and build its House majority in the 2006 elections.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee started this month with about $2.6 million in the bank. The committee's first-quarter fundraising, a DCCC record, helped cut its debt from last fall's elections by about $7 million. It currently owes about $4 million.

Plan for Tax-Exempt FEMA Grants Stalls

A bill that would make tax-free the federal grants given to people whose homes have been hit by hurricanes, flooding or other natural disasters has hit a snag in the Senate, days before Friday's tax deadline.

The Internal Revenue Service says the Federal Emergency Management Agency grants, which are used to help people relocate or safeguard their homes against future disasters, are taxable under current law. Previously, they had not been taxed because they were assumed to be tax-exempt.

-- From News Services

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