UPI's Capital Comment for Wed., March 6

By United Press International  |  March 6, 2002 at 11:50 AM
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WASHINGTON, March 6 (UPI) -- Capital Comment -- Daily news notes, political rumors, and important events that shape politics and public policy in Washington and the world from United Press International.

The privilege of fame -- The American Red Cross, struggling to refurbish its image after the departure under less-than-favorable circumstances of former President Bernadine Healy, has unveiled its first National Celebrity Cabinet. Members of the Cabinet have committed to support the Red Cross in a 1-year term of voluntary service to raise public awareness about some of the services the group provides, including blood drives and disaster relief.

Participants in the program including "Touched by an Angel's" Roma Downey, teen star Jennifer Love Hewitt, country singer Tim McGraw, New York Mets' catcher Mike Piazza and actress Jane Seymour.

By the numbers -- Florida Secretary of Education Jim Horne, who is also the vice chairman of the Education Leaders Council, told members of the U.S. House last week that "the focus of the No Child Left Behind Act on programs proven effective by scientifically based research may, in fact, be among the most important provisions in the recently signed law reauthorizing federal education programs."

The administration has long trumpeted the result-oriented nature of the act, something Horne praised several times in his testimony before a House subcommittee. "Simply put," he said, "I believe there is a broad consensus among those at the state and local levels that much of the research funded and disseminated by the federal government has not met the same stringent criteria which will now be applied to schools, districts and the states. ... There is clearly a perception out in the field," Horne emphasized, "that too often, this research -- and more specifically, the topics, the timing and the findings -- is driven more by politics than sound scientific inquiry."

Utah it here first -- Word comes from the Beehive State that State House Speaker Marty Stephens, a Republican, has nixed the idea of making the state's potential fourth congressional district an at-large seat, at least for the time being. According to a well-placed source, Stephens' reasoning is very personal. He has no desire to run for the seat himself but does not want to open the chance for anyone who does not already have a statewide political base to create one in anticipation of the 2004 gubernatorial election. Incumbent Republican Gov. Mike Leavitt is widely expected not to seek re-election, preferring to run for the seat currently held by Sen. Robert F. Bennett, R-Utah, if he retires or for the seat of Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, if he retires in 2006.

All of this may be moot in any case as the addition of a fourth seat is contingent on a favorable ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court in Utah's challenge to the 2000 congressional reapportionment.

The suit alleges the failure of the Census Bureau to count state residents temporarily living out of the state while on religious missions for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints allowed North Carolina to gain an additional seat that would otherwise have gone to Utah.

And the body is not even cold -- The surprise announcement by Rep. Sonny Callahan, R-Ala., that he will not seek re-election has already sparked a nasty contest to replace him. Tom Young, chief of staff to Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., has announced his candidacy and Shelby's endorsement. Jo Bonner, Callahan's chief of staff, is also telling people he will make the race. And Mike Dow, the conservative Democrat who is mayor of Mobile, is also reportedly looking at the race. It is unclear, however, whether Dow would run as a Democrat or a Republican in this district that, under the old lines, George Bush won with 60 percent of the vote.

On Monday, the Department of Justice gave approval to the proposed remap of the congressional district lines that leaves the 1st Congressional District virtually intact while making the GOP-held open 3rd Congressional District better for the Democrats. The lines will be in place for the June 4 primary and will be made permanent once a three-judge panel dismisses several pending lawsuits against the plan, as informed sources believe likely.

With friends like these... -- Four Republican senators are drawing tribute from unusual quarters as the Senate prepares to take up the energy bill. Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Peter Fitzgerald, R-Ill., Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and Lincoln Chafee, R-R.I., are all on the receiving end of strong praise from a group calling itself Americans for Alaska in a full-page ad in Tuesday's papers.

"Only the Senate can protect the Arctic Refuge," the ad begins. "Only great senators would," as the group "salutes these senators for their key leadership" on the ANWR issue.

The four Republicans, who are the only senators mentioned in the spot, are considered among the most endangered members of their party for re-election. They will likely want to keep the ad on file as it is signed by a number of political luminaries including former President Jimmy Carter; former U.S. Sen. Timothy Wirth, D-Colo.; former Vice President Walter Mondale; environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.; former Clinton Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt; former U.S. Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah; Teresa Heinz,- widow of Sen. John Heinz, R-Pa., and current wife of Sen. John F. Kerry, D-Mass. It is unlikely that this group will ever again have occasion to refer to Sens. Snowe, Collins, Fitzgerald and Chafee as "great," so they should probably take it as it comes.

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