- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Cynical’ deal

“Judging by all of the self-congratulation, you’d think the 14 senators who reached a deal Monday on judicial nominations were the moral equivalent of the Founding Fathers,” the Wall Street Journal says.

“‘We have kept the Republic,’ declared Democrat Robert Byrd, with all due modesty. ‘The Senate won’ and ‘the country won,’ added Republican John McCain. All 14 are apparently destined for Mount Rushmore, as soon as Mr. Byrd can stuff the money for the sculpture into an appropriations bill,” the newspaper said in an editorial.

“What a charade. This ballyhooed ‘compromise’ is all about saving the senators themselves, not the Constitution. Its main point is to shield the group of 14 from the consequences of having to cast difficult, public votes in a filibuster showdown. Thus they split the baby on the most pressing nominees, giving three of them a vote while rejecting two others on what seem to be entirely arbitrary grounds, so members of both parties can claim victory. Far better to cashier nominees as a bipartisan phalanx, rather than face up to their individual ‘advice and consent’ responsibilities.

“Meanwhile, the statesmen and women are able to postpone any real fighting over the filibuster until the inevitable Supreme Court nomination later this Congress. We don’t often agree with North Dakota Democrat Byron Dorgan, but he had it about right when he called the deal ‘legislative castor oil. It averts the showdown vote tomorrow, but I doubt it’s over.’ All in all, we can’t recall a more cynical Senate performance since the phony impeachment trial of Bill Clinton.”

Republican Munich’

“With the Republican Senate 24 hours away from liberating all seven judicial hostages of Minority Leader Harry Reid and his Democrats, Sen. John McCain stepped in to snatch compromise from the jaws of victory,” Pat Buchanan writes.

“We will, said McCain, settle for only three. McCain’s Gang of Seven had just engineered a Republican Munich,” Mr. Buchanan said in his syndicated column.

“As of Monday, Majority Leader Bill Frist had the 51 votes needed to free all seven. Had a cloture vote been taken, all seven Bush appellate court appointees would soon be on their way to the federal bench. Reid’s Democratic minority would have been stripped permanently of its power to abuse, delay and kill Bush judges and Supreme Court justices.

“After months of painstaking work and press abuse, Republicans were on the precipice of a triumph. The McCain Seven stepped in — to trade the horse for a rabbit.

“Now, instead of Republicans winning all seven and disarming Reid, Ted Kennedy and Co. of their lethal weapon, Democrats agreed to release three hostages, but hold the other four — and were given a GOP blessing to use their filibuster-veto in ‘extraordinary circumstances,’ i.e., should Bush name to the Supreme Court a jurist like William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia or Clarence Thomas.

“McCain is doing victory laps on the morning talk shows and assuring us, ‘The country won.’ But Dick Durbin and Reid are talking like men who just rubbed Republican noses in the dirt. ‘The nuclear option is off the table,’ said Sen. Durbin. Reid was especially gracious: ‘Abuse of power will not be tolerated, and attempts to trample the Constitution and grab absolute control are over.’”

Cox files

Republican lawyer Ed Cox , better known outside New York Republican circles as former President Richard Nixon’s son-in-law and Tricia Nixon’s husband, yesterday took the first formal step toward a challenge of Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in the New York Senate contest next year.

Mr. Cox filed with the Federal Election Commission to create an exploratory committee.

Mr. Cox, 58, has the backing of Gov. George E. Pataki for a run against Mrs. Clinton, 57, and says he is confident he can raise the money, “maybe $60 million,” to defeat her.

“I have 18 months before the election, and I am going to set up a 50-state operation for fundraising,” Mr. Cox said.

He doesn’t bridle when asked why he thinks he can beat her, as opposed to simply scaring her and her fellow Democrats enough to force them to spend tons of money fighting him off.

“She made lots of promises when she ran the first time that she hasn’t kept, and she’s not popular in upstate New York,” he said.

Arnold’s attack

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger stepped up his attack on the Democrat-controlled Legislature yesterday, chiding lawmakers for accepting a pay raise despite the state’s fiscal problems.

“Isn’t that interesting?” the Republican said in a speech to the California Chamber of Commerce. “Instead of giving the people that really need the money — like education, health care, healthy families, the poor people, the blind people — instead of giving them more money, the legislators decided they need the money first.”

On Monday, an independent state commission granted legislators a 12 percent pay increase, boosting their annual salaries for the first time since 1998. Beginning in December, lawmakers will see their salaries increase from $99,000 to $110,880 — the highest compensation in the country for state legislators.

The pay increase came amid forecasts that the state’s next budget would have a shortfall of at least $5 billion.

The increase cannot be overturned by legislators or the governor, but Mr. Schwarzenegger and his aides said lawmakers could refuse to accept it. Mr. Schwarzenegger, a multimillionaire, does not accept his $175,000 annual salary.

Ready to run

Rep. Harold E. Ford Jr., Tennessee Democrat, filed the federal paperwork yesterday to run for the Senate seat being vacated by Republican Majority Leader Bill Frist.

The five-term congressman from Memphis is the second Democrat to enter the 2006 race. Mr. Frist has said he does not plan to seek a third term.

“I’m excited. I’m ready to go,” Mr. Ford told the Associated Press. He said his top issues will be energy reform, national security and education.

Mr. Ford, 35, is a member of a Memphis political dynasty. He delivered the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in 2000, unsuccessfully challenged Rep. Nancy Pelosi for the post of House minority leader in 2002 and served as a national campaign co-chairman for Sen.John Kerry’s presidential run in 2004.

State Sen. Rosalind Kurita is the only other declared candidate for the Democratic nomination. Republicans running for Mr. Frist’s seat are former Reps.Ed Bryant and Van Hilleary and former Chattanooga MayorBob Corker.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes.com.

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