- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Groundhog Day

For the third time since November, the Senate yesterday debated a tax-cut extension bill, after Democrats again delayed the legislation from moving into final negotiations with the House.

“In the face of the multitude of other important issues this body needs to deal with, does the Democratic leadership really want to re-enact recent debates and resuscitate old talking points?” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican.

Mr. Grassley said he felt like he was in the movie “Groundhog Day,” in which actor Bill Murray relives the same day over and over.

The Senate and House passed differing versions of the tax-cut extension bill last year. But Senate Democrats have used procedural delays to prevent Republicans from moving into final negotiations. Three weeks ago, they forced several hours of debate and numerous votes on the bill, and yesterday they forced more debate.

At the heart of the delay is the Democrats’ opposition to extending reduced rates for capital gains and dividends income — a provision included in the House version of the bill and likely to be included in the final version.

Democrats think it’s a tax break for the rich and that Congress should instead focus on preventing millions of Americans from paying the alternative minimum tax — which top Senate Finance Democrat Max Baucus of Montana said is a “far more pressing need.”

Republicans argue the provision has helped create jobs and buoy the economy and its absence would be a harmful tax increase.

Gore hits U.S.

Former Vice President Al Gore told a mainly Saudi audience Sunday that the U.S. government committed “terrible abuses” against Arabs after the September 11 attacks, and that most Americans did not support such treatment.

Mr. Gore said Arabs had been “indiscriminately rounded up” and held in “unforgivable” conditions. The former vice president said the Bush administration was playing into al Qaeda’s hands by routinely blocking Saudi visa applications.

“The thoughtless way in which visas are now handled, that is a mistake,” Mr. Gore said during the Jeddah Economic Forum. “The worst thing we can possibly do is to cut off the channels of friendship and mutual understanding between Saudi Arabia and the United States.”

Mr. Gore told the audience, many of them educated at U.S. universities, that Arabs in the United States had been “indiscriminately rounded up, often on minor charges of overstaying a visa or not having a green card in proper order, and held in conditions that were just unforgivable.”

Good news axed

“On February 9, the federal government announced that weekly jobless claims hit the lowest average in six years — a sign of job growth in a strong economy. That night, none of the network newscasts reported the six-year low, and the following day, major newspapers all but ignored the story,” Ken Shepherd writes at www.freemarketproject.org.

“‘The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits was up by just 4,000 last week, putting the weekly average over the past month at the lowest level in nearly six years,’ the Associated Press’s Martin Crutsinger reported on February 10. ‘Analysts said the big improvement in claims in recent weeks was apparently not a fluke but an actual sign that the labor market has improved significantly,’ he added.

“Yet the February 9 editions of NBC’s ‘Nightly News,’ ‘CBS Evening News,’ and ABC’s ‘World News Tonight’ ignored the news. The following day The Washington Post relegated the jobless mention to one sentence in an AP market brief; the New York Times ran a Bloomberg News digest which included three sentences on the jobless figure, and USA Today’s Eric Nordwall included the story in the Moneyline sidebar on the Money section’s front page,” Mr. Shepherd said.

Angry’ Hillary

“The most effective attacks in politics are those that stop your opponent from campaigning in his or her usual style,” New York Post columnist Dick Morris writes.

“When Democrats called Richard Nixon ‘negative’ in the runup to the 1960 presidential, it made it much more difficult for him to wage the type of slash-and-burn campaign that had animated his past races. When Republicans called BillClinton a ‘flip-flopper’ during his first term, it made it harder for him to reach out to all constituencies and reach across ideological barriers as he instinctually always wanted to do,” Mr. Morris said.

“Now, Ken Mehlman, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, has pinned the ‘angry’ moniker on Hillary Clinton — a label that will increasingly stop her from venting her partisanship as she must to get nominated.

“The genius of the Mehlman charge (doubtless drawn from focus group or survey research) is that it rings so true among those who follow Sen. Clinton closely that it seems self-evident.

“When Hillary denounces the deficit or wiretapping or drug prices or the administration’s inaction on global climate change, she sounds, looks and acts angry. And the reason is that she is angry.

“Hillary takes her political positions very seriously and personally. She has a hard time seeing virtue in those who disagree with her. What others would dismiss as honest disagreements about how to accomplish good ends, she often looks at as a clash between good and evil, selflessness and selfishness, generosity and greed. (She once asked how someone could ‘be a Republican and a Christian at the same time.’)

“In her speeches and interviews, she has two speeds: bland and shrill.”

A June marriage

In early June, senators will have to vote on a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, said last week that he plans to bring the measure to the floor then — an announcement that won immediate praise from conservative family groups.

“The Supreme Court of Washington State is poised at a moment’s notice to strike down marriage as a man and woman,” said Matt Daniels, president of the Alliance for Marriage. “Only AFM’s Marriage Protection Amendment can defend marriage as a man and woman.”

“This June, the American people will be watching to see if their senators will step up to the plate and take a stand in defense of marriage,” said Family Research Council President Tony Perkins. He noted that Americans have enacted 19 similar state marriage amendments.

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

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