Capital Briefs April 27, 2009

INDUSTRIAL POLICY OR CREEPING FASCISM? Some conservatives were actually beginning to ask that harsh question while discussing Barack Obama’s economic agenda last week as the President called in credit card company executives and laid down a new set of “dos” and “don’ts.” Obama-watchers noted that this came soon after the White House essentially ordered the board of General Motors to fire President Rick Waggoner. Both were aggressive steps for the government in dealing with private, stock-owned businesses. Obama’s industrial policy reminds many of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s National Recovery Act, which was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1935. Other conservative critics go further and find Obama’s policies hauntingly reminiscent of the heavy-handed policies toward business practiced by Argentine Fascist strongman Juan Peron in the 1940s and ‘50s.  

? That’s what angry Illinois conservatives were wondering last week, as the House moved toward passage of H.R. 1913 — the Local Law Enforcement and Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 that pro-family groups have been fighting so vigorously. Rep. Mark Kirk (R.-Ill.) co-sponsored the measure along with Rep. John Conyers (D.-Mich.), and, if passed, the bill would add 30 sexual orientations to the list of “classes” protected from so-called “hate crimes.” Kirk’s sponsorship of the controversial legislation comes at a time the five-termer is considering a bid next year for the seat of Democratic Sen. Roland Burris. Conservative bloggers throughout Illinois pilloried Kirk for his stand and pro-family groups are likely to mobilize behind any conservative opponent in the March primary. Conservative Rep. Pete Roskam, also considered a potential GOP Senate candidate, came out strongly against the hate crimes bill.  

OBAMA’S 0.0025% SPENDING CUT: President Obama last week told his Cabinet members to trim $100 million from their budgets and the House Republican Study Committee then did some calculating.  Should “Team Obama” come through with the cuts, RSC Chairman Tom Price (Ga.) estimated, they will amount to “about 0.0025% of his record-breaking $4 trillion in spending this year alone.”  

: With the latest count in the special U.S. House race in New York’s 20th District last week, all signs point to Obama Democrat Scott Murphy’s retaining the seat fellow Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand left when she was appointed to the Senate last year. With 80% of the nearly 7,000 ballots counted, Murphy led State Assembly GOP Leader Jim Tedisco by 273 votes. But last week, Tedisco got an unexpected boost when State Supreme Court Justice James Brand reversed an earlier ruling and decided that absentee ballots challenged over questions of residency would be considered on a case-by-case basis. With about 1,700 challenged absentee ballots left to be reviewed, Tedisco has argued that many were cast by voters whose primary residences are outside the district and thus threaten the integrity of the election.

GOVERNMENT BIGGER THREAT THAN BUSINESS: After all the near-collapses of Wall Street titans such as AIG and the scandals regarding salaries and bonuses paid to corporate executives, more American voters still view big government as a bigger threat to the country than big business. According to a just-completed Gallup Poll, 55% of voters nationwide consider big government the biggest threat, compared to only 32% who regard big business as a similar threat. Only 10% of the voters, Gallup found, consider big labor the biggest threat to the U.S.  

INHOFE AT WAR OVER DEFENSE BUDGET: Already in the forefront of Senate fights against a carbon tax and the closing of Guantanamo, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R.-Okla.) last week led the charge against the Obama defense budget. Noting that overall defense spending has been cut by $10.7 billion in Fiscal Year ’09 and will be cut again in FY10 based on projected inflation, Inhofe charged that the Obama budget deals woefully with “the modernization and readiness of our military.” The senior Senate Armed Services Committee member also warned that if the budget is enacted, “our kids will be operating in the global war on terror with World War II technology.”  

WHY ARE REPUBLICANS BEHIND MANDATED HEALTH CARE? It was really no surprise that seven liberal Democratic senators and Independent Democrat Joe Lieberman (Conn.) recently co-sponsored a bill that would require employers to purchase government-approved health care coverage known as a “HAPI Plan” (pronounced “happy”). But what really left many wondering on Capitol Hill was its co-sponsorship by five Republican senators: Mike Crapo (Idaho), Judd Gregg (N.H.), Lindsay Graham (S.C.), Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), and Bob Bennett (Utah). Under Section 111 (b) of the proposal, the employers’ “HAPI Plan” must provide at least as many benefits as the Blue Cross/Blue Shield standard federal employees’ plan, have “wellness care,” catastrophic coverage, and preventative medicine; and, at least as a supplemental option, pay for abortions, contraceptives, and family-planning services.