Capital Briefs: July 24-28

Save the Snowflakes:

Presidential spokesman Tony Snow has brought a pundit’s gift of bluntness to the White House briefing room. When reporters ask straight questions, he often gives stunningly straight answers. He also sometimes gives stunningly straight answers when reporters ask twisted questions. That was the case last Tuesday, when a reporter smarmily asked to be “reminded” why President Bush intended to veto a bill that would give federal tax dollars to researchers who kill human embryos in order to extract their stem cells.

Snow twice used the term “murder” to describe the research, and pointed as evidence to the very-much-alive snowflake babies (see page 3) who have been born after couples adopted them as embryos from in vitro fertilization clinics. “What the President has said is that he doesn’t want human life destroyed,” said Snow. “And you have had in a number of cases, the snowflake babies, where some of those fetuses have in fact been brought to term and … the President believes strongly that for the purpose of research it’s inappropriate for the federal government to finance something that many people consider murder. He’s one of them. … The simple answer is he thinks murder’s wrong.”

Confirm Bolton Now:

Sen. George Voinovich (R.-Ohio), whose last-minute hand-wringing over the nomination of John Bolton to be the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations last year led to a successful Democratic filibuster of the nomination, has changed his mind. Voinovich wrote in a Washington Post op-ed last week that Bolton, who was given a recess appointment by President Bush, has proven to be an effective ambassador and should be confirmed. “I do not believe the United States, at this dangerous time, can afford to have a UN ambassador who does not have Congress’s full support,” wrote Voinovich—as if last year was not also a dangerous time.

When HUMAN EVENTS Political Editor John Gizzi asked White House Spokesman Tony Snow whether Voinovich’s op-ed meant President Bush would re-nominate Bolton, Snow said the President had already done so. Now, it is merely up to the Senate to hold a confirmation vote. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R.-Tenn.) should call that vote instantly and assure Bolton’s status at the UN for at least the remainder of the Bush presidency.

Pay it Back, Pelosi:

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) is vowing to block a scheduled cost-of-living adjustment to congressional salaries unless Republicans agree to increase the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour. “In the last nine years, Congress has seen fit to increase its pay by $30,000,” Pelosi fumed last week. “It would take a minimum wage worker working full time three years to make just the increase Congress has given itself in the nine years that it has not given an increase in the minimum wage.” The public would benefit if both the congressional wage and the minimum wage were left where they are. But since Pelosi is outraged about the growing disparity between the two, there is something she can do about it unilaterally: Give back $30,000 of her own pay.

Protecting the Pledge:

The House voted 260 to 167 last week for the Pledge Protection Act, which strips the federal courts, including the Supreme Court, of any authority to hear cases challenging the constitutionality of the Pledge of Allegiance. The bill is important because the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled in 2002 that it was unconstitutional for the Pledge to be recited in a public school because it includes the words “under God.” The case, brought by Dr. Michael Newdow of Elk Grove, Calif., on behalf of his daughter was not decided on its merits by the Supreme Court, which ruled that Newdow did not have standing to bring the suit because he did not have custody of his daughter. Newdow brought a new case joined by plaintiffs who do have standing and last September a federal judge in Sacramento again ruled against the Pledge. The Pledge Protection Act rests on Article III, Section 1, of the Constitution, which gives Congress full control over the jurisdiction of lower federal courts, and Article III, Section 2, which says “the Supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.”

Not Protecting Marriage:

The House voted 236 to 187 for a constitutional amendment to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. That was 46 votes short of the two-thirds needed. Far left Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D.-Ohio) suggested where activist liberal judges are likely to go on this issue in the future when he argued on the floor that the marriage amendment contradicted the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. “Today, with a proposed constitutional amendment defining marriage, we would establish a law which would be at odds with the 14th Amendment, which guarantees equal protection of the law,” Kucinich said.

Y’All Come Down:

When Howard Dean ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004, he said, “We can’t beat George Bush unless we appeal to a broad cross-section of Democrats.” To prove he could do so in the South, he said he intended to be “the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks.”

Soon, he was abjectly apologizing for the remark and heading off to defeat in the Iowa Caucuses, where he would issue his now-notorious post-defeat scream. These days as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Dean won’t even venture into some parts of the South—having avoided Alabama for an entire year. Last week, according to the Associated Press, when Republican National Chairman Ken Mehlman visited Birmingham, state Republican Chairman Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh issued Dean an invitation: If he would come to Alabama and stand beside Democratic gubernatorial candidate Lucy Baxley and explain his party’s positions on abortion, same-sex marriage, guns and taxes, the Republican Party would pay his airfare. Dean has not yet scheduled the trip.