- The Washington Times - Monday, January 16, 2006

A Senate disgrace

As a lifelong Democrat, I am appalled at the behavior of the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee (“Alito accused of racism,” Page 1, Thursday). The Democrats on the panel were self-absorbed, shortsighted, and, at times, mean-spirited to the point where the hearings were painful to watch.

As our Democratic senators ranted on and on about compassion and concern for the “little guy,” they lost sight of the fact that Judge Samuel Alito deserved the basic respect and dignity that every citizen should expect when appearing before them.

Most offensive to me was that the senators were fully aware that Judge Alito was not in a position in any practical sense to defend himself or express his indignation at the tone of the questioning. That is political bullying at its worst. Our senators would do well to remind themselves that those sitting opposite them as interviewees are human beings who deserve fair treatment.

The bigger issue is a public-policy concern. I cannot imagine why any decent human being would subject himself or herself to a process that is out of control, with partisan positioning on both sides of the aisle.

How will we ever be able to attract good people to public service if they must pass through a gantlet that can measure only one thing: their capacity to maintain their dignity while being attacked.

Judge Alito deserved better and deserves to be confirmed if for no other reason than his ability to withstand a disgraceful process marked by distortion, dishonesty and shallow political showboating.



Fixing immigration laws

As a longtime advocate for immigration reform and border security, I know the importance of fixing our broken immigration system, and I’d like to clarify two votes mentioned in the article “Candidates disavow ‘K Street project’ ” (Nation, Friday).

Up against a pending deadline, in early 2001, the former Immigration and Naturalization Service failed to promptly implement regulations for a program to provide a limited number of resident aliens permanent legal status without first returning to their home country under Section 245(i) of the immigration code. I joined fellow majority leader candidates Roy Blunt and John Shadegg in voting to extend the deadline later that year, and I supported this program again in 2002, which is the vote the story cites. Ultimately, it was enacted in 2002 as part of a broader immigration package.

I also strongly support allowing local law enforcement agents to enforce federal immigration laws in the routine conduct of their duty. I have twice co-sponsored the Clear Law Enforcement for Criminal Alien Removal (CLEAR) Act, which would allow state and local law enforcement to investigate and apprehend illegal aliens, and I voted for this measure when it was adopted recently on the House floor. In July 2004, I voted against a $1 million spending amendment that promised added security but in reality would not have directed a single penny to the Department of Homeland Security for immigration enforcement, thus squandering valuable taxpayer dollars.

Fixing our broken immigration laws deserves to be confronted head-on by our Republican majority, and I am proud of my voting record on this issue.



U.S. House Education & the Workforce Committee


The U.S. needs higher taxes on oil

Victor Davis Hanson recommends a combination of energy conservation and increased domestic oil production to crash the price of oil, thus improving our balance of payments and depriving terrorists of their funding source from certain oil-wealthy nations (“Hooked on oil,” Commentary, Saturday). However, his plan fails to take two geologic facts into account: Oil is finite, and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries has the lion’s share of what’s left.

Yes, a program of increased American production and conservation could briefly reduce oil prices. However, we have just 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves. This is an insufficient base for driving down world oil prices. We can only pump our oil once. Using it to drive down prices temporarily would only undercut our conservation program. Savings from more fuel-efficient cars might support one more round of sprawl development.

Low oil prices aren’t in our best interest. Oil is valuable, finite and hard to replace. It should be expensive. Draining our last oil reserves to drive down prices is doubly stupid. We need high prices to support conservation, and we need our oil reserves so that OPEC doesn’t have us over a barrel.

The answer is to increase taxes on oil. This would support conservation and development of renewable alternatives. Higher prices are inevitable, but an oil tax would keep the money in America rather than sending it to OPEC countries.



All hype, no results, on stem cells

Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. included $20 million in his budget for stem-cell research but has left the decisions on where to spend the money to a panel with the advice to spend it where it will provide the “best chance for therapeutic results” (“Ehrlich proposes stem-cell funding,” Metro, Thursday).

If the panel follows the governor’s guidance, the money will be spent on making dozens of lifesaving treatments and cures from adult and umbilical-cord blood stem cells available to more people. For example, treatment is available in Bangkok for conventionally untreatable heart disease using stem cells from a patient’s own blood, but the treatment is not available in the United States.

The best known of the 70-plus patients who have been treated is Hawaiian icon and crooner Don Ho. Mr. Ho, 75, was near death when he was treated in early December, but now he is preparing to resume his singing career.

As he commented to the Honolulu Star Bulletin on Dec. 23, “I want to get all the information out that I can about this stem-cell procedure and try in some way to get the cost down so everyone can afford it. It’s a miracle, and I’m living proof.”

The cost of the procedure, including all medical expenses, transportation, food, etc., is approximately $30,000. The Maryland panel that Mr. Ehrlich entrusts with spending $20 million should look first to providing lifesaving medical treatments to Marylanders. It should not spend a dime on embryonic stem-cell research.

Such research has not helped anyone, despite all the hype.


Silver Spring

Real change in D.C. schools

I enjoyed Deborah Simmons’ column “Fumbling amid the crumbling” (Op-Ed, Friday). As someone who was born in Washington and is a lifetime resident of the area (now working in the District and living in Alexandria), I share the desire to see real change in the District’s schools that focuses on what has to be done, such as closing underused schools, ensuring that all teachers are certified, and, probably most important, getting parents more involved in seeing that their children and their schools succeed. We have the resources to get the job done; we need the will to implement the plan. I hope Superintendent Clifford Janey gets the support he needs and that he stays around long enough to get the job done.



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