Bush Adviser Named to Head CBO

House Republicans have picked White House economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin to be the new director of the Congressional Budget Office, a post that will wield considerable influence in coming debates over tax cuts and federal deficits, congressional sources said yesterday.

Holtz-Eakin -- currently chief economist at the White House Council of Economic Advisers -- was among three candidates for the vacant post of director of the CBO, the sources said. The CBO was set up in the 1970s to provide Congress with independent, unbiased budget and economic forecasts, and the selection of a new director is often contentious.

Conservatives have called for the new Republican-led Congress to pick someone who will support changing the agency's estimates to shrink the fiscal impact of new tax cuts. Democrats have complained of being shut out of a search they said could endanger the agency's nonpartisan mission. Rep. John Spratt (S.C.), ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, said, "If he takes the job, we will try to impress upon him the necessity for him to establish his independence and to appreciate the neutral, nonpartisan aspect of his job."

McHale Is Defense Dept. Pick

President Bush announced he intends to nominate former representative Paul McHale (D-Pa.) to serve in the Pentagon's top homeland defense position. McHale, a House member from 1993 to 1999, would serve as assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense, the White House said. He is vice president of the law firm Tallman, Hudders & Sorrentino.

Lawmakers to Visit Gulf, Afghanistan

The incoming chairmen of the Senate Armed Services and intelligence committees will visit the Persian Gulf and Afghanistan this month to meet troops and assess U.S. fighting capabilities.

"Since it appears that military action may be imminent . . . it's absolutely critical that we get on the ground, talk to war fighters in the field in the key countries involved to look at all aspects of combat readiness," said Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), who will chair the intelligence committee. He declined to specify the countries and dates of the trip, but other congressional sources said it would be during the Jan. 20 weeklong break.

Roberts will travel with incoming Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner (R-Va.).

300,000 Deportees Remain at Large

More than 300,000 illegal immigrants who were ordered deported remain at large in the United States, about the same number as in December 2001, when the government began a campaign to capture them. Immigration and Naturalization Service officials said some illegal immigrants on the list have been deported and replaced by others who went underground rather than be returned to their home countries. But most immigrants originally named have not been caught.

-- Compiled from reports by the Associated Press and Reuters