- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 5, 2003

Getting close?

Senate Democrats continued their threats against the emerging Medicare prescription drug bill yesterday, but a top House Republican said this means negotiators are close to getting a good bill.

“The obstructionist Democrats in the Senate … are starting to wail; we must be getting close,” said House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas Republican.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, and others warned again that the bill is leaning too much toward Republicans on key issues, and will not pass the Senate in that form.

Key among their complaints is a provision that House Republican negotiators are working to include that would require Medicare to compete directly against private plans starting in 2010. Democrats say that plan would ruin Medicare.

Mr. Daschle said negotiators are “placating the Republican right” instead of crafting a bipartisan bill. He said it is now “a fight to save Medicare.”

Meanwhile, Sen. John B. Breaux, a Louisiana Democrat who has been in daily Medicare negotiations with Republicans, said Democrats should calm down and wait to see the final product.

But he also warned that Republican leaders shouldn’t aim to pass a bill in the Senate with a bare majority of 51 votes. “A Republican-only bill cannot pass the Senate,” Mr. Breaux said.

Mr. DeLay had said it will be difficult to hold a majority of votes in the House and Senate, “but I think we’re going to do it,” insinuating that a bill can pass the Senate with the bare minimum of 51 votes.

Honoring Reagan

The Frontiers of Freedom Institute last night presented its first Ronald Reagan Award to Grover Norquist, head of the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project and president of Americans for Tax Reform.

“The timing is perfect. Not just for us, but for the Reagan family,” Jason Wright, vice president of Frontiers of Freedom, told this column yesterday afternoon, referring to the decision by CBS to jettison a miniseries that was widely seen as denigrating the former president and his wife, Nancy.

“It’s a big victory,” Mr. Wright said. “A network does not flush $9 million down the toilet for nothing.”

About 300 people, including 15 members of Congress, were expected to attend the black-tie dinner at the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel in Washington. Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao planned to make a surprise appearance, Mr. Wright said.

“Grover Norquist and the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project have done their part to help future generations understand why Ronald Reagan is one of the greatest presidents in our nation’s history,” former Sen. Malcolm Wallop, chairman of the Frontiers of Freedom Institute, said in a statement posted on the organization’s Web site (www.ff.org).

The new award is intended to honor the work of one individual every year “whose leadership advances President Reagan’s legacy,” Mr. Wallop said.

Rest of the story

“‘More than four in 10 voters nationwide say they definitely plan to vote against President Bush next year — more than plan to vote for him, according to a poll released Tuesday,’ reports the AP. As usual, the AP misses the real story in the Marist College poll,” James Taranto writes in his Best of the Web Today column at www.OpinionJournal.com.

“Asked ‘Do you definitely plan to vote for George Bush for re-election as president in 2004 or do you definitely plan to vote against him?,’ 44 percent say they definitely plan to vote against, while only 38 percent say they definitely plan to vote for. (The remaining 18 percent say ‘depends’ or ‘unsure.’)

“But then the poll pits Bush against the five major Democratic candidates, and not only does Bush beat each one handily, but not one of them manages even the 44 percent of those polled — and remember, this is the same poll — who said they would definitely vote against Bush. Bush beats Dick Gephardt 48 percent to 43 percent, John Kerry 48 percent to 42 percent, Howard Dean 49 percent to 41 percent, Joe Lieberman 52 percent to 41 percent, and Wesley Clark 55 percent to 36 percent.

“Maybe the Dems should give up on the nominating process altogether and just run slates of uncommitted electors next November,” Mr. Taranto said.

Schumerism

“Everyone has commented on the unprecedented filibuster campaign against President Bush’s appellate court nominees — the latest of whom is likely to be Janice Brown, a black veteran of California’s Supreme Court,” Brian C. Anderson writes in the Wall Street Journal.

“What hasn’t sufficiently been understood is that the filibusters rest on a novel jurisprudential conceit: call it ‘Schumerism,’ after Chuck Schumer, the New York senator who is its most strident proponent,” said Mr. Anderson, who is senior editor of City Journal.

“Schumerism has wrought incalculable damage to our political fabric. For two years, Senator Schumer has waged a campaign to subvert the criteria by which the Senate ratifies presidential judicial picks. For much of American history, the Senate, in its confirmation of judges, has relied on principles laid down by Alexander Hamilton in The Federalist: integrity, intelligence and temperament, and faithfulness to the rule of law — terms on which President Bush’s picks, Ms. Brown included, pass with high marks.

“But instead of Hamiltonian standards, Mr. Schumer insists that senators must make a judge’s ‘ideology’ their principal concern. By this he means the judge’s private political opinions, as well as the political results his decisions have led to in past cases and could lead to in the future. Judges whose views on affirmative action and abortion are outside the ‘mainstream’ should be disqualified from sitting on the federal bench, regardless of competence. As for the definition of ‘mainstream,’ Schumerism simply holds that conservatives are, ipso facto, ‘extremist.’”

Dean’s ‘referendum’

Democrat Howard Dean is turning over the most important decision of his presidential campaign to 600,000 supporters, asking them whether he should join President Bush and abandon the federal election financing system.

“I am putting this decision in your hands to prove that while this president may let his most powerful contributors shape his policies, the next president will be beholden to only the people,” Mr. Dean said in a speech yesterday at New York’s Cooper Union.

The campaign began surveying supporters in a high-tech tally that Mr. Dean’s rivals — and some of his own aides — believe will result in him opting out of the federal system. Mr. Dean asked the audience to vote until midnight tomorrow, with results to be released on Saturday.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes.com.


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