Capital Briefs: Nov. 5-9

BLUNT TALK ON CONGRESS: With polls showing overwhelming voter disapproval of the Democratic-controlled Congress across the nation, House Republican Whip Roy Blunt (Mo.) told Human Events last week that this Congress under Democratic leadership has cast more than 1,000 votes so far and really has little to show for it. According to Blunt, “107 bills have been signed into law, 47 of them have named post offices, courthouses or roads, 44 were non-controversial measures sponsored by Republicans or passed with overwhelming Republican support, and 14 bills extended pre-existing public laws or laws passed when Republicans were in the majority.” The two bills of substance so far, in Blunt’s view, “were the war supplemental in May and the Protect America Act (updating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) in August.”  
LAW OF THE SEA TREATY SINKING: Signs were growing last week that Senate ratification of the extremely controversial Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST), which could well lead to an international tax overseen by the United Nations, is not going to happen, even though the White House is pushing for it. With strong anti-LOST statements put out by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and Republican Whip Trent Lott (Miss.) and all of the GOP presidential hopefuls calling for rejection of the treaty (including Arizona Sen. John McCain, who has reversed an early pro-LOST stance), the chances have dramatically increased that opponents of the administration-backed treaty will soon have commitments from the 34 senators needed to deny the two-thirds of the Senate needed for ratification. As for the White House endorsement of the treaty, Paul Weyrich of the conservative Free Congress Foundation told Human Events last week that when he brought up the treaty at the White House earlier in the year, “the President was entirely surprised to learn that the administration was supporting ratification and asked the staffers who were present to ‘look into this.’”

WHITE HOUSE MUM ON CALIFORNIA ELECTORAL VOTE CHANGE: With polls showing California voters favoring a move to change the way their state’s electoral votes are distributed from winner-take-all statewide to winner-take-all by congressional district (see October 29 Human Events), the White House is not taking any stand on the proposal, which would have given George W. Bush 22 electoral votes from the Golden State in 2000 rather than none. At a White House briefing last week, Human Events Political Editor John Gizzi asked Press Secretary Dana Perino about the current movement in California, which is backed by such major Bush fund-raisers as hotelier Duane Roberts. “Well, it’s the first I’ve heard of it,” replied Perino. “Read my column,” Gizzi said. As laughter filled the briefing room, Perino quipped: “Great advertisement.” She went on to say, “I don’t know what the President’s position is on it.” The proposal seems to be moving swiftly ahead. At this point, a committee has been formed to collect the 433,000 signatures that need to be certified by the California secretary of state in order to place the electoral vote reform proposal on the June 2008 statewide ballot. Maine and Nebraska already apportion electoral votes through winner-take-all by congressional district rather than winner-take-all by state.

HOUSE GOP RETIREES HIT 14: With Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo last week becoming the 14th Republican House member to say he is not running next year (See “Politics,” page 20.), speculation is rampant on Capitol Hill about who will be the next GOP lawmaker to call it quits. In recent weeks, Human Events has heard speculation focusing on 10-term Rep. Jim McCrery (R.-La.), the ranking GOP member of the House Ways and Means Committee, who reportedly wants to spend more time with his family in Louisiana. Already, talk has been heard in the House Republican Conference about who would take over from McCrery as their top lawmaker on the powerful
tax-writing committee, with the member most often mentioned being conservative Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan, even though he is four years junior in seniority to Rep. Wally Herger of California.

GIPPER GROUP: In clear criticism of the efforts of Republican leaders John Boehner (Ohio) and Roy Blunt (Mo.) in the House and Mitch McConnell (Ky.) in the Senate, a group of Republican congressmen and senators including Senators Tom Coburn (Okla.) and Jim DeMint (S.C.) and Representatives Jeb Hensarling (Tex.) John Shadegg (Ariz.) and Tom Price (Ga.) last week announced they had formed the Reagan21 Caucus. Members of Regan21 are committed to what they are calling the advancement of a new and invigorated Republican Party. “We are working to ignite a Reagan revolution for the 21st Century,” said Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.). A requirement for membership in the caucus is that members will not offer or request any more earmarks and call on their leaders in both houses to do the same. Reagan21 is calling itself a new “conservative governing philosophy.” Their statement of policy commitment includes 10 objectives, starting with integrity. “The website is up but it’s not real functional yet,” Sen. Coburn told Human Events, “but the principles are up, and next week, the background papers for our positions will be on there.”

GRUMPY OLD MAN: That’s how Gerald Ford comes off in veteran journalist Tom DeFrank’s just-released book, Write It When I’m Gone, based on more than 30 interviews that the 38th President gave the author under the condition that they not be published until his death. Ford, who died last year at age 93, confirmed to DeFrank his intense dislike of Ronald Reagan, whom he only narrowly edged out for the Republican presidential nomination in 1976. According to DeFrank, Ford “neither liked nor respected Reagan” and viewed the Californian as a “superficial, disengaged, intellectually lazy showman who didn’t do his homework and clung to his naïve, unrealistic and essentially dangerous world view.” Ford let go of the bitterness in 1994, DeFrank says, after Reagan revealed he had Alzheimer’s disease and Ford went to visit him. Ford also blamed Nancy Reagan for keeping her husband from campaigning more vigorously for him in the 1976 election, in which Jimmy Carter narrowly defeated Ford. In a surprising new revelation, DeFrank says Ford voiced bitterness that Reagan did not step aside in 1980 and give him another shot at Jimmy Carter—a strange reason for being bitter, since Ford could have joined George H.W. Bush, Howard Baker, John B. Connally and others in entering the primaries and taking on Reagan. Ford implored the elder Bush to get rid of Dan Quayle as his vice presidential running mate in 1992, insisting that retaining Quayle on the ticket meant that the then-President Bush’s re-election attempt was “dead in the water.” His choice as a replacement for Quayle was Dick Cheney, Ford’s onetime White House chief of staff and secretary of Defense at the time. But in ’04, when Cheney was Vice President, Ford felt he had become a “liability” to President George W. Bush and that he should be replaced by former New York City Republican Mayor Rudy Giuliani. “Dick has not been the asset I expected on the ticket,” Ford said to DeFrank about his former right-hand man and protégé. He also told DeFrank that he feels Giuliani is the strongest Republican candidate for ’08 and that Al Gore is “such a bore.”