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Gonzales hearing, round 2, subdued

By TIMES WIRES
Published May 11, 2007


WASHINGTON - Attorney General Alberto Gonzales confidently deflected House Democrats' demands Thursday for details in the firings of U.S. attorneys, appearing ever more likely to survive accusations that the dismissals were politically motivated.

GOP lawmakers rushed to Gonzales' defense as the attorney general denied anew that the eight firings last year were improper. The mostly muted, five-hour hearing in front of the House Judiciary Committee was a sharp contrast to Gonzales' sometimes testy appearance three weeks ago when Senate Republicans questioned his competence to run the Justice Department.

Plan would balance budget in five years

A Democratic budget blueprint taking shape in House-Senate talks would balance the federal ledger within five years, promising higher spending but also expiration of many of the tax cuts passed in President Bush's first term. Negotiators formally opened talks Thursday, but Democrats have been meeting privately for weeks. They hope to have a compromise ready for House and Senate votes next week. The emerging plan would award generous spending increases next year to both the Pentagon and domestic agencies, but puts off difficult decisions about unsustainable growth in benefit programs such as Medicare.

Gen. Pace is expected to be renominated

President Bush is expected to nominate Marine Gen. Peter Pace for a second two-year term as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, maintaining Pace's leadership during the increasingly unpopular Iraq war. The move would keep Pace as one of the top two military leaders for eight years - longer than anyone else has served as chairman and vice chairman of the joint staff. A defense official, who requested anonymity because the announcement had not been made, said it was unclear when the decision would be made public. The position requires Senate approval.