- ‘Tis the Season: London florist creates $4.6 million Christmas wreath
- No tailgating allowed at Super Bowl XLVIII
- Pentagon to transport African troops to Central African Republic
- Chinese man fed up with his girlfriend’s shopping jumps to his death
- Ukraine leader to talk with protesters; Washington urges caution
- Pope Francis: A nun saved my life
- Israeli P.M. Netanyahu backs out of Mandela funeral
- Elian Gonzalez makes first trip outside Cuba since custody battle
- U.S., British intelligence agents enter online sci-fi world to spy on gamers
- Sarah Palin to host the outdoors show ‘Amazing America’
Inside the Beltway: Aiming at the NRA
There already is swift, emotionally charged reaction to a National Rifle Association school-security report that recommends at least one armed guard in every school in the nation. Vilification is afoot.
"The report is nothing more than a continuation of the NRA's attempts to prey on America's fears, saturate our schools with more guns and turn them into armed fortresses. It must be soundly rejected," says Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children's Defense Fund, which has already released its own findings on school security.
"It is long past time for us to protect child safety instead of guns. We must not allow the gun lobby to enrich gun manufacturers at the expense of our children's education and safety," she adds.
"While it is not surprising that an organization driven by profit would stop at nothing to boost the sales of the products it promotes, the NRA leadership's suggestion that an armed guard be stationed in 'every single school' across America is an insult to Americans who want to live in a free society. American mothers will not allow their children's schools to be turned into fortresses or prisons," says Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, an Indiana-based grass-roots group.
Ms. Watts went on to accuse "gun industry lobbyists" of trying "to obstruct efforts to find common-sense, middle-ground solutions to curb gun violence in America. We expect our representatives to ignore the self-serving propaganda of these special interests. The mothers of America are watching."
Should Senate Democrats approve a sweeping new anti-gun bill in the near future, Rep. Steve Stockman says he'll seek to automatically kill it using a House "blue slip." That slip automatically returns to the Senate any bill that violates the "origination clause" of the U.S. Constitution, which says all bills that raise revenue must originate in the House.
"The Democrat gun ban is dead on arrival. I will introduce in the House a blue-slip resolution that will automatically kill the Senate gun ban," the Texas Republican promises. "Not only are Democrats on the wrong side of public opinion, they are on the wrong side of the Constitution. You can't strip Americans of their gun rights, and you certainly can't do it by having the Senate create a national tax on firearms. They are in violation of constitutional limits on federal power."
Mr. Stockman notes that the Democrat-sponsored bill requires background checks to purchase or acquire a weapon and requires people to pay for the checks. This makes the bill a revenue measure, he argues, citing Supreme Court precedent and a Heritage Foundation analysis.
Blue-slip resolutions, incidentally, are immediately considered as a matter of constitutional privilege, are debatable for an hour and are not subject to amendment.
STILL IN THE MONEY
Oh, the lucky lawmakers. While everyone else braces for the $85 billion in sequester cuts, salaries in Congress will go untouched because of the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Balanced Budget Act, which first introduced the concept of a sequester.
"The Reagan-era law exempted some programs from the sequester, including elements of Social Security, interest on the debt and federal Pell grants. The law also exempts the president's pay, which is the reason President Obama's pay won't be hit," explains Pete Kasperowicz, a correspondent for The Hill.
"Congressional salaries are not explicitly exempted, but according to experts familiar with the issue, the law was written in way that makes them exempt. For example, the law says federal 'accounts' are subject to the sequester, and defines 'accounts' as items that are appropriated by Congress," he says.
"Lawmaker salaries are not appropriated by Congress, so they don't get treated as an account for the purposes of sequestration. And while items found in presidential budgets are subject to the sequester, member salaries are not found in the presidential budget either. For these reasons, the Office of Management and Budget has not applied any sequester to members of Congress since the law was put in place," Mr. Kasperowicz says.
A reminder that the nation's capital remains a historic region, as opposed to a welter of tweeting pundits and grimacing politicians. Alex Salmond, the first minister of Scotland, will soon arrive on these shores to return a pair of George Washington's books long held by the National Library of Scotland. It's all part of an effort by Mount Vernon to recreate a collection of Washington's favorite reading materials, to be ultimately housed in the spiffy Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon, set to open in September.
The two volumes date from 1795 and come under the grand title "Official Letters to the Honorable American Congress, Written, During the War between the United Colonies and Great Britain, by His Excellency, George Washington, Commander in Chief of the Continental Forces." The books were donated to Scotland's national collection 75 years ago by the family of one Hugh Sharp, a bibliophile and jute manufacturer who lived in Dundee.
Mr. Salmond returns them to Mount Vernon at a formal ceremony Monday with a flourish and bagpipe music.
"I never met a veteran who fought for socialism."
— Bumper sticker spotted in Anaheim, Calif.
POLL DU JOUR
• 69 percent of Americans say there's "solid evidence" that the Earth is warming; 44 percent of Republicans and 87 percent of Democrats agree.
• 66 percent of Americans favor the proposed Keystone XL pipeline; 82 percent of Republicans and 54 percent of Democrats agree.
• 48 percent overall favor increased use of fracking techniques to drill for natural gas; 66 percent of Republicans and 33 percent of Democrats agree.
• 42 percent overall say global warming is caused by "human activity"; 19 percent of Republicans and 57 percent of Democrats agree.
• 23 percent say global warming is caused by "natural patterns"; 22 percent of Republicans and 23 percent of Democrats agree.
Source: A Pew Research Center survey of 1,501 U.S. adults conducted March 13 to 17 and released Tuesday.
• Cat calls and doggerel to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Crystal Wright is a black conservative woman living in Washington, D.C.
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