Capital Briefs October 26, 2009

CHENEY HITS OBAMA ‘DITHERING’: Just weeks after he strongly defended the Bush Administration’s conduct toward terrorists held at Guantanamo, Dick Cheney last week firmly attacked the current Administration over its policy on Afghanistan. In an address to the Center for Security Policy, the former Vice President charged that President Obama was “dithering” and “waffling” on Afghanistan. “Having announced his Afghanistan strategy in March,” ­Cheney said, “President Obama now seems afraid to make a decision and unable to provide his commander on the ground with the troops he needs to complete the mission.” He went on to warn that “signals of indecision out of Washington hurt our allies and embolden our adversaries.” He also denounced the Obama Administration’s policies on Iran and Iraq and abandonment of the defense shield in Eastern Europe that was promised by the Bush Administration.  

ACORN RIDES AGAIN: Although federal dollars for ACORN were stricken from the continuing resolution that keeps the government running, the CR will run out October 31 and the ACORN funding will resume promptly. The defund ACORN bill sponsored by House Republican Leader John Boehner (R.-Ohio) was incorporated into the CR, but all measures to permanently deny federal funds to the community-organizing colossus have died and, as of last week, no such bill was on the House calendar. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R.-Minn.), the premier ACORN opponent in the House, offered an amendment permanently barring tax dollars from going to ACORN in the Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act that actually passed on a voice vote in the House Banking Committee. But it was later stripped out of the final bill by far-left Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D.-Mass.). Since 1994, ACORN has received more than $53 million in federal funds.  

WILL CONGRESS VOTE ON ABORTIONS IN HEALTH CARE BILL? Although White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs insisted recently that “there’s a law that precludes the use of federal funds for abortion and that isn’t going to be changed in these healthcare bill.” He was clearly referring to the Hyde amendment, which is not a law but an annually renewable rider. Pro-lifers in and out of Congress are not mollified. Recently, 183 U.S. representatives from both parties wrote to Speaker Pelosi and House Rules Committee Chairwoman Louise Slaughter (D.-N.Y.) requesting a vote on an amendment that would specifically ban government funding of abortion in the health care legislation. The measure, which was offered by Representatives Joe Pitts (R.-Pa.) and Bart Stupak (D.-Mich.), has so far been endorsed by 25 Democrats and 158 Republicans. Pitts and Stupak previously offered similar amendments during the House Energy and Commerce Committee consideration of the health care measure (H.R. 3200) but they were defeated in committee. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has also sent a letter to senators saying, “So far, the health reform bills … including the new Senate Finance Committee bill, have not met the President’s challenge of barring the use of federal dollars for abortion.” 

OBAMACARE STUMBLES: Liberal Democrats lost the first battle over Obamacare last week when they failed to pass a bill called Doc Fix. That bill was an effort to change the payment formula for doctors treating Medicare patients. Liberals, unwisely, attempted to railroad the bill through the Senate without making any effort to offset the $247 billion cost to the taxpayers over the next 10 years. Making the leadership nervous, 13 Democrats joined all Republicans in the 47-to-53 vote to halt a program that would have added to the estimated $1.4 trillion in debt racked up by the Obama Administration so far this year.

THE GRAYSON DEAD: After he astounded colleagues on the House floor September 29 by saying the Republican health care plan is a case of  “Don’t get sick and if you get sick, die quickly,” Rep. Alan Grayson (D.-Fla.) refused to apologize and never faced any censure or reprimand. Last week, the freshman lawmaker took to the House floor and went even further: He announced a website called “Names of the Dead” that will list the names of as many as possible of the more than 44,000 Americans who he claims die each year because they have no health insurance. As one blogger concluded after reading the site’s list, “Grayson may be leaving himself open to some online practical jokers.” Among the names listed on the site last week were those of Lassie Martin, 10, of Kanab, Utah (Lassie is filmdom’s legendary dog and Martin is the name of the family who owned him in the 1950s TV series), Norma Jean Mortensen, 36, of Los Angeles, Calif., (the real name of Marilyn Monroe, who died in 1962), Steve Rogers, 90, of New York, N.Y., (the real name of Marvel Comics’ long-running Captain America), and Wile E. Coyote, 55, of Sedona, Ariz., (the famous cartoon coyote).  

OBAMA’S RECORD APPROVAL FALL: That’s what the Gallup Poll has come up with. According to a just-completed survey by the venerable organization, the President averaged a 53% job approval rating during his third quarter in office (July 20 through October 19) — down sharply from his prior quarterly averages which were 63% in the first quarter (January 20 through April 19) and 62% in the second (April 20 through July 19).  In fact, the polling firm concluded, “the 9-point drop in the most recent quarter is the largest Gallup has ever measured for an elected President between the second and third quarters of his term, dating back to 1953.” (Gallup did note that Harry Truman had a 13-point drop between his second and third quarters in 1945 and ’46, but he succeeded to the presidency upon the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945 and was not elected to his first term).