Capital Briefs March 2, 2009

HALL OF SHAME ON HILDA: The Senate voted 80 to 17 last week to confirm Hilda Solis as secretary of Labor — just in time for the leftist California House member (See HUMAN EVENTS cover story last week) to be seated with the rest of the Cabinet during Barack Obama’s address to Congress. Despite her strong record of extreme liberalism and slavish allegiance to Big Labor, the following 24 Senate Republicans joined 54 Democrats and the two Independents in the Senate to confirm Solis: Alexander (Tenn.), Enzi (Wyo.), Lugar (Ind.), Barrasso (Wyo.), Graham (S.C.), Martinez (Fla.), Bennett (Utah), Grassley (Iowa), McCain (Ariz.), Brownback (Kan.), Gregg (N.H.), McConnell (Ky.), Chambliss (Ga.), Hatch (Utah), Murkowski (Alaska), Cochran (Miss.), Hutchison (Texas), Snowe (Maine), Collins (Maine), Isakson (Ga.), Specter (Pa.), Corker (Tenn.), Johanns (Neb.) and Voinovich (Ohio). All of the remaining 17 GOP senators held firm and voted against her:  

BURRIS DIGS IN: “I hope Roland is reflecting this weekend,” Illinois’ Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn told HUMAN EVENTS’ Political Editor John Gizzi during the National Governors Association meeting last week. He was referring, of course, to embattled fellow Democrat, Sen. Roland Burris, whom Quinn a day before had called on to resign. Quinn also told Gizzi that Burris’ recent evolving answers about whether he sought appointment to the Senate from impeached Gov. Rod Blagojevich meant “the chickens are now coming home to roost.” In fact, all Democratic statewide elected officials in Illinois — including the state’s senior Sen. Richard Durbin — have since joined Quinn in calling on Burris to step down. But as of the end of the last week, the 71-year-old Burris reiterated his intention to serve out the Senate term of Barack Obama until 2010. Meanwhile, Illinois Republican Chairman Andy McKenna has launched a statewide petition drive calling on the state legislature to change the law and permit an immediate special election to fill a Senate vacancy (a change Democrat Quinn supports).  

OBAMA STILL UP, BUT… On the eve of his address to Congress last week, Barack Obama had the largest lead for a President in 18 years over the opposition party on the issue of handling the economy. According to an ABC News/Washington Post poll, among voters nationwide, Obama leads Republicans in Congress in being trusted to deal with the economy by 61% to 26%. Moreover, the survey showed, Obama has a 68% job approval rating nationally, precisely matching that of Ronald Reagan in his first month as President. However, the “post-partisanship” Obama has spoken of is not yet on the scene. The ABC News/Post poll showed that while Obama has 90% approval among fellow Democrats, only 37% of Republicans approve of his performance — “a rating equally as partisan (in the other direction) as George W. Bush’s initial approval after the disputed election of 2000,” according to ABC News analyst Gary Langer.

WHAT NEXT FOR CARD-CHECK? Although Obama reportedly doesn’t want to deal with the union-backed issue of “card-check” that would end the secret ballot in union elections, Democratic leaders in Congress appear determined to have a floor vote soon on the so-called Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which contains the controversial proposal. Last year, EFCA sailed through the House by a vote of 241 to 185 and is expected easily to pass again. The same bill was stopped in the Senate after a cloture vote was defeated 51 to 48. Since then, the two Democratic senators from Arkansas who supported EFCA — Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor — have changed their position to opposition. The lone Senate Republican to support EFCA, Pennsylvania’s Arlen Specter, now considers himself “neutral” on the issue.  

LOOK WHO’S PAYING OIL-FOR-FOOD FEES: The “Oil-for-Food” scandal that caused considerable embarrassment for former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annon and lowered the UN’s already-low standing in this country resurfaced last week. In a little-noticed story, the UN’s own Administrative Tribunal (UNAT) ordered the UN to pay “all reasonable legal fees” to Benon Sevan, the former Oil-For-Food program head now in hiding in Cyprus. Two years ago, Sevan fled to Cyprus after U.S. prosecutors charged him with bribery and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. With Sevan’s legal team demanding $880,300 in fees plus interest from the UN, that means that the American taxpayers who now cover more than $5 billion of the UN’s annual budget will pay the bulk of the renegade official’s legal tab. “For the United Nations to consider paying what could amount to nearly $1 million in legal fees is a disgrace and is yet another stain on the reputation of the world body,” concluded the conservative Heritage Foundation. UN spokesman Farhan Haq has said the organization will abide by the decision of its own tribunal. So far, the Obama Administration has said nothing about the ruling.   


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