UPI's Capital Comment for Feb. 19, 2003

WASHINGTON, Feb. 19 (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.

Standing by their man ...


Senate Republicans did not make good on their threat to stay in town over the Presidents' Day recess and fight the Democrats' filibuster against Miguel Estrada's nomination to a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Some of Estrada's supporters are disappointed but, for now, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., is getting the benefit of the doubt. The reason: pressure from Senate spouses who, having lost the chance for family time over the January recess while the Senate stayed in session, were not about to lose this chance for some quality time.

It remains to be seen if Frist will keep his colleagues in the Capitol once they come back from the recess. The plan as of now is to force the Democrats who oppose Estrada to take the floor and hold it round the clock -- something a number of people expect to happen. If it doesn't, expect stories that question Frist's leadership to begin to leak out.


The White House, for its part, says the fight is far from over. Presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer said Tuesday that the nomination is "alive and kicking."

He then leveled a broadside against the Democrats who are stopping a vote on the nomination from occurring. "The reemergence of the liberal wing of the Democrat Party is in full swing," Fleischer said, "making many of the moderates in the Democratic Party increasingly uncomfortable." The president, for his part, remains fully committed to winning confirmation for Estrada.

Senate GOP sources say that all 51 Republicans are on board for Estrada. That, plus the three Democrats who have publicly announced the would vote to confirm -- Sens. Zell Miller, D-Ga., John Breaux, D-La., and Ben Nelson, D-Neb. -- mean there are 54 votes for Estrada -- enough to win confirmation but not enough to shut off debate and force a vote.

Scoop, oops ...

In what it says is an "exclusive," the Buzzflash Web site has posted a news analysis that reads as though the Republican Party and the Bush White House had been caught sending telemarketing jobs to India.

Citing a story from the New Delhi Business Standard, the unsigned analysis says, "Bush has launched, surreptitiously, a 'bold' new jobs programs for telemarketers in India. Of course, this 'bold' program means that these 75 jobs have been lost to American workers in need. ... And what will this 'band of young and enthusiastic (Indian) fund-raisers be doing for the Bush GOP Cartel? Why raising money for the Republican coffers, of course."


There are two problems with the story. First, it already appeared in New Delhi's Business Standard; in fact, Buzzflash links to the story on its Web site. It also appeared on the Web site -- an Internet portal focusing on India -- and in the Feb. 6 edition of the Washington Times, meaning it's not "exclusive."

Buzzflash says that, with the exception of the Business Standard piece, they were unaware the story had been published elsewhere before they wrote about it. Fair enough. But that leaves the second, and larger problem: It's not true, at least not in the way the analysis implies.

The Republican National Committee, through spokesman Kevin Sheridan, completely denies the allegation, telling UPI, "Any report that the Republican National Committee has hired HCL eServe -- the firm mentioned in the original Business Standard article -- is a case of bad reporting, bad business practices or both. The RNC has no affiliation with HCL. Any inference to the contrary is flat out wrong. The RNC has informed both HCL and of the inaccuracy of this report."

Out ...

Mississippi state Attorney General Mike Moore, once considered a rising star among southern Democrats, has announced he will not seek re-election. In office since 1987, Moore gained national prominence as the leading wedge of the multi-billion suits by state officials against the nation's tobacco companies.


Moore also said he would forego a gubernatorial bid, a big boost to incumbent Democrat Gov. Ronnie Musgrove. Conventional wisdom holds he will seek another term, but his popularity has dwindled considerably since his narrow 1999 victory over former U.S. Rep. Mike Parker, a Democrat-turned-Republican.

Saying the decision was "the hardest decision I have ever made," Moore said he would return to his law practice in Pascagoula and was looking forward to being able to spend more time with his family. There had been talk in years past that Moore would eventually challenge one of the state's two GOP U.S. Senators but -- with Thad Cochran just re-elected and Trent Lott's current term running until 2006 -- such a bid is now thought highly unlikely.

In case you missed it ...

Republicans in North Carolina thought they had won control of the 120-member state House of Representatives in November when the final count put the chamber at 61 Republicans, 59 Democrats. Then one of the Republicans changed parties, leaving the Democrats believing they had control with the chamber deadlocked in a 60-to-60 tie.

As it turned out, neither party was right. Then again, neither party was wrong. After several days of intense balloting, a majority of the members agreed to elect co-speakers: Rep. Jim Black for the Democrats and Rep. Richard Morgan for the Republicans, who will alternate days in the chair.


Personnel notes ...

Kerri Houston, until recently the national field director for the American Conservative Union, has moved over to Frontiers of Freedom, a conservative public policy organization, where she becomes the vice president of policy.

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