UPI's Capital Comment for May 9, 2003

May 9, 2003 at 4:04 PM
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WASHINGTON, May 9 (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.

Eve of destruction ...

The Republicans re-christened May 9 as Obstruction Day to mark the second anniversary of the first series of Bush appointments to the federal bench, many of which were not taken up by the Senate Judiciary Committee during the time the Democrats formed the majority. Now two of those nominees, despite having the support of a majority of senators, cannot be confirmed because Senate Democrats like Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., and Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., are leading a filibuster against bringing the nominations to a vote.

Friday's events, which began with presidential remarks on the need for reform of the confirmation process, also included a press conference and rally on Capitol Hill. At the same time, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., put forward a proposal to dramatically curtail the power of the filibuster where executive nominations like judges are concerned. The GOP is focusing attention on the filibusters in hope of generating enough public pressure to either force the Democrats to give up or to produce the 60 votes need for cloture, ending debate.

Dead heat ...

A new survey of 600 likely New Hampshire presidential primary voters shows Sen. John F. Kerry and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean locked in a dead heat. The survey, conducted by the Franklin Pierce College's Marlin Fitzwater Center between April 27 and May 1, found the two men tied at 23 percent. In third place at 9 percent is Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., followed by U.S. Rep. Dick Gephardt at 8 percent.

Two non-candidates, former Sen. Gary Hart, who said Wednesday he would not run, and retired Gen. Wesley Clark, rounded out the top five.

The survey, which has a margin of error of +/-4 percent, gathers data from voters in similar proportion to New Hampshire's voter registration: 37 percent Republican, 26 percent Democrat and 37 percent independent.

The survey also found President George W. Bush to be tied with "an unnamed Democratic nominee" though he enjoys a 52 percent approval rating among all respondents.

Reprieve ...

U.S. Rep. Ernie Fletcher, R-Ky., may remain on the May 20 Republican primary ballot, the Supreme Court of Kentucky ruled Wednesday. At issue was whether Fletcher should be disqualified, as Robert Heleringer, candidate for lieutenant governor on an opposing GOP slate, alleged, because his original running mate had to leave the ticket after he failed to meet the residency requirement.

"The idea of liberal construction in favor of broad voter participation is deeply embedded in Kentucky," the court held. "When statutory construction is uncertain, doubt should be resolved in favor of allowing the candidacy to continue."

Writing for the court, Chief Justice Joseph Lambert said the court is required "to resolve any doubt in favor of allowing the Fletcher candidacy to continue to prevent restriction of the rights of citizens to vote."

Democrat's council to give Democrats counsel ...

The Democratic Leadership Council, the group that formed the base for Bill Clinton's successful 1992 run for president, convenes a strategy session in Washington May 15. The group says it "has long believed that Democratic politics should focus on broad national concerns and pay careful attention to the views of Democrats who govern across the country, not just the narrow concerns of activists and interest groups who roam the halls of Washington."

With that in mind, the DLC is bringing together close to 60 elected Democrats from across the country to get their views on the state of their movement, its ideas and the direction of party politics.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the group will release its second edition of The DLC's 100 To Watch, a publication highlighting Democrats "making their mark and making a difference in cities and states across the nation." The meeting begins at 10 a.m. at the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel.

Peach pizza ....

Herman Cain, founder of the Godfather's Pizza chain, is exploring a run for the seat of retiring U.S. Sen. Zell Miller, D-Ga. Now based in Atlanta, Cain is quietly being talked up in conservative circles inside Washington and throughout Georgia. The appeal of a self-funding African-American candidate may be too much for the state GOP to resist.

UNITA we stand ...

On Wednesday, the U.S. sanctions against the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola -- in force since September 1993 -- were lifted. By executive order, the president officially terminated the national emergency "described and declared" in the Clinton-era order that first put the trade and financial sanctions in place.

The February 2002 death of UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi provided the impetus for an April 4 memorandum of understanding known as the Luena Memorandum, setting out the terms of an immediate cease-fire and bringing both parties back to the table.

The product of those negotiations, convened to resolve outstanding political issues, was the Lusaka Protocol, which the Angolan government declared fully implemented in November 2002.

"The actions and policies of UNITA no longer pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the United States," the order states. "The continuation of sanctions imposed by Executive Orders 12865, 13069, and 13098 would have a prejudicial effect on the development of UNITA as an opposition political party, and therefore, on democratization in Angola."

"For these reasons, I have determined that it is necessary to terminate the national emergency with respect to UNITA and to lift the sanctions that have been used to apply economic pressure on UNITA," the president says, ending yet another chapter in American cold war politics.

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