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Last modified: Thursday, August 11, 2005

Congressional Quarterly

Congressional Quarterly
Midday Update, -- August 10, 2005
Edited by Martha Angle

Two Dozen House Republicans Oppose Arctic Refuge Drilling

Two dozen House Republicans, including three committee chairmen, want provisions opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling left out of a budget "reconciliation" package that will be assembled in mid-September.

In an Aug. 4 letter to House Resources Committee Chairman Richard W. Pombo, R-Calif., Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., and Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle, R-Iowa, the lawmakers said they "would have serious concerns about any budget bill that contains provisions authorizing the development of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge."

Under the budget resolution (H Con Res 95), the Resources Committee must come up with $2.4 billion in savings over five years from programs under its jurisdiction by Sept. 16. That figure, equal to the anticipated receipts from oil and gas leasing in ANWR, represents the panel's portion of a $34.7 billion reconciliation bill that will enjoy protection from a Senate filibuster.

While the House has approved drilling in ANWR in the past, GOP leaders have little room for error on budget measures, which typically pass with a two- or three-vote margin.

Specter Sides With White House on Withholding Some Roberts Documents

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., today endorsed the White House's refusal to give panel Democrats all the documents they seek relating to the prior government service of Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr.

Committee Democrats have requested documents related to work Roberts might have done as principal deputy solicitor general on 16 high-profile Supreme Court cases during the administration of the current president's father.

The Justice Department rejected the Democrats' request in an Aug. 5 letter, saying the solicitor general's office "simply could not function effectively" if its lawyers knew their "work product would be fair game in any subsequent Senate confirmation process."

In a letter today to ranking committee Democrat Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, Specter backed the administration.

"While the privilege is not absolute, it is my conclusion that the absence of any issue of misconduct and the extensive disclosure of numerous other relevant documents prepared by Judge Roberts support the White House conclusion to protect in this case the deliberative process," Specter wrote.

Bush Signs Highway Bill Despite Surge in Earmarks

President Bush traveled this morning to a congested Chicago suburb represented by House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., to sign a $286.5 billion surface transportation reauthorization bill that Congress hammered out under the cloud of several presidential veto threats.

"Our economy depends on us having the most efficient, reliable transportation system in the world. If we want people working in America, we've got to make sure our highways and roads are modern," Bush said.

The law will fund highway and public transportation programs, as well as safety programs, through fiscal 2009. It carries thousands of earmarks for specific projects inserted by influential lawmakers.

"There are nearly 6,500 member-requested projects worth more than $24 billion, nearly nine percent of the total spending," said the directors of a coalition of fiscally conservative groups including the National Taxpayers Union and the Club for Growth. "President Reagan vetoed a transportation bill in 1987 because there were 152 such earmarks."

But Bush said the bill met his overall objectives, including his insistence that it neither increase taxes nor deepen the budget the deficit.

Younger Voters Hold More Favorable View of Congress

Congress remains unpopular with a majority of Americans, but younger, more educated voters have a far more positive view of the institution than older ones.

The was among the findings of the inaugural survey by the Center on Congress at Indiana University examining public attitudes toward the legislative branch. The center's director is former Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Ind., who served as vice chairman of the independent Sept. 11 commission.

The survey of 1,400 voters nationwide, conducted between November 2004 and January 2005, found 57 percent of all those surveyed disapproved of the way Congress is doing its job. But there was a huge generation gap in perceptions.

Among Americans 35 and older, only 38 percent approved of Congress' performance. Among those ages 18 to 34, the approval rating was 54 percent.

Not surprisingly, 67 percent of Republicans approved of the job performance of the GOP-controlled Congress, while only 26 percent of Democrats approved.

Only 49 percent of citizens believed lawmakers have their constituents' interests in mind "most of the time" or "just about always" when voting on policies, while 64 percent thought their representatives have special interests in mind.

Rep. Salazar Will Test Democrats' Appeal in West

In next year's elections, Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., will be testing whether a Democratic message, even a moderate one, can continue to resonate in a Western district where most residents view the party's national image as too liberal.

Democrats hail Salazar, a centrist former state legislator, agricultural official and fifth-generation rancher, as a model in their efforts to erode the solid Republican edge in the Mountain West.

But Salazar will have to run this time without his brother, Ken, just ahead of him on the ballot. (Ken Salazar won a Senate seat in 2004.) Still, John Salazar's emphasis on addressing water shortages in his drought-prone region will again be front and center. He has already secured federal funds for water infrastructure projects from his seat on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Republican Scott Tipton, who runs a pottery business in Cortez, has lined up early support to challenge Salazar. An otherwise down-the-line conservative, he hopes to match the incumbent as an advocate for increased water development in the region.

The Colorado 3rd District contest is one of "12 Races to Watch" in a special report previewing the 2006 congressional elections, to be published in the Aug. 15 edition of CQ Weekly.

Political Clippings

The Lansing State Journal reports that Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich., "a popular two-term Michigan secretary of state before her election to Congress in 2002," has ruled out a challenge to Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm in 2006. "In a four-paragraph statement, Miller...announced that she would seek re-election to the House of Representatives rather than 'make another run for statewide office.'" Her announcement "appeared to clear the field for Dick DeVos, a wealthy west Michigan businessman and GOP activist, who has announced his intent to run against Granholm."

The latest Quinnipiac University Poll shows New Jersey Democratic Sen. Jon Corzine holding a 10-point lead over Republican nominee Douglas Forrester among likely voters in this year's gubernatorial race, and a 12-point edge among all registered voters. But when all registered voters were asked which candidate would do a better job ending government corruption, the two were in a dead heat. The survey of 1,504 registered voters conducted Aug. 3-8 has a sampling margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points. Corzine held a 10-point lead in a June 25 poll.

The Troy Messenger reports that Alabama Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley, a Democrat, made clear this week she is running for governor. "'Some of the other potential candidates haven't decided if they're going to run or not but I've made it clear what I intend to do,' Baxley said. 'The legal date to start raising money was on June 6 and as of last Friday I was the only candidate that had filed a committee with the Secretary of State.'"Among potential contenders are incumbent Republican Gov. Bob Riley, former Chief Justice of Alabama Roy Moore , a Republican, and former Democratic Gov. Don Seigleman.

Political Trivia

Rep. Maurice D. Hinchey, D-N.Y., drew unwelcome attention during his first House term when he was charged with carrying a loaded handgun in his baggage at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. He eventually pleaded no contest and was given a suspended sentence. (Source: CQ Politics in America 2006)

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