Senators are debating the nomination of John Ashcroft for U.S. Attorney General. A vote could come later tonight, though more likely tomorrow. Another two Democrats have pledged support for Ashcroft. Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia had previously indicated on CNN’s Larry King he would vote “yes,” and today made a formal statement on the senate floor. Senator Christopher Dodd has also announced his support. A spokesman for Missouri Senator Jean Carnahan has not made her available to comment on how she’ll vote, and does not expect her to speak from the senate floor.
Archives for January 2001
Senator Kit Bond is finally getting his chance to defend his former Missouri colleague. The Senate is debating John Ashcroft’s nomination for attorney general, following yesterday’s vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee to approve Ashcroft. Bond says Ashcroft is a good and decent man who has been the target of a slime campaign from what he calls liberal extremists.He is not offering a prediction on the vote of Senator Carnahan, whose late husband battled Ashcroft for his senate seat last fall.
Whether pay raise recommendations go into effect for state lawmakers and judges is now in the hands of the Senate. The House has rejected a report filed by the Citizens Commission on Compensation that would provide health pay raises for all three branches of government. House Majority Floor Leader Wayne Crump of Potosi tells lawmakers they cannot approve pay raises for lawmakers, and not maker room in the budget for pay raises for other state workers. The House approved the measure rejecting pay raises, then adjourned. The Senate can either accept the House measure or let the report go into effect. The deadline is today.
Roy Blunt is more than Deputy Majority Whip of the U.S. House this year, he’s in charge of rounding up votes for legislation for President Bush. Bush’s education proposal will be a good first test for Blunt. It includes some popular items, like increased funding for struggling schools, and higher standards for student performance. But it would create a voucher program that most Democrats are staunchly opposed to. Blunt says Bush will include Democrats in the early stages on these bills to get their support.
Springfield natural gas customers could see their gas bills getting higher. A commission of Springfield City Utilities has recommended that the Heating Expense Leveling Program (HELP) be ended early. City Utilities manager John Twitty says there was a good reason for calling for a premature end. Namely, the money involved is getting too large. He says the HELP program was scheduled to end in March. Twitty says there is some good news in that natural gas prices seem to be leveling off, anyway.
The final debate on the confirmation of John Ashcroft is underway in the United States Senate. And it could be a long, long day. One of the Democratic leaders of the senate, Nevada’s Harry Reid, is sending out the word. “We didn’t do as much talking…last night….We expected to go until 9:00,” he said, “I think tonight we’ll go until 9:00 or 10:00.” A divided Judiciary Committee yesterday recommended confirmation. The final vote was 10-8. Ashcroft backers think he’ll get 60 or more votes in the 100-member senate.
Governor Holden says he wants to lead. But he doesn’t appear willing to step forward on solving the state’s transportation problems. Some legislators were hoping Governor Holden would suggest some ideas for meeting the state’s transportation needs. He didn’t. Although Republicans say they were glad to hear Holden say credibility has to be restored to the transportation department, they’re also disappointed that Holden offered no more specifics. The only proposal so far raising more money for transportation has been put on the shelf in the state senate, the Democratic sponsor saying Republicans aren’t showing a lot of interest.
The State Senate Judiciary Committee is considering legislation to exempt the mentally retarded from the death penalty. Among those appearing before a Committee hearing at the Capitol was Cole County Prosecutor Richard Callahan, who supports the legislation because he feels it will clear up a lot of questions. “Once we have legislation in place,” he said, “we’ll have an objective measure to decide what is and isn’t” mental retardation. Death penalty opponents took part in the hearing, telling Senators the mentally retarded do not fully realize that they are committing terrible crimes.
Legislation to cut back on the number of telemarketing phone calls Missourians receive during the evening hours is set to take effect in July. But a State Representative from High Ridge says that legislation isn’t good enough. Rick Johnson has come up with new legislation he says will close some of the loopholes in the current No Call law that exempt certain businesses, like insurance companies and long-distance providers. More than 250,000 Missourians have already signed up to be on the No Call list.
An initiative petition drive to make it easier for school districts to borrow money could face Missouri voters next November. The proposal would drop the super majorities needed to approve school bond issues to build and renovate school buildings. Missouri PTA President Sherry Davis of Springfield says the 2/3 and 4/7 margins required for school bonds is too restrictive. A survey by the MSBA suggests nearly 65% of the state’s school buildings are at least 30 years old, and 12% are at least 70 years old. If voters approve the initiative petition, bonds could be approved by a simple majority. The proposal could be on next year’s November ballot.