Now some fresh pickings from the Political Grapevine:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi has spent 63 percent more during her first year leading the House than Republican Speaker Dennis Hastert spent last year.
The Hill reports Pelosi's tab includes $16,000 for flowers and $10,000 for a former Bill Clinton speechwriter to write Pelosi's remarks delivered to the Israeli Knesset.
Republicans say the spending undercuts Pelosi's message that Democrats are restoring fiscal responsibility to Capitol Hill. But Pelosi aides say the huge increase over Hastert's budget is justified by the costs to set up her new office and to restore some of the responsibilities Hastert had ceded to the House majority leader.
The pope, it seems, is a global warming skeptic. Benedict XVI is warning that solutions to climate change must be based on solid science not politics and that the welfare of humans must take precedence over animals and plants.
The Vatican has released the text of the pope's annual world peace day message, to be delivered January 1.
He writes: "Respecting the environment does not mean considering material or animal nature more important than man.... It is important for assessments in this regard to be carried out prudently, in dialogue with experts and people of wisdom, uninhibited by ideological pressure to draw hasty conclusions... it is essential to sense that the earth is our common home and... to choose the path of dialogue rather than the path of unilateral decisions."
The Youth Vote
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is taking fire over efforts to get college students studying in Iowa — but living out-of-state — to support him in next month's Iowa caucuses.
The New York Post reports Obama has visited many colleges and urged students — many from his home state of Illinois — to register for the caucuses. And the campaign has passed out 50,000 fliers on campuses telling students they can come back from holiday vacation to participate.
Des Moines Register columnist David Yepsen writes, "maybe we should call these the Illinois caucuses." And Hillary Clinton says the caucus process is for Iowans who live and pay taxes in the state. But some liberal blogs have accused Mrs. Clinton of trying to suppress the constitutional rights of the students.
Senator Clinton and other leading Democrats are the subject of increasing rage from Code Pink, the liberal anti-war group. The Washington Times reports Code Pink will seek a new tax status that permits it to do political work against Democrats next year.
Co-founder Medea Benjamin says, "We felt betrayed by the very people we helped to put into office. We have a particular break with the leadership of the Democratic Party.... We are disgusted with all of them."
Benjamin says Democratic leaders lack what she calls the "fighting spirit" to end the war. She also takes a shot at the liberal group MoveOn.org, saying its publicity stunts and efforts to get Republican members of Congress to switch their war votes had virtually no success.
— FOX News Channel's Martin Hill contributed to this report.