Capital Briefs: March 26-30

D.C. Vote Bill Pulled: A highly controversial bill to give the District of Columbia a voting member in the U.S. House was abruptly pulled after conservatives countered the unconstitutional measure by trying to add to it a very constitutional proposal: repeal of the existing gun ban in the District of Columbia. Fearful this might pass, the Democratic leadership pulled the entire bill. In their campaign to bring the D.C. measure to the floor, the Democrats did persuade one Republican—Rep. Mike Pence (Ind.)—to side with them on the vote to get the measure out of the House Judiciary Committee. Last year, Pence, who is no longer head of the Republican Study Committee, disappointed conservatives by pushing a guest-worker/amnesty plan as a supposed solution to illegal immigration. The House Democratic leadership is expected to try to bring the D.C. voting bill up again, but it faces apparently insuperable odds in the Senate and the White House staff has recommended a veto on constitutional grounds if the measure
ever reaches the President’s desk.

Tax Hikes on Horizon: Budget debates are expected to take up most of Congress’s time over the next few weeks and, in anticipation of expected Democratic attempts to increase taxes, the Heritage Foundation’s Brian M. Riedl released a report on the budget blueprint. He said the Democrats’ budget resolution, which is the first one the Democrats have written since the last time they controlled Congress in 1993, will raise taxes by $900 billion over the next five years and a projected $3.3 trillion over the next 10. Reidl said this would translate into a tax increase of $2,641 per household annually over the next decade. In a March 22 article, Reidl said: “The Senate budget projects 2008–2012 tax revenues of $15,007 billion—$899 billion higher than the $14,108 billion that would be collected under today’s tax rates. The Senate Budget Committee does not specify the source of these higher revenues. However, the total almost exactly matches the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate of 2008–2012 tax revenues if the Bush tax cuts expire, all other temporary tax cuts expire, and the alternative minimum tax (AMT) is not fixed ($15,002 billion).” The Democrats’ proposal also increases discretionary spending by 9% in the fiscal year 2008 and does not terminate any programs.

Thompson Power: Less than two weeks after he said he was keeping the door open to a bid for the Republican presidential nomination next year, former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson is tied with Mitt Romney among likely GOP primary voters in Ohio. According to a just-completed Quinnipiac Poll, Rudy Giuliani is the front-runner among Buckeye State Republicans with 31% of likely voters, followed by John McCain at 21%, Newt Gingrich 8% and Romney and Thompson at 6% each.

McNulty Stuffed: The White House last week did not warmly support Deputy Atty. Gen. Paul McNulty. HUMAN EVENTS White House Correspondent John Gizzi asked Press Secretary Tony Snow whether he would express the same confidence in McNulty that he and the President had expressed in embattled Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales. “I’m not in the business of assessing the deputy attorney general,” the President’s top spokesman said. That exchange with Snow was just a small part of a stormy morning session with the White House Press corps and the press secretary. At one point, when Snow got into an explanation of the President’s use of the phrase “show trials,” Andrei Sitov of the Russia’s Tass news service whispered to Gizzi: “They don’t know what show trials are!”

Fat to Cut : Conservatives were congratulating Citizens Against Government Waste and the efforts of Senators Tom Coburn (R.-Okla.), Jim DeMint (R.-S.C.), and Jeff Sessions (R.-Ala.) for helping to slash pork-barrel spending to the lowest number since 1999. CAGW’s 2007 Congressional Pig Book proves that the massive campaign to end frivolous, decadent earmark spending has paid off. While taxpayers can breathe somewhat easier with organizations such as CAGW, Porkbusters, the Sunlight Foundation, and Americans for Prosperity keeping a watchful eye on government spending, there is still much to cut. Even with the reductions, there were such appalling items as: $4 million for the Northern Extension Line in Alaska, which, according to the “Pig Book Summary,” “provides a direct route from North Pole (pop. 1,778 in 2005) to Delta Junction (pop. 840 in 2000), which is a whopping 82.1-mile drive on one highway between the two villages according to MapQuest;” $5.3 million to study marine mammals; $1,650,000 added by Senate appropriator Patty Murray (D.-Wash.) to improve the shelf life of vegetables; $1 million added in the House for the Allen Telescope Array in Mountain View, Calif. (part of SETI—the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence); and $12 million added by the House for the Rural Domestic Preparedness Consortium.

McCain Blow Up: A week after Club for Growth President Pat Toomey wrote a scathing article in the Wall Street Journal about the record of Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.) on taxes, presidential candidate McCain told the press that the Club for Growth was responsible for blowing the Republicans’ majority in the U.S. Senate last November. In a brief interview with, McCain said: “The reason why we don’t have a majority in the Senate today is because of the attacks Club for Growth made on Lincoln Chafee, the senator for Rhode Island—a liberal Republican senator, but would have voted for Mitch McConnell to be majority leader of the Senate. They have continuously attacked Republicans they don’t agree with. I believe in a big-tent party. I believe there is room for someone from Rhode Island who may not agree with everything I agree with. But I still want him in the Republican Party. That’s not the case with the Club for Growth. I’m not really sure what the Club for Growth and I have in common.” On March 13, Toomey’s article “The McCain Record” was published in the WSJ to promote the Club for Growth’s new white paper on the Republican presidential candidate. The piece knocked McCain hard for opposing the Bush tax cuts and said, “American taxpayers cannot expect consistently pro-growth economic policies from a McCain Administration.”