We applauded the Oklahoma Legislature’s decision to eliminate the Oklahoma Human Rights Commission and let the state attorney general handle discrimination claims. The wisdom of that decision became apparent when National Review Online reported that the New Mexico Human Rights Commission found Elane Photography, an Albuquerque photography studio, guilty of discrimination because the owners declined to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony. That case is now being appealed in court. NRO also noted that Hands On Originals, a T-shirt business in Lexington, Ky., faced similar challenges. The Gay and Lesbian Services Organization of Lexington filed a complaint with the Lexington Human Rights Commission after Hands On Originals declined to make shirts for a gay-pride parade. The idea of the state micromanaging private businesses and trampling on religious liberty that way is deeply troubling, and one more reason to eliminate “rights” agencies that have outlived their usefulness.
Item: U.S. Rep. Dan Boren, D-Muskogee, was one of 19 Democrats who didn’t vote for Nancy Pelosi in Wednesday’s contest for House speaker. The vote itself was academic; John Boehner is speaker because Republicans outnumber Democrats in the new House 242-193. More significant is the strain within Democratic ranks, illustrated by the largest repudiation of a party’s candidate for speaker in nearly 90 years. As Chris Casteel reports in The Oklahoman, Boren’s vote was no surprise. He had told numerous town hall meetings last year he wouldn’t support Pelosi in the speaker’s vote, and he didn’t. “I kept my word,” he said, voting instead for North Carolina Democrat Heath Shuler.
A couple of points. As mentioned, there must be a number of unhappy campers in the Democratic cloakroom because Pelosi is still leading their parade — even more than were willing to oppose her publicly. (On the flip side, it’s amazing that a guy like Virginia Democrat Gerry Connolly, who eked out an 800-vote victory in November over an opponent he beat by 12 percentage points in 2008, still voted for Pelosi.)
As for Boren and others who defied her, wow! The old adage says you don’t take on the king (or queen, as it were) unless you’re sure you can knock ‘em off the throne. Pelosi’s still there. It’ll be interesting to see how they handle those awkward situations in the House elevators. Seriously, keep an eye on Boren and the others to see if Pelosi follows through with another old saying: Don’t get mad, get even.
Don’t pay as much attention to pronouncements from House Speaker-to-be John Boehner on controlling federal spending as to who ends up in charge of the new Republican House’s Appropriations Committee. Appropriations is where the nuts-and-bolts decisions on spending will be made and already there’s lots of jockeying for that chairmanship. The eventual winner either could be a great help to national GOP leaders on spending or an incredible hindrance.
According to Politico, former approps chairman Jerry Lewis of California wants another swing at the job. But that would require waiving the party’s term-limits rules. Lewis is known around Washington as the consummate appropriator — which is to say, the kind of insider who generally fared poorly in congressional elections earlier this month. Lots of Republicans and tea partiers want someone else to chair the committee, someone who will hold the line on earmarks and overall spending. After all, both were major themes in the just-concluded campaign.
But if not Lewis, who? Kentucky’s Harold Rogers would be next in line, but he, too, is a long-time committee member — whose commitment to spending restraint is automatically suspect. Politico reports Rogers is vowing allegiance to an earmarks ban and other reforms. And, big surprise, Rogers has been saying that waiving the term-limits rule would be a big mistake. It’ll be interesting to see how the leadership race pans out — Boehner will play a huge role — and whether fiscal hawks like Arizona’s Jeff Flake land spots on the committee. Certainly, both questions will be watched carefully by voters expecting change, not more of the same old, same old.
OK, so this is a little “inside baseball” for most non-Inside-the-Beltway readers, but a House vote Wednesday showed how potent the tax issue is heading into the November elections. Thirty-nine Democrats voted against a leadership-supported adjournment resolution that would excuse the chamber this week without taking up an extension of Bush-era tax cuts, which are set to expire at the end of the year. House leaders quickly gaveled the roll-call vote to an end once the resolution nosed ahead 210-209. Fourteen members (including Rep. Mary Fallin, R-Oklahoma City) didn’t vote. Most of the Democrat no votes were from members locked in tough re-election races, moderate or “Blue Dog” Democrats trying to distance themselves from Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Republicans (and, evidently, more than three dozen Democrats) think Congress should act on the tax-cut extension before the mid-term elections. Pelosi and her lieutenants see adjournment without action as the best way to skirt the issue. It’ll be interesting to see how many of those voting no this week survive November.
The columnist’s lead was an attention-grabber: “Charlie Rangel is no crook.” Amid the swirl of denunciations of Rangel, the Democratic congressman from New York accused of breaking House rules — even President Obama strongly indicated he thinks Rangel done wrong and should go — The Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson came to the defense.
Robinson writes the charges against Rangel range from “the technical all the way to the trivial” and that the congressman didn’t gain monetarily from any of his alleged transgressions. That’s certainly debatable. Rangel allegedly failed to declare rental income from vacation property in the Caribbean — the kind of omission that lands regular people in jail. No big deal, Robinson writes, because Rangel paid back what he owed in taxes, penalties and interest. As for allegedly using his official House letterhead to raise money for a college program bearing his name, Rangel is guilty only of padding his ego, not his pocket, Robinson writes. Move along, nothing to see here, seems to be the columnist’s attitude. Really?
So much for the crusading columnist, actively comforting the afflicted/afflicting the comforted, eh? Never mind the symptoms of entitlement and privilege wafting from Rangel’s ethics file. Hard to imagine Robinson, paid to propound liberal positions in The Post, giving such a wide berth to any of Rangel’s conservative colleagues.
The president of the United States throwing out the first pitch of the Major League Baseball season truly is a rite of spring. President Barack Obama was the hurler-in-chief before Monday’s Washington Nationals-Philadelphia Phillies game, continuing a tradition apparently begun by President William H. Taft in 1910. Obama reportedly spent some time practicing his pitch. (No one wants to get on a mound in front of 40,000 people and dribble one into the catcher.) The president strode to the Nationals Park mound in a red Nationals jacket, to cheers and some boos. Toeing the pitching rubber, Obama pulled out a Chicago White Sox cap and put it on his head, to more boos. All in good fun. As for his toss, Obama’s left-handed offering sailed high and wide to the left, but Nats infielder Ryan Zimmerman still was able to flag it down. Mission accomplished!
A lot of the hub-bub surrounding Thursday’s health care summit between President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats and Republicans is focused on whether Democrats eventually will use “reconciliation” to get legislation through the Senate. That’s a procedure for making revenues and spending conform to the budget and isn’t subject to a minority filibuster. Theoretically, you could get the latest House-Senate Democratic compromise back through the Senate with just a simple majority vote.
Sort of under the radar is quite a bit of evidence that the House of Representatives is where Democrats will have their problems. The House originally passed its health care bill in November with just five votes to spare (220-215), and Democratic and Republican sources say Speaker Nancy Pelosi doesn’t have that margin anymore. Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., tells The Hill newspaper 15 to 20 Democrats don’t like the current compromise for various reasons. Stupak’s chief complaint is the bill’s abortion-funding language, which is more lenient than what was in the original House version. He and a number of fellow anti-abortion Democrats appear unlikely to vote yes this time around.
Obviously, a swing of 15 or more Democratic votes in the House is a monumental problem for Obama and the majority’s leadership. The vote in November snagged one GOP vote, and no one expects any of the other Republicans to change their minds. As things unfold, smart money says to keep an eye on the House.
Here’s the kind of stuff that sets teachers of American history to grinding their teeth. President Obama’s former deputy national campaign director, Steve Hildebrand, is asked on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” whether he’s disappointed in the president’s first year, and he says he’s not. Then comes the teeth-grinding part: “This is a guy who faced the most difficult circumstances in the history of the presidency, going into that office …” (Insert audio of a phonograph needle scratching across a vinyl record.)
Whoa! “The most difficult circumstances in the history of the presidency?” Things were tough in January 2009, but tougher than Abraham Lincoln in March 1861, with the nation coming apart and headed for civil war? Tougher than Franklin Roosevelt in March 1933, with the country already mired in the Great Depression?
Probably just a slip of the tongue by Hildebrand, or maybe he wasn’t a big history guy in college. Or maybe, too, it’s the kind of political messaging people like him get paid to put out there, lowering the bar for a president who’s first year didn’t send off too many bottle rockets — the first step in a revisionist look at BHO as, dare we say, a historical figure?
President Barack Obama heads west this week to campaign for a pair of incumbent Democratic senators — Majority Leader Harry Reid in Nevada and Michael Bennet in Colorado. But it’s even money on whether Obama’s appearance will help or hurt them. Reid is polling in the low 40s and loses hypothetical matchups with just about any Republican opponent. Bennet, appointed to his seat when Ken Salazar was named Obama’s Interior secretary, also is trailing. Bringing in Obama is a roll of the dice. “It’s definitely a gamble,” Democratic strategist Liz Chadderdon tells The Washington Times. “A handshake that raises $1 million now could cost them the election later.” Indeed, The Times reports another embattled Dem, Sen. Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas, is trying to save her job by creating daylight between herself and liberal Democrats, if not the president himself. Lincoln’s campaign Web site highlights a recent exchange in which she challenged Obama to push back against liberal extremes in the party. No word on whether Obama will do Little Rock later this year, but don’t hold your breath. One conservative pundit already has dubbed the campaigner-in-chief Barack ” Millstone” Obama.
New Jersey won’t be joining the short list of states allowing undocumented students to attend college at in-state tuition rates. The effect, supporters said, is that children will be punished for the actions of their illegal immigrant parents and likely won’t attend college at all. The measure’s failure is rightfully disappointing although the in-state tuition denial has become a politically popular choice in many states. While higher education is not a right, it’s an opportunity that ought to be as widely available as possible for those who want it. Banning students who were young and had no say when their family immigrated slams shut the door of opportunity for many of those students who simply cannot afford the much higher price tag of out-of-state tuition. What good comes from that?