A Whole New World in D.C

By Erickson, Jan | National NOW Times, Spring 2001 | Go to article overview

A Whole New World in D.C


Erickson, Jan, National NOW Times


LEGISLATIVE UPDATE

The November elections showed once again that few things in politics are predictable. Who would have guessed that we would have a president who was not popularly elected, propelled into office by a three-vote electoral college margin on the basis of electoral manipulation, voter intimidation and a five-to-four Supreme Court vote? It took more than $100 million in campaign spending and the camouflaging of his true right-wing political coloration, but George W. Bush has assumed the mantle of the world's most powerful leader.

Exit polls showed that the vast majority of voters agreed with Vice President Al Gore's more progressive agenda, but that did not translate to Democrats winning control of the White House or either house of Congress. Some experts have argued that the politics of appealing to the middle-which both candidates practiced-results in a confused and divided electorate. The extremely close presidential vote and nearly even split in Congress is strong evidence that this may be true.

Bush Shows His Right-Wing Ties

The absence of a strong electoral mandate does not mean that the Bush administration will exercise restraint and moderation. Already that point has been well demonstrated in the selection of several cabinet members from what one wit dubbed as the "Taliban wing of the Republican party." The worst of the lot are former Missouri Governor and Senator John Ashcroft, an extreme right-winger, for attorney general, and former governor of Wisconsin Tommy Thompson, who is anti-abortion rights and pushed punishing state welfare initiatives, for secretary of Health and Human Services.

NOW leaders, activists and allies worked mightily to oppose these nominees and were able to win the highest number of votes ever (42) against an attorney general candidate. As the nation's top law enforcement officer, the attorney general is in a position to wield a great deal of power. Ashcroft's record is one of virulent opposition to abortion rights, gay rights, gun control, civil rights and affirmative action programs. Concerns about him include that he will do little to enforce the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act and prosecute clinic terrorists; will not show leadership for Violence Against Women programs and anti-hate crimes initiatives; and will likely seek out right-wing judicial candidates.

A unanimous confirmation vote for Thompson may signal that the Senate will support more harsh welfare-to-work schemes when they consider re-authorization of the 1996 welfare act.

Reproductive Rights In Danger

In addition to reinstating the global gag rule, Bush is reported to have told abortion rights opponents gathered in Washington for their annual protest on the Roe v. Wade anniversary that his faith-based initiatives will be useful in advancing their agenda. Critics are concerned that federal funds could easily be used for proselytizing and discrimination as new proposals do not contain safeguards against misuse and exempt those organization from equal opportunity laws.

Next on the target list, apparently, is withdrawing mifepristone (RU-486) from the market and ordering the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to review alleged safety concerns. Released last fall after a 12-year delay and extensive use around the world, mifepristone has one of the strongest safety records of any drug reviewed by the FDA. Measures have also been introduced in Congress to restrict which doctors can prescribe the drug.

NOW expects other strategies to limit women's reproductive rights, such as stopping embryonic stem cell research, elevating fetal rights and proposing new variations on abortion procedures bans. Highly-placed support for extremist measores will invigorate NOW's opponents inside and outside of Congress.

The new administration is also sure to mount assaults on environmental and workplace safety regulations, to attempt to limit powers of the Federal Communications Commission and other regulatory bodies, and to increase defense spending and enact massive tax cuts favoring the well-to-do. …

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