WASHINGTON IN BRIEF
Senate Bill Strips Pensions Of Convicted Lawmakers
The Senate voted yesterday to strip away the pensions of members of Congress convicted of white-collar crimes such as bribery, perjury and fraud. That could result in benefit losses of more than $100,000 a year.
The pension measure, which passed 87 to 0, was attached to a comprehensive ethics and lobbying bill that the Democratic-controlled Senate, trying to improve the image of Congress after the scandals of last year, took up as its first legislative act of the year.
Under current law, pensions can be forfeited only if a lawmaker commits crimes such as treason or espionage. The current bill will not take away pensions retroactively, nor will it take away a lawmaker's military benefits.
Senator Objects to Appointment Of New Forest Service Chief
On the day of her appointment, the first female chief of the U.S. Forest Service came under fire from a Senate Democrat who represents her state.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said Montana forester Abigail Kimbell has shown she is "inclined to raise fees, close campgrounds and otherwise make it harder for people to access their lands to raise revenue."
Kimbell succeeds Dale Bosworth, who retired. Before her appointment by Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, she supervised national forests through northern Idaho, Montana and the Dakotas, and she helped develop President Bush's "healthy forests" program, widely criticized by environmentalists as a giveaway to logging companies.
As the agency's 16th chief, Kimbell will be responsible for overseeing 155 national forests, 30,000 employees and a budget of more than $4 billion. The job does not require Senate confirmation.
Ga. Republican May Miss Votes Because of Chemotherapy
Rep. Charlie Norwood (R-Ga.) could be forced to miss work while undergoing chemotherapy for cancer that has spread to his liver, his spokesman said.
Norwood, 65, began chemotherapy treatments in early December. He missed votes this week on the Democrats' "100 hours" agenda, including votes on increasing the minimum wage and expanding federally funded embryonic stem cell research.
Norwood aide John Stone said the lawmaker's staff has been encouraging him to focus on his health, particularly when he will not affect the outcome of votes, as was the case this week.
Norwood has said he is not considering a leave of absence.
President Signs Law to Curb Overfishing in U.S. Waters
President Bush signed into law a measure aimed at preventing overfishing in U.S. waters.
The new law requires commercial fisheries to set conservation plans within a two-year period beginning in 2010. It creates a 10-year permit system that would allow limited access in some waters where fish stocks are depleted.
At the insistence of West Coast lawmakers, the law includes language intended to speed recovery of Klamath River salmon stocks in California and Oregon.
-- From News Services