Capital Briefs June 15, 2009

SHAKEUP AMONG HOUSE GOP: With the Obama Administration tapping Rep. John McHugh (R.-N.Y.) to be secretary of the Army (see “Politics”), House Republicans last week selected Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R.-Calif.) as the new ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee. On a secret ballot of the House Republican Steering Committee, stalwart conservative McKeon (lifetime American Conservative Union rating 90%), defeated Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (Md.), the most senior Republican on Armed Services, and Texas Rep. William “Mac” Thornberry, also a long-time member of the panel.

WHO FOR ED AND LABOR? McKeon’s move to the ranking spot on Armed Services means that the Californian must relinquish his present spot as ranking Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee. Next in committee seniority is moderate Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wis.), who in 2006 lost a bid for the chairmanship of the committee to McKeon. Other senior Republicans on the important committee include Rep. Pete Hoekstra, who is retiring to run for governor of Michigan next year and would not likely seek the post, and moderate Rep. Mike Castle (Del.), who is very likely to run for the U.S. Senate in 2010. The only conservative possibility for ranking member who is near the top of the committee line-up is Indiana Rep. Mark Souder, an alumnus of the “Republican Revolution Class” of 1994.  

DC VOTING DEAD FOR SUMMER: Thanks to an NRA-sponsored amendment attached to it that would scrap the District of Columbia’s strict gun control laws, the bill that would give D.C. a voting member of the U.S. House is effectively finished in Congress for the summer. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D.-Md.) announced last week that because of the failure of the Democratic leadership to muster the votes to eliminate the gun amendment, “I don’t think we’re going to be able to move this bill at this point in time.” The D.C. voting bill, which would also give Utah a new House member, has languished in Congress since it was approved in February with the controversial gun legislation.  

FIRE YOUR FACT CHECKER, MR. PRESIDENT
: In his remarks in the Middle East, President Obama declared that “if you actually took the number of Muslim Americans, we’d be one of the largest Muslim countries in the world.” According to the U.S. Department of State, the United States has approximately 2.3 million Muslims (0.8% of the total population). That places the U.S. 52nd in Muslim population. America’s numbers compares to Eritrea (2.8 million), Malawai (2.4 million), and Kenya (2.36 million). The top ten Muslim populations range from 20 million to 32 million.

NOOSE TIGHTENING ON “MR. COUNTRYWIDE:” The head of the firm that was once kingpin of the subprime mortage market was accused two weeks ago of insider trading. Angelo Mozilo, former chief executive officer of Countrywide Financial and friend of numerous powerful politicians, was charged in a suit filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission with illegally making $140 million by selling off company stock at a time when investors were being misled about the condition of Countrywide. Mozilo and other Countrywide brass knew the company’s dependency on subprime mortgages was likely to fail but “these trends were never revealed to Countrywide investors,” SEC director of enforcement Robert Khuzami told reporters. The mortage titan has since gone bankrupt, but remains in the news in part because Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd (D.-Conn.), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D.-N.D.), and other powerful figures received sweetheart mortgage deals from Countrywide by being included on a special list as “Friends of Angelo.”

PUBLIC SAYS U.S.-RUN CAR COMPANIES WILL BE WORSE: With the U.S. now having the strongest hand in the running of General Motors, far more American voters feel the auto titan’s products will be worse. According to a just-completed Rasmussen Reports poll, 41% of Americans expect the quality of GM cars will get worse with the federal government as majority owner, and only 19% feel the quality of GM’s products will improve. 24% are not sure, according to Rasmussen. The same survey showed skepticism was even higher among owners of GM cars, with 48% of them saying the quality of the company’s products will go down with the enhanced government role and only 42% say they are likely to buy another GM product.    


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