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Washington in brief

Panel okays two more Bush judicial nominees

By wire services
Published May 27, 2005

WASHINGTON - Two of President Bush's blocked judicial nominees, cleared for confirmation by this week's Senate compromise on filibusters, gained quick approval Thursday by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The nominations of Richard Griffin and David McKeague for the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati were approved by voice vote without debate. The nominees now move to the full Senate for confirmation votes.

Democrats had blocked Griffin and McKeague at the request of Michigan's two Democratic senators, Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow. But they agreed not to hold up the nominations anymore as part of the discussion over the use of judicial filibusters.

To avert a showdown, seven Democrats and seven Republicans signed a pact Monday pledging not to filibuster judicial nominees except in extraordinary circumstances and opposing attempts by Republican leaders to change filibuster procedures.

Jackson, DNC fined for campaign violations

WASHINGTON - The Democratic Party and the Rev. Jesse Jackson and two groups associated with him have agreed to pay $200,000 in fines for campaign finance violations in the 2000 elections.

At issue in the Federal Election Commission case was about $450,000 in election spending by Jackson, the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition and the Citizenship Education Fund using funds from the groups. The two nonprofit groups were incorporated, making their money corporate and subject to federal campaign finance laws.

The money was used for a partisan get-out-the-vote effort and voter registration speaking tour that was coordinated with the Democratic National Committee and included appearances by Jackson and Democratic House and Senate candidates.

Senate committee says yes to energy bill

WASHINGTON - State and local officials would have little chance to block construction of a liquefied natural gas facility under an energy bill that advanced Thursday from a Senate committee.

A provision in the bill would give the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission exclusive jurisdiction over final approval of such a terminal. A dozen or more such facilities probably will be built in the next decade.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee advanced the nontax portion of the energy legislation by a 21-1 vote.

Forest Service reactivates grounded air tanker fleet

WASHINGTON - The Forest Service will reinstate a fleet of 25 heavy tankers and other large aircraft to join hundreds of smaller planes and helicopters in combatting what is expected to be another tough wildfire season this summer.

Officials said that despite some recent safety concerns, they have contracted to use nine P2V tankers and seven former Navy P-3 Orions to fight wildfires in the West. The large fixed-wing aircraft can drop up to 3,000 gallons of chemical fire retardant on blazes.

In addition, a former Douglas DC7 propeller airliner, retrofitted with fire monitoring equipment, will be used to gather data on wildfires. Eight of the military's enormous C-130 transport planes, each outfitted with firefighting gear, are available for use.

Bill for for asbestos victims moves ahead

WASHINGTON - Manufacturers and insurance companies would be shielded from multimillion-dollar lawsuits from people with asbestos-related diseases in exchange for funding a $140-billion trust fund under legislation that has cleared its first hurdle.

Approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, the trust fund would compensate people sickened by exposure to asbestos, a fibrous mineral commonly used in construction until the mid 1970s. Asbestos has tiny fibers that can cause cancer and other ailments. Millions of people have been exposed.

[Last modified May 27, 2005, 00:41:05]

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