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In the Loop: Another D.C. Power-Couple Moment

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By Al Kamen
Monday, July 20, 2009

The engagement of Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) and longtime girlfriend Huma Abedin, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's traveling chief of staff, is now official, and the two are said to be thrilled about their upcoming wedding.

It is an unusual pairing: a Jewish kid from Brooklyn and a glamorous Muslim woman born in Michigan to a Pakistani mother and an Indian father, and raised, until her college years, in Saudi Arabia.

They know Washington can be a difficult place for couples, especially when their jobs may put them in opposing camps.

Take Weiner's successful efforts in recent years to amend an appropriations bill in order to cut about a million dollars in aid to Saudi Arabia. The money provided for Saudi officers to receive military training, counterterrorism expertise and such.

His amendment, similar to many other such feel-good, send-'em-a-message amendments, allowed the president to waive the prohibition if he deemed it was in the national interest to do so. In these cases, the president always waives, U.S. foreign policy continues intact, everyone's happy, and that's it.

But this year, Weiner has adopted a harder line against the kingdom. He's now insisting on a funding cutoff without providing for a presidential waiver. "What we want to do here is tie the president's hands to finally live up to what this Congress has said," Weiner said during a spirited debate over that provision, "which is not a dollar, not a shekel, not a pound, not a dime going to the Saudi Arabians of our tax dollars."

"Enough is enough," he continued. "No money. And you can't have it both ways. You can't say, 'Yes, I want no money, but I want there to be some wiggle room.' " Weiner's move prevailed in a lopsided 297 to 135 vote in the House.

The Senate doesn't have such a provision in its version of the foreign operations bill, and we're told the Senate will look most askance at a mandatory cutoff. It's not the money, a piddling amount -- though it allows the Saudis to save many millions by qualifying them for a lower rate when they buy military assistance from Washington.

But there's a question of jeopardizing the relationship with the Saudis at a time when the administration is looking for their help on a host of very tricky issues. And there's the question of tying the president's hands on foreign policy matters.

It's expected that the administration -- the White House, the Pentagon and Abedin's boss and friend, the secretary of state -- will strongly oppose Weiner's amendment. Things could get really contentious if Weiner's provision somehow makes it to President Obama's desk.

Well, we trust the lovely couple, in true Washington fashion, won't take these things personally.

No Laughing Matter

Seemed like a good idea in these serious economic times. The Treasury Department's Bureau of the Public Debt (BPD), was looking for someone to lighten up gloomy management meetings and show "the power of humor in the workplace," the bureau's public solicitation said.


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