- The Washington Times - Monday, July 30, 2001

On the one hand
House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert yesterday indicated he personally is uncomfortable with the idea of allowing federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research, but suggested that President Bush may be able to drop his opposition to such research without dire political consequences.
"I think what the American people want him to do is to look at this issue, reason it through and come up with good, solid evidence for the decision he's made. I think that's what they expect of him and they should expect no less," the Illinois Republican said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
The speaker pointed out that he declined to join three other Republican House leaders in urging Mr. Bush to reject federal funding for such research, because he did not want to "short-circuit" the decision-making process under way within the administration.
But when pressed to reveal his own personal view, Mr. Hastert indicated he has strong reservations about using embryos.
"I personally am pro-life. I think taking embryos and killing those embryos certainly doesn't go along with that sanctity-of-life issue that I think is important, " Mr. Hastert said.
"I don't think at this point there ought to be federal funding, but I want to look at all the debate before I make solid that decision, " he added.

You'll need that petition
House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, in an appearance yesterday on NBC's "Meet the Press," said it is up to supporters of campaign finance reform to revive the legislation.
House supporters of a campaign finance bill similar to one that passed the Senate chose to kill the legislation earlier this month rather than risk defeat on 12 amendments that would have been voted on separately. The amendments were intended to shore up shaky support for the bill.
"I think that if the discharge petition comes up, we'll have another vote," said Mr. Hastert said, suggesting he has no plans to bring it up on his own. A discharge petition would have to win the signatures of a majority of the House.

Oblivious 'patients'
"The crusade for a patients' bill of rights has one big problem: patients. They are indifferent to the issue, supposedly raised in their behalf, and oblivious to the debate in Congress over it," Fred Barnes writes in the Weekly Standard.
"The media, instead of acknowledging this, insist a patients' bill of rights is an urgent priority for practically everyone. The Washington Post reported matter-of-factly that 'opinion polls suggest is of paramount concern to voters.' In fact, polls show the opposite. The New York Times said 'the idea of allowing patients to sue insurance companies is extremely popular.' Hardly," Mr. Barnes said.
"Members of Congress know first-hand of the public's indifference. Fred Upton, the moderate Republican congressman from Michigan, asks voters to pick the issues (from a list of 25) that they want discussed at town-hall meetings. 'I've held meetings in every county this year,' he says. 'Not in one of them was a patients' bill of rights in the top five or six.' Nor has he been asked about it on radio talk shows. 'No one asks me at the grocery store, at church. This is not on anyone's radar screen back home.'
"Nevertheless, a patients' bill of rights in some form is likely to pass this year. [House Speaker J. Dennis] Hastert is so weary of the issue he'd like it gone from the calendar before Congress recesses in August. The HMO lobby is no longer fighting any of the rights that would be bestowed on patients. Most HMOs already recognize most of them. Their concern is lawsuits.
"Democrats are sure the time has come to enact their bill. And the media are primed to declare Democrats the winners and Bush the loser, which would fit their current assessment of the balance of power in Washington. The president, for all his talk of a veto, would just as soon have the issue go away. Whatever happens, patients will have had little to do with it."

Elizabeth is ready
"North Carolina's girl-done-good Elizabeth Dole has for months ducked signaling her Senate intentions, especially to ailing Republican Sen. Jesse Helms, who will spend the next few weeks mulling another re-election bid," Paul Bedard writes in the "Washington Whispers" column of U.S. News & World Report.
"But should he bow out for health reasons, it's a lock that the former Cabinet secretary, Red Cross boss, and presidential candidate will run, close associates tell Whispers. 'Elizabeth has great respect for Jesse and believes the best thing for North Carolina is for him to run and win again,' a close Dole ally reveals. 'But if he decides to retire, running for his seat in her home state is something that she has said she would give serious consideration to.' Adds another friend: 'She's highly interested.'
"Republicans have been prodding her for a commitment, and this is as strong as she'll go until Helms makes up his mind, says a friend. 'Nobody wants to get out ahead of Jesse, ' says the Dole ally. Why Dole? Republicans say she's a can't-lose candidate, key to any GOP recapture of the Senate."

IRS chief targeted
The legal group Judicial Watch is targeting Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Charles O. Rossotti, charging Mr. Rossotti with a blatant conflict of interest involving a company he founded.
Judicial Watch filed suit last week to obtain documents and information about Mr. Rossotti's decisions involving American Management Systems Inc., which provides computer software for the IRS. Mr. Rossotti owns stock in the company, which he founded, and his wife continues to hold a position in the company, Judicial Watch said in a prepared statement.
The group said that Mr. Rossotti received an "after-the-fact" conflict-of-interest waiver from the Clinton administration in its final days "as part of a likely quid pro quo for conducting political audits against persons and entities adverse to the Clinton administration."

Teachers union targeted
The Landmark Legal Foundation, as part of a continuing investigation of the National Education Association, has filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service about what Landmark called the NEA's illegal use of tax-exempt funds to help the Democratic Party.
"The evidence Landmark is making public today demonstrates that the NEA has become an appendage of the Democratic Party, complete with an ATM machine that dispenses tax-exempt membership dues to underwrite that party's political activities, " the organization said Friday.
The complaint includes evidence the Federal Election Commission made public for four days in May before it resealed the information.

Separate lives
How much time do the Clintons spend together? That was one of the questions the New York Times tried to answer yesterday in its weekly "Q&A;" column. The answer, it appears, is "not much." But here is how Raymond Hernandez, a Washington correspondent for the newspaper, attempted to answer the question:
"When a congressional session is in full swing, most members of Congress spend a lot of time away from their families, and Hillary Rodham Clinton is no different.
"Mrs. Clinton, the junior senator from New York, stays in Washington during the week at her family's home near Embassy Row. In that sense, Mrs. Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, lead separate lives. That said, Mrs. Clinton is said to talk to her husband by phone at least once a day when she is in Washington, occasionally filling him in about her job in the way any spouse would."
However, Mrs. Clinton usually spends weekends with her husband in Chappaqua, N.Y., the correspondent said.

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