Since I launched this column ten days ago, many of you have written to me, thankful to have the “inside scoop” on the Washington, D.C. policy world. I’m happy to provide it! While many are still arguing about the UAE port deal and panicking about the “civil war” that’s supposedly breaking out in Iraq, the rest of you are hungering to find out what the mainstream media is missing. Here’s this week’s report.
1. The RSC Releases its 2006 Legislative Agenda
Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), hero of taxpayers, chairs the Republican Study Committee (RSC) – known as the true conservative arm of the U.S. House of Representatives. The RSC released its top ten legislative priorities last week, setting into motion a national agenda that right-minded organizations are already getting behind.
The ten priorities are below, with links to more information about some of the different components.
2. Pass Budget Process Reform, which includes budgeting for emergencies with a rainy day fund, instituting a sunset commission for federal programs, instituting a constitutional line-item veto, and making the budget resolution carry the force of law.
3. Pass another Deficit Reduction Bill in the form of budget reconciliation to reign in autopilot spending, which has risen from 25% of all federal spending in 1963 to 54% today, and is expected to reach nearly 60% in 2014.
4. Pass Ethics Reform that requires transparency and earmark reform that permits Members of Congress to strike earmarks on the House floor.
5. Pass the Marriage Protection Amendment to ensure that marriage, the union of a woman and a man as husband and wife, is not redefined by activist judges.
6. Pass a Balanced Budget Amendment to put our fiscal house in order.
7. Offset all emergency supplemental spending with spending reductions and offset all new programs with simultaneous, equivalent reductions in, or eliminations of, existing programs.
8. Defend the Sanctity of Human Life, which includes banning all human cloning, passing the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act, promoting ethical adult stem cell research, and preventing federal funding for destructive embryonic stem cell research.
“The legislative priorities […] are welcome news to conservatives throughout America and should serve as a roadmap for action during the remainder of the 109th Congress,” says American Conservative Union’s David A. Keene.
However, ACU Executive Director Bill Lauderback tells me that many ACU members are unhappy that immigration is not on the list. Others on the Right complain that a Balanced Budget Amendment is only an effective solution if protections are in place to keep legislators from simply raising taxes to balance the budget.
2. Property Rights at stake in ESA reform
A year after the Supreme Court dealt a horrific blow to property rights in Kelo v. New London, another property rights battle is brewing.
When the Endangered Species Act (ESA) was passed in 1973, it gave the government permission to impose severe land use restrictions on property that either houses or could house endangered species. The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution allows the government to take private property with just compensation. However, by simply restricting land use instead of taking the land, the government doesn’t have to pay a cent, while landowners are forced to pay taxes on land they can’t use and watch their land value plummet.
Margaret Byfield, executive director of Stewards of the Range, tells me that a 70-year old woman named Margaret Rector “lost her entire retirement investment when the government designated her 15 acres as habitat for two songbirds. Her property went from $900,000 to $30,000 overnight. She never received compensation or any justice for what she lost.”
The ESA is about to be reauthorized by Congress, and a coalition of policy groups is demanding that strong private property rights be included this time around. David Ridenour of the National Center for Public Policy Research says the simple answer is that “when the government takes your property, the least it can do is pay for it.”
As last month’s issue of Organization Trends ironically notes, “The Act has had more effect on property rights than on the species it was meant to protect.” Byfield adds, “If environmentalists and politicians really cared about the animals, they would get rid of the Act and give landowners the freedom to do what they do best – produce necessary resources while taking care of the land and all who inhabit it.”
3. Taliban leader infiltrates Yale
What do you think happened to the leaders of Afghanistan’s Taliban regime, the patriarchal, extremist government overthrown by American and coalition forces in 2003? Yes, some were killed in firefights and others thrown into prison. But one lucky winner has wound up in Yale University’s honors program.
“In some ways I’m the luckiest person in the world,” former Taliban spokesman Rahmatullah Hashemi told the New York Times Magazine. “I could have ended up in Guantanamo Bay. Instead I ended up at Yale.”
Steve Yuhas at OpinionEditorials.com notes the ironies: a university that won’t allow the ROTC on campus throws open its doors to one who helped harbor Osama bin Laden; and a man who helped deny education to women in his country gets accepted to an Ivy League school.
On the same site, Jim Kouri notes that Hashemi is hardly qualified for Yale: he possesses a 4th-grade formal education and never took the SATs. While ROTC may not allow openly gay recruits, Hashemi has advocated violence against homosexuals.
And Flagg Youngblood, a Yale alum and former Army Captain now affiliated with Young America's Foundation, says his alma mater’s “actions show that they consider the U.S. military more evil than the Taliban."
For more on this developing story, including Hashemi’s first course selection (“Terrorism: Past, Present and Future”) and his previous tour of the U.S. in 2001 (when he suggested that an offended Afghan woman in the audience must be a problem to her husband), see John Fund’s article, “Jihadi Turns Bulldog.”
4. Pro-lifers achieve two huge victories
A nineteen-year battle between a pro-life activist and the National Organization of Women (NOW) ended Wednesday when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the activist, Joseph Scheidler. Yesterday, pro-lifers had more reason to cheer when the governor of South Dakota signed a bill banning nearly all abortions in his state.
In 1986, NOW claimed that pro-lifers who demonstrated in front of abortion clinics were guilty under a racketeering law intended for prosecution of organized crime. “Trying to characterize those who believe in the pro-life cause as members of organized crime was a stretch from the start,” ADF Senior Counsel Gary McCaleb explains. “The court [reaffirmed] the obvious intent of the federal law in question: that it applies to violence used to further robbery or extortion, not the free speech of pro-life advocates.”
Five days later, another pro-life victory was achieved: an abortion ban at the state level. This is part of a trend toward a “post-Roe era,” says Family Research Council President Tony Perkins. “Give the people or their elected representatives a voice and you will find that most of America wants major changes in the abortion-on-demand regime that has stood only by judicial fiat for 33 years.”
5. The Right continues to embrace podcasting
Since my column on podcasting two weeks ago, I’ve been deluged with praise and interest from individuals and organizations alike (It makes all my research worthwhile to see my column called “a public service” and a “comprehensive, single point of reference!”). Since then, the Center for Bioethics & Human Dignity has launched a regular bioethics podcast, and I hear the Texas Public Policy Foundation will launch the Texas PolicyCast in about a week. Let me know how you’re using podcasting to support the Right!
Stay tuned for next week’s column, when I’ll tell you how your tax dollars are being spent on attempts to stifle Social Security reform. Nothing like watching both your present and future money go down the drain at the same time.