Week Ending November 15, 2002
Religious Freedom Coalition
November 15, 2002 9:35AM EST
CONGRESS IN SESSION
CONGRESS IN SESSION(Lame Duck)
PRESIDENT SIGNS "UNDER GOD" IN PLEDGE BILL
On Wednesday, November 13th President George W. Bush signed into law a bill officially titled: "To reaffirm the reference to one Nation under God in the Pledge of Allegiance." (S-2690) I covered the passage of the first draft in the House (HR-459) and the final passage of the bill in the Senate in previous Legislative Updates. The new law takes to task the findings of the Ninth Circuit Court for finding the Pledge unconstitutional with the words "under God" in it, saying the decision was based on "erroneous rationale" and was "absurd".
This was a great victory for those who support the Pledge! The only down note was that there was no ceremonial signing of the bill at the White House. Many leaders of social conservative organizations including myself expected to be invited to the signing. Instead the President signed the bill in private.
THE "NEW" SENATE
Donít hold your breath waiting for major social conservative legislation such as the partial-birth abortion ban to pass the Senate. Because of reasons stated below the Senate will remain in the hands of Senator Daschle (D-SD) and his Democrats until January. When Senator Trent Lott (R-MS) takes over there will be big changes-- and no change at the same time. The Republicans will take over all the committee chairmanships; however, it still will take sixty votes to pass anything controversial such as the partial-birth abortion ban.
The way the Senate is organized, any one Senator can block a bill or a nomination, such as a Bush judicial appointment. The bill or nomination does not go to the floor unless (1) the Senator removes his objection, or (2) there are sixty votes to move forward. In January the Republicans will have fifty-one votes (fifty-two votes if Suzanne Haik Terrell wins in Louisiana on December 7th.) That is not enough to move forward legislation without some Democrat backing. There are enough Democrat votes in the Senate for conservative economic issues and defense issues, so much of the Presidentís agenda can move forward. But it is still to be seen if there are sixty votes to win a partial-birth abortion ban.
Candidate Suzanne Haik Terrell is 100% pro-life and if she does win in December, this will make it a lot easier to win votes on social conservative legislation in the Senate. Terrell has been endorsed by Government Is Not God - PAC, of which I am chairman. (I met with Suzanne Terrell Thursday night and handed her a check for $2,000 for her campaign.) Senator Lott has promised that he will somehow force a vote on partial-birth abortion. We will have to wait until at least January to see how this plays out.
THIS WEEK IN THE HOUSE AND SENATE
It was a short week for the Congress. Both the House and Senate convened on Tuesday, November 12th. The House adjourned three days later on Friday and will not be back until January. The Senate may manage to hang around town until next week. The single major accomplishment was the passage of the Homeland Security bill which had been stalled in the Senate by the Democratic leadership for months. Senator Daschle (D-SD), who is still Majority Leader, allowed the bill to go forward simply because it would have passed in January when Senator Trent Lott (R-MS) becomes Majority Leader.
(Please note that the election in Missouri was a "special election" to fill out four years of a six year term. Had the Democrat governor certified the election of the Republican victor the Senate would have immediately come under the control of the Republicans.)
Still, an overwhelming number of the spending bills passed by the House were not even voted on in the Senate this year. The government is functioning on "continuing resolutions" rather than on a budget. The newest "continuing resolutions" out of the Senate authorize the government to continue to operate at the levels of the last yearís Appropriations Bills.
Of the thirteen Appropriations Bills, a total of eleven were passed by the House under the leadership of Republicans Dick Armey and Tom DeLay. Just two of those eleven Appropriations Bills sent to the Senate by the House have been voted on, thanks to the Democrat Majority Leader Tom Daschle.
HOUSES OF WORSHIP POLITICAL SPEECH PROTECTION ACT
I received a wonderful letter this week from Congressman Walter Jones (R-NC) thanking me for helping to get HR 2357, the Houses of Worship Political Speech Protection Actonto the floor for a vote. We lost this year but Jones promises that he will not give up and he will reintroduce the bill in the next session. He is determined to restore the freedom of speech in the pulpits of America that was stolen by an act of Congress through an amendment to an authorization bill by then Senator Lyndon Johnson. Not too many folks are aware of the fact that before Lyndon Johnson changed the law for his own political benefit, any preacher in the country could, from the pulpit, condemn any politician without fear of losing tax exemption.
HR 2357 is dead for the year and my purpose in mentioning it here is not to rally support but rather to give an indication of the kind of men I have the opportunity to work with in the halls of Congress. At the bottom of his letter to me he wrote in his own hand, "Victory in 2003! The Peace of Christ be with you." Congressman Walter Jones is one of Christís true believers in Congress and I am honored to be able to work with him.
Congress will be adjourned until January. I will send one or two summaries to you over the next few weeks.
William J. Murray, Chairman
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