- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 4, 2009

REPUBLICANS

Indiana governor calls for ‘empathy’

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, a potential 2012 presidential candidate, said Wednesday that his fellow Republicans need to work harder to show “empathy” if they want to emerge from the political doldrums.

Mr. Daniels also called those on the left of the political spectrum “the meanest people in politics.”

Conservatives have chided President Obama for using “empathy” to describe one of the qualities he seeks in a potential Supreme Court justice. But Mr. Daniels said “empathy” is spot-on - Mr. Obama’s just misappropriated the word.

“Empathy is going to get a bad name for a little while because it’s been transported into the world of the rule of law,” Mr. Daniels told a forum for conservatives. “It’s what distinguishes us from other species.”

Republicans, he said, “must not only assert, but assert with credibility, that we understand what’s going on in the lives of everyday people.”

Mr. Daniels spoke at “Making Conservatism Credible Again,” a forum hosted by the Hudson Institute and the Bradley Foundation. Mr. Daniels used to work at the Hudson Institute.

BAILOUT

GM breaks lobbying ties

General Motors says it has terminated contracts with the dozen lobbying firms it has used to help make its case in Washington.

The now-bankrupt company has long been one of the biggest spenders in Washington on lobbying, reporting expenditures of $2.8 million for the first three months of this year. According to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, $500,000 of that went to outside lobbying firms.

Company spokesman Kerry Christopher says GM would retain its in-house lobbyists, who work on health care, tax, trade, safety, environmental and other issues.

The company also says its political committee stopped making campaign contributions to federal candidates in January and will continue the freeze all year.

HOUSE

Hoyer doubtful on extra flu funds

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer says President Obama may not get the extra $2 billion he requested to combat the swine flu strain that has infected thousands of Americans.

A pending war-funding bill that has already passed the House included $2 billion while the Senate version had $1.5 billion.

Lawmakers are trying to resolve their differences, but the Maryland Democrat was skeptical that more H1N1 flu funds would be added for now.

“If … that’s insufficient, there’s obviously an opportunity to pass an additional supplemental” funding bill later, Mr. Hoyer said Wednesday. “We want to make sure that we have the funds necessary to respond to this pandemic.”

In addition to seeking the extra $2 billion, the White House also complained that neither the House nor Senate bills provide the administration enough flexibility to respond to the outbreak of the flu virus.

SURVEILLANCE

Phone companies escape lawsuits

SAN FRANCISCO | A federal judge Wednesday tossed out more than three dozen lawsuits filed against the nation’s telecommunications companies for supposedly taking part in the government’s e-mail- and telephone-eavesdropping program that was done without court approval.

In addition, he ordered officials in Maine, New Jersey, Connecticut, Vermont and Missouri to halt their investigations of the telecommunication companies for their reported participation in the once-secret surveillance programs.

The judge’s actions widely were expected after Congress in July agreed on new surveillance rules that included protection from legal liability for telecommunications companies that reportedly helped the government monitor Americans’ communications with terrorism suspects.

U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker upheld the constitutionality of the new surveillance rules.

Judge Walker said congressional actions didn’t prohibit telephone and e-mail customers who believe they were targets of warrantless wiretaps from suing federal government officials, whom the judge called “the primary actors in the alleged wiretapping activities.”

RESOLUTION

Congress likely to block radio fees

LOS ANGELES | The National Association of Broadcasters said Wednesday that a majority of U.S. House members are now opposed to imposing new fees on radio stations to pay performance artists.

The NAB said 220 House members have agreed to co-sponsor a nonbinding resolution against any new fees. That’s a slight majority in the House, indicating there is not enough support for a bill that would collect such fees.

Such a bill passed the House Judiciary Committee last month, but the NAB hopes the show of opposition will prevent it from being brought to the House floor for a debate and vote.

Music companies aren’t giving up.

“They call it a nonbinding resolution for a reason - it’s nonbinding,” said Martin Machowsky, a spokesman for the recording industry-backed lobby group, the musicFirst Coalition. “We’re confident that as members become acquainted with the accommodations in the bill, there will be ample support to create a performance right on radio for American artists and musicians.”

HOUSE

Military survivors to get new benefit

Congressional Democrats are using an approximately $100 billion war-funding bill to give recently expanded GI Bill education benefits to the children of military service members who die while on active duty.

The provision, pressed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, and Rep. Chet Edwards, Texas Democrat, would give GI Bill benefits - which were greatly expanded last year - to each child of a service member killed in action or while on active duty, instead of a single family member as permitted under current rules.

Spokesmen for both Mrs. Pelosi and the House Appropriations Committee said the plan would be included in the war-funding bill - despite not having passed either House or Senate during initial consideration of the legislation last month. It would cost $164 million over the next decade.

House-Senate negotiators are putting the finishing touches on the war-funding measure in hopes of sending it to President Obama for his signature next week.

From wire dispatches and staff dispatches

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