Not to be outdone by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Republicans in the House this week introduced their "American Values Agenda" to set the stage for the 2006 elections. The list of legislation sounds like some kind of parody of extreme-right pandering, but we got it from CNN, not Comedy Central.
Ready? Here goes:
The Pledge Protection Act. The Freedom to Display the American Flag Act. The Public Expression of Religion Act. The Marriage Amendment. The Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act. The Human Cloning Prohibition Act. Reform of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. A ban on Internet gambling. Permanent tax relief for families. And the Disaster Recovery Personal Protection Act.
That last one sounds pretty reasonable, but you want to know what it really is? According to the Library of Congress, the Disaster Recovery Personal Protection Act is a bill that would "amend the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act to prohibit the confiscation of firearms during certain national emergencies."
OK, then. So how's the agenda going?
The GOP set to work right away Wednesday on the Pledge Protection Act, a bill that would strip federal courts of jurisdiction over Pledge of Allegiance litigation. The idea is to keep federal judges from taking the words "under God" out of the pledge, at least as it's recited in the public schools, and that's not something with which a lot of Republicans in the House would want to quibble.
But when the Pledge Protection Act came up for a vote in the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday, Republicans failed to muster the simple majority needed to get the bill to the House floor -- despite the fact that they enjoy a 23-17 advantage on the committee.
The problem? Seven Republicans weren't there for the vote, "showing up for the job you're getting paid to do" apparently not being much of an American value for them. When an eighth Republican -- South Carolina Rep. Bob Inglis -- joined 14 Democrats in voting no, the measure was stalled with a 15-15 tie. Inglis said he was voting no out of fear that if Republicans strip the courts of jurisdiction over the pledge, Democrats might adopt jurisdiction-stripping legislation on issues dear to Republicans if they ever win back control of Congress. Of course, that just means that Inglis didn't get the message: The whole point of the American Values Agenda is to ensure that Democrats don't win back the Congress.
Judiciary Committee chairman James Sensenbrenner says he'll try again for a majority today.