Congress Isn't Tightening Its Budgetary Belt

Now some fresh pickings from the Political Grapevine:

Growing Budget

You may be pinching pennies, but Congress is not. Lawmakers have given themselves a sizable budget increase. This year's appropriations bill provides about $4.7 billion for legislative branch activities, an increase of about 5.8 percent.

That includes more than $19 million for miscellaneous items, of which $500,000 will go to a pilot program for senators to send out postcards about their town hall meetings. And $4 million for consultants for some of Capitol Hill's top lawmakers.

Supporters of the bill say they are being frugal, and that last year Congress increased its budget by almost 11 percent.

But Senator John McCain said on Wednesday: "Has anybody had any trouble lately having people come to their town hall meetings? We need to spend an additional $500,000 to notify? Please."

Calls for Resignation

Republicans are demanding that the man running the House Ways and Means Committee, Congressman Charles Rangel, give up his chairmanship.

Texas Congressman John Carter says he is giving the New York Democrat until next week to step aside or he will introduce a resolution to force his removal: "To allow Mr. Rangel to continue to serve as chairman is the same as allowing a confessed bank robber to serve as chairman of the banking committee during the trial... if he refuses, the House must remove him by a recorded vote."

Rangel is being investigated in several areas, including his failure to report income taxes on a Caribbean villa, the use of rent-controlled apartments in New York and the use of congressional letterhead in soliciting donations for a center in his name.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had promised the Rangel ethics probe would be completed by the end of 2008.

Bad Law?

A Michigan woman has been told by the state that she can no longer look after her neighbors' children before they get on the school bus every morning, because she is breaking the law.

Lisa Snyder received a letter from the Michigan Department of Human Services warning that if she continued, she would be violating a law aimed at unlicensed day care centers. She says: "I was freaked out. I was blown away."

The law states that people are not allowed to care for unrelated children in their homes for more than four weeks each year unless they are licensed day-care providers. Snyder and other parents say the law prevents friendly favors that help balance work and family.

Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm has instructed the agency director to work with the state legislature to get the law changed.

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

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