Failing to toe the line -- There are, as the saying goes, three political parties in Congress: Democrats, Republicans and Appropriators. Citizens Against Government Waste, a non-profit taxpayer group, is going after the third, "booing" the appropriators for failing to hold the line on federal spending in spite of the recession and the war against terrorism.
"The president's budget, submitted to Congress in January, outlined generous spending increases in defense, homeland security, education and agriculture," CAGW President Tom Schatz said.
"But it also included cuts and reforms in wasteful programs and agencies so as to maintain a semblance of fiscal discipline. Appropriators have no such restraint and are overspending the president in virtually every category. The president should veto all of these bills."
A CAGW analysis found that, of the 13 appropriations bills moving through the Congress, only the Department of Defense department received less money than the president requested. In the House, the Department of Defense got $2.1 billion less than the president asked for while the Senate's appropriation came in at $11.39 billion less.
The increases above what the president asked, range from $8.5 million in the Senate version of the legislative branch appropriation to a whopping $6.3 billion in the Senate Labor/HHS/Education appropriations bill.
Schatz said he believes that the appropriators are "cynically playing games to ensure maximum new spending levels across the board" and are likely to add the defense dollars back in at a later time.
"Taxpayers will not look kindly on parties associated with such shenanigans come November," Schatz says.
A bid for full equality -- The American Civil Liberties Union has hopped on the bandwagon of groups urging Senate ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. CEDAW, as it is known, has languished unratified for many years.
According to the ACLU, 170 nations have already ratified CEDAW, a revolutionary compact that lays out specific measures that nations must take to eliminate gender-based bias.
"While the United States played an important role in drafting this U.N. treaty, it is in the shameful company of countries like Afghanistan and Iran that refuse to ratify it," the ACLU says.
In 1998, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted to recommend that the Senate approve the treaty but it has yet to receive a vote on the Senate floor.
Feminist groups and others are now demanding the treaty be brought to the floor for a vote, something Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., reportedly endorses. He sees it as a key part of his effort to win the support of important women's groups if he is to make successful bid for president in 2004. The ACLU has set up a free fax service to send messages to members of the Senate; it can be accessed on the worldwide web at ACLU.org/action/cedaw107.html.
Exercising their civic conscience -- Older Americans are undeterred by the economic downturn and are poised to redefine retirement through volunteerism, a new poll by Peter Hart Research Associates finds.
The survey of Americans aged 50 to 75, commissioned by the liberal non-profit Civic Virtues group, finds they are now turning out in record numbers to serve their communities and planning to make volunteering and public service a cornerstone of their later years.
"Facing a multitude of challenges as they get older, including terrorist attacks, a war, stock market woes and a shaken faith in trusted institutions from accountants to the Catholic church, older Americans are turning to their communities in record numbers," pollster Peter Hart said.
"Volunteerism is clearly a new way of looking at retirement for older Americans. Many are finding that they want to remain active and involved and that volunteerism fulfills this need and the desire to help others." The data and the 8-page analysis of the results can be found on the worldwide web at CivicVentures.org.
Skating on thin ice -- A priest at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Fort Worth, Texas, says Democrats Tony Sanchez and John Sharp, both Catholics, will not be allowed to speak at the church because they support abortion rights, according to a report in the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram newspaper.
The Rev. John Gremmels is also raising the question of whether the two men should be excommunicated, which would prevent them from receiving the holy sacraments, such as communion, or from holding office in the church.
"I wanted the people to know that these are two Catholic candidates that are doing an improper thing," Gremmels said. "Clearly, as a teacher of the Catholic Church, we're there to persuade, to correct, to admonish those in leadership positions who contradict the gospel of life."
Sharp, who is running for the lieutenant governor's post, declined through his campaign to comment.
The Sanchez campaign reiterated the gubernatorial candidate's support for abortion rights, saying through a spokesman: "Tony has his personal beliefs, and he is a very devout Catholic, but he's not going to impose his beliefs on everyone else."
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