Hot Stories for the Week of April 18

This is a partial transcript from "The Beltway Boys", April 23, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

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FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: Hot story number one, this is war. Now, I’m just not talking about the old-fashioned normal war between Democrats and Republicans. I’m talking about a three-front war of extraordinary partisan intensity.

Front number one, of course, is over the Senate filibustering and the Senate Judiciary Committee (search) bipartisan vote reported out, a couple of more President Bush’s judicial nominees, Janice Rogers Brown (search) and Priscilla Owen (search), to be on the federal appeals courts, and Democrats have said they’re going to continue their practice of filibustering, in other words, barring an up- or-down vote, on President Bush’s more conservative nominees.

Now, Republicans may be able to stop this practice now. All they need is, and they plan to do this, all they need is a simple majority to change the filibuster rule and bar filibusters in the case of judicial nominees.

Just the idea of doing that has got Democrats in a tizzy, and Republicans are a little worried about it as well. But I think Bill Frist, the majority leader, has the votes.

Now, anyway, listen to this being debated by John Kerry and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.


U.S. SENATOR JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: When the leader of the Senate questions how any senator applies their faith in a, in opposing procedures of the United States Senate, we’re going too far.

U.S. SENATOR KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON (R), TEXAS: At some point in the near future, I think that Senator Frist will insist that the Senate rules be amended, if necessary, to allow the up-or-down vote of the qualified judges.


BARNES: You know, with Democrats believe, and they haven’t in the past, believe that Republicans have the votes to get rid of the filibuster in the cases of judges, they may want to deal and decide to let a lot of these Republican conservative nominees through. OK.

Front number two is John Bolton, the nominee for U.N. ambassador by the Bush administration. And I think he’s been smeared repeatedly with charges about, you know, personality that people don’t seem to like.

But Democrats will have to say, they’ve succeeded in postponing a vote until sometime in May, and the longer it goes, that’s probably not good for John Bolton.

There are three Republicans who are the waverers here. One is Lincoln Chafee (search) of Rhode Island, George Voinovich of Ohio, and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska. Any one of those, if, if any one of those ditches Bolton, then he’s not going to be reported successfully to the floor.

I think what was disappointing to me is to see former secretary of state Colin Powell sort of intervene in this; Bolton worked for him, of course, not to Bolton’s benefit.

Number three, Tom DeLay (search). This is the third front. Tom DeLay obviously Tom DeLay is facing all these ethics accusations by Democrats and the press, mostly for doing things that everybody else in, in Congress does. But in any case, he’s gone to the chairman of the ethics committee and said, Look, have an investigation. The chairman has said, Doc Hastings said OK, we’ll have an investigation. But they can’t have one because Democrats won’t let the Ethics Committee go into formation, go into practice.

Look, Democrats have to have what I think is a dirtier motive here. They have this scorched-earth policy against Republicans, and particularly against Tom DeLay. They have the, they claim the rules have been changed on the, on the committee, and (INAUDIBLE)...


BARNES: Of course they were changed. In relatively minor ways. This is strictly a jihad against Tom DeLay.

KONDRACKE: Well, obviously the, the Democrats think that they’re going after the quarterback, you know, he’s the captain of the team, so they’ll try to decapitate him.

Look, what’s going on here is not only war, this is nuclear holy war. You know, it’s getting religious, as you heard from John Kerry.

BARNES: Right.

KONDRACKE: But what Kerry was talking about, is that Bill Frist is going to speak by videotape to a right-wing religious gathering that’s against the filibuster.


KONDRACKE: And now, now you have liberal religious groups saying that, Uh-uh, this is bad, that this is undemocratic.

Now, what’s, what, one thing that’s ironic is that one of the Bush judicial nominees, William Pryor, was actually questioned about his religion, because he’s a Roman Catholic, and various Democrats on the Judiciary Committee thought that because he’s a devout Roman Catholic, that this would affect his judgments, which he denied.

Now, so, I mean, you got religion all mixed into this thing, when what we ought to be talking about here is speech. Everybody, Frist is free to speak, and everybody else ought to be free to speak.

What I find really ironic is that the Democrats are now in favor of the filibuster.

BARNES: I know.

KONDRACKE: I mean, for the whole of the last century, the filibuster was associated not so much with, with free speech as with segregationists.


KONDRACKE: You know, James Eastland and Strom Thurmond, trying to block racial integration. And furthermore, it was the Democrats who always wanted to limit the filibuster, and in a lot of cases they succeeded.

Now the tables are flipped, and you have things like the People for the American Way, a liberal group, running ads like this in favor of the filibuster. Watch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I’m a common-sense Republican, but some things are beginning to trouble me. When the government gets into the most private things a family can experience, when they start threatening judges, dragging religion into politics, and the majority party tries to choke off debate, well, something is wrong.

America works best when no one party has absolute power. That’s why we need to fight to save checks and balances and save the filibuster.



KONDRACKE: That’s amazing.


KONDRACKE: Anyway, the other hot story is economic blues, and, you know, while these wars have been consuming Washington, out there in the country what people seem to really care about is gasoline prices, which are now two, $2.30 for a gallon of regular. And as a result of gasoline prices, the public, even though jobs are being created and stuff like that, things by something like 48 percent to 14 percent, that the economy is getting worse and worse, instead of any better.

Now, the House of Representatives passed an energy bill this week. The president was forced to acknowledge that this energy bill is not going to lower gasoline prices anytime soon.

BARNES: Of course not.

KONDRACKE: So the fact, but the fact is that a Republican- dominated Congress has been fighting within itself over energy policy for four straight years and has been, and both the houses cannot seem to agree, and they may not agree now.

So I don’t know who the public’s going to blame, but it seems to me that they can’t very well blame, blame the Democrats for blocking this when, the Republican Senate can’t agree with the Republican House.

BARNES: You know, this notion about the economic blues is flawed in the first place, because our economy’s in great shape. Growth is strong, joblessness is declining, it’s going down. The jobless recovery, remember that? There’s no jobless recovery, because jobs are, are being created all the time.

KONDRACKE: Public doesn’t know it.

BARNES: Interest rate, and look, the public, we’re not governed by polls. The public frequently, years after a recession has ended, thinks the recession is still there.

Now, look, when the stock market goes down a little, and oil prices go up over a period of weeks, do we really want Congress and the White House to intervene in the economy? Our economy is strong, because that’s exactly what the White House and, and Congress don’t do on a regular basis. Hands-off is the best policy for weekly and monthly fluctuations. That’s for darn sure.

KONDRACKE: Well, but for the energy bill is not a hands-off bill, it’s got loads of subsidies, mainly put in there by your friend Tom DeLay, for the oil industry. I mean, with $50, $50 a barrel of gasoline.

BARNES: Yes, but when you increase more production, you have more supply and the price goes down.

KONDRACKE: So you’re in favor of those interventions.

BARNES: No, I’m just telling you how it works.

KONDRACKE: No, oh, well, but it shouldn’t work that way. It’s not a market. OK.

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