Week Ending January 23, 2004
Religious Freedom Coalition
January 25, 2004 1:45PM EST
LEGISLATIVE UPDATE - WEEK ENDING JANUARY 23, 2004
LEGISLATIVE UPDATE - WEEK ENDING JANUARY 23, 2004
THE JUDICIAL APPOINTEES ISSUE
As the recess drew to a close President George W. Bush announced the recess appointment of Judge Charles W. Pickering to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. For more that a year conservatives have been clamoring for the President to take decisive action and use recess appointments to fill some of the judicial vacancies that have been open since he took office in January, 2001. Senate Democrats have used procedural maneuvers or filibuster threats to stop confirmation votes because a majority of Senators would vote for the Bush appointees. Many conservatives ask why the President has not made more recess appointments, not just the one for Judge Pickering. Actually he has tried, but virtually all of the stalled appointees turned the offer down because they do not want a temporary job. The recess appointments are valid only until the next Congress seats itself in January, 2005. Judge Pickering's nomination must be resubmitted at that time. Many of those the President has appointed hold down important posts, such as Janice Rogers Brown who is a California Supreme Court Justice. Individuals in such important positions cannot leave those posts for a temporary one year position. Doing so would also be unfair to their families who in most cases would have to relocate. I and others have suggested to the President that he use recess appointments to place retired judges such as Judge Robert H. Bork in the vacancies because they are even more conservative than those who have been appointed. When Senator Tom Daschle sees that more conservative judges than the original appointees are going to have the temporary positions until January of 2005, he will be less likely to block the President's official appointments. Think about it!
STATE OF THE UNION
The President's State of the Union address was direct and powerful. While many conservatives disagree with the continued high discretionary spending of the Administration and the President's Immigration proposals , he continues to receive high marks for his defense of the nation and the war on terrorism. Since Wednesday I have been in attendance at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Arlington, Virginia just across the river from Washington, DC. My political action committee, Government Is Not God was a co-sponsor of CPAC. Thousands of conservative activists from across the United States, mostly college age, descended upon the Marriott Crystal Gateway. Those who attended are the true activists who actually do the work in many Republican campaigns. Most boldly pointed out that they were conservatives first, Republicans second and that the free wheeling spending of the current Republican Congress and this President was not likely to win their support . The Administration sent Bush Campaign manager Ken Mehlman as well as Vice President Cheney to the convention to win support for the Administration. By the end of the week President George W. Bush had announced a cap on discretionary spending for next year. While those present believed it to be a good start, many pointed out that during the first three years of the Clinton Administration non-defense discretionary spending actually went down 0.7% because the Republican Congress held him in check. However, during the three years President George W. Bush has been in office, he and the Republican Congress have increased discretionary spending by more than 20%. ( See Cato Institute )
On the marriage issue the President's message fell short of what many conservatives thought should have been said about defending traditional marriage between one man and one woman. While most elected officials who spoke at CPAC defended the President, many conservative leaders were less than flattering in their remarks about him. Why? There seem to be those in the Administration who believe the voting base of the President can be "broadened." Many conservatives believe the Administration's time would be far better spent winning converts to the conservative cause rather than attempting to buy off those who oppose the President's conservative agenda with big spending.
UVVA PASSES COMMITTEE VOTE (AGAIN)
The Unborn Victims of Violence Act, now known as the Laci and Connor Petersen Act, has once again passed the Judiciary committee. The bill's new name refers to the murder of Laci Petersen and her about to be born son, Connor, at Christmas time of 2002. Passage in the committee was along party lines with Democrats voting against punishing anyone who harms or kills an unborn baby during a crime committed on the mother. (Women who deliberately kill their babies by way of abortion are exempt.) The UVVA passed the House in two previous sessions in 1999 and 2001. The Religious Freedom Coalition staff has worked tirelessly to help pass this bill for years. Unfortunately the Senate refused to act on the bill in both 1999 and 2001. Once again the bill will move through the House and once again we will probably pass it in the House in 2004. On Friday evening at CPAC's Ronald Reagan banquet, Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) stated that he would guide the UVVA in the Senate and that he would get a vote. Dr. Frist's statements are a bit optimistic as he will need sixty votes to halt the filibuster on the bill promised by Senator Ted Kennedy and other extreme pro-abortionists in the Senate.
Also on Friday night Senator Frist pointed to a victory for school choice. After a three year fight with Senate liberals, school vouchers were finally approved on a limited basis for Washington, DC's failed schools. At last a limited number of kids in failing DC schools will be able to move to private schools. In Senator Frist's words at the CPAC banquet, ".....parents will have the same choice as do the children of the Senators who have been blocking this legislation." ( Read Dr. Frist's official statement)
The Omnibus Spending bill also passed on Friday with the leadership of Dr. Frist. For four months Senator Daschle and his Democrats have held hostage seven of the 13 appropriations bills for fiscal 2004. On Friday, Daschle's Democrats finally caved in to Senator Frist and the bill passed 65-28. As I mentioned in previous updates many conservatives, including Paul Weyrich , have opposed the enormous amount of pork in the Omnibus bill. I believe Bill Frist has done the best he could do with the situation he had. The White House wanted more spending on many non-defense discretionary items, and many Democrat Senators had to be bought off with pet projects to get their votes. The result was some enormous spending increases that our children and grandchildren will one day have to pay for.
Senator Sam Brownback's office is proposing new language for the Federal Marriage Amendment which I am not as yet allowed to release. The language is interesting and seems to me to close some loopholes allowed by the House language proposed by Congresswoman Marilyn Musgrave. I will review the Senator's new language with legal experts before reporting on it. Still, I lean toward the immediate answer provided by Congressman Hostettler's Super-DOMA.
SENATOR SAM BROWNBACK
Have you ever seen a Senator pray, I mean really pray? On Wednesday evening I was at a pro-life event in Washington, DC which turned into a prayer meeting for the March for Life which was to be held the following day. Several lawmakers were present including Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS). At some point, some suggested praying for the Supreme Court Justices. Several men took turns praying aloud for the different justices on the Supreme Court. Although my head was bowed, I easily recognized the voice of Senator Brownback praying for the health and the continued wisdom of Chief Justice Rehnquist. Senator Brownback was not there for publicity, it was a private affair. His prayer was genuine and it was heart felt. Others in the room during the prayer time included my old friend Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX), Congressman Walter Jones (R-NC) and others. At the Right to Life rally the next day these and many other Christian lawmakers attended. President George W. Bush spoke to the rally by phone . ( Presidential Proclamation)
RELIGIOUS FREEDOM COALITION
This update is late being delivered because of my participation as a co-sponsor of the Conservative Political Action Conference hosted by the American Conservative Union . The three day CPAC was so crowded with events I had little time to write. Besides having numerous media interviews at CPAC, I was also the Master of Ceremonies Friday morning when President Bush's campaign chairman, Ken Mehlman, spoke to a packed conference hall. ( See Photo ) Congressman John Hostettler (R-IN) was my invited guest to the CPAC to serve on the panel on marriage. During the panel discussion he outlined very clearly that the courts were secondary to the administrative and legislative branches of government and that the Congress has not only the right, but the duty to restrain them from governing by fiat. His arguments were so clear and so concise that Donald Devine , a board member of the American Conservative Union , asked him for a copy of his remarks to be published in an ACU publication. As of late Saturday night I do not have a copy of his speech, but I hope to post it at a future date. After the panel discussion, my PAC hosted an open reception for Rep. Hostettler at which he held a question and answer session. Four committed young conservative candidates for Congress also attended the reception and spoke briefly. Senator George Allen (R-VA) who attended CPAC at our invitation also spoke at the Ronald Reagan Banquet. It was my responsibility to meet the Senator and escort him to the event. His remarks along with those of Senator Frist were inspiring to all those in attendance, particularly those of college age.
THE HOLY LAND
Our fund raising drive for Christian schools in the Holy Land has not reached its goal. I leave for the West Bank in just a few weeks and a total of $100,000 is needed to support Christian schools and families in the West Bank who have been persecuted under the rule of Yassar Arafat and his Islamic gangs. Help to meet our financial goal for our Holy Land projects is needed and credit card gifts are welcome!
William J. Murray, Chairman - Religious Freedom Coalition
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