Capital Briefs August 31, 2009

WHAT ABOUT THOSE DEFICITS?  More people are now asking that question. As the Wall Street Journal reported, both the White House and the Congressional Budget Office said that the deficit for 2009 is “only” $1.58 trillion, or “about $250 billion lower than expected thanks to less need for TARP funds.” However, the Journal noted, “Obama’s fiscal plan envisions $9 trillion in new borrowing over the next decade, which is $2 trillion more than the White House predicted earlier this year.” At $1.6 trillion, this year’s deficit would be the largest on record and the biggest in percentage of the economy since the end of World War II.

MORE DEMOCRATIC SLEAZE: Last week, the New York State finance chairman for Hillary Clinton’s ’08 presidential campaign was arrested and charged with lying about his assets in order to obtain a $74 million loan from Citibank. Investor Hassan Nemazee, son of an Iranian shipping magnate, was charged with using documents showing collateral worth hundreds of millions in accounts either never existed or were closed for several years, according to a federal complaint. Along with his ties to Clinton, Nemazee has been a major player in national Democratic circles for nearly two decades. Records show he has donated more than $450 million to various Democratic candidates and committees since 1990. In the ’06 elections, Nemazee chaired the finance committee of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee under Sen. Charles Schumer (D.-N.Y.) when it raised more than $119 million. During Bill Clinton’s presidency, Nemazee was named U.S. ambassador to Argentina but the nomination was pulled after an article in Forbes Magazine raised serious questions about his business dealings.  

GOP’S ‘SENIORS BILL’ WELL RECEIVED: The national media and Democratic campaign operatives sat up and took notice last week after Republican National Chairman Michael Steele unveiled the GOP’s new six-point “Seniors’ Bill of Rights” to ensure the interests of “the greatest generation” in any healthcare reform enacted by Congress. “The Republicans did something today that was very smart,” veteran Democratic pollster Doug Schoen told Fox News’s “Live Desk” (August 24). Peter Grier of the Christian Science Monitor agreed, noting that “Seniors vote and members of Congress know it.” Politico’s Mike Allen demonstrated a sense of history on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program when he recalled how “After years, decades of ‘Medi-Scare’ — Democrats saying Republicans will take away your Medicare if you elect them — the GOP [is] taking on the healthcare plan with something new.”

DEMS AGAIN CHARGE NO GOP PLAN:  The familiar Democratic mantra that the Republicans in Congress are “Dr. Nos” on health care was heard again last week when liberal Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D.-Md.) claimed to the Talk Radio News Service: “There is no Republican health care plan out there.” Van Hollen went on denounce what he called the Republicans’ “misinformation campaign” and blamed it for slowing action on healthcare reform. In truth, in addition to long boosting expansion of Health Savings Accounts, Republicans in Congress have introduced three health care reform measures since May, or a plan per month: the 130-page “Patients Choice Act of 2009,” (offered in May), South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint’s 41-page “Health Care Freedom Plan” (June), and the Republican Study Committee’s 130-page “Empowering Patients First Act” (July).  

PULL LABOR SOLICITOR CHOICE, ENZI TELLS OBAMA: In a surprise move last week, the ranking Republican on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee called on the White House to withdraw its nominee for solicitor of the U.S. Labor Department. In a strongly worded letter to President Obama, Sen. Mike Enzi (R.-Wyo.) charged that New York Commissioner of Labor Patricia Smith had made at least four inconsistent statements during her testimony before his committee on her nomination for the solicitor’s post. Referring to Smith’s statements to New York’s Wage and Hour Watch program, Enzi wrote that they “are in direct contradiction with the documents provided to the HELP Committee. If it was her intention to mislead the Senate, then I must oppose her nomination. If she unintentionally gave inaccurate statements to the Senate, then I question her ability to manage a large operation, since she does not have a clear understanding of what is taking place in her own Department in New York.” Enzi also wrote Obama of his concerns about Smith’s not consulting any small business owners or stakeholders in the development of the wage and hour program.

BOLTON ON LIBYAN BOMBER’S RELEASE: Despite the adamant insistence by British officials that there was no deal between Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi on Scotland’s release of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, two former government officials in the U.S. and Great Britain last week voiced their doubts. “Qaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, and Lord Trefgarne, president of the Libyan-British Business Council, have both essentially confirmed that Megrahi’s release was intended to facilitate enhanced commercial relationships between Britain and Libya,” said former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton. “Qaddafi said the release ‘will be positively reflected for sure in all areas of cooperation between the two countries.’ Is there any doubt of his meaning?” Lord Christopher Patten, former British Cabinet minister, wrote in the Financial Times that “the real trouble arises when a British company wins — probably innocently — a contract in Libya tomorrow. The assumption will be that this is all part of the pay-off for complicity in an ill-judged decision. Continuing government silence [failure to voice outrage over the release] makes this inevitable.”