Christopher Reeve and rights groups sue Bush, while half-human Bat Boy stalks Jenna. Plus: The president smiles through party switch as Republicans back off tough talk.

Published June 6, 2001 9:16AM (EDT)

Daily line

"I think we have an opportunity -- I know we have an opportunity -- to show the American people that although the structure of the Senate may have been altered somewhat, we still can get things done in a way that's positive for America."
-- President Bush, speaking after a meeting with key Senate Democrats and with newly independent Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont

Bush league: So sue me

Groups that believe President Bush has closed the White House door to their views are taking a detour to the courthouse to solve policy disputes. In the last month, a handful of advocacy organizations have filed or threatened lawsuits against Bush and his administration to fix what they see as holes in his policies. Here are the suits so far:

  • The Center for Reproductive Law and Policy filed suit on Wednesday against Bush to partially block implementation of "the global gag rule," the Reagan-era law that forbids U.S. funding of family planning groups abroad that advocate or offer information about abortion services. Bush reinstated the rule, suspended by Clinton in 1993, on his first full working day in office. The CRLP charges that the Bush policy violates the First Amendment free speech rights of Americans abroad who work for pro-abortion rights family planning groups.

  • The Violence Policy Center announced its suit against Attorney General John Ashcroft on Monday, charging that the Justice Department has delayed implementation of part of the Brady gun control law. Specifically, the VPC is challenging the Justice Department's stalling on setting up the National Instant Criminal Background Check System for firearms purchases.

  • Christopher Reeve and seven scientists filed suit in May after the Bush administration halted funding for fetal stem cell research and ordered Health and Human Services chief Tommy Thompson to do additional studies on the issue. Reeve and the other litigants charge that Bush acted outside the law in ordering the moratorium, and that the president's action is "preventing or delaying the advent of a cure for paralysis, Parkinson's disease, diabetes and other debilitating conditions."

  • The Natural Resources Defense Council is planning to file suit against the Bush administration over its plans to revisit Clinton administration rules controlling arsenic levels in drinking water. The NRDC charges that Bush's decision fell outside administrative rules and would ultimately violate right-to-know requirements.

  • California Gov. Gray Davis has threatened to sue the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission after Bush refused to endorse energy price caps during their meeting on May 29. Davis has said that he will wait until after an upcoming meeting with FERC officials to file suit.

    -- Alicia Montgomery

    Bush buzz

    Now it's official. Leadership of the Senate has passed from the Republicans, with smiling Democratic warrior Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota taking over as Senate majority leader, all thanks to the defection of Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont, who dropped the Republican label to become an independent. Though Jeffords has said that he doesn't intend to obey either party's dictates, the Democrats greeted him with wide-open arms as he attended his first closed-door meeting of the new majority party in the Senate.

    Since Jeffords switched, he has been invited to some surprising places, including the White House. As a Republican, Jeffords had trouble getting an audience with the president, but Bush invited him and a handful of Democratic senators to the White House on Tuesday to discuss education policy. The president insisted that the new Senate power structure need not result in gridlock, and said that he'd strive for friendly relations with Democratic leaders.

    Republicans in the Senate sounded conciliatory as well. After some tough talk about the coming partisan "war" last week by former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., leaders of the GOP have backed off the belligerent tone. They characterized their meetings with Democratic leaders as productive and positive, and several have discounted previous Republican threats to filibuster if Democrats don't give them assurances on the confirmation of Bush's judicial nominees.

    But conservative ideas and nominees may have to take a back seat to the new Democratic agenda. The party will be working on issues like patients rights, prescription drugs and energy policy, all areas in which Republicans seem vulnerable. The strongest change in approach is likely to be toward methods for dealing with power shortages in California and other states. Republicans are enthusiastic about increasing incentives for production, while Democrats generally favor price controls as the best way to assist consumers.

    Under Democratic rule, election reform will move to the front burner, especially in the wake of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission's draft report on Florida's election system. While most commission members fault authorities in that state for flawed practices and the disenfranchisement of black voters in the presidential race, the commission's two conservative appointees have publicly dissented from those findings. They and Florida Republican officials accuse the other members of the panel of political bias, and are upset that the report's findings were leaked to the press days before its scheduled release.

    Back in Texas, the restaurant that called the cops on twins Jenna and Barbara Bush is being accused of political bias as well. While representatives of Chuy's have not directly conceded that their decision to call 911 after the twins tried to buy drinks last week was politically motivated, they have acknowledged that it was the first time they reacted so strongly to underage drinkers.

    Meanwhile, the twins' cousin Lauren Bush, a 16-year-old model, is telling the press to leave the girls alone. Lauren, the current cover girl for Britain's Tatler magazine, joined other members of the Bush clan in demanding that the media stop its twin watching. But that message didn't make it all the way to Russia, where politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky wrote to the twins to express his "disappointment" in their behavior.

    And don't miss the Bush administration taking the culture war to the airwaves. The Federal Communications Commission has fined a Colorado radio station $7,000 for playing a song by rapper Eminem that it found obscene.

    Wednesday schedule: The president visits Bedford, Va., to commemorate the 57th anniversary of the Normandy invasion and dedicate a World War II memorial.

    -- A.M.

    The low down: Reading the tabs

    It's not just the cops who are following Jenna Bush around Austin. The Weekly World News reports that "Bat Boy," the half-human, half-bat creature that it's been covering for years, has developed an adolescent crush on the president's daughter. According to the Weekly World News, Jenna's Secret Service detail and security officers at the University of Texas in Austin have had to shoo Bat Boy away from the 19-year-old's campus on multiple occasions.

    Bat Boy apparently became smitten with Jenna after seeing her dance with her dad at an Inaugural ball. After that, Bat Boy started following her. "We believe he tracked her from Washington to Texas, using his superior hearing and sense of smell," said a "Secret Service source." Or maybe he just read the newspapers that noted that Jenna studied at UT in Austin. Regardless, the Secret Service has shoot to kill orders should Bat Boy rear his pointy-eared head again in Jenna's vicinity.

    Thus far, authorities have not explored whether Bat Boy's stalking of Jenna is politically motivated. During the presidential race, Bat Boy endorsed Democrat Al Gore.

    -- A.M.

    This day in Bush history

    June 6, 1993: The Dallas Morning News reported that George W. Bush, part owner of baseball's Texas Rangers, expressed interest in running for the state's governorship in 1994. "Put me down as interested," he told reporters during campaign stops he made with Senate hopeful Kay Bailey Hutchison.

    Burning Bush

    Links to the Web's best sites for hardcore Bush watchers.

    Send questions, comments and tips to bushed@salon.com.

    Bushed! contributors: Eric Boehlert, Karen Croft, Gary Kamiya, Kerry Lauerman, Daryl Lindsey, Alicia Montgomery, Fiona Morgan, Scott Rosenberg, Jake Tapper, Joan Walsh, Anthony York

    Take a look at the previous edition of Bushed!

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