Capital Briefs: June 30-July4

PELOSI ON ‘HUSH RUSH’ BILL: With conservatives increasingly nervous that the next administration will move to reinstate the so-called “Fairness Doctrine,” Rep. Mike Pence (R.-Ind.) introduced legislation to bar return of the doctrine (which would require radio station owners to grant equal time to views contrary to those broadcast — a costly practice that would probably discourage many stations from carrying Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and other conservative commentators). The Fairness Doctrine died under the Reagan Administration, which made the case that with the growing number of cable channels and new radio frequencies, there was enough airtime to provide diverse viewpoints opinions. Last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) left little doubt where she stood on revival of the “Hush-Rush” policy and Pence’s attempt to keep it from coming back. At a breakfast last week hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, Human Events Political Editor John Gizzi asked Pelosi whether Pence’s measure, if it failed to get the required signatures on a discharge petition, would be permitted to get a vote in the House this year. “No,” the speaker replied to Gizzi without hesitation, adding that “the interest in my caucus is the reverse” and that New York Democratic Rep. “Louise Slaughter has been active behind this [revival of the Fairness Doctrine] for a while now.”
Pelosi went on to point out that, after it returns from its 4th of July recess, the House will meet for only another six weeks — three  weeks in July and three weeks in the fall. There are a lot of bills it has to deal with before adjournment, she said, such as FISA and an energy bill. “So I don’t see it [the Pence bill] coming to the floor,” Pelosi said. Gizzi pressed on, asking Pelosi “Do you personally support revival of the ‘Fairness Doctrine?’” “Yes,” she replied, again without hesitation.

CANNON FIRED: In a stunning result that caught many of the most seasoned national political reporters by surprise, Rep. Chris Cannon (R.-Utah) was defeated for renomination last week. Jason Chaffetz, top aide to GOP Gov. Jon Huntsman, Jr., ran to the right of Cannon and trounced the 14-year incumbent with 63% of the vote. Although Cannon had an overall conservative voting record (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 96%), Chaffetz slammed him for supporting amnesty for illegal immigrants, the Prescription Drug bill of ’03 and the “No Child Left Behind” federal education program. Chaffetz also dusted off and promoted two durable conservative issues: making English the official language and abolishing the U.S. Department of Education. In Utah’s overwhelmingly Republican 3rd District, Chaffetz is considered a cinch to win in November.

THE “FOREIGN OIL FOURTEEN?” If House Republicans have their way, that’s what they are going to brand some Democratic lawmakers who consistently oppose drilling in ANWR and other measures to deal with the mounting energy crisis. One GOP congressman who requested anonymity told Human Events how he and his colleagues “are seriously discussing reviving their version of the old environmentalists’ ‘Dirty Dozen’ list of members of Congress they said were hostile to conservation. Only now we’d like come up with a list of the ‘Foreign Oil Fourteen’ — members who vote to make us dependent on foreign sources of energy and give ‘em a dose of their own medicine!”

CATHOLICS FOR OBAMA: The religion that claims more Americans than any other is also the most divided in terms of presidential preference. According to a just-completed Gallup Poll, Roman Catholic voters favor Barack Obama over John McCain by 47% to 43%. Obama’s lead, Gallup concluded, is based on the strong support the Democratic hopeful has among Hispanics, who comprise roughly one in seven Catholics. The survey showed Obama leads McCain among Hispanic Catholics by 66% to 25%, but that McCain leads among non-Hispanic Catholics 46% to 43%. Gallup also found McCain ahead of Obama among Protestants (48% to 41%) and Mormons (70% to 23%), but Obama leading among Jews (62% to 29%) and Americans with no religious affiliation (65% to 25%). 

Hiking War spending Bill: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.), is pushing for a second version of the war funding bill that will include some spending axed from the original bill by the House.

Cut from the earlier bill were some spending items for Hurricane Katrina relief, including more generous levee support, $50 million for crime prevention, $157 million for six hospitals and $75 million to aid in closing the Mississippi Gulf Outlet. A $451 million relief program run by the Federal Highway Administration was also cut from the bill.
Moreover, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program and unemployment benefits may also receive additional funding.

ALSO BACKS FISA FILIBUSTER: At the same Monitor breakfast at which she addressed the Fairness Doctrine, Speaker Pelosi also indicated she supports a Senate filibuster against the FISA legislation she voted for — after which she took the unusual step of telling her colleagues in the House they did not have to do the same. “It’s better than the underlying FISA law,” Pelosi said of the surveillance legislation that passed the House. “It’s better than what the Senate had sent us. It’s not good enough, as far as I’m concerned. But I did vote for it because, again, we have our choices to make and I viewed my role as saving the world, the House, the Congress, from the Senate bill, and the Protect America Act, the administration’s bill. But it isn’t the bill I would have written.”
The speaker pointed out that “the Senate has the ability to filibuster, and “I think there is a great appetite in the public for such a debate on [FISA] to take place. And I think it would be healthy and wholesome.”

LIB-LIBS UNITE AGAINST FISA: As the Senate is poised to take up the House-passed FISA legislation, one of the stranger coalitions on record is working to thwart the surveillance measure:  Some backers of the now-ended presidential campaign of libertarian-leaning Rep. Ron Paul (R.-Tex.) and a number of civil liberties advocates — the so-called “lib-lib” coalition joined forces for a “money bomb,” devoting a day to raising funds and drawing attention on the Internet — to protest the FISA measure that was passed by the House on June 20. The anti-FISA coalition is focusing its fire on the portion of the bill that provides immunity to telecom companies that helped the government eavesdrop on telephone conversations of suspected terrorists. Speaking of the coalition with anti-FISA forces on the left, Trevor Lyman, an organizer of the Paul campaign’s $14 million Internet fund-raising “money bomb” earlier this year, told the Wall Street Journal: “For us, it is a natural alliance.”


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