Saturday, July 23, 2005

House Backs Bush On Plans for NASA

The House yesterday overwhelmingly endorsed President Bush's vision to send man back to the moon and eventually on to Mars as it passed a bill setting NASA policy for the next two years.

The bill passed 383 to 15 after a collegial debate in which lawmakers stressed their commitment not just to Bush's ambitious space-exploration plans but also to traditional NASA programs such as science and aeronautics.

There is some tension between Congress and the White House over the balance between Bush's vision for space exploration and other NASA initiatives. Originally, the measure would have shifted $1.3 billion in funds from exploration to other NASA programs. But after administration objections, lawmakers added the money back to the budget for exploration during floor debate. That was done by adding to the bill's bottom line -- now at $34.7 billion -- and not at the expense of science and aeronautics.

Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) said Bush's ambitious lunar and Mars programs "should not be done by cannibalizing other NASA missions."

The bill is the first NASA policy measure to pass the House in five years. It advanced as the space agency tries to rebound from the Columbia disaster in February 2003 with the launch of the space shuttle Discovery, now scheduled for next Tuesday.

President Criticized For Not Punishing Rove

Former U.S. intelligence officers criticized President Bush for not disciplining adviser Karl Rove in connection with the leak of the name of a CIA officer, saying Bush's lack of action has jeopardized national security.

In a hearing held by Senate and House Democrats to examine the implications of the exposure of Valerie Plame's identity, the former intelligence officers said Bush's silence has hampered efforts to recruit informants. Federal law prohibits government officials from revealing the identity of an undercover intelligence officer.

"I wouldn't be here this morning if President Bush had done the one thing required of him as commander in chief -- protect and defend the Constitution," said Larry Johnson, a former CIA analyst. "The minute that Valerie Plame's identity was outed, he should have delivered a strict and strong message to his employees."

Retired Army Col. Patrick Lang, a defense intelligence officer, said Bush's silence sends a bad signal to foreigners who might be thinking of cooperating on intelligence matters. "This says to them that if you decide to cooperate, someone will give you up, so you don't do it," he said.

Johnson, who said he is a registered Republican, said he wishes a GOP lawmaker would have the courage to stand up and "call the ugly dog the ugly dog."

Dean Urges Democrats To Court Abortion Foes

Democrats need to reach out to voters who oppose abortion rights and promote candidates who share that view, the head of the party said.

Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, told a group of college Democrats that their party has to change its approach in the debate over abortion.

"I think we need to talk about this issue differently," he said. "The Republicans have painted us as a pro-abortion party. I don't know anybody in America who is pro-abortion."

Dean's approach echoed arguments advanced in recent months by former president Bill Clinton and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).

-- From News Services

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