Capital Briefs February 23, 2009

NO MORE AUTO LOANS: That’s what a majority of Americans say, according to a just-completed Rasmussen Reports poll. As the heads of General Motors and Chrysler came to Washington last week to ask for an additional $22 billion in taxpayer-backed loans, Rasmussen found that 64% of voters are against the loans, while only 24% supported them and 11% had no opinion. The same survey showed that 44% of the voting public said it is better for the economy to let companies such as GM and Chrysler declare bankruptcy, compared to 33% who say government subsidies should keep them in business. As for the $4 billion already borrowed by Chrysler and the $13.4 billion borrowed by GM, 57% of voters believe the government is unlikely to get the money back, while 41% think the loans will be repaid, according to Rasmussen.  

CARD-CHECK OFFENSIVE: Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic congressional leaders make no secret of their desire for a quick vote on the bizarrely named Employee Free Choice Act, which includes the notorious “card-check” provision that would effectively end the secret ballot in union elections. Anticipating this vote, Rep. John Kline (R.-Minn.) last week re-introduced the Secret Ballot Protection Act (H.R. 866), which would ensure that workers faced with the decision of whether to unionize would maintain their right to a secret ballot. The measure, first introduced by the late Rep. Charlie Norwood (R.-Ga.), is co-sponsored by Rep. Buck McKeon (Calif.), ranking Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee. This issue could be a winner for the GOP in the next election. A just-completed McLaughlin and Associates survey shows voters nationwide opposing legislation containing “card-check” by a 74%-to-15% margin.  

LOOK WHO’S FOR NATIONALIZING BANKS: Providing another reason for conservatives to be upset with him, Sen. Lindsay Graham (R.-S.C.) last week told the Financial Times that people should not get caught up on the word nationalization. “It doesn’t matter what you call it, but we can’t keep on funding these zombie banks [without gaining public control]. That’s what the Japanese did.” Graham went on to praise Sweden’s nationalizing its banks in the 1990s and then auctioning the banks that had cleaned up balance sheets. “In limited circumstances, the Swedish model makes sense,” Graham told the FT.  The South Carolinian’s remarks came on the heels of a similar call for bank nationalization by Alan Greenspan, who told reporters last week that it could be “necessary to temporarily nationalize some banks in order to facilitate a swift and orderly restructuring.” Speaking to the Economic Club of New York, the former Federal Reserve Board chairman said, “In some cases, the least bad solution is for the government to take ‘temporary control’ of troubled banks.”  

DC VOTE MOVES ON: Within days, the Senate is expected to take action on a bill designed to give the District of Columbia a voting member in the House of Representatives. The House last year passed a bill, bottled up in the Senate, that expanded the House to 437 members by giving Republican Utah a new at-large seat and the Democratic District a voting member. Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) filed a cloture motion on the Senate version, which differs from its House counterpart in that it gives Utah a fourth House district rather than an at-large seat. Most conservatives have long contended that giving the District a voting representative through legislation is clearly unconstitutional since the Constitution explicitly says that the House “shall be composed of members chosen by the people of the several states.” And D.C. is not a state. If the bill eventually passes and is signed by President Obama, there will be an immediate court challenge.

STEM CELL SITUATION IN LIMBO: When, after assuming office, Barack Obama issued a round of executive orders on issues ranging from closing the prison at Guantanamo to lifting a ban on funding pro-abortion family planning groups worldwide, his failure to lift George W. Bush’s eight-year-old order on stem cell research was very upsetting to liberals around the country. Amy Comstock Rick, of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research, told the Washington Post: “We were surprised and disappointed it wasn’t in there. We’re wondering why it’s taking so long.” Rick was referring to Bush’s 2001 order restricting federal funding to studies of cell lines that were already in existence on that date and thus barring tax dollars from encouraging the destruction of more embryos. In response to Rick’s complaint, White House spokesman Reid Cherlin insisted that “the President has made it clear that increasing stem-cell research is a priority for his administration and he’ll be acting soon to reverse restrictions on this critical science.”