Dome and Dumber: Capitol Fluff in the Senate CR
Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.) hasn't been in a hurry to do anything--until now. Yesterday, the same man who has loafed around for the last 1,415 days without passing a budget was griping about the pace of debate. Monday night, the President's party finally unveiled its budget resolution--a 587-page monster to keep the government running until September--and by Tuesday afternoon, Sen. Reid was already pressing the Senate to vote on it. "We should have been legislating today," he grumbled. Well, frankly, they should have been legislating for the last four years, but maybe now Senate Democrats will understand how voters feel.
While Reid complains that the Senate is in "slow gear," it's certainly better than what the Majority has had it in since 2009--and that's "park!" At least two senators, including Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), understand where the Democrats' haste can lead (see the "we'll-have-to-pass-it-to-find-out-what's-in-it" health care law). "I'm willing to do what is necessary to make sure we get a continuing resolution," Coburn fired back. "But I'm not willing to do that blindly. And so I'm going to study this bill." So far, it's a good thing he has. Together with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the duo has identified at least 59 programs in the continuing resolution, or CR, that would receive $6.4 billion more than even the President requested. They include $567 million for "unrequested medical research," $61.2 million for construction on the Capitol dome, $120 million for algae research in Hawaii--and, perhaps worst of all, $120 million for "wastewater improvements in Guam" that House and Senate committees specifically banned! A disgusted John McCain fumed that he found it "mind-boggling" that Democrats would add projects that directly defy the Armed Services Committees. "What we have found so far is so egregious," McCain said. "So egregious that it is hard to imagine that anybody--in light of sequestration and the damage it has done to the lives of men and women in the military--could have added these kind of provisions."
Although tempers seemed to cool as the discussion wore on, it's painfully obvious that rushing a 600-page bill would be disastrous for taxpayers--and our country. For now, however, it looks like both sides have agreed to start debate on the measure as early as today. Unlike the House CR, which didn't allow amendments, the Senate's version will--including Sen. Ted Cruz's proposal to defund ObamaCare. As of yesterday, the amendment was gaining even more momentum, as 14 cosponsors (Lee, Inhofe, Paul, Rubio, Cornyn, Johnson, Risch, Vitter, Coburn, Scott, Heller, Toomey, Johanns, and Fischer) signed on. Unfortunately, not one Senate Democrat was willing to admit the boondoggle ObamaCare has become and Cruz's amendment failed along party lines 45-52.
To the delight of conservatives, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is also introducing an amendment that demands accountability on any money the U.S. gives Egypt (like the $250 million Secretary John Kerry so generously promised last week). Under Sen. Rubio's language, Congress would restrict economic or military aid to Egypt until certain conditions are met--including legal protections for religious freedom and human rights. In a column last Wednesday, Sen. Rubio made it clear that America's economic assistance "should reflect our values," and that means strengthening democracy, promoting religious tolerance, living up to its security arrangements with Israel, and treating women fairly.
For too long, the U.S. has given nations like Egypt a blank check--instead of using America's leverage to stop the persecution of Christians, who (if they're lucky enough to survive) are fleeing the country in droves. FRC supports both measures--as should all conservatives. If we're going to govern by short-term resolution, we should at least promote language with long-term benefits!
Busy in Bismarck!
FRC's Dr. David Prentice and Anna Higgins are wearing quite a path to the North Dakota Statehouse door! This week, the pair is back in frigid Bismarck, testifying on two bills before the senate's judiciary committee. Under the state's heartbeat bill, an abortion would be outlawed if a fetal pulse can be detected with standard medical equipment (like an ultrasound).
Next up was a piece of legislation called PRENDA, or the Prenatal Non-Discrimination Act, which would block sex-selection abortion or because doctors found a genetic abnormality in the developing baby. Worldwide, experts estimate that more than 200 million little girls have been aborted--just because they were girls. And while most people point the finger at China and India, the United States is not immune to the trend. Likewise, children diagnosed in the womb with genetic abnormalities are often aborted. Some estimate that 90-98% of Down's syndrome babies diagnosed in the womb are aborted. At the hearing, Dr. Prentice helped to highlight a couple of beautiful angelic "survivors" who delighted most of the people in attendance, as their smiles and laughter rang throughout the room. The North Dakota bill would stop the horrific practice of destroying little children simple because they aren't perfect or the "correct" gender. FRC's Anna Higgins followed up Dr. Prentice's testimony in four separate hearings today on personhood, fetal pain, doctor's admitting privileges, and the relationship of personhood legislation to the North Dakota criminal code.
Closer to home, FRC's Julia Kiewit spoke out on behalf of Virginia's new abortion clinic regulations. Although some argue the standards are unnecessary, Julia reiterated that abortion is one of the least-regulated surgical procedures in the U.S. Women deserve to know that an abortion clinic meets medical safety standards--and anyone who's followed the tragic deaths of Tonya Reeves and Jennifer Morbelli understands why.
For Marriage, a Rocky Mountain Low
After an emotional--and at times heated--debate, the Colorado legislature managed to do something that the past two statehouses could not: legalize civil unions. With Democrats in control of the Colorado House and Senate, they made counterfeiting marriage their top priority. By a 39-26 vote, the House sent the bill to Governor John Hickenlooper--a Democrat--who is celebrating the bill even before signing it. "#CivilUnions passes! Today, every Coloradan has equal rights," he tweeted.
Unfortunately for the Governor, not everyone agrees. Liberals were quick to fire back, including the bill's openly homosexual sponsor, state Sen. Pat Steadman (D), who made it clear that--despite having every benefit of marriage--the legislation is a pathetic substitute for "full equality." "Civil unions are not marriage," Steadman insisted. "They are something that are separate and distinct and lesser and unequal, and that really is not good enough." Once again, the Left made it clear that on marriage, it's all or nothing. In a state that has had a marriage protection amendment since 2006, nothing is acceptable but complete capitulation.
Even President Obama will not rest until 96.6% of the country bows to the wishes of the 3.4% of the population who identify as homosexuals. In the White House brief on California's marriage amendment, the administration argues that even civil union laws are unconstitutional because they don't go far enough. "The designation of marriage confers a special validation of the relationship between two individuals and conveys a message to society that domestic partnerships or civil unions cannot match."
Although the state is home to millionaire mega-activist Tim Gill, liberals had to fight an uphill battle against some very determined--and very principled--conservatives. "[M]arriage and family are so much bigger than Colorado's laws that we are no more capable of actually redefining this timeless institution than we are of changing the laws of gravity," said state Senator Kevin Lundberg (R). Others, like Rep. Lori Saine (R), are fuming at the lack of conscience and religious liberty exemptions: "We won't get to debate this again here, but we will debate this in a court of law."
In two weeks, America's highest court will be doing exactly that in the two marriage cases of the century. Find out why the justices should "Keep the Definition of Marriage as the Union of One Man and One Woman" (and why civil unions are bad policy) in FRC's publication. Also, you can join FRC, allied organizations, and an army of church and state leaders, in fighting for marriage at the March for Marriage in Washington in two weeks. Details for the March 26 event are now online at MarriageMarch.org. If you want to do something as a church family, encourage your pastor to rally the congregation for a Stand for Marriage Sunday. Click over to FRC's website, StandForMarriage.com, for bulletin inserts, talking points, special videos, pamphlets, and other resources--free for downloading!
** Don't miss today's edition of "Washington Watch with Tony Perkins" on the American Family Radio network, as Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) chats about the CR. FRC's own Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Jerry Boykin will kick off the program with a conversation about Benghazi. If you didn't catch yesterday's special abstinence focus, click over to TonyPerkins.com to hear how you can encourage your kids to wait with former Miss America 2011, Teresa Scanlan, and Valerie Huber of the National Abstinence Education Association.
*** With all eyes on the Catholic Church, FRC's Cathy Ruse will be on CNBC's "Kudlow Report" tonight at 7:00 p.m. (ET) to talk about the selection of Pope Francis I.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.