Monday, August 18, 2003

Nightmare on 42nd Street

It’s like a scene out of a horror movie:

“Businesses shut down. Passengers stuck on subway cars. People walking home or sleeping on sidewalks.

“An eerie, unsettling peek into the future,” says House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Billy Tauzin, Louisiana Republican, although for millions it’s already a frightening reality.

“The only sure way to prevent this nightmare from occurring time and time again, in cities all across America, is to modernize and improve our outdated energy policies,” says Mr. Tauzin, whose goal is to have a strong, comprehensive national energy bill on President Bush’s desk for his signature “before Thanksgiving.”

In the meantime, the chairman began a probe into last Thursday’s worst electricity blackout in this country, and intends to call leading energy officials to Washington to testify, as well as Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, New York Gov. George Pataki and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Mr. Tauzin is one lawmaker who can honestly say he told you so. Earlier this year he spearheaded House passage of the Energy Policy Act of 2003, which would modernize electricity, fuel and power generation. Discussions with the Senate on a final bill are under way.

CPAs need not apply

Come to think of it, “General Accounting Office” is an odd title for a congressional investigative agency charged with examining the use of public funds, evaluating federal programs and activities, and providing analyses, options and recommendations to help Congress make effective oversight, policy and funding decisions.

So, when Congress reconvenes next month, a bill will be considered to change the name of the investigative arm to a more appropriate “Government Accountability Office.”

Drumbeat of concern

Bad apples — or in this barrel, criminal aliens — should be removed posthaste.

The number of bipartisan cosponsors of the CLEAR (Clear Law Enforcement for Alien Removal Act of 2003) Act, introduced by Rep. Charlie Norwood, Georgia Republican, has grown to 61 — breaking the 50 cosponsor barrier in roughly a month.

“An immigration system that can’t account for 400,000 illegal aliens awaiting deportation, puts 80,000 criminal aliens back out on our streets, and tries to carry out its job with just 2,000 employees to enforce the law, is reflective of a system that is badly broken and desperately needs help,” says Mr. Norwood.

Formally introduced July 9, the act addresses the growing U.S. criminal-alien crisis by allowing more than 600,000 state and local law enforcement officials in the field to enforce immigration laws during the course of carrying out their regular duties.

Already the bill has been endorsed by the National Sheriffs’ Association, the Law Enforcement Alliance of America, the Southern States Police Benevolent Association, and Friends of Immigration Law Enforcement.

“The drumbeat of concern over this crisis continues to grow across the nation, and is now beginning to be heard clearly and loudly on Capitol Hill,” says Mr. Norwood, a dentist.

Bill recap

The first six months of the busy 108th Congress saw a total of 66 bills and resolutions signed into law.

Better yet, of the 66 pieces of legislation, 35 contained no or no significant costs to taxpayers, according to the Republican Study Committee.

The new law with the largest amount of spending: the 2003 Omnibus Appropriations Bill, at a cost of $397 billion.

The greatest savings to taxpayers: the Jobs and Growth Tax Reconciliation Act, reducing federal revenue by $306 billion over five years.

Stronger FBI

FBI Special Agent Frederick E. Bragg is the new president of the 11,000-member Federal Bureau of Investigation Agents Association.

“It is an honor for me to serve … at this critical time,” says Mr. Bragg, whose goal is a “stronger FBI, a more effective deterrent to terror, and safer streets and communities.”

Toward that end, he says the FBIAA’s highest public policy priority is a bill now before Congress to improve the pay and personnel system for federal law enforcement officers.

Gray activism

Poor Gray Davis has gotten the shakes

And is desperate to do what it takes

To elude liability

And preserve viability

By kowtowing to fruits, nuts, and flakes.

F.R. Duplantier

• John McCaslin, a nationally syndicated columnist, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or

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