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Capital Briefs: Sept. 24-28

GEN. PETRAEUS HELPS A LITTLE:  The widely televised congressional testimony of Gen. David Petraeus clearly made a positive impact on the public, not unlike Chief Justice John Roberts’ televised confirmation hearings. According to a USA Today/Gallup Poll, those Americans viewing Petraeus favorably jumped from 52% before his testimony to 61% the weekend following it. “That he is an effective spokesman for the war is evident in the percentages backing his plan,” concluded Gallup, but in a disappointment to the GOP, the pollster also noted that Petraeus “failed to turn public opinion around on several key aspects of the war.”  Even after the general’s testimony, Gallup found that just 33% of Americans still are optimistic the United States will win the war in Iraq (the same number as before he testified) and 64% don’t think the U.S. will win (compared with 62% who felt this way before his testimony).  Gallup also found that only 38% of Americans feel U.S. troops should stay in Iraq indefinitely and 59% want a timetable for withdrawing troops.

WON’T BETRAY MOVEON.ORG:
Sen. John Cornyn (R.-Tex.) last week offered a “sense of the Senate” amendment to the Defense authorization bill defending Gen. David Petraeus and specifically repudiating the “unwarranted personal attack on Gen. Petraeus by the liberal activist group MoveOn.org” (see page 20). The amendment passed 72 to 25 (all 25 “no” votes were cast by Democrats). Two of the four Democratic senators running for President—Hillary Clinton (N.Y.) and Chris Dodd (Conn.)—voted against the amendment. The other two, Joe Biden (Del.) and Barack Obama (Ill.), both missed the vote. Biden had missed votes all day, but Obama had participated in a vote minutes earlier and in another vote less than two hours later.

ROMNEY AND RUDY PROSPER IN N.H.:  Mitt Romney continues to be the front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination among likely Republican voters in New Hampshire, but Rudy Giuliani appears on the rise in the first-in-the-nation primary.  According to the latest Franklin Pierce University/WBZ-TV poll, Romney is favored by 30% of likely primary voters, followed by Giuliani with 23% and John McCain with 14%.  Recent entry Fred Thompson, whose no-show at the University of New Hampshire debate provoked sharp criticism from the Manchester Union Leader and from State GOP Chairman Fergus Cullen, ran a poor fourth in the poll with only 8% of the vote.  

CLEANING TV:  The U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals last week decided children were not negatively affected by hearing obscenities such as the “f” word” and “s” word on television.  In response, Rep. Chip Pickering (R.-Miss.) introduced the Protecting Children From Indecent Programming Act that will return power over programming standards and individual words and images to the hands of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC often determines program decency standards for children according to when they are most likely to be watching television. Wendy Wright, President of Concerned Women for America, applauded the measure, saying, “Broadcasters seem intent on making parents’ job of protecting their children’s innocence nearly impossible. This bill will help restore parents’ ability to provide wholesome entertainment without indecent material invading their living room through the TV.”

SCHIP DOWN:  To the applause of conservatives, the President, at his televised news conference last week, announced he would veto the Democrat-expanded State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Noting that he had proposed increasing SCHIP funding by $5 billion over five years, Mr. Bush charged that Democrats “are putting health coverage for poor children at risk so they can score political points in Washington. The legislation would raise taxes on working people and would raise spending by between $35 billion and $50 billion. They’re turning a program meant to help poor children into one that covers children in households with incomes of up to $83,000 a year.”  Although the enhanced SCHIP was passed easily in the Senate, the administration expects the House, which approved the bill 225 to 204, almost entirely along party lines, to uphold the veto.

NO D.C. VOTE IN CONGRESS: The Senate last week voted 57 to 42 against cloture on the motion to proceed to considering a bill to permit a voting representative in the U.S. House for the District of Columbia along with a new House district for Utah.  Under the rules, 60 votes are needed to end debate on the motion to proceed to a bill. The vote was a major victory for Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), who led the fight against D.C. representation, and a major setback for Rep. Tom Davis (R.-Va.), a longtime battler for the measure who is expected to seek the GOP nomination to succeed retiring Sen. John Warner (R.-Va.) next year.  Eight Republicans broke with McConnell and their party to vote for consideration of the measure: Bob Bennett (Utah.), Norm Coleman (Minn.), Susan Collins (Maine), Orrin Hatch (Utah), Dick Lugar (Ind.), Olympia Snowe (Maine), Arlen Specter (Pa.) and George Voinovich (Ohio). Only one Democratic senator, Max Baucus of Montana, opposed consideration of the measure.

THE MUKASEY MYSTERY:  Just two weeks after interviewing Michael Mukasey, whom he had not previously met, President Bush last week named the little-known New Yorker as U.S. attorney general—a bit of a surprise, as the 66-year-old Mukasey’s name had begun to appear on lists of prospective successors to Alberto Gonzales only days before he joined Bush in the White House Rose Garden. Even though he was appointed to the bench by Ronald Reagan, former Assistant U.S. Attorney and retired U.S. District Judge Mukasey remains largely unknown to most conservatives, although they are encouraged by his strong opinions, speeches and articles upholding the Patriot Act and other anti-terrorist measures. Several prominent conservatives who do know him well—notably former Virginia Gov.  Jim Gilmore—weighed in with strong endorsements of Mukasey.
Other conservatives are a bit wary about Mukasey, mainly because some left-wing Democrats are saying nice things about him.  Sen. Charles Schumer (D.-N.Y.), a sworn enemy of the administration on the U.S. attorneys controversy and a strong opponent of Supreme Court nominees John Roberts and Samuel Alito, not only hailed the appointment of Mukasey but actually had proposed him for nomination to the Supreme Court in the past.  Following his meeting with Mukasey last week, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D.-Vt.) suggested that “after we are able to conduct a fair and thorough review process, all senators will be able to vote in favor of his confirmation.” Leahy added that he wanted to “avoid the kind of witch hunt from the right that scuttled the President’s nomination of Harriet Miers [to the Supreme Court].” Administration sources said that they are counting on Mukasey’s being confirmed by mid-October. 

After nominating Mukasey, the President announced that acting Atty. Gen. Paul Clement, will go back to focusing on his duties as solicitor general and that Peter Keisler, outgoing head of Justice’s Civil Division, will oversee the department until Mukasey is confirmed.

  The widely televised congressional testimony of Gen. David Petraeus clearly made a positive impact on the public, not unlike Chief Justice John Roberts’ televised confirmation hearings. According to a USA Today/Gallup Poll, those Americans viewing Petraeus favorably jumped from 52% before his testimony to 61% the weekend following it. “That he is an effective spokesman for the war is evident in the percentages backing his plan,” concluded Gallup, but in a disappointment to the GOP, the pollster also noted that Petraeus “failed to turn public opinion around on several key aspects of the war.”  Even after the general’s testimony, Gallup found that just 33% of Americans still are optimistic the United States will win the war in Iraq (the same number as before he testified) and 64% don’t think the U.S. will win (compared with 62% who felt this way before his testimony).  Gallup also found that only 38% of Americans feel U.S. troops should stay in Iraq indefinitely and 59% want a timetable for withdrawing troops. Sen. John Cornyn (R.-Tex.) last week offered a “sense of the Senate” amendment to the Defense authorization bill defending Gen. David Petraeus and specifically repudiating the “unwarranted personal attack on Gen. Petraeus by the liberal activist group MoveOn.org” (see page 20). The amendment passed 72 to 25 (all 25 “no” votes were cast by Democrats). Two of the four Democratic senators running for President—Hillary Clinton (N.Y.) and Chris Dodd (Conn.)—voted against the amendment. The other two, Joe Biden (Del.) and Barack Obama (Ill.), both missed the vote. Biden had missed votes all day, but Obama had participated in a vote minutes earlier and in another vote less than two hours later.  Mitt Romney continues to be the front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination among likely Republican voters in New Hampshire, but Rudy Giuliani appears on the rise in the first-in-the-nation primary.  According to the latest Franklin Pierce University/WBZ-TV poll, Romney is favored by 30% of likely primary voters, followed by Giuliani with 23% and John McCain with 14%.  Recent entry Fred Thompson, whose no-show at the University of New Hampshire debate provoked sharp criticism from the Manchester Union Leader and from State GOP Chairman Fergus Cullen, ran a poor fourth in the poll with only 8% of the vote.    The U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals last week decided children were not negatively affected by hearing obscenities such as the “f” word” and “s” word on television.  In response, Rep. Chip Pickering (R.-Miss.) introduced the Protecting Children From Indecent Programming Act that will return power over programming standards and individual words and images to the hands of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC often determines program decency standards for children according to when they are most likely to be watching television. Wendy Wright, President of Concerned Women for America, applauded the measure, saying, “Broadcasters seem intent on making parents’ job of protecting their children’s innocence nearly impossible. This bill will help restore parents’ ability to provide wholesome entertainment without indecent material invading their living room through the TV.”   To the applause of conservatives, the President, at his televised news conference last week, announced he would veto the Democrat-expanded State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Noting that he had proposed increasing SCHIP funding by $5 billion over five years, Mr. Bush charged that Democrats “are putting health coverage for poor children at risk so they can score political points in Washington. The legislation would raise taxes on working people and would raise spending by between $35 billion and $50 billion. They’re turning a program meant to help poor children into one that covers children in households with incomes of up to $83,000 a year.”  Although the enhanced SCHIP was passed easily in the Senate, the administration expects the House, which approved the bill 225 to 204, almost entirely along party lines, to uphold the veto. The Senate last week voted 57 to 42 against cloture on the motion to proceed to considering a bill to permit a voting representative in the U.S. House for the District of Columbia along with a new House district for Utah.  Under the rules, 60 votes are needed to end debate on the motion to proceed to a bill. The vote was a major victory for Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), who led the fight against D.C. representation, and a major setback for Rep. Tom Davis (R.-Va.), a longtime battler for the measure who is expected to seek the GOP nomination to succeed retiring Sen. John Warner (R.-Va.) next year.  Eight Republicans broke with McConnell and their party to vote for consideration of the measure: Bob Bennett (Utah.), Norm Coleman (Minn.), Susan Collins (Maine), Orrin Hatch (Utah), Dick Lugar (Ind.), Olympia Snowe (Maine), Arlen Specter (Pa.) and George Voinovich (Ohio). Only one Democratic senator, Max Baucus of Montana, opposed consideration of the measure.  Just two weeks after interviewing Michael Mukasey, whom he had not previously met, President Bush last week named the little-known New Yorker as U.S. attorney general—a bit of a surprise, as the 66-year-old Mukasey’s name had begun to appear on lists of prospective successors to Alberto Gonzales only days before he joined Bush in the White House Rose Garden. Even though he was appointed to the bench by Ronald Reagan, former Assistant U.S. Attorney and retired U.S. District Judge Mukasey remains largely unknown to most conservatives, although they are encouraged by his strong opinions, speeches and articles upholding the Patriot Act and other anti-terrorist measures. Several prominent conservatives who do know him well—notably former Virginia Gov.  Jim Gilmore—weighed in with strong endorsements of Mukasey. Other conservatives are a bit wary about Mukasey, mainly because some left-wing Democrats are saying nice things about him.  Sen. Charles Schumer (D.-N.Y.), a sworn enemy of the administration on the U.S. attorneys controversy and a strong opponent of Supreme Court nominees John Roberts and Samuel Alito, not only hailed the appointment of Mukasey but actually had proposed him for nomination to the Supreme Court in the past.  Following his meeting with Mukasey last week, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D.-Vt.) suggested that “after we are able to conduct a fair and thorough review process, all senators will be able to vote in favor of his confirmation.” Leahy added that he wanted to “avoid the kind of witch hunt from the right that scuttled the President’s nomination of Harriet Miers [to the Supreme Court].” Administration sources said that they are counting on Mukasey’s being confirmed by mid-October.  After nominating Mukasey, the President announced that acting Atty. Gen. Paul Clement, will go back to focusing on his duties as solicitor general and that Peter Keisler, outgoing head of Justice’s Civil Division, will oversee the department until Mukasey is confirmed.

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