- The Washington Times - Friday, February 17, 2006

Firing offense?

The House Budget Committee chairman yesterday called for a Senate clerk to be fired for changing a bill and causing potential constitutional problems in the new budget-cuts package that President Bush signed into law last week.

The version that passed the House differed from the version that passed the Senate, thanks to a Senate clerk who changed a particular reimbursement period figure after the bill passed the Senate and before it went to the House. After the House passed the altered version, it went back to the Senate clerk, who changed the figure back and sent the bill to the president.

Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle, Iowa Republican, while admitting that the House passed a bill different from the Senate version, said “the intent of Congress” was clear, regardless of the actual bill that passed.

“This doesn’t affect the House or the conference report. We knew exactly what we were voting on,” he said, but he accused the Senate clerk of “arrogantly and unilaterally” making the change.

House Democrats, liberal activists and a Christian conservative lawyer in Alabama have all said the law is on shaky constitutional ground, and the lawyer has filed a lawsuit to overturn it.

A new idea

“The debate over gays and marriage in Colorado has recently taken a different turn from the national debate,” Ramesh Ponnuru writes in National Review Online (www.nationalreview.com).

“Until a few weeks ago, the debate looked familiar. Gay-rights advocates were trying to get the legislature to enact a bill recognizing civil unions (or ‘domestic partnerships’) for same-sex couples. Social conservatives were trying to get voters to adopt a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Now conservative state senator Shawn Mitchell has changed the script by introducing legislation that grants some benefits to same-sex couples — with the support of James Dobson and Focus on the Family,” Mr. Ponnuru said.

“His legislation results from an asymmetry in the debate. One of the reasons many people support civil unions or same-sex marriage is to get certain practical advantages for gay couples. The main reason other people oppose these policies is that they do not want the government to recognize homosexual relationships as marital, or even as akin to marriage.

“Mitchell’s idea is to make certain benefits available to gay couples — and to many other pairs of people. His legislation would make it easier, for example, for gay men to arrange to give each other a say in their medical care by becoming ‘reciprocal beneficiaries.’ But two brothers, or a brother and sister, or two male friends, could enter the same arrangement. Thus there would be no recognition of homosexual relationships as such. (Hence Dobson’s support.)

“No benefit would be contingent on any assumption by the government that the beneficiaries were involved in a sexual relationship outside traditional marriage. In extending the benefit, the state would be blind to the precise nature of the relationship between the beneficiaries.”

Big bucks

Trailing in the polls and facing friction inside his own party, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has set a fundraising goal of more than $120 million for the November election, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The sum rivals the amount raised and spent by the entire field of candidates in the 2002 gubernatorial race, the newspaper said.

If the Republican governor succeeds, the amount of money raised — along with tens of millions of dollars that Democrats are likely to spend — would shatter state and national campaign-finance records.

Rob Stutzman, a strategist for the state Republican Party, cited the battering the governor took in a special election last year, when opponents spent more than $100 million to defeat four Schwarzenegger-backed ballot initiatives.

Off the hook

Detroit City Council member Monica Conyers acted in self-defense during a December bar brawl with another woman and will not be criminally charged, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said Wednesday.

Rebecca Mews, 34, of Walled Lake, had complained that Mrs. Conyers — 41 and wife of Democratic Rep. John Conyers Jr. — punched her several times in the face without provocation during a Dec. 20 birthday party at Crossroads Lounge in Detroit.

But the prosecutor said witnesses — including Miss Mews’ date — said Miss Mews was the aggressor, the Detroit Free Press reports. “We are satisfied that Ms. Conyers had the right to defend herself.”

Specter’s denial

Sen. Arlen Specter yesterday denied any connection between special projects he gained for his state and a Washington lobbyist whose wife works in the lawmaker’s office.

The Pennsylvania Republican’s statement was in response to a USA Today report published yesterday that said Mr. Specter had succeeded 13 times in the past four years in securing $48.7 million worth of defense projects for six clients represented by a lobbying firm co-founded by Michael Herson.

Mr. Herson is the husband of Vicki Siegel Herson, Mr. Specter’s legislative assistant for appropriations.

“Ms. Siegel’s husband did not lobby my office. The firm of Ms. Siegel’s husband did not lobby my office. The companies which received the allocations or ‘earmarks’ were represented by other lobbying firms,” Mr. Specter said.

Pataki’s surgery

Surgeons removed New York Gov. George E. Pataki’s appendix yesterday morning after he checked himself into a hospital with complaints of abdominal pain, the Associated Press reports.

“The governor is doing fine. He’s in good spirits,” said Dr. Wiji Ratnathicam, the senior attending surgeon at the Hudson Valley Hospital Center near Peekskill, N.Y.

The 60-year-old Republican is contemplating a run for president in 2008 and announced in July that he wouldn’t seek a fourth term as governor.

Reagan stamp

The U.S. Postal Service said yesterday that it plans to reissue the stamp honoring former President Ronald Reagan.

The new version will carry the 39-cent postage rate that took effect Jan. 8, but it will have the same image as the Reagan commemorative stamp released last year, the Associated Press said.

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

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