Before entering politics, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert,
R-Ill., was a high-school teacher and wrestling coach. You never would
know it! Last week it was Hastert who got his shoulders pinned to the
mat by Constance Morella, R-Md., a slip of a woman less than half his
Morella may lack brawn and muscle, but when it comes to promoting
feminist causes, she more than makes up for any physical drawbacks with
sheer speed and tenacity. Last week, Republicans had an opportunity to
seize some moral high ground on the abortion issue by bringing up the
"Born Alive Infants Protection Act," H.R. 4292, which is designed to
ensure that all infants born alive are treated as persons and to
repudiate recent judicial expansions of the "right to abortion" that
place some of these babies in jeopardy.
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Morella, swung into high gear, threatening to block some essential
appropriations bills if she didn't get her way. Morella managed to
cajole the Speaker into agreeing to keep this important piece of
legislation off the floor until she first got a vote on her
re-authorization bill for the "Violence Against Women Act," H.R. 1248.
VAWA, as it is affectionately called by its enthusiastic supporters, is
a thinly veiled attempt to fund left-wing causes and federalize crime,
two things most Republicans are dedicated to stop.
Now it's hard to vote against a bill with such lofty sounding goals
as reducing domestic violence and crimes against women, especially in an
election year. Since leadership showed no interest in stopping H.R.
1248, conservatives decided to do the next best thing: amend it to take
out some of the more onerous provisions and make it do some of the
things we have been led to believe it would do. For Example, Dr. Tom
Coburn, R-Okla., was prepared to offer an amendment that, if passed,
would have allowed women to know the HIV status of their rapists.
Coburn's amendment never saw the light of day because Hastert, in his
haste to appease Morella, brought VAWA up under a "closed rule," which
means a straight up or down vote.
Coburn wasn't the only one who had a reason to be chagrined. Rep.
Thomas Bliley, R-Va., never had a chance to bring it before his Commerce
Committee, which has oversight of health issues, and Rep. William
Goodling, R-Pa., who chairs the Education and Workforce Committee,
wanted an opportunity to review the grants going to colleges and
universities. The Justice Department administers this money, ostensibly
to combat violent crimes against women on campuses. However, more often
than not, the money is funneled into programs that are nothing more than
political indoctrination sessions for "alternative lifestyles." This
VAWA money has been awarded to multicultural, lesbian, gay and bisexual
An Alabama woman, who had attended a VAWA funded session in her
state, complained to a House staffer that she was verbally assaulted and
pressed to explain "why God was so mean and hated lesbians" because she
was wearing a cross.
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The one and only hearing for the reauthorization of VAWA was held in
September of 1999 with only one witness who had objections to the bill.
Since that time, the Supreme Court stripped out the provision that
allowed women to bring civil suits (at taxpayer expense) in federal
court. With half the mandate, our illustrious leaders marked-up and
passed this bill with a 300 percent increase in funding over the
original 1994 version. Only three congressmen had the courage to do the
right thing and vote against it: Helen Chenoweth-Hage, R-Idaho, Mark
Sanford, R-S.C., and John Hostettler, R-Ind. Of these three, only
Hostettler is running for re-election. He gets my vote for the most
courageous man in the 106th Congress.
Once this deed was done, Morella wasn't through with Speaker Hastert,
however. She and her pro-choice cronies weren't about to abide by the
terms of their original deal, which meant a vote on the Born Alive
Infants Protection Act. They whined, complained and held sit-ins in his
office to make him feel guilty for bring up a bill that even
pro-abortion extremist Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., could vote for.
What would Coach Hastert have done if some of his wrestlers had tried
such tactics? I would suspect that he would have thrown them out of his
office, if not off the team. Hastert the Speaker simply capitulated
again, and agreed to pull the Manager's Amendment to the "Born Alive
Infants Protection Act" which contained the "critical findings" section,
seen by many as essential to the bill.
The good news is that the bill to protect newborn infants passed 380
to 15. The bad news is that Hastert's best leadership days may be
behind him, way behind him.