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House will vote on Traficant tonight

Lawmakers will decide this evening whether to make convicted Ohio Rep. James Traficant only the second congressman to be expelled from the House since the Civil War.

The nine-term Ohio congressman will be allowed to return to the House floor for debate for the first time since a federal court in Cleveland convicted him in April of 10 counts of racketeering, bribery and tax evasion.

Debate will begin at 6 p.m., and Traficant will get at least 30 minutes to defend himself before the expulsion vote. The colorful, opinionated congressman has requested more time _ eight hours _ and vowed to make what could be his last speech on the House floor one to remember.

Traficant got a 24-hour notice of the vote, officials said.

Last week, the House ethics committee also found him guilty of ethical violations and recommended unanimously that he be expelled from Congress.

It takes two-thirds of the voting members of the 435-member House to approve expulsion.

Senate confirms Carmona as surgeon general

The Senate confirmed Dr. Richard Carmona as surgeon general Tuesday without opposition or debate, clearing the way for the Arizona trauma surgeon to take the post.

Carmona succeeds Dr. David Satcher, whose term expired in February.

The surgeon general has a tiny staff, must rely on other agencies for his budget and holds little power. But the position has proved over the years to be a powerful bully pulpit for disseminating public health information.

At his confirmation hearing, Carmona, an Arizona trauma surgeon and part-time sheriff's deputy, promised to promote prevention of disease. He said he also is well-suited to help in the preparation to combat bioterrorism.

Carmona, 52, gained national attention in 1992 when he rappelled from a helicopter to rescue a person stranded on a cliff after another chopper crashed, inspiring a made-for-TV movie.

Cheney visits Florida

to take nuclear sub ride

COCOA BEACH _ Vice President Dick Cheney took an eight-hour ride aboard a Navy nuclear submarine Tuesday during a secret visit to Brevard County, his second stealth trip to the South in the past two weeks.

Cheney toured the USS Wyoming and was briefed on the Navy's nuclear programs.

On July 17, Cheney made an unannounced visit to Atlanta to tour the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

White House press officials said details of the two recent visits weren't disclosed because of security concerns.

Bush's approval ratings decline slightly

WASHINGTON _ President Bush's job approval ratings dipped into the 60s this week, dragged down by worries about the stock market and the economy after nearly a year of sky-high post-Sept. 11 ratings.

A bit of a fade was inevitable, analysts said. "One way to put it is that the law of gravity wasn't repealed," said political scientist David Rohde of Michigan State University.

Bush's ratings had hovered just above 70 percent in most polls for the past few months. Now a Newsweek poll shows his job approval at 65 percent. He's at 67 percent in an Ipsos-Reid poll done for the Cook Political Report and in an NBC-Wall Street Journal poll.

Bush's ratings had soared to 90 percent.

At this point in earlier presidencies, people were about evenly split on the job done by Ronald Reagan, two-thirds approved of George H.W. Bush and people disapproved of Bill Clinton's job performance by 49-42.

Also . . .

YUCCA MOUNTAIN: President Bush formally approved Nevada's Yucca Mountain as the nation's nuclear waste dump on Tuesday, ending a 20-year political fight and shifting the battle to the courts.