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Washington in brief

Court issues arrest warrant for DeLay

By wire services
Published October 20, 2005

AUSTIN, Texas - A state court issued an arrest warrant on Wednesday for Rep. Tom DeLay, requiring him to appear in Texas for booking on state conspiracy and money laundering charges.

The court set an initial $10,000 bail as a routine step before the Texas Republican's first court appearance Friday.

DeLay, R-Texas, could be fingerprinted and photographed, although his lawyers had hoped to avoid this step. DeLay probably will surrender in his home county of Fort Bend, near Houston, but he could go to any law enforcement office in Texas. His court appearance will be in Austin.

The warrant is "a matter of routine and bond will be posted," said DeLay's lawyer, Dick DeGuerin.

DeLay has stepped down as U.S. House majority leader - at least temporarily - under a Republican rule requiring him to relinquish the post if charged with a felony.

Two grand juries have charged DeLay and two political associates in an alleged scheme to violate state election law, by funneling corporate donations to candidates for the Texas Legislature. State law prohibits use of corporate donations to finance state campaigns, although the money can be used for administrative expenses.

House, Senate hash out bill to trim budget

WASHINGTON - A long-stalled proposal to permit oil drilling in an Alaskan wilderness area won a spot on a spending plan by Senate Republicans on Wednesday as lawmakers worked on a $35-billion bill to trim the federal budget.

The drilling proposal, approved by a 13-9 vote by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, would open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration.

In the House, GOP leaders were forced to postpone a vote that would put lawmakers on record in favor of adding $15-billion more in cuts from entitlement programs to the budget-trimming bill.

The legislation would put in place the spending plan that Congress adopted in April.

There is ample evidence that Republicans will have their hands full in finding agreement on the $35-billion measure to trim mandatory programs. These account for 55 percent of the budget and include programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and farm subsidies.

In the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, for example, Pat Roberts, R-Kan., reluctantly cast the deciding vote as the committee approved $3-billion in cuts to farm subsidies. He was riled that senators from Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Vermont successfully defended a payment program for milk farmers at the expense of other commodity subsidies.

The House Agriculture Committee will have to cut more than an additional $1-billion from programs, with tradeoffs between food and farm programs. Advocates for the poor are bracing for cuts to food stamps.

Senate rejects proposals to raise minimum wage

WASHINGTON - Senate proposals to raise the minimum wage were rejected Wednesday, making it unlikely that the lowest allowable wage, $5.15 an hour since 1997, will rise in the foreseeable future.

[Last modified October 20, 2005, 01:20:19]

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