Robert Novak

WASHINGTON -- MoveOn.org, the left-wing activist group leading the fight against Rep. Tom DeLay, has claimed there is a Republican clamor to replace him as House majority leader that does not actually exist.

 "Now," said an e-mail dispatched by MoveOn, "some Republicans in Congress are speaking out against DeLay." In fact, however, no Republican in Congress has criticized DeLay publicly, not even on an off-the-record basis.

 The e-mail also declares unequivocally that "DeLay illegally used corporate funds in support of his plan to redistrict Texas." Actually, DeLay has not been convicted, tried or even formally accused of breaking the law.

GOING TO ROME

 Members of the Senate and House from both parties hurried to arrange to be in Rome for Friday's funeral of Pope John Paul II. But their ranks did not include the lawmaker most responsible for establishing diplomatic relations between the United States and the Vatican in 1983: Republican Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana.

 Lugar, who then, as now, was the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, pushed through a Senate resolution enabling the relationship despite strong Protestant opposition. President Ronald Reagan then came under heavy pressure not to set up an embassy in Vatican City. Since the establishment of formal diplomatic ties, however, there has been little criticism.

 The rush of senators and House members to attend the funeral, not seen when earlier popes died, came without a formal invitation. Lugar told me he was staying in Washington because of urgent Foreign Relations Committee issues on the Senate floor, indicating that "devout Catholics" should get precedence on the trip. However, those going to Rome included many non-Catholics -- such as Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

DISSING THE POPE

 Thirty minutes after voting 98 to 0 Tuesday to honor John Paul II, the Senate by a narrow margin went on record against the late pope's "Mexico City policy" barring U.S. government spending abroad for abortions.

 The pope was a principal architect of the Vatican-proposed policy, adopted at a 1984 United Nations population conference in Mexico City. President Ronald Reagan then issued an executive order prohibiting federal grants for groups that perform abortions abroad and that lobby to legalize abortion in developing countries.


Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.
 

 
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