Washington Prowler

Ridiculously Sublime

Joe Biden speaks. Remembering Leavitt’s past. A legislative coup.

By 12.14.04

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BIDEN HIS TIME
In The Prowler's search for readership contributions that highlight how truly ridiculous some people can be, particularly those who want to run for President in 2008, The Prowler is pleased to present an occasional series: How Silly Can Sen. Joseph Biden Be?

In this inaugural segment, Senator Biden reveals his poor judgment of character.

When speaking of President Bush, Senator Biden said: "He is brain dead," (Wilmington, DE, News Journal, October 20, 2004). Yet just the other day, Senator Biden said of his colleague, Sen. Lincoln Chafee, whom Democrats would like to see switch parties: "He has a backbone like a ramrod." ("Imus in the Morning," 12/9/04)

Biden, according to Senate Democratic Leadership sources, is looking for ways to raise his public exposure over the next 18 months, as he considers how best to approach a possible presidential run. His staff is already looking at potential high profile speaking opportunities in Iowa, New Hampshire, and California.

COMMERCE CLAUSE
Conservatives in Washington, D.C. and on Capitol Hill are not wildly applauding the nomination of former Gov. Mike Leavitt to replace Tommy Thompson as Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Thompson himself, once a darling of the conservative movement while governor of Wisconsin, is now considered a major disappointment by many. "He didn't do much for conservative causes while over here," says a Republican political appointee embedded at HHS. "We had high hopes on issues like abortion, abstinence, and other issues. He made some attempts, but the real strong pushes on stem-cell research came from the White House, and the Justice Department was aggressive on the partial-birth abortion ban lawsuits."

It isn't clear where Leavitt comes down on a lot of these issues, though he talked a good game on Monday after his nomination was announced by the President. He certainly won't be shrinking the HHS bureaucracy, not with the President's prescription drug program in full swing, and Medicare reform on the horizon.

Regardless, Leavitt won't find a lot of support among conservatives due to his leadership role in pushing for a taxation of Internet transactions while serving as governor of Utah. "He didn't just support an Internet tax, he led the fight for an Internet tax," says an opponent of Internet commerce taxation who lobbied Leavitt on the issue, hoping to persuade him to end that support. "What angers so many of us is that he indicated that he'd be open to pulling his support when he clearly had no intention of doing so."

SEPARATION WORKS
The White House is said to have agreed to pursue separate legislative proposals on Medicare malpractice litigation reform and class action lawsuit reform. That decision was apparently made following meetings between White House legislative affairs staffers and senior Senate staff over the past two weeks.

Following the election, the White House had sought what would have amounted to a tort reform omnibus bill that would have wrapped reform of medical malpractice and class action suits into one bill. Senate staff felt that do so would have doomed the legislation at final passage.

"There are too many variables at play, some Senators would have liked one part of the bill, another Senator a different part," says a Senate staffer. "We would never have gotten what the White House was looking for. By going separate, we have a better chance of getting both."

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