UPI's Capital Comment for Oct. 1, 2002

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

Big speech -- As the federal government's new fiscal year begins Oct. 1, House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., took to the House floor to mark the occasion. "On the day the House GOP Leadership will miss the deadline to pass a new budget for this coming fiscal year, House Democratic Leader Richard A. Gephardt will give a floor speech outlining the many reasons we need to have an economic summit," his office said in a release the night before.

Republicans, predictably, took umbrage. "It's borderline delusional," Republican National Committee spokesman Jim Dyke said of the suggestion that Republicans were to blame for the budget impasse. "The House has passed a budget under the Republican leadership that Mr. Gephardt continues to try and ignore. Republicans are going to maintain budget discipline and, if Mr. Gephardt wants to be truly helpful, he should call his counterpart in the Senate -- the Senate Majority Leader -- who has failed for the first time in over 24 years to even pass a budget. It is a historic first and it is a historic failing on the part of Democrats," Dyke said.

Staving off bankruptcy reform -- The business community's five-year campaign to pass federal bankruptcy reform legislation may have to go on for just a little longer. An amendment to the bill by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is so unpalatable to some parts of the Republican electoral coalition that the process of moving the bill forward has ground to a halt.

Schumer's amendment is designed to curtail the activities of peaceful anti-abortion protestors. During the confirmation hearing of a Bush judicial nominee last week, Schumer explained his view that the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act was written to stop anti-abortion rights protestors from gathering outside clinics, violent and otherwise. "They'd pay their fine and go back and stand in front of the clinic again. And they'd pay their fine and go back and stand in front of the clinic again. ... They were taking the law into their own hands -- in a peaceful way, but a very serious way that led us to write the law." The amendment would prohibit protestors not arrested for violent acts from discharging treble federal fines and civil judgments against them through bankruptcy laws.

The business community lobbyists, who refuse to recognize that a problem exists, continue to threaten and cajole members of the GOP congressional leadership while trying to win the support of grassroots conservative groups for the legislation -- and making little to no headway.

The upshot of it all is that, with a threatened rift in the GOP electoral coalition looming, it is highly unlikely that the bankruptcy bill is going to move before the November election if the Schumer language remains part of it.

It's tough to be the frontrunner-- The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, now headed by former Maryland U.S. Rep. Michael D. Barnes, a Democrat, is turning its sights on U.S. Rep. Bob Ehrlich, the GOP candidate for governor of the Free State.

The Brady Campaign takes issue with Ehrlich's self-characterization as a "moderate" on guns and gun violence. Barnes and others will conduct a leaflet campaign Wednesday afternoon on the Legg-Mason Plaza in Baltimore to educate voters about Ehrlich's record on guns. According to them, "When it comes to guns, Ehrlich is dead wrong."

No-nesco -- Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, who enjoys a reputation as being the most libertarian member of the U.S. House of Representatives, appears to be ready to fight the re-entry of the United States into UNESCO. Paul is currently soliciting co-sponsors for a resolution opposing Washington's re-entry to the U.N. body. According to a Dear Colleague letter being circulated, Paul says, "We have been told the price for readmission into this organization will be $60 million dollars per year. But what are we getting for this money?" he asks.

According to Paul's office, UNESCO "meddles in the education affairs of its member-countries and has sought to construct a U.N.-based school curriculum for American schools...; been fully supportive of the U.N. Population Fund in its assistance to China's brutal coercive population control program" and several other measures. The resolution, while it lacks teeth, is seen by some congressional insiders as the first shot in a prolonged campaign against what is shaping up to be an important Bush administration initiative.

Urge to merge -- Verner Liipfert Bernhard McPherson and Hand, the powerhouse law firm and lobby shop where former U.S. Senate Majority Leaders Bob Dole and George Mitchell among other notables hang their hats, has announced its intention to merge their firm with Piper Rudnick LLP, effective Oct. 1, 2002. The new firm will, according to Verner Liipfert's George Mitchell and Berl Bernhard, "Create a unique, national law firm with exceptional legal and government affairs capability."

Bringing Afghan women on line -- In a coordinated philanthropic effort between Gateway Inc., Sen. George Allen, R-Va., U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., the Department of State and CapNet -- a computer industry association -- laptop computers were donated last Friday to 14 Afghan women. A ceremony to present the computers was held at Gateway's Springfield, Va., retail store as part of an educational exchange program organized by the U.S. Afghan Women's Council.

The computers will be used to teach the Afghan women specific business skills needed to aid the economic development of their country. The recipients were all selected from the International Visitors Program, which is administered by the Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The U.S.-Afghan Women's Council was formed in January 2002 to promote private/public partnerships between the two countries and mobilize resources to enable Afghan women to obtain the skills and education they were deprived of under the Taliban.

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