Capitol Briefs: Oct. 1-8

DURBIN DREAMS OF AMNESTY: The attempt by Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin to get his DREAM Act — the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act — grafted onto the 2008 Defense Authorization Act as an amendment failed last week after Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) filed cloture on the bill.Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) conceded it would not be on the bill but vowed to bring it up later this year. Durbin’s “DREAM” is another amnesty for many illegal immigrants. It would give five years of legal status, the right to in-state college tuition and the opportunity to serve in the U.S. military to those who illegally entered the U.S. before they turned 16 years old. Illegals who complete two years of college or serve in the military are given the opportunity to gain U.S. citizenship. Once they are citizens, Durbin’s “DREAM” would allow the former illegal immigrants to sponsor the immigration of their families to the U.S.


EXTENDING INTERNET TAX BAN: As the Senate Commerce Committee last week began consideration of the now-nine-year-old moratorium on Internet taxation, the bill introduced by Sen. Thomas Carper (D.-Del.) would extend the moratorium for only four years. More pleasing to conservatives is the push by Sen. John Sununu (R.-N.H.) for permanent extension of the Internet Tax Freedom Act. Americans for Tax Reform National Policy Analyst Elizabeth Karasmeighan warned that, unless a permanent moratorium on taxation of Internet access became law, there would come a time when “your bill for the Internet will look like your phone bill.” ATR President Grover Norquist has called for also phasing out the grandfathering of nine states that were already taxing Internet access before the 1998 moratorium was enacted: Hawaii, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin.

SHE WAS FOR TORTURE, BEFORE SHE WAS AGAINST IT: At the New Hampshire Democratic debate at Dartmouth University moderated by NBC’s Tim Russert last Thursday night, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D.-N.Y.) not only contradicted her husband’s belief that torture is an acceptable form of interrogation in an attempt to foil an imminent terror plot, but she also contradicted her own stance on torture. Russert asked Hillary if there should be a presidential exemption to allow interrogators to torture a terrorist leader if authorities knew a bomb was about to go off but didn’t know where. Hillary said, “It cannot be American policy, period.” When Russert reminded her that former President Bill Clinton recently advocated such a policy on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Hillary responded, “Well, I’ll talk to him later.” The New York Daily News reported the next day that Sen. Clinton had told the paper last October that “the ‘ticking time bomb’ scenario represents a narrow exception to her opposition to torture as morally wrong, ineffective and dangerous to American soldiers.” She also told the Daily News: “In the event we were ever confronted with having to interrogate a detainee with knowledge of an imminent threat to millions of Americans, then, the decision to depart from standard international practices must be made by the President, and the President must be held accountable.”

NEW HAMPSHIRE TIGHTENS: What once looked like a runaway for Mitt Romney, former governor of next-door Massachusetts, now appears to be tightening up. According to a just-completed WMUR/CNN poll of likely Republican voters in next year’s New Hampshire primary, Romney is now favored by 23% — down from 33% in July — and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani by 22% — up from 18% two months ago. The 2000 primary winner, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), was third with 18%, surging from 12% in July, and former Sen. Fred Thompson (Tenn.) trailed with 12%, down from 13% in July. Pollster Andy Smith told reporters that 29% of the poll respondents say that Thompson’s decision to skip the September debate at the University of New Hampshire made them less likely to vote for him.

AND THEN THERE WERE NINE: One week after Illinois Rep. Jerry Weller became the eighth Republican House member to announce he would not seek re-election next year, Alabama Rep. Terry Everett became the ninth. Most of the retirees come from safe districts, although Weller’s Will County district outside Chicago is considered marginal and sure to be contested by Democrats. As for GOP worries that the number of Republican retirees will hurt the party’s chances of retaking the House next year, Pete Kirkham, operating head of the National Republican Congressional Committee, told Human Events that there is no cause for panic, that the exodus “is relatively small, compared to the 22 GOP incumbents who stepped down in ’06.”

CRAIG STAYS (FOR NOW): As he tried last week to get a Minneapolis court to let him withdraw his guilty plea to a charge of disorderly conduct in a Minneapolis Airport men’s room, Sen. Larry Craig (R.-Idaho), who had said he would soon resign, dropped a bombshell by announcing he would remain in office “for now.” The three-term senator, stripped of his senior committee assignments and under investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee following revelations last month of his guilty plea, had previously said he would resign by the end of September and permit Republican Idaho Gov. Butch Otter to name a successor. Because the Hennepin County (Minn.) Court “has not issued a ruling on my motion to withdraw my guilty plea,” Craig told reporters after the hearing, “for now, I will continue my work in the United States Senate for Idaho.” Craig has already said that regardless of the outcome of his legal maneuverings he will not run for re-election next year.

SCHIP VETO OUTLOOK: In the week since the White House issued its vow to veto the Democrat-bloated State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) bill that will cover families making up to $82,000 a year and has become so controversial, Congress moved closer to sending the measure to the President. In the Senate, 18 Republicans abandoned the administration and joined in the 69-to-30 cloture vote to advance the bill, indicating that the Senate’s final passage vote on SCHIP would be “veto-proof.” Discussing two of the GOP defectors, columnist Robert Novak said, “Orrin Hatch [Utah] is in another partnership with his friend, Ted Kennedy [Mass.]. Chuck Grassley [Iowa], the ranking GOP member on the Finance Committee, again has drifted leftward.” But in the House, the vote on passage last week was only 265 to 159, meaning proponents will very probably fall short of the two-thirds needed to override the expected veto.

Although the President’s veto of SCHIP reauthorization was widely anticipated, conservatives in Congress told Human Events last week that so far they have had no signals that Bush will veto reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind education measure, even if, as expected, it is altered significantly by House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller (D.-Calif.) and Senate Labor Committee Chairman Teddy Kennedy (D.-Mass.). Noting that he is opposed to NCLB in its present form (which the administration helped guide to enactment five years ago), Rep. Tim Walberg (R.-Mich.), a member of the Education and Labor Committee, said, “I would hope that if George Miller and Ted Kennedy get their way with the program, the President would see it as an expansion of proportions that our forefathers would never have stepped into.”