Capital Briefs


After overcoming their surprise about the President’s naming of Gen. David Petraeus as U.S. commander in Afghanistan last week, more than a few Republican operatives began to wonder how this move would affect talk that the former head of operations in Iraq would soon retire and possibly seek the Republican nomination for President. The speculation continues even though, like many top military officers, Petraeus has not voted in several years and has never stated an allegiance to any party and his views on most issues are unknown. Noting that Petraeus’s new assignment will most likely keep him in Afghanistan as other GOP hopefuls are mobilizing campaigns next year, Nebraska State GOP Chairman Mark Fahleson told HUMAN EVENTS that the Petraeus appointment was “classic Obama politics: Keep your friends close, your enemies closer. He did it with Hillary Clinton by naming her secretary of State. Now he has done it with Petraeus.” Colorado State GOP Chairman Dick Wadhams disagreed, saying, “if Petraeus succeeds, he is still viable.” But Wadhams also conceded timing would hurt a possible Petraeus campaign and that “the aribitary July 2011 pullout date set by Obama is a big problem for Petraeus.” Former Gov. and White House Chief of Staff John Sununu, now the state GOP chairman of New Hampshire (which is Petraeus’s legal residence), recalled meeting the general during a speaking date in his state and “from my conversation, I don’t he was considering a presidential race. He made an academic speech [at the Institute for Politics] and it was not any more than that.”


That’s what Rep. Pete Olson (R.-Tex.) discovered in a new report from the General Accountability Office, which found that groups advocating abortion received more than $1 billion in tax funding over the past eight years. These range from $93.8 million (from 2002-09) for Planned Parenthood to $284.3 million (from 2002-08) for the Population Council of the United States, with the GAO concluding “expenditures in this report may understate the actual amount of federal funds the selected organizations and their affiliates spent.” Olson told reporters that “with the national debt over $13 trillion—costing every American $118,000…that this money is spent by organizations that offend the majority of Americans only further justifies the need for this alarming report.”


As the economic “death watch” continues for debt-wracked Greece, and Spain and Italy grapple their red ink crisis, congressional Republicans are underscoring their opposition to any further U.S. funding of the International Monetary Fund. Last month, the IMF provided $145 billion as its share of the Greek bailout and the U.S. is lending an additional $39 billion as part of the Greek package crafted by IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Under legislation offered by Sen. Jim DeMint (R.-S.C.), the U.S. would draw the line on any further donations to the IMF. “We’re not asking them to help us on [debt-strapped] New Jersey, so the IMF shouldn’t be asking us to help on Spain and Italy,” said House GOP Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.), a supporter of the House version of the IMF funding cutoff.


Even after last week’s congressional grilling of BP executives and the oil company’s agreement to a $20 billion escrow account to help victims of the oil spill in the gulf, there are still Democrats who want more from BP. Sen. Bill Nelson (D.-Fla.) has introduced legislation to lift the liability cap on BP from the present $75 million to $10 billion—a move that several in Congress said could set a dangerous precedent for other businesses that run into unexpected problems (and that more than a few feel would delight trial lawyers). Last week, the House Judiciary Committee voted 16-to-11 in favor of legislation offered by Chairman John Conyers (D.-Mich.) that would amend three maritime laws (the Jones Act, Death on the High Seas Act, and Limitation of Liability Act) to permit lawsuits for pain and suffering by families that have suffered losses in maritime accidents (even though they are already permitted to sue for economic damages). 


Although the President’s personal political organization Organizing for America (formerly “Obama for America” in the ’08 campaign) is making a concerted effort to maintain high voter turnout for Democrats this fall, returns from primaries this year indicate that Democrats are not exactly turning out in droves. In Ohio, for example, 673,597 Democrats turned out for the May primary—down from 747,404 in the last midterm primary (2006) and 9934,891 in ’94. In North Carolina, where Democrats had a heated Senate primary, 423,453 cast votes in the primary—compared to 645,070 in 2002 and 540,031 in 1998 (both years in which there were contested Senate primaries). Even in Pennsylvania, where Rep. Joe Sestak defeated Sen. Arlen Specter in a nationally watched contest, 1.05 million Democrats turned out, which was down from the 1.24 million who turned out in 2002 for the last major contest statewide primary.


With House Democrats making it clear there will be no budget resolution until after the November elections and the report of the President’s deficit reduction commission is completed, Republicans have started to go on the attack. Following an address by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D.-Md.) last week laying out the budget timetable, House Republican Study Committee Chairman Tom Price (Ga.) told reporters: “The Democrats’ excuse for not doing their job is that they have passed the buck to someone else. Last time I checked, the American people elected a Congress, not a commission.” Price also took aim at the Democratic-backed PAYGO concept, saying that Democrats have “already rendered PAYGO toothless by waiving it over a dozen times” and that “unprecedented annual deficits show the emptiness of their pay-as-you-go claims.”


When Barack Obama became President 17 months ago, corporate political action committees and lobbyists were giving 58% of their donations to Democrats. But so far this year, the figure of business dollars for Democrats is down to 48%. “The last time corporate PACs made such a dramatic shift to the Republicans was in 1995, after the GOP’s rout of the Democrats in the 1994 midterms,” concluded The Washington Post, noting that “this time, corporations have switched sides before the elections.” The Post also noted that the most striking example of this switch has been in the healthcare industry, which last year gave 61% of their $31.5 million in political contributions to Democrats. In the first quarter of the year, they gave $3.9 million to each major party (and that was before the Democrat-backed healthcare bill was enacted March 21).