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.
Here come da judge -- The White House and Senate Republicans are pulling out all the stops on behalf of Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen, who has been nominated by the president to a seat on the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The Senate Judiciary Committee was scheduled to begin hearings on the Owen nomination Thursday -- more than one year after her name was first sent up to Capitol Hill -- but it was announced Tuesday that the hearing was being pushed off until July 23 following a Monday press conference by liberal special interest groups -- including the National Organization for Women, the AFL-CIO and Planned Parenthood -- attacking Owen. "In seven years on the Texas Supreme Court, Justice Owen has proven herself to be an ultraconservative activist whose opinions not only stray well beyond the American mainstream, but even run far to the right of the conservative majority of her own court," Kae McLaughlin, the executive director of the Texas Abortion & Reproductive Rights Action League, said. "Priscilla Owen is not a mainstream jurist. Owen is a result-oriented, conservative activist whose nomination should be rejected," McLaughlin said.
Republicans counter that Owen has served with distinction on the Texas Supreme Court since first being elected in 1994 and that, during her re-election bid in 2000, every major newspaper in Texas endorsed her and she was re-elected by an overwhelming majority, something Owen supporters said would not have happened if she was the kind of judge those who oppose her nomination describe.
In addition, the White House points out, a bipartisan group of 15 past presidents of the State Bar of Texas have written to the committee chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., urging an affirmative vote by the Judiciary Committee while the American Bar Association has unanimously rated Owen "well-qualified," its highest possible rating -- even though the ABA's role in the nomination process has been severely curtailed by the Bush administration.
Republicans on Capitol Hill are beginning to whisper that the opposition to Owen -- and several others of Bush's nominees including Miguel Estrada and Michael McConnell -- is much more about stopping a potential Supreme Court nomination before it can be made. The records of these three nominees is so strong, say insiders, that the Democrats would have a difficult time opposing them should they be named to fill a vacancy on the high court.
Slam-dunk? -- Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Illinois GOP Gov. George Ryan may have been a bit too confident of Rep. Bill Lipinski's ability to pilot the O'Hare International Airport expansion bill through the House. Lipinski, D-Ill., has been working for months to shore up support for the measure, which would reconfigure airport runways, add at least one additional runway, force hundreds of people from their homes, shutter scores of nearby businesses and require the relocation of parts of two cemeteries. So confident were they that Durbin and Ryan both issued statements prior to the Monday vote on the issue, praising the House for its foresightedness in approving the issue.
There's just one problem. Although the measure did garner a majority vote in favor of approval, 247-143, it failed to secure the two-thirds necessary for passage. Durbin's red-faced spokesman, Joe Shoemaker, took the blame for the premature declaration of victory. As of Tuesday morning, however, Ryan was standing by his laudatory remarks. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley put a positive spin on the whole fiasco: "This evening's vote emphasizes that after decades of trying, we are on the verge of getting the deal on O'Hare expansion done." Sure.
Long may she wave -- Embattled California Gov. Gray Davis Monday signed into law a bill authored by Republican State Sen. Dick Monteith of Modesto that allows homeowners to fly the American flag without fear of legal repercussion. Under existing state law, common interest developments -- such as condo associations -- may adopt various covenants and restrictions that govern certain aspects of owner's and residents conduct. "This is all about showing your pride in being an American," Davis said. "I understand the intent of a community's rules and regulations -- everyone wants to live in a decent, clean environment. But when those rules infringe upon a homeowner's basic right of showing their love of the USA, well, then that's going too far." The new law does not, however, alter the rules under which the flag may be displayed -- including the custom that the flag may be flown at night as long as it is illuminated by a light installed expressly for that purpose. This, of course, could be of some concern given the state's recent power crisis though a source in California tells Capital Comment this should not be too much of a factor "since power is tight generally only during the afternoon. It falls off significantly once the sun goes down and the flag lights come on."
Can you hear me now? -- The Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association is only a little pleased with the Federal Communications Commission's vote to delay the wireless number portability implementation deadline by 12 months. Calling the number portability decision "a step in the right direction," the CTIA says the real objective remains "lifting the burden from consumers altogether, not just delaying it. The costs of this regulation outweigh the benefits for consumers today and they still will tomorrow. Number portability is another example of a government mandate that adds to the consumer's bill and siphons away the cost reductions that have resulted from competition."
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