UPI's Capital Comment for Sept. 18, 2002

By United Press International  |  Sept. 18, 2002 at 1:34 PM
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WASHINGTON, Sept. 18 (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.

Cloture fight -- On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., filed cloture on the Homeland Security bill, meaning that debate could soon be cut off and the bill brought forward for a vote. In response, Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., issued a strongly worded statement criticizing Daschle for the move. "Let me understand this: Sen. (Robert) Byrd, D-W. Va., has been filibustering the Homeland Security bill since Sept. 12, and now the majority leader -- blaming Republicans for holding up the bill -- has filed cloture to bring all debate to an end. Sen. Byrd has signed this cloture petition, but there's one easy way to end this filibuster. The Democrat Senator who is engaging in the filibuster could simply stand down," Lott said.

"What's going on otherwise is a clear effort to kill any chances of the Senate passing the Homeland Security bill that the president can sign so that Americans can feel safe within their borders," Lott added.

Cuba si, Castro no -- U.S. Sen. George Allen, R-Va., is coming out strongly against easing American trade restrictions on Cuba before dramatic reform and respect for human rights occur on that island nation. In remarks made Tuesday to the group Americans for a Free Cuba, Allen said history has shown that trade with Cuba helps the Castro regime but has not improved the plight of the Cuban people. "There are those who are saying that we ought to change our trade policies with Cuba," Allen said. "There are those who blame the United States for the deplorable conditions in Cuba. The blame lies squarely on the repressive shoulders of Fidel Castro. Indeed, for many years other countries have been trading with Cuba, whether from Latin America, Europe or elsewhere, and what effect has that had? None."

In May 2002, Allen joined the Congressional Cuban Political Prisoner Initiative, in which he sponsored a Cuban political prisoner named Francisco Chaviano Gonzales to advocate on his behalf and that of other political prisoners. He also recently joined his colleagues from the initiative in urging the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights to engage the Cuban government on human rights issues.

Rights and wrongs -- On Tuesday a symposium on civil rights co-sponsored by the American Muslim Council was held on Capitol Hill. Facing a packed room of interested parties, panelists included Professor David Cole of Georgetown Law Center; Karen Narasaki, executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium; Wade Henderson of the Leadership Conference of Civil Rights; and Greg Nojeim, chief legislative counsel of the American Civil Liberties Union. They addressed issues ranging from racial profiling to legislation pending before Congress. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., spoke about the importance of civic involvement and voting while Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., spoke at length about civil and constitutional rights.

Rights and responsibilities -- Corporation for National and Community Service head Leslie Lenkowsky gives the keynote address at a special observance of Citizenship Day 2002 to be held Thursday at the Decatur House in Washington. He will speak to the need in post-Sept. 11 America for increased civic engagement and a greater emphasis on citizenship education. He will also discuss new efforts to enhance citizenship education in AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, and Learn and Serve America, the three programs administered by the corporation which is also sponsoring a panel discussion.

A matter of opposition -- The National Abortion Federation, a lobbying group operating in the United States and Canada, has gone on record in opposition to the nomination of Michael McConnell to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The NAF says they "steadfastly oppose his nomination because his extremist positions on reproductive choice would be disastrous for women and reproductive health care providers in the 10th Circuit."

The group says McConnell "would ignore precedent and not respect the constitutional judgments of his predecessors on both the appellate courts and Supreme Court. His desire to overturn 30 years of reproductive rights jurisprudence, combined with his insistence on the illegitimacy of sound legal law, make him an unacceptable choice for a lifetime position on the federal bench."

On the road again -- "Hardball with Chris Matthews," the mainstay of MSNBC's prime-time programming, is getting ready to kick up its annual college tour. Every Wednesday Matthews will hit a college campus and go one-on-one with "some big newsmakers" in front of a live audience in what is being billed as "part hardball, part town hall meeting." The first program is Wednesday evening at the University of Minnesota with special guest Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura.

Personnel notes -- President George W. Bush has announced his intention to nominate John L. Morrison to be a member of the board of directors of the Overseas Private Investment Corp. for the remainder of a three-year term expiring Dec. 7, 2004. Morrison is the chairman and co-founder of Highland Capital, a private investment company in Minneapolis. ... John Portman Higgins will be nominated to be the new inspector general at the Department of Education, where he is director of the management improvement team in the office of the deputy secretary.

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