Thursday, June 8, 2006

Specter Tells Cheney Not to Influence Review

Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) wants Vice President Cheney to stop trying to influence his panel's review of the White House's warrantless surveillance program.

"It is neither pleasant nor easy to raise these issues with the administration of my own party, but I do so because of their importance," Specter said in a three-page letter yesterday to Cheney.

Specter complained that Cheney was lobbying other GOP committee members to oppose efforts to subpoena phone company executives. Specter wants to find out what they did to aid the National Security Agency's controversial surveillance work.

Specter is the most vocal Republican to oppose the White House's directive that allows the NSA to monitor the calls and e-mails of Americans without court approval.

Spokeswoman Lea Anne McBride said Cheney had not yet seen Specter's letter.

Free Credit Monitoring Urged After Data Breach at VA

One hundred forty-five House members urged President Bush to seek emergency funding for free credit monitoring for veterans and active military members whose sensitive personal information was compromised in a major data breach at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

"The federal government has a duty to ensure that the financial health of our nation's veterans and military families is not harmed as a result of this most unfortunate event," the lawmakers -- all but one of them Democrats -- said in a letter to Bush.

Social Security numbers, birth dates and other personal data for as many as 26.5 million people -- including 1.1 million active-duty military members and 1.1 million National Guard and reserve members, as well as millions of veterans -- are believed to have been contained in a laptop and on an external hard drive stolen May 3 from a VA employee's Aspen Hill home.

For the Record

· The House approved by a vote of 238 to 179 legislation that supporters said will make it easier for oil companies to build or expand refineries. Opponents said it could lead to more pollution and less local involvement in the siting of refineries. Its prospects in the Senate are uncertain.

· Congressional negotiators were close to a deal on a $94.5 billion spending bill to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with hurricane rebuilding in the United States, while staying within limits set by President Bush. Senate and House negotiators were sorting out final details on a bill that would rush about $67 billion to the Pentagon to maintain forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

· Short of votes needed in the Senate to repeal permanently inheritance taxes, key Republican and Democratic lawmakers said they are seeking a compromise that would permanently exempt all but the wealthiest estates from the tax.

-- By staff writer Christopher Lee and news services

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