Did the President's People Encourage Dissention Among House Democrats During the Stimulus Voting?

Now some fresh pickings from the Political Grapevine:

About Face

Democratic Congressman Jim Cooper of Tennessee is now backtracking on his claim that the Obama administration encouraged him to defy House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the stimulus bill. The "Blue Dog" conservative Democrat was one of 11 Democrats to vote against the measure. He said on a liberal radio network, Liberadio, Monday, "I probably shouldn't tell you this, but I actually got some quiet encouragement from the Obama folks for what I'm doing."

Now Cooper says he was misunderstood and that he was talking about laying out his concerns to the administration officials "at no point did any member of President Obama's staff encourage me to vote against the House economic recovery bill… After the conversation, I felt encouraged that the administration understood those concerns and shared my long-standing commitment to fiscal responsibility."

Wishful Thinking?

The U.S. Conference of Mayors has a wish list of almost 19,000 projects requesting funding from the stimulus bill. Most are shovel-ready proposals for things like roads and sewers. But The Wall Street Journal reports some localities are using the kitchen-sink strategy — asking for whatever they can get.

Las Vegas wants $2 million for neon signs. Austin, Texas says it could use $886,000 to build a 36-hole Frisbee golf course. Shreveport, Louisiana has asked for $6 million for three aquatic centers with water slides. And Chula Vista, California wants $500,000 to create a place where dogs can run without a leash.

On Second Thought...

The United Nations has changed its story about Israel striking one of its schools in Gaza. The January 6 incident killed 43 Palestinians and has been a major point of contention between Israel and the U.N. over the Gaza military operation. The U.N. initially claimed that Israeli mortar shells pounded a U.N. relief school. But Haaretz newspaper reports the U.N.'s humanitarian coordinator, Maxwell Gaylord, in Jerusalem now says his organization "would like to clarify that the shelling and all of the fatalities took place outside and not inside the school."

Family Guy

And finally, an update on a story we've brought you here on the grapevine before: a legal immigration advocacy group is demanding that President Obama deport his aunt — an illegal immigrant living in the U.S. The Americans for Legal Immigration Political Action Committee is also asking immigration and customs enforcement to arrest Zeituni Onyango. Spokesman William Gheen says, "(President) Obama must either deport his aunt or destroy his own credibility by showing her favoritism."

Onyango is currently living in Ohio and has vowed to fight a court deportation order to her native Kenya.

— FOX News Channel's Zachary Kenworthy contributed to this report.

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