- The Washington Times - Monday, February 2, 2009

MINORITY PARTY

Newly minted Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele told Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday” that his party’s long-standing advocacy for strengthening the nation’s borders from illegal immigrants has caused its message to Hispanics and other minorities to be “messed up” in the 2008 elections. But he said the Republican Party doesn’t have to compromise its core beliefs or pander to attract more minority voters.

“We were pegged as being insensitive, anti-immigrant, and nothing could be further from the truth, because you talk to those leaders in the Hispanic community, they will tell you the same thing. They understand the importance of making sure the United States’ borders are secure,” said Mr. Steele, the first black leader of the national party.

“You cannot begin to address the concerns of the people who are already here unless and until you have made certain that no more are coming in behind them.”

When Mr. Wallace asked whether the party needed to improve its outreach to gay voters and pro-choice supporters, Mr. Steele, who is pro-life and supports a constitutional amendment against gay marriage, said that was an “important opportunity for us.”

“The reality of it is, the party has to recognize the diversity of opinion that’s out there,” said the former Maryland lieutenant governor.

But he added that “I’m not going to allow anyone to define the issues for us and say, ‘Well, these are the only two issues that really matter.’ There’s a whole range of issues out there in which we can address the American people and the American people can come to our table.”

MONEY TALKS

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a rising star in the Republican Party, said he has significant concerns that much of the congressional Democrats’ $819 billion economic-stimulus plan is a wasteful use of taxpayer money. But when asked by John King on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday whether he would “take a principled stand” and reject any stimulus money for his state, the governor said he would have no qualm accepting his state’s portion of the package.

“In Minnesota’s case, we have a situation where we pay into the federal government way more than we take out, so we are not going to be bashful about getting our fair share,” Mr. Pawlenty said. “But we do lend voice to how we think this money could be most effectively spent. We hope that those voices will be heard as the debate continues.”

Michigan Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm, a Democrat, also appearing on “State of the Union,” said her state desperately needs stimulus-package money to help combat its chronically high unemployment problem.

“We need help. We need it now. And it’s not about budgets, it’s about creating jobs in our states,” she said.

BRIDGE WORK

“I think we need to fix some highways and bridges. I never saw a tax cut fix a bridge,” said House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank, Massachusetts Democrat, on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday regarding a need for spending initiatives in the economic-stimulus package. “The fact is, we need a mix.”

“Some parts of this stimulus - extending unemployment benefits, helping with food stamps - you know, we have two purposes here. One is to stimulate the overall economy. The other is to go to the aid of some people who, through no fault of their own, have been damaged. You can’t just look at the aggregates.”

Mr. Frank also countered criticism that his party inserted many items in the bill that would have little effect on creating jobs and stimulating the economy.

“There is some money now, I guess, to fight sexually transmitted diseases. Those are jobs,” he said. “By the way, very few people volunteer to fight sexually transmitted diseases. They get paid to do it.”

DON’T ASK

The Obama administration is telling the Pentagon and gay rights advocates that it will have to study the implications for national security and enlist more support in Congress before trying to overturn the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law and allow gays to serve openly in the military, according to the Boston Globe.

The paper reported that people involved in the discussions have said that President Obama doesn’t want to ask lawmakers to do so until the military has completed a comprehensive assessment of the effect that such a move would have on military discipline. Then, the president hopes to be able to make a case to members of both parties that overturning the 1993 law would be in the best interest of national security.

Mr. Obama - who pledged during the campaign to overturn the law - is hoping to avoid the missteps of the Clinton administration, when it tried to open the ranks to gays and lesbians, only to be confronted by fierce resistance from lawmakers and military commanders. Early in his presidency, Bill Clinton signed an order allowing gays to serve, but was forced to back off. A compromise made it illegal for gays to serve openly, but also restricted investigations into service members’ sexual behavior.

Pentagon officials said they have been told not to expect the administration to seek to lift the ban quickly, according to the Globe. One senior officer, speaking on the condition of anonymity to the paper, said staff officers for Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have been told it will be several months at the earliest - possibly next year - until the top brass will be formally asked to weigh in on a change in policy.

FAIR PAY

Stuart Taylor Jr. writes in the current National Journal magazine that recently passed congressional measures calling for broader legal claims of pay discrimination will not only been a boom for trial lawyers, but may also make it more difficult for women to find jobs.

“This is not to suggest that sex discrimination is no longer a serious problem. I worry that my two daughters may run into the barriers that still lurk in some unknown percentage of workplaces,” Mr. Taylor writes. “But I worry more that they and their peers will have a harder and harder time finding jobs in the first place if the government burdens employers with lawsuits that make it more and more expensive to bring in new hires.”

President Obama on Thursday signed as his first law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which reverses a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that a worker must file claims of wage discrimination within 180 days of the first decision to pay that worker less, even if the person was not aware of the pay disparity.

“Congressional Democrats, liberal groups and the media have thoroughly distorted the facts underlying the Ledbetter law to advance their agenda of opening the door wide to all manner of job-discrimination lawsuits,” Mr. Taylor writes.

The measure is one step of several planned as Congress considers further legislation to equalize pay. The House earlier this month passed the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would amend the 1963 Equal Pay Act. The measures now awaits Senate action.

• Sean Lengell can be reached at 202/636-3173 or Sean Lengell.

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