GOP Pushes 'Values' Legislation; Foes Say Disaffected Voters Won't Be Influenced by Bills
Byline: Amy Fagan and Christina Bellantoni, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
House Republican leaders yesterday sought to invigorate their conservative base with election-year legislation aimed at protecting both the religious freedom of municipalities and a parent's role in a minor's abortion decision.
The House passed a revised parental-notification bill and legislation limiting legal damages against cities and towns that lose lawsuits for violating the Constitution's ban on the establishment of religion.
"They help our members back home," a House Republican leadership aide said of the two bills. "Some of our members have constituents in their districts who really want this legislation."
The parental-notification bill, approved 264-153, would establish fines or up to a year in prison for anyone who knowingly skirts a state's parental-notification or parental-consent law by taking a pregnant minor to another state to have an abortion.
Both chambers approved different versions of the bill earlier this year, but Senate Democrats have blocked the final negotiations, seeking, among other things, changes to limit the notification rights of fathers who rape their daughters.
It was not clear yesterday whether the Senate would act on the bill this week, but if it does, the bill would likely pass and could then go on to President Bush, supporters said.
The House also approved, on a 244-173 vote, another element of the Republican "American Values Agenda" the Public Expression of Religion Act, which would deny legal fees to groups who win lawsuits against cities or towns found to have violated separation of church and state.
Supporters said municipalities currently feel pressured to remove public displays of religion such as monuments of the Ten Commandments from city halls because they would need to spend "millions" in taxpayer dollars to defend themselves.
If the Public Expression of Religion Act were to become law, groups like the American Civil Liberties Union would be barred from receiving legal fees if they prevail in a court battle.
"It would be a win for those that understand our Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, not freedom from religion," said Rep. …