Capital Briefs: Dec. 4-8

Alcee’s Acquittal:

Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) told Rep. Alcee Hastings (D.-Fla.) last week that she won’t name him chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Hastings, however, will continue to serve on the panel.

Hastings’ potential elevation rang alarms because the House in which he now serves impeached him as a federal judge in 1988. In 1989, the U.S. Senate convicted him and removed him from office. By a 413-to-4 vote, the House approved 17 articles of impeachment against Hastings. Most accused him of conspiracy to accept a bribe and perjury. Article XVI, however, accused him of leaking the substance of a federal wiretap. House Judiciary Chairman-to- be John Conyers (D.-Mich.) led the 1988 impeachment investigation. “Article XVI charges that Judge Hastings improperly disclosed confidential information to Stephen Clark, the mayor of Dade County, Florida, on Sept. 6, 1985,” Conyers said on the floor on Aug. 3, 1988. “As a result of the disclosure, the FBI was forced to stop two major investigations and to limit the usefulness of a third.” Rep. George Gekas (R.-Pa.) was one of the impeachment managers who argued the House’s case in the Senate. “One of the most telling pieces of evidence that I have ever heard in my en
tire life came from the U.S. attorney who … said that he … could never bring himself again to trust Alcee Hastings,” Gekas said during Hastings’ 1989 Senate trial. The Senate convicted Hasting on eight articles, but acquitted him on Article XVI.

Pork Blockers:

Senators Jeff Sessions (R.-Ala.), Jim DeMint (R.-S.C.) and Tom Coburn (R.-Okla.) are making a strong push for Congress to pass a “continuing resolution” that would keep the nine remaining appropriations bills funded at fiscal year 2006 levels instead of passing them in an earmark-laden omnibus bill during the lame-duck session. If Congress doesn’t agree to the CR, Coburn said he has almost 40 amendments ready to pull pork out of the bills.

Because a CR is likely to last until only mid-January and would slow the new Democratic Congress’s legislative agenda, a bipartisan coalition could form to pass a full-year continuing resolution, saving taxpayers up to $17 billion. DeMint and Coburn already have been successful in blocking the Agriculture appropriations bill. Senate Appropriations Chairman Thad Cochran (R.-Miss.) was so desperate to pass the bill he contacted President Bush on his Asian trip to try to get him to call DeMint and tell him to stop his campaign against it. Bush did not place the call.

McCain and Marriage:

In another sign that he is maneuvering to the right for his anticipated presidential campaign, Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.) told George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week” November 19 that he is against gay marriage. But in a sign that he is still not comfortable in the role of social conservative, McCain found it impossible to clearly explain exactly what he meant by that.

“You say you believe that marriage should be reserved for between a man and a woman. You voted for an initiative in Arizona that went beyond that and actually denied any government benefits to civil unions or domestic partnerships. Are you against civil unions for gay couples?” Stephanopoulos asked McCain. “I’m not,” said McCain. “But the—that initiative I think was misinterpreted. I think that initiative did allow for people to join in legal agreements such as power of attorney and others. I think there was a—I think that there was a difference of opinion on the interpretation of that constitutional amendment in Arizona.” Asked Stephanopoulos: “So you’re for civil unions?” Replied McCain: “No, I am for ability of two—I do not believe gay marriage should be legal. I do not believe gay marriage should be legal. But I do believe that people ought to be able to enter into contracts, exchange powers of attorney, other ways that people who have relationships can enter into.”

Romney Staffs Up:

Massachusetts Republican Gov. Mitt Romney has been staffing his 2008 presidential exploratory committee with top-notch beltway insiders. He nabbed economists Glenn Hubbard and Greg Mankiw, both of whom have headed President Bush’s Council of Economics Advisors. He also snagged Kevin Madden, communications director for House Majority Leader John Boehner (Ohio.). Before working for Boehner, Madden served as the Bush-Cheney 2004 New England press coordinator, worked under Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzalez and did a short stint in the office of Rep. Tom DeLay (R.-Tex.).

Frist Fallout:

After outgoing Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R.-Tenn.) announced he would not be running for President, a source close to Frist told Human Events Political Editor John Gizzi that he expects key members of Frist’s political team to sign up with Romney. “You watch the people closest to Bill, and you’ll find them going over to Mitt Romney now,” the source said, specifically naming fund-raiser Linus Catignini, head of Frist’s political action committee, and Washington “super-lawyer” Alex Vogel, who served as chief counsel to the National Republican Senatorial Committee when Frist was its chairman. Jack Oliver, former deputy chairman of the Republican National Committee and a top fund-raiser for President Bush, may also sign on with Romney, the source said.

Rogan Returns:

President Bush has nominated former Rep. James Rogan (R.-Calif.) to a seat on the federal district court in Los Angeles. Rogan is best known to conservatives for his courageous work as a House impeachment manager in the 1999 Senate trial of President Clinton.

Rogan’s work as an impeachment manager was gutsy because he represented one of the most marginally Republican U.S. House districts in the country. He eventually lost his seat in 2000 when he was the target of the Democrats’ most expensive House race in history.

Rogan, who went on to serve as director of the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, is now an L.A. lawyer. He was recommended for the court post by a California judicial advisory committee that includes appointees of liberal Democratic California Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein. Some Clintonistas have forgiven Rogan. “Jim Rogan was dead wrong on the impeachment,” former Clinton impeachment lawyer Lanny Breuer told the Washington Post, “but over the years, I’ve gotten to know him, and he’s a fair and decent man, and I think he’ll be a fine judge.”