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Battle for the GOP's Soul May 27, 2005
The Court Finds...
Yesterday, DeLay, Inc. took a body blow when the treasurer for DeLay's PAC in Texas lost a civil suit to Democrats over the 2002 elections. The judge found that they had indeed used corporate money in possible violation of Texas law, and announced a ruling of a cool $200,000 in favor of the Dems. The Austin American-Statesman put it pointedly:
"State District Judge Joe Hart ruled Thursday that Texans for a Republican Majority violated state campaign law when it failed to disclose more than a half-million dollars in corporate contributions during the 2002 state legislative elections."
We'll have more on this next week, stay tuned...
Tom DeLay vs. Stem Cell Research
"We all share the goal of helping millions of Americans suffering from these devastating conditions. In a time of extreme partisanship, this is one area where there is broad bi-partisan support among the electorate and a very easy place for Republicans and Democrats to work together to provide hope to those suffering from spinal cord injury and a range of other conditions."
-- Michael Manganiello of the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation.
Indeed, if there is one subject that inspires hope and optimism in Americans of all political persuasions, it is the promise of stem cell research. From Nancy Reagan to Senator Orrin Hatch, one of the most conservative men in either chamber of Congress, there is broad support for the expansion of stem cell research, even from those Democrats are likely to disagree with on virtually everything else.
That unity of purpose, rooted in sympathy for the millions afflicted with tragic and otherwise hopeless diseases ranging from Parkinson's syndrome to diabetes, was what allowed the House to defy a veto threat from President Bush and pass groundbreaking legislation allowing serious research into this field.
But while the bill passed by 238-194, with 50 Republicans breaking ranks, it should be no surprise that Tom DeLay was not among them. As one might have expected, he instead grandstanded before the extreme religious right, in fact he made sure to advertise it beforehand...
DeLay is back in spotlight to lead stem-cell bill fight
The Hill - May 24, 2005
"Tom DeLay is back.
"After months fending off negative press, the embattled House majority leader will thrust himself back into the national debate today as a vocal opponent of a bill to expand federal funding for embryonic-stem-cell research."
DeLay parroted talking points from fringe groups contending that rather than "destroying human life" for the sake of research, these clusters of cells should instead be given up for adoption. Perhaps this seems a reasonable position, but first let us see how Reuters described the actual legislation:
"On Tuesday the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bipartisan bill that would encourage more federal funding of stem cell research on human embryos that would otherwise be discarded." [Emphasis added.]
And at last count, how many embryos were in this position? This Washington Post headline gives a hint: "400,000 Human Embryos Frozen in U.S."
Unfortunately, the passage of the bill through the House is only the first hurdle it will face. Next up is the Senate, and then on to test President Bush's veto threat. If it is indeed vetoed by President Bush, it would come back down to the House where another dozen or so votes would be needed to override it. Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi articulated why it is worth the fight when she took the House floor:
"This is significant legislation because every family in America is just one phone call away, one diagnosis, one accident away from needing the benefits of stem cell research. We want all of the research to proceed -- the umbilical cord research, adult stem cell research, that's all very important. But we must have the embryonic stem cell research if we are truly going to be able to have science have the potential it has to cure diseases."
Frist in the Crossfire
When Republican Senate Leader Bill Frist began hurtling his party towards the ill-conceived "nuclear option," it was widely assumed that he was thinking at least as much of the next resident of the White House as he was the current one. Frist, widely assumed to be running for president in 2008, probably has his chances riding on support from the extreme right to catapult him through the Republican primary. Unfortunately for him, this quest took a setback recently when elder spokesman of the extreme religious right, Pat Robertson, declared, "I just don't see him as a future president" - even as he gave tepid support for the pro-choice, pro-gay rights Rudy Giuliani.
So when Harry Reid offered compromises similar to the one that was finally reached, Frist had something to prove, and continued the push to end the filibuster and the hundreds of years of Senate tradition that come along with it. And when the compromise was finally reached - and like any good compromise, there were things for each side to be disappointed by - the reactions from the right and the left illuminated a stark contrast in attitudes between the two sides.
While Democrats and their supporters celebrated the bipartisan solution as a victory for the American people, right wing groups revolted so violently that it was shocking to watch.
James Dobson, Focus on the Family:
"This Senate agreement represents a complete bailout and betrayal by a cabal of Republicans and a great victory for united Democrats."
Gary Bauer, American Values:
"The Republicans who lent their names to this travesty have undercut their President as well as millions of their most loyal voters. Shame on them all."
William Greene, RightMarch:
"The 'Gang of Seven' Republican turncoats IGNORED you, IGNORED their constituents, IGNORED their duty... and IGNORED the U.S. Constitution.
"So now they should pay the political price."
The prize definitely does go to RightMarch for the most vitriolic response. And they weren't just whistling dixie either, this is what they were raising money for...
"...In Rhode Island, we're targeting Sen. Lincoln Chafee for defeat in the Republican primary... In Maine, we're targeting Sen. Olympia Snowe for defeat in the GOP primary... In Ohio, we're targeting Sen. Mike DeWine for defeat. There are no declared candidates running against DeWine in the Republican primary -- so we're going into Ohio and working with conservative organizations to RECRUIT one who can WIN. The RightMarch.com PAC is dedicated to removing RINOs from the Senate -- and DeWine scored a measly 68 in the American Conservative Union's ratings for 2004. It's time for him to go."
Will Frist have the backbone to stand up to such a rabid response for the sake of the American people and their democracy? Well, as early as Tuesday there were signs that he would not, as Congress Daily reported...
"Senate Majority Leader Frist will file for cloture on President Bush's nomination of William Myers to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals later this week, according to sources on and off Capitol Hill, wasting no time in testing the resolve of 14 Republican and Democratic senators who forced at least a temporary halt to the battle over Democratic filibusters of President Bush's judicial picks."
So we see now that both chambers of Congress rest in the hands of men who not only put their party before their country, but who put themselves and their quests to endear themselves to right wing extremists above even their party. One would think more than just a handful of Republicans in the Senate might have a problem with that, but not much indication so far...
Social Security Traveling Circus Hits New York
You may have noticed that we have not been exactly shy about taking on the Republican Social Security privatization plan head on. In fact, here at the DCCC, it is probably fair to say we have been merciless, picking off Republicans one by one on their broken campaign promises and support for privatization.
You might have wondered whether a look at our counterparts, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), would reveal a similar vigilence in favor of the privatization plan. Well, President Bush got that look for himself when he visited upstate New York on his privatization road show, which just happens to be the home of NRCC Chairman Rep. Tom Reynolds. Note the irony of President Bush's statement in contrast to the position of the man in charge of Republican campaigns in the House, found in this AP story:
"Bush, who has had trouble selling his ideas not only to Democrats but also to moderate Republicans, urged his fellow members of the GOP to resist pressure from constituents and support him. He has proposed allowing workers under age 55 to establish investment accounts to partially fund their future benefits, as well as slowing the growth of the traditional benefit check for all but the poorest workers by changing the method in which that growth is calculated.
"'I think more and more people recognize there's a problem and people are going to say, `Go do something about it,' Bush told an audience in Greece, N.Y. 'And those who obstruct reform - no matter what party they're in - will pay a political price, in my judgment.'
"The community is in the district of Rep. Tom Reynolds, R-N.Y., one of several House members from the state who have been under pressure from citizen and labor groups that oppose Bush's ideas.
"During his 2004 congressional race, Reynolds attacked his challenger, Jack Davis, for saying that 'some changes are going to have to be made' in Social Security. Reynolds, a Bush supporter and Republican fundraiser, now says he respects the president's willingness to take on the issue, but has refrained from coming out directly in favor of Bush's ideas."
Ouch. The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle in New York went on to throw salt in the wounds...
"Just a day after his visit to Monroe County, it's hard to judge how well President Bush did in persuading Rochester-area residents to support his Social Security reform plan.
"But no doubt he got a stronger sense of his powers of persuasion on the flight back to Washington. Accompanying Bush aboard Air Force One were three Republican congressmen who represent parts of the Rochester area - Reps. Tom Reynolds, James Walsh and Randy Kuhl. So far, all three have been respectfully lukewarm to the president's plan to create voluntary private investment accounts to supplement Social Security benefits.
"They should end the suspense. Do they stand with Bush or with most Americans, who, according to a new USA Today/CNN poll, overwhelmingly oppose the president's handling of Social Security? The poll showed that only 33 percent backed Bush's reform proposal."
Seems fair to us...
Does Extremism Outweigh National Security?
Often all that gets reported in the papers, if anything, are the full House votes on legislation. But much of the Republican handiwork in killing good legislation from Democrats comes on the committee level, where Republicans control majorities and the Chairmanship in each committee, and can bottle up or vote down Democratic amendments before they even see the light of day. If there is a bill or amendment that enjoys widespread support but which goes against the interests of their big donors (such as re-importation of prescription drugs from Canada), Republicans will make sure the rank and file are spared an embarrassing vote by squashing it in the committee that has jurisdiction over that particular realm.
Let us tell you a tale of Rep. John Hostettler, a Republican from Indiana, and his recent vote in the judiciary committee:
Hostettler Says Terrorists Still "Active in Their Pursuit of Weapons" * On September 8th, 2004 Hostettler wrote, "It's easy for concerns about terrorism to fade when we've experienced so much success in the worldwide war against terrorism...But we cannot become complacent. Our enemies have not surrendered. They are still determined to attack, destroy and kill. They are active in their pursuit of weapons capable of killing large numbers of Americans. Their hatred is undiminished. It hardly seems possible, but their tactics are becoming even more deplorable." [Column by Rep. John Hostettler, "Three Years Later Terrorism Remains a Threat." 9/8/04 - Emphasis added.]
At Least 44 Terrorist Suspects Bought Guns During 4-month Period in 2004 * "Dozens of terrorist suspects on federal watch lists were allowed to buy firearms legally in the United States last year, according to a congressional investigation. People suspected of being members of terrorist groups aren't automatically barred from legally buying a gun. The Government Accountability Office probe indicated that people with clear links to terrorist groups had taken advantage of this gap on a regular basis. At least 44 times between February and June of 2004, people regarded by the FBI as known or suspected members of terrorist groups sought permission to buy or carry guns, the GAO found. In all but nine cases, the gun applications were allowed to proceed because a check found no automatic disqualification, such as being a felon." [Chicago Tribune, 3/8/05 - Emphasis added.]
1st, Hostettler AWOL on Vote to Ban Giving Arms to Suspected Terrorists * On April 13, Hostettler missed a critical vote to make it illegal to transfer a firearm to anyone that the federal government has identified as a terrorist or suspected gang member on the Violent Gang and Terrorist Organization File list.
Then, Hostettler Supports Legal Protection for Those Who Do * On May 25 during the House Judiciary Committee mark-up of the bill, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (MD) offered an amendment to remove civil liability protections in the bill for people who knowingly sell a gun to those on the terrorist watch list who then use that weapon in a terrorist act. Rep. Hostettler voted against the amendment.
Gun Liability Bill Background * Sponsored by Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., the bill under consideration in the Judiciary Committee (HR 800), "would shield manufacturers, distributors, dealers and importers of guns or ammunition from suits seeking damages for the results of gun violence. Lawsuits could still be brought against people who traffic in firearms with the knowledge they will be used to commit a violent crime or while trafficking drugs." [CQ Weekly, 5/23/05]
You may or may not remember Rep. Hostettler from this incident last year, as reported by the Associated Press:
"Rep. John Hostettler of Indiana was briefly detained Tuesday at Louisville International Airport when airport security workers found a handgun in his briefcase as he was going through a checkpoint on a trip back to Washington."
His spokesman at the time offered the defense that he is "an avid sportsman." If he is willing to make sure gun retailers are let off the hook after they knowingly sold a gun to a person on the terrorist watch list, and even after that gun has been used in a terrorist act, then perhaps he is a little too "avid."
News From the Blog
The DeLay Pen & Pad
The Hill takes a look at DeLay's style with the press, and notes some hilariously hypocritical comments from the Republican Leader.
Efforts by House Republicans to curb the role of women in combat zones are squashed.
While President Bush continued to ride his bike unawares, Rumsfeld prepared to shoot down a plane.
Reps. George Miller (D-CA) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) launch an unprecedented online hearing.
DNC: Money Laundering 101
A brutal DNC press release takes DeLay, Inc. members to task.
Will DeLay continue to side with sweatshop owners in the Marianas Islands?
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"Guantanamo has become the gulag of our time."
-- Amnesty International Secretary General Irene Khan
"People have been murdered, tortured, rendered to foreign countries to be tortured at a distance, sexually violated, imprisoned without trial or in some cases simply made to 'disappear' in an all-American version of a practice previously associated with brutal Latin American dictatorships. All of this has been done, of course, in the name of freedom."
-- Bob Herbert, New York Times
"Afghani men, one of whom was even thought to be innocent, died from physical abuse by U.S. forces, yet no one in the Bush Administration or at the Pentagon has come forward to take responsibility for the policies that caused their deaths. What has happened at Guantanamo Bay, at Bagram, and at Abu Ghraib cannot simply be blamed on a few low-ranking guards. It was the result of a systematic policy of abuse. The Bush Administration, which publicly demands accountability from everyone else, never holds itself accountable when things go terribly wrong on its watch."
-- Rep. George Miller, ranking Democrat on the Committee on Education and the Workforce
"I fear that our government has taken the position that the war on terror which began in such tragedy has given the Bush Administration a carte blanche to operate as prosecutor, judge and jury of its own misconduct. This in essence means that we have been left in the untenable position of having no independent and credible authority who is able to rebut or respond to the charges being made against our military. To be blunt, simply having the White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan label charges of abuse as 'ridiculous' as he did yesterday, is not an adequate response to charges of this nature and magnitude."
-- Rep. John Conyers, ranking Democrat on the Committee on the Judiciary
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