As GOP Senators Cave On NSA Spying, GOP House Challenges Bush On Dubai Ports Deal
Unlike the cave-in today by Chuck Hagel, Olympia Snowe, and Mike DeWine, who were telling the media as late as last week that they would vote to open a congressional investigation of Bush’s NSA spying programs, only to get bitch-slapped today into voting to sanction the program, House GOP committee chairman Duncan Hunter went ahead and introduced an amendment that would block the Dubai ports deal today. And it appears that Hunter has the support of the House GOP leadership for this collision course with the White House. In fact, Hastert allowed Appropriations Committee chairman Jerry Lewis to attach Hunter’s amendment to a must-pass supplemental appropriation for Iraq/Afghanistan.
Efforts by the White House to hold off legislation challenging a Dubai-owned company's acquisition of operations at six major U.S. ports collapsed yesterday when House Republican leaders agreed to allow a vote next week that could kill the deal.
Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) will attach legislation to block the deal today to a must-pass emergency spending bill funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. A House vote on the measure next week will set up a direct confrontation with President Bush, who sternly vowed to veto any bill delaying or stopping Dubai Ports World's purchase of London-based Peninsular & Oriental Steamship Co.
"Listen, this is a very big political problem," said House Majority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), explaining that he had to give his rank-and-file members a chance to vote. "There are two things that go on in this town. We do public policy, and we do politics. And you know, most bills at the end of the day, the politics and the policy kind of come together, but not always. And we are into one of these situations where this has become a very hot political potato."
Ron Bonjean, spokesman for House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), said GOP leadership is "endorsing the viewpoint of our members and Chairman Lewis that we do not believe the U.S. should allow a government-owned company to operate American ports."
That sounds pretty definitive.
Look, quite simply what is going on here is a reading of the polls. The House GOP leadership is looking for issues where they can demonstrate their independence from the White House. And frankly, the polls on the Dubai ports deal are lopsidedly against the White House, as compared to the roughly 50-50 polling on the NSA spying issue. Besides, it is quite possible that Hagel, Snowe, and DeWine will let Arlen Specter do their dirty work for them when he gets a crack at the NSA spying program in the Judiciary Committee next week. And there was no way DeWine would go against Bush after the president raised some cash for him last month. Still, what Jay Rockefeller said today is absolutely true.
"This committee is basically under control of the White House. It's an unprecedented bout of political pressure from the White House."
And the GOP reads polls just as well as the Democrats. If the Democrats want to do something about illegal domestic spying, the only way to achieve that is to elect more Democrats this November, because Pat Roberts will never let an inquiry take place.