WASHINGTON IN BRIEF
Senate to Vote This Year On Same-Sex Marriage Ban
The Senate will vote this year on a constitutional amendment backed by President Bush to ban same-sex marriage, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said yesterday.
"We will address the definition of marriage sometime over the course of this year," Frist said at a news conference on the Republican agenda. A House GOP leadership aide said the House also is likely to take up the gay-marriage ban this year.
Religious groups such as the Family Research Council have been urging Republican congressional leaders to hold votes this year to put lawmakers on record on their positions about same-sex marriage heading into the 2006 elections. In 2004, the last time the House and Senate voted on the matter, it was rejected in both chambers.
The Senate's third-ranking Republican, Rick Santorum (Pa.), said it is vital for the matter to get a debate in the Senate.
"This is something that has passed overwhelmingly in about a dozen states, in states as diverse as Texas and Oregon, by over 60 percent of the vote," Santorum said.
U.S. Won't Talk to Iranians At World Aid Conference
The United States ruled out any contact with Iranian delegates to an international aid conference that comes just before next week's showdown vote on whether to send Iran to the U.N. Security Council over its disputed nuclear program.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice leads a U.S. delegation to the two-day conference in London on international aid for rebuilding Afghanistan. On Thursday, the day after the session closes, the Vienna-based U.N. nuclear watchdog agency is set to vote on Iran's case.
"I do not anticipate, and I'm 100 percent sure about this, any contact between whichever official is sent by the Iranian government and our delegation, including Secretary Rice," said Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns.
The no-contact policy holds even if Iran wants to talk about its nuclear program, Burns said. The United States has had no diplomatic relations with Iran since the 1979 storming of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.
Rep. Waxman Seeks Probe Of Drugmakers' Profits
A veteran Democratic lawmaker requested an investigation into how much profit drug companies are set to make from poorer patients covered under the new Medicare drug benefit.
Rep. Henry A. Waxman (Calif.) asked the investigative arm of Congress to look into whether the transfer of low-income patients to the new program "will likely result in a multibillion-dollar windfall for drug manufacturers."
Under the program, drug coverage for about 6 million poor patients was switched Jan. 1 from Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance plan for the poor, to Medicare, which covers the elderly and disabled.
"This transfer is enriching the pharmaceutical industry because drug prices under the new Medicare drug benefit appear to be significantly higher than the prices previously paid by Medicaid," Waxman wrote the Government Accountability Office.
-- From News Services