Capital Briefs: Oct. 16-20

Fencing Chertoff:

No sooner had Congress passed the Secure Fence Act, authorizing 700 miles of new double fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border than the liberal media started encouraging the administration not to carry out the law.

The Washington Post, for example, ran stories citing critics who complained about the cost of the fence—estimated at $2 billion—and its “ecological effect,” while claiming language in the Homeland Security funding bill allows the administration to use money appropriated for the fence for purposes other than the fence. House Armed Service Chairman Duncan Hunter (R.-Calif.), below, the leading congressional advocate for the fence, responded by releasing a letter he had sent to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. “Media reports have recently suggested that the directive for fence construction in the bill is optional,” Hunter told Chertoff. “That is not the case. HR 6061 clearly states: ‘the secretary of Homeland Security shall provide for at least two layers of reinforced fencing, the installation of additional barriers, roads, lighting, cameras and sensors.’” Hunter further informed Chertoff that “the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2007 (P.L. 109-295) stipulates: ‘The conferees
direct the secretary to submit, within 60 days after the date of the enactment of this act, an expenditure plan for establishing a security barrier along the border of the United States to the committees on Appropriations, as specified in bill language. Conferees withhold $950 million until the expenditure plan is received and approved.’” “The fence will be built,” Hunter said at a press conference held on the border. “This is not a recommendation. It’s a mandate by Congress.”

Hastert’s Clerk:

When newly elected Speaker Dennis Hastert (R.-Ill.) made Jeff Trandahl clerk of the House in January 1999, he ran into stiff opposition from Rep. Bill Thomas (R.-Calif.), then-chairman of the House Administration Committee. Trandahl is now one of the former congressional staffers prominently featured in reports about how GOP leadership aides mishandled the Mark Foley scandal.

According to a Jan. 18, 1999, story in Roll Call, Thomas wanted a selection committee to pick the new clerk, but Hastert insisted he had already picked Trandahl. “Hastert spokesman John Feehery said that Jeff Trandahl was officially appointed House clerk by the speaker on the opening day of the 106th Congress,” Roll Call reported, noting that the decision had been ratified by language slipped into the first bill the House passed that year. “But Thomas spokesman Jason Poblete insisted that … the appointment was made ‘with the understanding that [Trandahl is] only serving on an interim basis until we set up the search committee.’ … An informed source said Hastert has ‘no intention’ of setting up such a committee.” Hastert’s spokesman Feehery told Roll Call: “This is the Speaker’s decision. The Speaker believes the current clerk is doing a great job.” One of Trandahl’s responsibilities as clerk was overseeing the House page program and page boarding school, which brings 16- and 17-year-olds to Washington, D.C., to live and work for Congress. Trandahl left the clerk’s job in November 2005 and is now on the board of directors of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay-rights group that advocates that same-sex couples be given the same partnership benefits and adoption rights as married couples.

Webb Will Raise Raxes:

When Sen. George Allen (R.-Va.) accused his opponent, former Reagan-Navy-Secretary-turned-doctrinaire-liberal James Webb, of planning to vote for tax increases if elected, Webb complained Allen was misrepresenting his views.

But the only reasonable interpretation of statements Webb himself has made is that he will vote to increase taxes. On ABC’s “This Week” on July 9, host George Stephanopoulos asked Webb: “So you’d roll back some of President Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy?” Webb said: “I don’t understand really how you can have a tax cut and be spending $500 billion on a war.” Stephanopoulos followed up: “So you would?” Webb said: “Yeah, I would.”  In an interview with, Webb said, “I think the difficulty we have right now is you can’t spend $400 billion on a war and potentially $2 trillion on a war and say that you’re going to keep stimulating the economy with the tax cuts that are now in place … when they benefit a smaller number of people—you know, for instance, the tax cuts that come up for renewal in ’08—I would want to take a very hard look at that.” At a press conference last week, according to the Washington Post, Webb refused to take a “no-new-tax” pledge, and told reporters that the federal government needed
“more revenues.”

Al Qaeda Adam:

A month after HUMAN EVENTS Political Editor John Gizzi questioned the White House and Justice Department on whether California-born al Qaeda mouthpiece Adam Gadahn would be tried for treason, Justice announced Gadahn would be tried for treason if apprehended.

At a September 5 briefing, Gizzi had asked White House Homeland Security Adviser Fran Townsend whether Gadahn would be tried as a traitor. “I’m not going to do a hypothetical and try to commit my colleagues at the Justice Department as to whether or not they believe they’ve got sufficient evidence,” Townsend said.  Spokesmen for both Justice and the FBI subsequently refused to say whether Gadahn would be held for treason. If convicted, Gadahn could face the death penalty.

Hold On, Hostettler:

Rep. John Hostettler (R.-Ind.) is a true citizen legislator. In the 12 years he has served in Congress, he has never abandoned, or stopped fighting for, the conservative values that got him elected. A non-lawyer on the House Judiciary Committee and committed defender of the Constitution, he secured House passage of a bill that would strip the federal courts of jurisdiction over cases challenging state marriage laws. As chairman of the Border Security subcommittee, he worked tirelessly—against the establishment of his own party—for tougher immigration enforcement. It is a sad sign of the current state of the GOP that the National Republican Congressional Committee decided last week to pull the plug on financial support for Hostettler’s campaign. They assume he will lose. Those who want to maximize the number of principled, honest conservatives in Congress must hope they’re wrong.