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It's in the Formers' Almanac: Rules Change Brings Deluge

By Charles Babington
Sunday, April 17, 2005; Page A05

Don't look for congressional Republicans to host an Alumni Weekend anytime soon. In the past few days, several former GOP lawmakers have tweaked their party's current leaders on the touchy issues of judicial nominations and House ethics.

It began when former senators Malcolm Wallop (R-Wyo.) and James A. McClure (R-Idaho) penned a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece urging Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and his colleagues to drop their threats to ban filibusters of judicial nominees.

Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) whipped for bankruptcy vote.

"It is naive to think that what is done to the judicial filibuster will not later be done to its legislative counterpart," they wrote. "The legislative filibuster . . . in the not-so-distant past was our only defense against the excesses of a bipartisan liberalism."

Then former Senate Republican leader Robert J. Dole (Kan.) went on National Public Radio, where he was asked about changing the filibuster rule. "I think you have to be very careful, that's my advice, before you start tinkering with the rules," he said. "The Senate's . . . not always going to be Republican."

Next, 10 GOP House retirees expressed "grave concern" about a recent Republican-led rules change that prevents the House ethics committee from pursuing allegations against a lawmaker unless a member of the targeted person's party agrees.

"We saw it as an obvious action to protect Majority Leader Tom DeLay (Tex.), who had been admonished three times by the Ethics Committee for well-publicized misuse of money and/or power," said their letter to Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.). Signers of the letter, posted on the Public Campaign Action Fund's Web site, include former House and Senate member Mark Andrews (N.D.) and two Virginians: M. Caldwell Butler and G. William Whitehurst.

Firmly on Both Sides of Issue

Americans overwhelmingly support a ban on judicial filibusters. Or they overwhelmingly oppose it. You be the judge.

First, from the conservative Judicial Confirmation Network: "A national, scientific survey of 800 registered voters reveals that an overwhelming majority of Americans" believe "well qualified" nominees "deserve an up-or-down vote in the U.S. Senate." In other words, no filibuster.

Now from the liberal People for the American Way: A poll of 1,600 voters shows that "Americans strongly favor preserving the filibuster for judicial nominations."

(Sundaypolitics' thought? Find 800 or 1,600 Americans who can explain a filibuster and identify one federal judge outside the Supreme Court, and you deserve a lifetime exemption from all future poll stories.)

DumpOn Democrat

It's a bad day for Democrats when their second-ranking House leader is being hammered by MoveOn.org, an organization that's usually a Democratic stalwart.

MoveOn PAC announced Friday it will air radio ads criticizing Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (Md.), plus 10 House Republicans, who voted for a recently passed bankruptcy bill that will make it more difficult for consumers to escape debts.

"The bankruptcy bill is the latest in a series of Republican initiatives to benefit corporate special interests and the super-rich at the expense of middle- and lower-income American families," said Tom Matzzie, MoveOn PAC's Washington director. "We want to serve notice to politicians in both parties . . . we'll be there to hold them accountable."

Hoyer declined to comment.

Santorum Fundraising Assailed

Pennsylvania Democrats, hoping to oust Sen. Rick Santorum (R) next year, are berating him for raising campaign money during a Florida trip in which he also met with the parents of Terri Schiavo shortly before the brain-damaged woman died.

State Democratic Party chairman T.J. Rooney said Santorum -- the Senate's third-ranking GOP leader -- should return the approximately $250,000 he raised at several Florida events. Santorum's "conscience stops when it comes to campaign cash," Rooney said.

Santorum consultant John Brabender told Pennsylvania reporters that Rooney's words were "despicable" and a sign that Democrats plan a "vicious, mudslinging campaign" next year. "For them to attack Rick Santorum for taking the time . . . to go pray with the parents of a dying child, I think is one of the most outrageous, lowest political tricks that I've ever seen," Brabender said.

State Treasurer Bob Casey Jr., son of a former governor, is widely expected to be the Democratic Senate nominee. President Bush lost Pennsylvania to John F. Kerry last year, and Democrats consider Santorum one of their best targets to gain a Senate seat.

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