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Political Notebook

Conservatives object, but Senate OK's envoy to Iraq

Globe Staff and Associated Press / April 22, 2009
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The Senate yesterday confirmed President Obama's choice to be US ambassador to Iraq, despite fierce opposition from conservatives. Senators voted 73-23 to confirm career diplomat Christopher Hill over the strenuous objections of Senator Sam Brownback, a Kansas Republican who accused Hill, the Bush administration's chief negotiator with North Korea, of ignoring North Korean human rights abuses and agreeing to a flawed disarmament pact. A small group of Brownback's fellow Republicans joined him in voting against Hill on those grounds and because of his lack of Middle East experience.

But many argued that Hill, a 32-year veteran of the foreign service, is qualified to run the US Embassy in Iraq, America's largest overseas diplomatic mission.

"Ambassador Hill is a proven, expert negotiator, a problem-solver, and he is one of the best diplomats we have," said Senator John F. Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat.

Democrats say EPA analysis supports climate bill
Democrats yesterday highlighted an Environmental Protection Agency preliminary analysis of their climate change bill, saying the study shows the legislation would move the nation "to a clean energy economy."

The proposed cap on carbon emissions would accelerate the use of alternative energy by 150 percent over the next two decades, the analysis said. The bill calls for a reduction of greenhouse gases by 20 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, and by 83 percent by mid-century.

The analysis was requested by the bill's coauthors, representatives Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Henry Waxman of California. "When you combine this analysis with cost-saving measures from updated energy-efficiency measures and weatherization, the savings will pile up for consumers," Markey said.

Republicans argue a carbon cap would dramatically increase energy costs. "In its current form, this bill may do more harm to our economy than any bill that is likely to come before Congress for the rest of this year, or perhaps during my natural lifetime," declared Representative Michael Burgess of Texas.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she's determined to pass legislation addressing climate change this year.

Senate panel backs Sebelius for health post
WASHINGTON - Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius won Senate Finance Committee approval as health secretary over GOP opposition yesterday, putting her on track for a final Senate vote. Her expected confirmation would complete President Obama's Cabinet.

Just two of 10 committee Republicans - Pat Roberts of Kansas and Olympia Snowe of Maine - voted yes, signaling GOP skepticism about Obama's healthcare plans.

Several Republicans also voiced concerns in recent days about Sebelius's initial failure to disclose the full extent of campaign donations she received from George Tiller, a late-term abortion doctor under investigation by the Kansas medical board. She told the committee that Tiller gave her $12,450 between 1994 and 2001, but after an Associated Press review showed that Tiller and his abortion clinic donated an additional $23,000 between 2000 and 2002 to a political action committee established by Sebelius, she called it an unintentional oversight and corrected the error.

Romney faults Obama on foreign policy
Mitt Romney jumped into the bashing of President Obama's foreign policy yesterday. The former Massachusetts governor wrote in National Review's online edition that Obama failed his first tests by not objecting to verbal attacks on the United States and by apologizing for past actions.

"When our nation was slandered," Romney wrote, Obama "offered silence, smiles, and a handshake." Obama didn't punish North Korea, "one of the world's most oppressive and tyrannical regimes," when it launched a long-range missile.