Senate Democrats Backtrack on War Funding

From CQ Politics – Josh Rogan

Senate Democrats moved closer Tuesday toward acceding to the Bush administration’s demands on war funding.

With a growing number of lawmakers deciding that legislation providing some money to the troops could not be put off until next year, the Senate Democratic leadership discussed different approaches to preserving some of the many restrictions on the war funding that House Democrats passed.

Aides said the Senate could hold a series of votes this month, each with progressively less restrictive language on the administration’s ability to conduct the war.

The options that Senate leaders were considering included omitting withdrawal dates or designating funds only for Afghanistan.

However, with the Senate’s legislative calendar already full for the remainder of the year, a consensus appeared to be growing that a prolonged fight over Iraq policy with President Bush probably would have to wait until next spring.

Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin , D-Ill., said that Senate votes on Iraq War funding probably would not come until next week.

Durbin acknowledged that Democrats probably had no choice but to abandon many, if not all, of the restrictions they hoped to place on funding for the wars.

“We’re dealing with the reality that the White House has given us very stark choices,” Durbin said. “We’re still determined to change this policy in Iraq, but we’re trying to do it in the context of the latest White House positions.”

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans, increasingly confident that the Democrats will fold and provide war funding with weak or no restrictions, showed little appetite to negotiate.

Read the entire article RIGHT HERE


Judge Declares Declaration of Independence Unconstitutional

What an interesting read. This article was in today’s TOWNHALL by Mario Diaz

Okay, so the headline is a bit premature, but it’s the logical precursor to the legal philosophy of liberal extremists, isn’t it?

Ever since the Supreme Court erroneously elevated Thomas Jefferson’s “wall of separation between church and state” metaphor to a constitutional doctrine in the 1947 landmark decision Everson v. Board of Education, a growing sort of legal fog has been setting in on our constitutional religious freedoms, ending in what can only be described as a requirement of government hostility towards religion.  This is, of course, not only a far cry from what our founding fathers intended, including Thomas Jefferson — a staunch religious liberty advocate — but it is a far cry from what “We the people” intended when the Constitution was ratified. 

The many perils of reading into the Constitution a “wall of separation between church and state” where none exists came as no surprise to many of us.  Nothing good ever comes from deviating from the clear text and context of the Constitution.  Many well-intentioned, smart people have argued for a “living, breathing” Constitution, changing with the times and looking for small immediate “advances,” but this interpretation has only one result in the long run: tyranny.

In no other area of law has this proven truer than when it comes to our religious liberty.  In the last sixty years, we have seen a constant attack on prayer in schools, the Ten Commandments, the sanctity of life, Christmas, Christian symbols and even religious doctrines.  In many instances, our religious rights have been so inhibited that the result is exactly what the founding fathers where trying to prevent: the government dictating what the people can or can’t do when it comes to religion.

Because of their hostility toward religion and their unveiled hatred toward anything related to God, these extreme liberal scholars are forced to ignore history, precedent and facts and are forced to decide cases from what they feel is best for the country.  It is astonishing how they can go back in history and erect a temple for a distorted “wall of separation between church and state” phrase, while ignoring the text of the Constitution and the volumes of documents showing the people’s real concern when enacting the First Amendment.  If they want to go outside of the Constitution, you would think that they would look at the whole, and not one simple phrase, but that would be assuming that they are looking for what really happened and not for something to support what they believe is the “right thing.”

Their twisted logic puts them on very unstable footing because there is no foundation.  They are making law with the times, with what feels right at the moment, and then trying to go back to make history fit their latest and greatest idea.

This is why they seem to virtually ignore the Declaration of Independence.  It’s too simple, too direct and too straightforward.  If they were to be honest, they would have to say unequivocally that the Declaration of Independence is unconstitutional.  After all, here is what this horrible, oppressive document says:

When, in the Course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s GOD entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the Causes which impel them to the Separation.

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their CREATOR, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.[1]

“Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God,” “Endowed, by their Creator”?  Let’s pass a bill including this language today and see what happens.  The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) would bring suit before the vote was even cast; Michael Newdow’s daughter would somehow be deeply affected by it, prompting him to bring yet another suit; and Barry Lynn would be invited to every major news show to “educate” us as to why this kind of rhetoric is okay as long as you keep it to yourself, but once you actually express it, well, then we have a problem.

But liberal scholars consistently encounter one little problem: there would be no Constitution without the Declaration of Independence.  This legal document gave notice to the international community that a new nation was being formed.  Without it there is no United States of America.  It gives us the legal right to enact a Constitution.  More important, it is a declaration of rights that no government can take away.

We are all still created equal and we are still endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights.  If our current government sought to trample these rights, if it were to become destructive, it is still “the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.”

The enemies of God in our government have a problem with the Declaration of Independence, and ignoring a problem does not make it go away — we learned that the hard way on September 11, 2001.

The Declaration of Independence is the foundation of our legal jurisprudence.  Indeed, it is the foundation of our country.  And in fact, it makes reference to what they hate the most, God.

So liberal activists should be truthful for once, or at least intellectually honest (remember, they believe there is no truth; everything is relative), and stop their little nonsensical lawsuits against “under God” in the pledge of allegiance, the 10 Commandments in the public square, “In God We Trust” in our coins, etc., and ask a judge (perhaps the brilliant Ninth Circuit) to declare, once and for all, the Declaration of Independence unconstitutional.

After that perhaps they can finally take their cases to the House of Lords.

…but on THAT day, no objections were raised. Pelosi and others Briefed on Waterboarding in 2002

I don’t get it. What in the world is the big deal? It’s WATERBOARDING for goodness sake… Do you know what that is? It’s a harsh interrogation technique. Is it life threatening? NO Is their excruciating pain involved? NO

So what is it? It’s a simulated (an illusion) drowning, and it’s done for about 30 seconds. THAT’s it – and it works! – SO WHAT IS ALL THE FUSS ABOUT???

DID YOU KNOW OUR ARMED FORCES ARE SUBJECT TO WATERBOARDING DURING BASIC TRAINING? That means all pilots, SEALS, Marines, Officers – all of them. I guess the DEMS feel its ok for our guys, but not our enemies who want to kill us.

In my opinion, you can classify anything considered enhanced interrogation as torture – but for crying out loud (no pun since this is what the Liberals are doing), it’s a simulated drowning – not the cutting off of limbs or other “24” type techniques. This country needs to take the democrats out of control so we can concentrate on the well being of us and our children, instead of trying our darnest to provide our global enemies with our techniques so they can better train and prepare for their jihad.

And these buffoons that DEMAND an investigation – well you know what?? I DEMAND THAT THE DEMOCRATIC LEADERS STEP DOWN since they don’t seem to care about this country, and they have very little brain activity working up there. And that goes for you too Lauer the Loser. Thats what I DEMAND!!

So the question is – why did Pelosi and others not have a problem with this in 2002, but now they’re making all these demands? Also – THE DESTROYED TAPES IN QUESTION ARE FOR TRAINING PURPOSES ONLY AND THERE”S NO REQUIREMENT TO KEEP ON RECORD – SO GET OVER IT!!!

… those are my talking points. Now for the story.

In Meetings, Spy Panels’ Chiefs Did Not Protest, Officials Say

By Joby Warrick and Dan Eggen

Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, December 9, 2007; Page A01

In September 2002, four members of Congress met in secret for a first look at a unique CIA program designed to wring vital information from reticent terrorism suspects in U.S. custody. For more than an hour, the bipartisan group, which included current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was given a virtual tour of the CIA’s overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk.

Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was waterboarding, a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill. But on that day, no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder, two U.S. officials said.

“The briefer was specifically asked if the methods were tough enough,” said a U.S. official who witnessed the exchange.

Congressional leaders from both parties would later seize on waterboarding as a symbol of the worst excesses of the Bush administration’s counterterrorism effort. The CIA last week admitted that videotape of an interrogation of one of the waterboarded detainees was destroyed in 2005 against the advice of Justice Department and White House officials, provoking allegations that its actions were illegal and the destruction was a coverup.

Yet long before “waterboarding” entered the public discourse, the CIA gave key legislative overseers about 30 private briefings, some of which included descriptions of that technique and other harsh interrogation methods, according to interviews with multiple U.S. officials with firsthand knowledge.

With one known exception, no formal objections were raised by the lawmakers briefed about the harsh methods during the two years in which waterboarding was employed, from 2002 to 2003, said Democrats and Republicans with direct knowledge of the matter. The lawmakers who held oversight roles during the period included Pelosi and Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) and Sens. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) and John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), as well as Rep. Porter J. Goss (R-Fla.)and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan).

Individual lawmakers’ recollections of the early briefings varied dramatically, but officials present during the meetings described the reaction as mostly quiet acquiescence, if not outright support. “Among those being briefed, there was a pretty full understanding of what the CIA was doing,” said Goss, who chaired the House intelligence committee from 1997 to 2004 and then served as CIA director from 2004 to 2006. “And the reaction in the room was not just approval, but encouragement.”

Congressional officials say the groups’ ability to challenge the practices was hampered by strict rules of secrecy that prohibited them from being able to take notes or consult legal experts or members of their own staffs. And while various officials have described the briefings as detailed and graphic, it is unclear precisely what members were told about waterboarding and how it is conducted. Several officials familiar with the briefings also recalled that the meetings were marked by an atmosphere of deep concern about the possibility of an imminent terrorist attack.

“In fairness, the environment was different then because we were closer to Sept. 11 and people were still in a panic,” said one U.S. official present during the early briefings. “But there was no objecting, no hand-wringing. The attitude was, ‘We don’t care what you do to those guys as long as you get the information you need to protect the American people.’ ”

Only after information about the practice began to leak in news accounts in 2005 — by which time the CIA had already abandoned waterboarding — did doubts about its legality among individual lawmakers evolve into more widespread dissent. The opposition reached a boiling point this past October, when Democratic lawmakers condemned the practice during Michael B. Mukasey‘s confirmation hearings for attorney general.

GOP lawmakers and Bush administration officials have previously said members of Congress were well informed and were supportive of the CIA’s use of harsh interrogation techniques. But the details of who in Congress knew what, and when, about waterboarding — a form of simulated drowning that is the most extreme and widely condemned interrogation technique — have not previously been disclosed.

U.S. law requires the CIA to inform Congress of covert activities and allows the briefings to be limited in certain highly sensitive cases to a “Gang of Eight,” including the four top congressional leaders of both parties as well as the four senior intelligence committee members. In this case, most briefings about detainee programs were limited to the “Gang of Four,” the top Republican and Democrat on the two committees. A few staff members were permitted to attend some of the briefings.

That decision reflected the White House’s decision that the “enhanced interrogation” program would be treated as one of the nation’s top secrets for fear of warning al-Qaeda members about what they might expect, said U.S. officials familiar with the decision. Critics have since said the administration’s motivation was at least partly to hide from view an embarrassing practice that the CIA considered vital but outsiders would almost certainly condemn as abhorrent.

Information about the use of waterboarding nonetheless began to seep out after a furious internal debate among military lawyers and policymakers over its legality and morality. Once it became public, other members of Congress — beyond the four that interacted regularly with the CIA on its most sensitive activities — insisted on being briefed on it, and the circle of those in the know widened.

there’s lots more – continue by CLICKING HERE

Taxes out of control: What has our congress done for us lately??

An interesting read was sent to me from a good friend and thought I’d pass it along. Startling if you ponder it; Let me know what you think:


The next time you hear a politician use the  word ‘billion’ in a casual manner, think about  whether you want the ‘politicians’ spending  YOUR tax money.

A billion is a difficult number to comprehend,  but one advertising agency did a good job of  putting that figure into some perspective.

A. A billion seconds ago it was 1959.

B. A billion minutes ago Jesus was alive.

C. A billion hours ago our ancestors were living in the Stone Age.

D. A billion days ago no-one walked on the earth on two feet.

E. A billion dollars ago was only 8 hours and

20 minutes ago, at the rate our government is spending it.

While this thought is still fresh in our brain, let’s take a look at New Orleans.  It’s amazing what you can learn with some simple division. .

Louisiana Senator, Mary Landrieu (D), is presently asking the Congress for $250 BILLION to rebuild New Orleans.  Interesting number, what does it mean?

A. Well, if you are one of 484,674 residents of  New Orleans (every man, woman, child), you  each gets $516,528.

B. Or, if you have one of the 188,251 homes in  New Orleans, your home gets $1,329,787.

C. Or, if you are a family of four, your family   gets $2,066,012.

Washington, D.C. HELLO!!! … Are all your calculators broken??

Tax his land,
Tax his wage,
Tax his bed in which he lays.
Tax his tractor,
Tax his mule,
Teach him taxes are the rule.
Tax his cow,
Tax his goat,
Tax his pants,
Tax his coat.

Tax his ties,
Tax his shirts,
Tax his work,
Tax his dirt.

Tax his tobacco,
Tax his drink,
Tax him if he tries to think.

Tax his booze,
Tax his beers,
If he cries,
Tax his tears.

Tax his bills,
Tax his gas,
Tax his notes,
Tax his cash.

Tax him good and let him know
That after taxes, he has no dough.

If he hollers,
Tax him more,
Tax hi m until he’s good and sore.

Tax his coffin,
Tax his grave,
Tax the sod in which he lays.
Put these words upon his tomb,
‘Taxes drove me to my doom!’
And when he’s gone,
We won’t relax,
We’ll still be after the inheritance TAX!!

Accounts Receivable Tax
Building Permit Tax
CDL License Tax
Cigarette Tax
Corporate Income Tax
Dog License Tax
Federal Income Tax
Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA)
Fishing License Tax
Food License Tax
Fuel Perm it Tax
Gasoline Tax
Hunting License Tax
Inheritance Tax
Inventory Tax
IRS Interest Charges (tax on top of tax),
IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax),
Liquor Tax,
Luxury Tax,
Marriage License Tax,
Medicare Tax,
Property Tax,
Real Estate Tax,
Service charge taxes,
Social Security Tax,
Road Usage Tax (Truckers),
Sales Taxes,
Recreational Vehicle Tax,
School Tax,
State Income Tax,
State Unemployment Tax (SUTA),
Telephone Federal Excise Tax,
Telephone Federal Universal Service Fe e Tax,
Telephone Federal, State and Local Surcharge Tax,
Telephone Minimum Usage Surcharge Tax,
Telephone Recurring and Non-recurring Charges Tax,
Telephone State and Local Tax,
Telephone Usage Charge Tax,
Utility Tax,
Vehicle License Registration Tax,
Vehicle Sales Tax,
Watercraft Registration Tax,
Well Permit Tax,
Workers Compensation Tax.

Not one of these taxes existed 100 years ago, and our nation was the most prosperous in the world.
We had absolutely no national debt, had the largest middle class in the world, and Mom stayed home to raise the kids.
What happened?  Can you spell ‘politicians!’

And now I have to ‘press 1’ for English.

I hope this goes around THE
USA at least 100 times

GREAT NEWS AMERICA: Senate Backs Freeze on Tax Without Cost Offsets

This Alternative Minimum Tax was never intended to be for the middle class, it was in fact MEANT to be for the super-rich who had all those tax write-offs. That means all these years, the government has been pocketing taxrevenues that they were never intended on collecting. Well the Dems wanted to “FIX” this AMT. (you can click on the tax categories to the right of this page for more information on the AMT  Well – that’s gone!! Another defeat for the Dems!

 By CARL HULSE Published: December 7, 2007

WASHINGTON, Dec. 6 — Trying to find a way out of a sticky tax problem, the Senate on Thursday voted overwhelmingly to prevent the alternative minimum tax from hitting millions of middle-class Americans without replacing the $50 billion that would be lost.

The move represented a bitter retreat for Senate Democrats who, in taking over Congress this year, pledged to pay for new tax cuts or programs rather than add to the federal deficit. But with Republicans refusing to go along, most Democrats joined them in endorsing a temporary fix of the alternative minimum tax without corresponding offsets rather than be held responsible for a surprise tax burden falling on 19 million taxpayers.

“This is not my first choice on how to do so,” said Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana and chairman of the Finance Committee, before the Senate voted 88 to 5 for his proposal. “This is my best choice on how to do so.”

The Senate action does not necessarily resolve the dispute over the tax, which is threatening to complicate tax-filing season by requiring last-minute changes to Internal Revenue Service computers and tax forms. The House has approved differing legislation that would offset the fix on the alternative tax by closing tax loopholes on hedge funds, equity funds and other financial partnerships.

And some House Democrats, including Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the majority leader, say they will not support any resolution of the tax problem that conflicts with their “pay-go” budget rules.

But Senator Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, who is the majority leader, said Thursday night that it was his understanding the House would join in the Senate approach.

Senator Kent Conrad, Democrat of North Dakota, who is the chairman of the Budget Committee, opposed the Senate plan, saying that while it was proper to limit the reach of the tax, it was wrong to do so without replacing the money. “It ought to be paid for,” Mr. Conrad said. “The revenue ought to be replaced by spending cuts or other revenue.”

Republicans, who say Democrats should have addressed the alternative tax issue months ago, have repeatedly objected to efforts to compensate for changing the tax provisions. They argue that since the tax was not intended to produce such high levels of revenue when it was created, the money should not have to be replaced.

“They are all phantom funds,” said Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, the senior Republican on the Budget Committee, referring to the revenue that would be generated by the tax.

Earlier Thursday, Republicans banded together to prevent the Senate from considering the House bill. That led to the later vote, in the Senate, on freezing the alternative minimum tax, which sent that proposal back to the House.

The alternative minimum tax was created almost 40 years ago to prevent affluent Americans with numerous deductions from escaping income taxes. But since it was not tied to inflation, it is reaching more and more people.

Experts say the tax cuts approved in the early days of the Bush administration have also pushed more people under the tax. The Treasury Department estimates that without a change in law, a total of 23 million people would have to pay the alternative tax on their 2006 taxes, at an average of about $2,000 each. The tax could reach some Americans earning $50,000 or even less.

Mr. Reid said that he supported the “pay-go” concept embraced by Democrats but that he was left with few options because of the Republican ability to block any alternative minimum tax relief that complied with such budget rules.

“We’ve tried every alternative possible to do this,” Mr. Reid said. “I believe in pay-go. I think that’s where we should be.”

Cheney bashes top Democrats

Vice President Cheney warned in an interview Wednesday that a premature withdrawal from Iraq would invite “further attacks” against the United States and said he has been surprised by the weakness of the Democratic Congress.

Most striking were his virtually taunting remarks of two men he described as friends from his own days in the House: Democratic Reps. John Dingell (Mich.) and John P. Murtha (Pa.).

In a 40-minute interview with Politico, he scoffed at the idea of two men who spent years accruing power showing so much deference to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in the big spending and energy debates of the year.

Murtha “and the other senior leaders … march to the tune of Nancy Pelosi to an extent I had not seen, frankly, with any previous speaker,” Cheney said. “I’m trying to think how to say all of this in a gentlemanly fashion, but [in] the Congress I served in, that wouldn’t have happened.”

But his implication was clear: When asked if these men had lost their spines, he responded, “They are not carrying the big sticks I would have expected.” 

Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), who as Democratic Caucus Chair is the party’s fourth-ranking House leader, replied: “Some of us were surprised that the president didn’t have a bigger stick when he could have stood up to Dick Cheney.”

Throughout the interview, Cheney was dismissive of virtually everything Democrats are trying to do in Congress — “that probably wouldn’t surprise anybody” — on the war, spending and anti-terrorism policies.

“They’ve produced absolutely nothing that I can see that’s of benefit or consistent with the promises that they made when they went out and ran for election,” Cheney said.

Pelosi, in a statement responding to the vice president’s remarks, dismissed his comments and called on the White House to spend its time finding compromise.

“I am hopeful the president will tone down his rhetoric, put down his veto pen and work with Congress to make progress for the American people.”

Cheney offered an upbeat assessment of the Iraq war, predicting that when he and Bush leave office in January 2009 a self-governing democracy would be firmly established in Iraq.

Few military experts in either party share his optimism. But Cheney said much more work needs to be done.

But the vice president, who has been widely criticized for overly sanguine — and sometimes flat wrong — projections in the past, sounded as confident as ever that the Bush administration will achieve its objectives in Iraq.

He warned that if Democrats succeed in forcing a quick end to the war, the American people will be at greater risk.

“I think, among other things, it would encourage [Al Qaeda terrorists] to launch further attacks,” he said. “I think it would encourage them, if we were to operate in way that said, ‘You’re right, if you kill enough Americans, you can change U.S. policy,’ they’ll kill more Americans.

“I think the policies we put in place … have been directly responsible for our success at defeating all further attacks that have been launched against the United States since 9/11,” Cheney added.

“I think we’ve got people on the other side who don’t believe as I do, where there are honest and legitimate differences,” he said.

“I think people who want to change those policies, or want to stop them, have an obligation to explain and deal with the consequences that I believe would flow out of stopping those programs.”

Cheney was cautious in his language when discussing Democrats and terrorism, warning of the “great temptation” in the news media “for people to try to sensationalize this stuff.”

But throughout the interview, Cheney left no doubt that he takes pride even in some of the most-criticized policies of the Bush administration, including the wiretapping of suspected terrorists, and the long-term imprisonment and aggressive interrogation of suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

“We’ve been very successful,” he said. “It’s not an accident; it’s because those programs have been there.”

Cheney, in a seemingly relaxed and unhurried mood, chatted in his shirt sleeves, not wearing glasses, with his big chair swiveled to the side to meet his visitors.

His private office was dominated by a Christmas tree decorated with berries, pine cones and birds.

In contrast to President Bush’s paper-free Oval Office desk, Cheney’s is a working desk, stacked with reference and reading material, including a pictorial directory of Congress and the latest issue of Politico.

If Cheney chose his words with care when discussing the Democrats’ approach to national security, he was much more baldly critical of their handling of the dual House-Senate majority for the past 11 months.

“I don’t think they’re doing all that well,” he said. “That probably wouldn’t surprise anybody. I just think — I think if you look at the track record on what they’ve been able to move, on important items that are sort of basic, need-to-do-every-year kinds of things, like the appropriations process, I think the record is pretty dismal.”

Cheney especially criticized Congress on funding the war.

“The refusal to move the war supplemental to support the troops until after the first of the year is a mistake. I say that in part as a former secretary of defense,” he said.

“It’s a terrible way to run a railroad. … I’m, frankly, surprised at why, after all of the efforts they’ve made to try to hook up various provisions on Iraq to the spending bill, they’ve been unsuccessful.

“I’m puzzled why they are so wedded to their political view that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid [the Senate majority leader] aren’t going to move that legislation — said ‘absolutely not, there won’t be another vote on this matter in this Congress,’” the vice president added.

Turning to progress in Iraq, he said: “We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’re sort of halfway through the surge, in a sense. We’ll be going back to pre-surge levels over the course of the next year.”

But Cheney said that by the middle of January 2009, it will be clear that “we have in fact achieved our objective in terms of having a self-governing Iraq that’s capable for the most part of defending themselves, a democracy in the heart of the Middle East, a nation that will be a positive force in influencing the world around it in the future.”

All of that by 2009? “Yes, sir,” he replied.

It was a remarkable prediction by any measure, and one that is certain to infuriate congressional Democrats.

Nearly as surprising, Cheney said he has no reason to question the intelligence released this week showing that Iran is not an imminent nuclear threat, putting him at odds with conservatives such as former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson, a presidential candidate, and others who have raised doubts or disputed the findings.

“I don’t have any reason to question what the [intelligence] community has produced,” he said. “Now, there are things they don’t know. There’s always the possibility that circumstances will change. But I think they’ve done the best job they can with the intelligence that’s available.”

However, the vice president said the administration remains “concerned” about Iran’s enrichment activities

“We still think there’s a need to continue the course we’ve been on to persuade the Iranians not to enrich uranium,” he said.

“The long pole in the tent in terms of developing nuclear weapons, traditionally, historically, has been developing fissile material, either highly enriched uranium or plutonium. In this case, they’re embarked upon the program to develop uranium, obviously.”

Asked how badly the National Intelligence Estimate would complicate the administration’s strategic objectives, the vice president replied: “We don’t get to say we only pursue those policies if they’re easy. It’s very important, I think, and the president clearly does, that we proceed down the road of trying to persuade Iran diplomatically to give up their efforts to enrich uranium. That has not changed. There’s nothing in the NIE that said we should be — not be concerned about their enrichment activities.”

Cheney said the assessment was released because “there was a general belief that we all shared that it was important to put it out — that it was not likely to stay classified for long, anyway,” he said.

Cheney said that “especially in light of what happened with respect to Iraq and the NIE on weapons of destruction,” officials wanted to be “upfront with what we knew.”

He said he agreed that was “the right call.” So he thought it might leak? “Everything leaks,” he said with a chuckle.

On politics, the vice president was asked about the current state of the Republican Party. “It looks to me like the Democrats have got at least as many, if not more, problems,” he said. “I think the Republicans are going to do well next year.”

On the personal side, Cheney said he is reading “The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War,” the recently released final work of the late David Halberstam.

Dems back off on Iraq demands

Politico – Dec 5th 

Each day lately, Democrats inch closer to giving President Bush more money for the war in Iraq without any serious mandates for withdrawing U.S. troops.

Democratic leaders are loath to acknowledge they’ve backed off, but lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, as well as congressional aides, say Democrats are trying to find a way to provide continued troop funding while searching for some compromises that show they’re still intent on challenging the president on the war.

The possible conditions for troop funding include anti-torture rules and benchmarks for Iraqi political reconciliation, language sure to upset an impatient Democratic anti-war base that wants immediate troop withdrawals.

According to one senior Democratic lawmaker, there’s a growing discomfort among pro-defense Democrats about linking a $50 billion Iraq measure to troop withdrawal.

“We have to come off this lack of funding for the military operations,” the lawmaker said. “We have to continue the funding. We don’t want to look like we’re against troop funding. … We should separate the funding discussion from the rest of the war.”

A troop withdrawal funding bill received 53 votes last month in the Senate, seven short of the 60 needed to break a filibuster.

So Democrats are searching for something that asserts congressional power but doesn’t necessarily have a mandated troop withdrawal.

“I am advocating as strong a statement as we can get 60 votes for,” said Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.).

Additionally, lawmakers who represent areas with large military bases fear that layoff notices could go out to civilian military employees just a week before Christmas if the Pentagon has to pull money from other accounts to pay for the war.

“The turmoil caused by shuffling the money is making some people uncomfortable,” said Rep. Adam Putnam of Florida, chairman of the House Republican Conference.

President Bush, backed by enough votes on Capitol Hill to uphold any vetoes, has given Congress an ultimatum: Provide at least $50 billion for Iraq with no conditions, and wrap up the domestic spending bills by Christmas.

Democrats, of course, could ignore the White House, pass a troop withdrawal measure and punt everything into next year after a veto.

Still, aides to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) insisted on Wednesday that the Senate would vote on a troop funding bill that contains the same withdrawal language that passed the House last month.

In the House, Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) seemed flustered Wednesday when pressed about whether Democrats would provide Iraq money with no strings attached.

“There’s no doubt the troops will be funded,” Hoyer told reporters. “We believe that technically, the troops are funded right now.”

But Hoyer wasn’t ready to declare that troop withdrawal language would be taken out. “That’s not a given,” he said.

While Democrats scramble to find ways to end this congressional session with action on Iraq funding, as well as on 11 other domestic spending bills, Republicans are taking their cues from the White House and see no reason to give in.

“The first priority is a no-strings-attached bill for the troops,” said Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), who’s set to become the No. 2 ranking GOP leader in the Senate on Thursday when he’s elected minority whip.

All the harsh talk aside, there were signs of potential breakthroughs on Wednesday.

Two top White House officials — Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten and Budget Director Jim Nussle — huddled on Capitol Hill with Reid and other top Democrats.

A White House aide said no deal was imminent, but when top White House officials meet with the opposition party in December, it’s usually a sign that one’s in the works.

“We’re just reiterating our positions,” said Sean Kevelighan, a spokesman for Nussle. “I wouldn’t characterize it as negotiations. … [Democrats will] realize our positions are reasonable.”

While Democrats search for different ways to combine the war funding bill with their domestic spending measures, Republicans appear increasingly confident with their position.

And they know that Democrats also gave in earlier this year after Bush vetoed an Iraq funding bill that had a troop withdrawal deadline.

“When the war was going poorly and there was great opposition to the surge, at the end of the day, the funding was there,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). “Now, the surge is succeeding; the war is going better. Why would we not continue the funding?”

Daniel W. Reilly contributed to this story.