Alex's Outlook

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Conservatism of the 108th Congress

Paul Weyrich, an ancient grass-roots conservative warrior, has a surprisingly positive take on the 108th Congress.
In the past week or so I've done a half dozen interviews on the performance of Bill Frist in his first year as Majority Leader. No doubt I was called by major news organizations because their Google search revealed that when Frist was first elected I made some statements that were skeptical of his likely performance.

I don't know if I'll get quoted this time because I told the reporters I have come to like and trust Frist. He has been the most effective Republican leader since Everett Dirksen, and I have known them all.

Frist's "conservative highlights" of 2003 include:
  • The partial-birth abortion ban;
  • Defeat of contraceptive prescription-drug coverage in health care plans;
  • Defeat of a bill promising unfettered abortion access at military facilities;
  • A ban on human cloning;
  • Confirmation of 12 of 18 Circuit Court nominees, most of whom have "the same views as those being blocked";
  • The 39-hour judicial talkathon, which at least raised the issue of obstruction of judges; and
  • slashing taxes on capital gains and dividends.
    Congress also passed, fairly easily, free-trade treaties with Singapore and Chile. Not very big markets admittedly, but still a step in the right direction. Combined with Bush's retraction of steel tariffs, I think it's safe to say that free trade has regained dominance within the GOP.

    Frist has of course neglected to mention Congress' skyrocketing spending or the McCain-Feingold "campaign finance reform" act. But overall, the Republican Congress has taken a moderately conservative course in governing the country. The growing chasm between government revenue and government expenditure cannot be maintained; as the Republicans steel their current slender majorities, that gap will be bridged by, at the very least, more budget cuts than tax hikes. The Republican base will accept nothing less, and the Party can't do without its conservatives.



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