- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 26, 2000

While the chaplain of the House of Representatives should be chosen carefully, enough is enough. The House was supposed to have voted on the nominated candidate, the Rev. Charles Wright, one month ago. The House leadership has picked a strong candidate, one who was presented to leadership as one of three chaplain finalists. But because of accusations of anti-Catholic bias (a Catholic candidate was passed over), the House leadership seems to have stalled.

However, those who have contested Mr. Wright’s nomination really have no business joining the Catholic crusade. Two of the Democrat representatives who fueled this imbroglio with “anti-Catholic” charges Reps. Anna Eshoo and Henry Waxman have never themselves nominated a Catholic to serve as the visiting House chaplain. (The visiting chaplain, who gives a daily prayer on the House floor when the permanent chaplain is unable to, is meant to add some diversity to the House proceedings.) One would think that if either Mrs. Eshoo or Mr. Waxman cared so much about having a Catholic chaplain, they would have pushed for a visiting Catholic chaplain once in a while.

House leadership should feel no need to respond to false allegations. But last week, in an attempt to finish off the anti-Catholic onslaught, aides to House Speaker Dennis Hastert told Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call that the Rev. Billy Graham had telephoned the speaker to urge his support for Mr. Wright. Mr. Graham denies ever having made the call he says that Mr. Hastert called him and Mr. Hastert’s aides have since changed their story.

Maneuvers like this won’t end this fiasco for the Republicans anytime soon. By now it is too late for a compromise candidate, which would require a new, drawn-out selection process. And all the politicking has backfired miserably, even though trotting out Mr. Graham might have seemed like a good idea at the time. It’s time for the House leadership to just do it. When Congress returns, they should call the vote or other issues will fall by the wayside.

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