- Created on 14 January 2013
(CNN) -- Sen. John McCain, prominent among the Washington ranks who have questioned former Sen. Chuck Hagel's suitability for the top Defense Department post, said Sunday he will not exert his power to block Hagel's nomination.
"No," he told CNN when asked directly whether he would block the nomination in the Senate. "I plan to make a judgment as to whether I think he's appropriate to be Secretary of Defense or not."
Each senator has the power to prevent a nomination from advancing to the floor, and one of McCain's close colleagues, Sen. Lindsey Graham, has suggested he would put President Barack Obama's nominee to lead the CIA on hold while awaiting answers on the U.S. Consulate attack in September in Benghazi, Libya.
McCain said he does not plan to block that nomination or that of John Brennan for the CIA, either. He said he does have questions for both.
Of Hagel, the Arizona Republican said, "There will be a number of questions about his view of America's role in the world, about Iraq, about Afghanistan, about Iran, the threat of Iran."
McCain also described his reservations regarding Hagel's remark "that (the) surge in Iraq would be the greatest blunder since the Vietnam War, which is clearly a bizarre statement."
Some senators from both sides of the aisle have expressed their concern about selecting the former Nebraska Republican to lead the Pentagon. McCain's reservations stand out in part because of their once-vibrant friendship and partnership. Both were injured in the Vietnam War.
Some have described their difference in Iraq war policy as a stress point in the relationship. After McCain aided Hagel in his first campaign for the U.S. Senate, Hagel returned the favour as a national co-chair of his 2000 presidential bid. Hagel stayed out of the race when McCain ran again in 2008.
McCain told CNN last week that he hoped their friendship remained.
"The friendship, I hope, is still there," he said on "The Situation Room," saying their world views had split "rather dramatically."
"I respect, admire, and call him a friend, but I have very serious questions about whether he will serve in the way that I think serves America's best national interests."
Officials supportive of Hagel's confirmation but spoke to the media on the condition of anonymity have gone on the offensive in support of the nominee.
In response to charges he has not been a staunch supporter of Israel and expresses sympathies toward Iran, the officials pointed to votes he cast in favor of military aid to Israel and his recent call for the U.S. to "keep racheting up sanctions" on Iran, among other evidence. They also highlighted his leadership experience as evidence he is ready to direct the massive government department.
Critics have also taken issue with Hagel's 1998 description of an ambassadorial nominee as "openly, aggressively gay" -- for which he has since apologized -- and his remark in 2007 when he said the "Jewish lobby intimidated lawmakers."
McCain said Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation" that if asked today, he would not vote against Hagel, "nor would I vote for him."
In his statement after Obama announced Hagel as his pick, McCain said, "Chuck Hagel served our nation with honor in Vietnam, and I congratulate him on this nomination.
"I have serious concerns about positions Sen. Hagel has taken on a range of critical national security issues in recent years, which we will fully consider in the course of his confirmation process before the Senate Armed Services Committee."
McCain will have the opportunity to pose his questions as the top Republican on that committee.
"I have a clear record of almost always giving the administration the benefit of the doubt, Republican or Democrat," he said on CBS. "But in this particular case, 'advise and consent' is still a role that we play as senators."
CNN's Barbara Starr, Ashley Killough and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.
- Created on 14 January 2013
(CNN) -- Former President George H.W. Bush was discharged Monday from the hospital in Houston where he spent several weeks receiving treatment for bronchitis, a bacterial infection and a persistent cough, his spokesman Jim McGrath said in a statement.
Dr. Amy Mynderse, the internal medicine physician in charge of the former president's care, added that Bush "has improved to the point that he will not need any special medication when he goes home, but he will continue physical therapy."
Bush, who's been hospitalized in Houston since November 23, said he was "deeply grateful" for the doctors and nurses at The Methodist Hospital.
"Let me add just how touched we were by the many get-well messages we received from our friends and fellow Americans," Bush said in the statement. "Your prayers and good wishes helped more than you know, and as I head home my only concern is that I will not be able to thank each of you for your kind words."
He was moved out of the hospital's intensive care unit just over two weeks ago. He was listed in guarded condition while he received treatment for what McGrath called "a stubborn fever."
Doctors were at several points optimistic that his release was imminent. McGrath said in December that Bush had been undergoing physical therapy in preparation for discharge.
After release from the intensive care unit, McGrath said Bush's "exchanges with doctors and nurses now include singing." He received visits from family members including his wife over the Christmas holiday, and was serenaded by the gospel-turned-country quartet of the 1970s and '80s the Oak Ridge Boys.
Oak member Joe Bonsall said of their telephone performance for the former president, "We asked what song he would like to hear and he said 'Elvira,' so we blasted some 'oom pop a mau mau's' in the direction of Houston, Texas."
Four months older than former President Jimmy Carter, the 88 year-old Bush is the oldest of the living former presidents.
CNN's Kevin Liptak and Gregory Wallace contributed to this report.
- Created on 11 January 2013
If Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed is right, it won't be long before red state Georgia turns blue and turns for good.
In a meeting with the Atlanta Press Club Thursday, Reed, a Democrat, predicted that US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will win the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016 and that she will carry the state of Georgia.
"Georgia is on an irreversible path to a Democratic majority," Reed said.
That would make Hillary the first Democrat to carry Georgia, which went overwhelmingly for Republican Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election, since her husband, Bill Clinton, did so when he was elected president in 1992.
"The Clintons have a special affection for Georgia," Reed told the Atlanta Press Club.
The Atlanta Business Chronicle's Dave Williams first reported Reed's comments to the group. Reed will meet with the Atlanta Association of Black Journalists on Saturday in a special meeting with WSB's program director, Condace Pressley.
Currently the Georgia House of Representatives has 116 Republicans and only 63 Democrats, with one Independent. The state senate is similarly in firm Republican control, with 34 Republicans and 20 Democrats.
Reed said his prediction for a Clinton victory in Georgia was based on changing demographics in the state that favor Democrats regaining power here after more than a decade of Republican control.
Georgia's Hispanic population is growing much faster than that of any other group, and Hispanic voters in recent years have tended to support Democratic candidates.
As for his own political future, Reed repeated his intention to seek a second term as mayor this fall, despite some "friendly calls" from the Obama administration.
"I got my dream job," he said. "Y'all are stuck with me for another five years."
- Created on 13 January 2013
It has been more than a year since Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann dropped out of her presidential bid and she still refuses to pay five staffers, according to a former top campaign official.
According to reports by Salon, Peter Waldron, Bachmann's former national field coordinator, said that the dispute started when former Iowa poll staffers refused to sign a nondisclosure agreement that would prevent them from discussing any "unethical, immoral, or criminal activity" they witnessed on the campaign.
Although Bachmann has more than $2 million in her campaign account, Waldron says the staffers are owed nearly $5,000 each and Bachman refuses to pay them unless they sign the agreement. Payment negotiations with Bachmann's finance chairman, James Pollack, fell through and Waldron decided to go public with the issue on Thursday evening. He posted a press release on Christian Newswire.
In the press release, Waldron said, "I feel a moral obligation to see that my Christian brothers and sisters are paid for work performed in good faith. I've continually communicated by telephone and email with Mr. Pollack for 1 year but he broke every promise made to me to pay the staff. I appealed to Dr. [Marcus] Bachmann for help. I appealed to Representative Bachmann's Chief of Staff Robert Boland to intercede with Mrs. Bachmann on behalf of her loyal Iowa staff — all of whom are married, all have children."
Salon also reports that Waldron confirmed the details via phone and said the nondisclosure agreement stems from the campaign's alleged misuse of an email list. The Bachmann campaign was accused of stealing the list from a home-schooling group. The list was allegedly stolen from a volunteer's laptop and used to fundraise for the campaign. Subsequently, the home-schooling group sued the campaign.
Waldron went on to tell Salon that "It's just immoral what they're trying to do. They're trying to shut us up. You want to get paid? You gotta sign this agreement and not talk to either the police or lawyers."
Although he never specifically addresses the non-disclosure agreement, in a recent email to Salon, Pollack called Waldron's charges about the non-payment "false and inaccurate."
- Created on 11 January 2013
(CNN) -- Planned Parenthood in Texas heads to federal court Friday, looking for a temporary injunction that would allow it to take part in the state's revamped Women's Health Program.
Late last month, a Texas judge denied the group's request for a temporary restraining order that would have extended the organization's ability to participate.
A state law that went into effect with the new year requires the state to fully fund women's health clinics with the exception of those that are affiliated with abortion providers. With that new law, Texas is no longer eligible for federal funding and, therefore, Planned Parenthood and other such establishments in the state will no longer be able to receive federal funding.
Previously, such establishments in Texas obtained 90% of their money through the Social Security Administration and other federal funding.
Planned Parenthood, which provides abortions at some of its clinics, and fellow plaintiff Marcela Balquinta of McAllen, Texas, filed the request for a temporary restraining order seeking exclusion from the new law, arguing the organization provides preventative women's health care not associated with abortions to nearly 50,000 Texas enrollees annually.
"I have denied the request for a temporary restraining order at this time," Judge Gary Harger said in late December. "I did not find that there would be an irreparable harm in waiting nine days for the injunction hearing."
Texas Gov. Rick Perry issued a statement at the time welcoming the move.
The "ruling finally clears the way for thousands of low-income Texas women to access much-needed care, while at the same time respecting the values and laws of our state," he said. "I applaud all those who stand ready to help these women live healthy lives without sending taxpayer money to abortion providers and their affiliates."
Planned Parenthood vowed to fight the ruling.
"It is shocking that once again Texas officials are letting politics jeopardize health care access for women," Ken S. Lambrecht, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas said at the time. "This case isn't about Planned Parenthood -- it's about women like Marcy Balquinta who rely on us for basic, preventive health care."