Cheney lawyer calls Plame suit 'fanciful'

Published May 18, 2007

Lawyers for Vice President Dick Cheney, Karl Rove and two other Bush administration officials belittled Valerie Plame's lawsuit Thursday over the disclosure of her CIA identity.

At a nearly-three-hour court hearing, Cheney's lawyer said Plame was making "fanciful claims" in what amounted to "a fishing expedition." The lawyers argue that the lawsuit should be dismissed.

Plame says her constitutional rights were violated by Cheney and his now-convicted former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, as well as White House political adviser Rove and former State Department official Richard Armitage.

Her suit is "principally based on a desire for publicity and book deals, " said Michael Waldman, who represents Armitage.

Security clearance delays are criticized

A congressional watchdog agency reported "disturbing" delays Thursday in granting top-secret clearance to workers on sensitive jobs undertaken for the government by private industry.

A review of more than 2, 000 cases in January and February 2006 showed it took an average of 446 days, or about 15 months, for first-time clearances, Derek Stewart, a senior official at the Government Accountability Office, told a Senate homeland security subcommittee.

Under a 2004 law, Stewart said in testifying and in an interview, the clearances should be completed within 120 days. "These are critical jobs, " Stewart said. "The government cannot get its business done."

Congress okays $2.9-trillion budget

WASHINGTON - Majority Democrats passed an important test Thursday with approval of a $2.9-trillion budget plan that promises big spending increases for party priorities such as education and health care.

The budget blueprint sets a course to produce a small surplus in five years by assuming that many of President Bush's tax cuts would expire. Putting the budget framework in place also sets up veto confrontations with Bush over increases for domestic programs.

The nonbinding measure for the budget year that begins Oct. 1 does not go to Bush for his signature or veto. Rather, it sets parameters for Congress to follow when writing tax and spending legislation later this year.

The House passed the measure by a 214-209 vote without a single Republican voting for it. The Senate followed with a 52-40 vote; Republicans Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine joined with Democrats.