- The Washington Times - Monday, September 25, 2000

Here's some good news and some bad news. The good news is that the Republican leadership in the House, minus Majority Leader Dick Armey, stood firmly on principle and refused to allow H.R. 3125, "The Internet Gambling Prohibition Act" a bill sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte and Sen. Jon Kyl to be put on the calendar for a vote this session.
However, despite the leadership's decision, Rep. Goodlatte is working vigorously to convince members that this bill should be allowed to come to the floor for a vote before this session of Congress ends next month.
The decision by the leadership to backburn H.R. 3125 certainly wasn't driven by party politics. Both sponsors of the bill are Republican. If nothing else, that would have been an encouragement for them to support the bill, especially in an election year when Republicans need as much help as they can get. It certainly wasn't because these men support Internet gambling. Certainly most of the leadership opposes gambling.
While Mr. Armey supported the bill and even pushed hard to get it on the calendar, the rest of the leadership opposed it because they did something quite unique for Washington politicians they looked at the whole pie rather than a narrow slice and saw the situation for what it was.
Not only was H.R. 3125 a fraud in terms of actually banning gambling on the Internet, with all the carve-outs that the horse-racing, dog-racing and jai alai industries were receiving from the bill, it was also a fluffy, feel-good bill filled with empty promises of prohibiting a social ill from spreading to the online community when in fact, it did nothing to solve the problem.
Furthermore, it outlined no guidelines where law-enforcement's authority began and ended with regard to the online monitoring of Internet users' activities to enforce a "no Net gambling policy." With a Justice Department that is looking for any excuse and any mechanism to expand its snooping capability to the Internet, H.R. 3125 would have been a godsend.
Also, the bill sets a very dangerous precedent with regard to federal content regulation of the Internet. If gambling is prohibited, the next session of Congress would likely extend that prohibition to perhaps auctions or day trading or perhaps even the gun industry, or any industry that Washington doesn't like.
Even the conservative movement, which largely is opposed to gambling of any kind, was divided on this bill, mostly because conservatives recognized that the bill didn't do what it purported to do at all and more or less resembled an election year ploy to appease unhappy constituents, rather than help unhappy families torn apart by a member's gambling addiction.
There is no doubt that if passed, H.R. 3125, would have further eroded our liberties and further empowered an overly ambitious FBI. The House leadership recognized that and realized that this is one issue best dealt with in the next session of Congress where there will be more time to explore better, more effective methods of combating the problem without threatening our rights and causing division rather than simply acting like sheep by blindly allying themselves with their colleagues.
What these men did was courageous because they broke with the party-line thinking that is so typical of Washington politics and instead thought about what was best for the country. That is a practice that many of us across the country have been demanding of our leaders and now we finally have it.
But of course there is always a price to pay for being courageous and Messrs. Goodlatte and Kyl are making them pay for daring to oppose them. The two are are on talk radio all over the country rallying the grassroots against the Republican leadership two months before an election, on an issue that the country can afford to put on hold until next year.
In other words, they would rather hurt their own party and cause division within the ranks rather than look at the big picture as their leaders are doing and do what's best for both the Republican Party and the nation by putting this issue on the back burner. If that isn't a fine display of Washington pride and arrogance, I don't know what is.
While Messrs. Goodlatte and Kyl are busy cutting off their noses to spite their faces outside the Beltway, Mr. Dick Armey is doing the same thing inside the Beltway by pushing for the bill, despite the opposition of his leadership colleagues, including House Speaker Dennis Hastert. It's not as if this election season is going to be a day at the beach for Republicans. They are faced with the prospect of losses in both houses, with the possibility of losing their majority status in Congress.
This, one would think, would be of greater concern, especially for a majority leader, than passing a fraudulent bill that would only damage the country, serve as fodder for Republican opponents and potentially hurt Republican incumbents in November.
The behavior of Messrs. Armey, Goodlatte and Kyl is irresponsible at best and reckless at worst. If their pride takes precedence over the good of the nation, then perhaps their constituents ought to question whether they should actually rejoin their colleagues in Washington next January.

Lisa S. Dean is vice president for technology policy at the Free Congress Foundation.

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