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Political Notebook

Biden to declare plans to 'ramp up' stimulus projects over summer

Associated Press / June 6, 2009
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Responding to the latest unemployment numbers, Vice President Joe Biden said yesterday that he and President Obama will announce Monday plans to "ramp up" the pace of projects during the summer from the $787 billion economic stimulus plan.

The Labor Department reported that while employers cut 345,000 jobs in May - the lowest monthly total since September - the national unemployment rate still rose from 8.9 percent to 9.4 percent, the highest in more than a quarter-century.

"Less bad is not how we're going to measure success," said Biden, who did not specify what steps will be taken. "We will not be satisfied until we are adding jobs on a monthly basis."

Biden, who was put in charge of overseeing the recovery package by Obama, said that 3,600 projects are underway from the stimulus package, which just passed its 100-day mark, and that the lower number of layoffs shows "some signs" of this.

Critics, however, have complained that money for roads and other infrastructure projects has been slow in arriving, and have questioned the administration's jobs figures - more than 150,000 saved or created as of late last month, 100 days after the stimulus was passed.

The top House Republican, John Boehner of Ohio, used the jobs report to lay into the Obama administration's policies and the effectiveness of the stimulus package, which not a single GOP representative supported.

"It's another reminder of how Washington is hanging middle-class Americans out to dry," he said in a statement. "More than 2.5 million Americans have lost their jobs this year, and what have the Democrats in charge of Washington given them? A trillion-dollar 'stimulus' that isn't producing jobs immediately, as the administration promised."

Intelligence pick bows out over role in CIA tactics
WASHINGTON - President Obama's pick for intelligence chief at the Homeland Security Department withdrew from consideration yesterday amid questions about his role in the CIA's interrogations of suspected terrorists.

As deputy director of the Office of Terrorism Analysis at the CIA during the Bush administration, Philip Mudd had direct knowledge of the agency's harsh interrogation program, according to a congressional aide, who was not authorized to disclose the information and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The interrogation methods have been criticized by Democratic lawmakers and Obama as torture.

"I know that this position will require the full cooperation with Congress and I believe that if I continue to move forward I will become a distraction to the president and his vital agenda," Mudd, who had been scheduled to appear next week before senators considering his nomination as undersecretary of intelligence and analysis, said in a statement.

A White House spokesman said Mudd had Obama's support, but that the president understood Mudd's decision.

In November, Obama's selection of John Brennan to become CIA director was derailed after criticism from liberal bloggers that associated him with the Bush administration's interrogation, detention, and rendition programs.

Brennan now is the White House-based homeland security adviser, which did not require Senate confirmation.

Sotomayor's self-portrait reveals past anxieties
WASHINGTON - She likes to eat traditional Puerto Rican fare and watch "Law & Order." She felt like an alien in the Ivy League. She reads fictional courtroom dramas and hands down imaginary rulings on the lawyers' objections therein.

Judge Sonia Sotomayor's self-portrait, revealed in scores of speeches and writings released Thursday, portrays a "daughter of the Bronx" who rose from a lower middle-class background to the academic and legal elite - but felt panicked on the cusp of each step up.

Even after six years as a federal district court judge, Sotomayor recalled feeling anxious when President Clinton appointed her to the federal appeals court.

"I was devastated about leaving a court and friends I loved and felt secure with, panic stricken about how hard my new work would be and whether I could do it," she told the Bronx Leadership Academy in 2000. "On the other hand, it is so exciting to be at the door of a major change in one's life."

In financial disclosure forms released yesterday, Sotomayor said she made $179,500 last year as a judge on the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York, and made an extra $25,830 as a lecturer at Columbia Law School in New York City.

The judge also listed $8,283 in "jackpot game winning" on Nov. 23, but did not say where or how she won the money. The White House said it happened in a Florida casino while gambling with her mother.

As Senate Democrats and Republicans haggle over when to hold Sotomayor's confirmation hearings, the Senate's top Republican said yesterday it's "way too early to know" whether his party will try to block a vote, appearing to break with others in his party who have said they don't foresee using Senate rules to try to stop Sotomayor.