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House GOP promotes its "American Values Agenda"

By Mark Preston
CNN Political Editor


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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- House Republicans released a package of bills Tuesday aimed at energizing social conservatives five months before the midterm elections.

Billed as the "American Values Agenda," the measures range from legislation that would "protect the Pledge of Allegiance from attacks by activist federal judges seeking to rule it unconstitutional" to a constitutional amendment "declaring marriage to be between a man and a woman."

"Through this agenda, we will work to protect the faith of our people, the sanctity of life and freedoms outlined by our founding fathers," House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois) said in a statement released by his office.

Jennifer Crider, a spokeswoman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California), dismissed the announcement as a campaign stunt.

"The American people will see through the Republican's old playbook of distract, distort, and divide," Crider told the Grind. "Pandering to the radical right-wing's wrong priorities does not reflect American value of opportunity, security, and prosperity. Americans are demanding change, and Democrats are offering a new direction for America with real solutions to our nation's challenges."

House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Missouri) told CNN's Deirdre Walsh that Republican leaders decided on the 10 legislative items after meeting with about two dozen outside groups in February as well as receiving input from the House GOP's "Values Action Team" headed by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pennsylvania).

Blunt said details were announced this week "both to give our outside friends the notice they need to make their final effort on these issues and to let the members know before we go home before the week in July that they'll be working in the district on this."

A Blunt spokesperson said the goal is to move on most of these items in July, but they will be spread out over several weeks depending on committee schedules. With the August Congressional recess fast approaching, some of these items could slip into September.

The GOP's "American Values Agenda" includes: Pledge Protection Act, HR 2389; Freedom to Display the American Flag Act, HR 42; The Public Expression of Religion Act, HR 2679; Marriage Amendment, HJ Res 88; Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act, HR 356; Human Cloning Prohibition Act, HR 1357; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (BATFE) Reform, 5092; Internet Gambling Prohibition; Permanent Tax Relief for Families; Disaster Recovery Personal Protection Act, HR 5013.

A House GOP aide told Walsh the first three items that likely will be addressed are the Pledge Protection Act, Marriage Amendment and Internet Gambling Prohibition.

Cannon survives primary challenge

Rep. Chris Cannon (R-Utah) beat back a primary challenge Tuesday from an opponent who charged he was too soft on the issue of illegal immigration. Challenger John Jacob ran his campaign on two major themes: a tough stand on illegal immigrants and the need for a change in Washington. Anti-illegal immigration groups poured money into the race and Bush and First Lady Laura Bush recorded telephone messages encouraging Republicans to vote for Cannon. In the days leading up to the election, Cannon acknowledged he could lose, but in the end he was able to collect 56 percent of the vote, while Jacob received 44 percent. This Provo-based district is rock solid Republican and Cannon is all but assured re-election in November.

"Tonight's well deserved victory by Chris Cannon demonstrates that voters prefer real solutions to our nation's important issues like border security," Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman said in a prepared statement.

In an interview with CNN's Candy Crowley and Sasha Johnson prior to Tuesday's primary, Cannon said that if he won the message it would send back to Washington is "you don't have to worry about xenophobes.

"You can focus on America and what is good for America and where we are going, because America is a wonderful place," he said.

How will the flag vote play in 2008?

Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Indiana) is the only potential 2008 presidential contender to vote in favor of a constitutional amendment that would have prohibited desecration of the U.S. flag. The amendment failed by one vote with 66 senators supporting it, while 34 senators voted against it. The amendment needed 67 votes to be approved. Other possible Democratic presidential candidates: Sens. Joe Biden (Delaware), Hillary Rodham Clinton (New York), Chris Dodd (Connecticut), John Kerry (Massachusetts) and Russ Feingold (Wisconsin) voted against it. GOP senators eyeing 2008 bids: George Allen (Virginia), Sam Brownback (Kansas), Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (Tennessee), Chuck Hagel (Nebraska), John McCain (Arizona) and Rick Santorum (Pennsylvania) all voted in favor of the amendment. But Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), who is the front runner to become Majority Leader in 2007, and GOP Sens. Robert Bennett (Utah) and Lincoln Chafee (Rhode Island) voted against it. See the full vote results.external link

No pay for you!

Senate Democrats vowed Tuesday to block automatic pay increases for Members of Congress unless the minimum wage is increased from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour.

"We're going to do anything it takes to stop the congressional pay raise this year and we're not going to settle for this year alone," Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) said.

Republicans oppose the Democratic proposal because they argue it will hurt small businesses and instead have offered an alternative that is tied to tax breaks. Expect Democrats to try and use this issue to rally their political base for the midterm elections.

Kerry whipping votes for Bush?

In a speech Tuesday advocating line item veto authority, President Bush singled out Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tennessee), Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) and Sen. John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) for their help in promoting the idea. Wait, John Kerry? The same person who challenged Bush for the White House in 2004 and is now one of the President's fiercest critics on Iraq? That would be the one, reports CNN's Shawna Shepherd.

"I remember campaigning against him in 2004, and I remember him talking about the line-item veto, and I appreciate the fact that he's living up to the political promises he made," Bush said. "It's a good sign, and I applaud Senator Kerry for taking the lead on the line-item veto. And I hope members of his party listen to his justifications for that important piece of legislation."

But Bush and Kerry lock horns in Missouri

President Bush heads to Missouri today to attend a fundraiser for Sen. Jim Talent (R-Missouri) and the State Republican Party. RNC officials tell the Grind that 500 people will attend the early evening event (see details below in Dayahead) that will raise $1 million. Proceeds will be split evenly between Talent and the Missouri Republican Party. Polls show that Talent is facing a difficult re-election campaign against Democrat Claire McCaskill. Sen. John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) called on his political supporters to donate to McCaskill and two other Democrats in an e-mail appeal sent on Tuesday. CNN's Robert Yoon reports that former Attorney General Janet Reno will appear at a July 19 fundraiser for McCaskill in St. Louis.

Glory day$

In less than one hour, Democratic donors received fundraising solicitations Tuesday from three of the most well known Democrats in the nation. And only one is currently serving in office. Former President Bill Clinton, former Vice President Al Gore and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York) all sent out appeals for donations on the behalf of others, as the Democratic Party tries to fill its war chests in its quest to take back control of Congress in November. Gore asked on behalf of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee; President Clinton requested donations for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee; while Sen. Clinton sought donations for Mike Arcuri, who is running for retiring Rep. Sherwood Boehlert's (R-New York) seat.

DAYAHEAD/Events making news today

  • President Bush heads to Missouri today to help raise money for Sen. Jim Talent (R-Missouri). But first he holds a 4:15 p.m. ET meeting with military personnel who have returned from Afghanistan and Iraq at the VFW-Overland-St. Ann Memorial Post #3944 in St. Louis, Missouri. At 6:20 p.m. ET, Bush attends the Talent fundraiser at the Ritz-Carlton in St. Louis. Press Secretary Tony Snow conducts a 10:20 a.m. ET on-camera briefing.
  • The Senate gaveled into session at 9:30 a.m. ET. The House turned the lights on at 10 a.m. ET.
  • The Democratic women senators were scheduled to take the Senate floor this morning at 9:30 a.m. ET to discuss their "Checklist for Change" legislative goals.
  • House Republicans hold a 10 a.m. ET news conference outside room HC-6 in the Capitol following their weekly meeting.
  • House Democrats hold a 10 a.m. ET news conference outside room 345 of the Cannon House Office Building following their weekly meeting.
  • Senate Democrats hold a 10:15 a.m. ET news conference on Iraq in room S-211 of the Capitol.
  • Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney holds an 11 a.m. ET news conference with religious and political leaders in the Massachusetts State House to urge the Legislature to pass the Protection of Marriage Amendment.
  • GOP Sens. Lamar Alexander (Tennessee), Saxby Chambliss (Georgia), John Cornyn (Texas), Johnny Isakson (Georgia), Rick Santorum (Pennsylvania), Jeff Sessions (Alabama), John Thune (South Dakota) and David Vitter (Louisiana) hold an 11 a.m. press conference in the Senate Radio & TV Gallery to discuss immigration and border security.
  • Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin (Illinois), Edward Kennedy (Massachusetts) and Chuck Schumer (New York) hold an 11 a.m. ET conference call to discuss the rising cost of tuition and student debt.
  • House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Rep. Edward Royce (R-California) hold an 11:30 a.m. ET news conference on border security in the House Radio & TV Gallery.
  • Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman meets with grassroots supporters in Michigan and attends fundraisers that are expected to raise $30,000. His first stop is at the Macomb Victory Center in Shelby Township at 1 p.m. ET, followed by a 5 p.m. ET meeting at the Flint Victory Center in Flint.
  • Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean delivers a 1 p.m. ET speech to the League of United Latin American Citizens conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
  • Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) attends a pro-immigration rally at 3 p.m. ET with "thousands of Irish" being held at the Holiday Inn on New Jersey Avenue in D.C.
  • Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich Jr. kicks off his re-election campaign at 5 p.m. ET in Arbutus, Maryland.

    Compiled by CNN's Stephen Bach

    ROBERTS ASK DNI TO REPORT DAMAGE DONE BY SWIFT DISCLOSURE: Senator Pat Roberts, the chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, asked the director of national intelligence on Tuesday to assess any damage to American counterterrorism efforts caused by the disclosure of secret programs to monitor telephone calls and financial transactions. Mr. Roberts, Republican of Kansas, singled out The New York Times for an article last week that reported that the government was tracking money transfers handled by a banking consortium based in Belgium... In his letter to John D. Negroponte, director of national intelligence, Mr. Roberts wrote that "we have been unable to persuade the media to act responsibly and to protect the means by which we protect this nation." New York Times: Damage Study Urged on Surveillance Reportsexternal link

    HOUSE RESOLUTION WILL CONDEMN SWIFT LEAK AND PUBLICATION: House Republican leaders are expected to introduce a resolution today condemning The New York Times for publishing a story last week that exposed government monitoring of banking records. The resolution is expected to condemn the leak and publication of classified documents, said one Republican aide with knowledge of the impending legislation... Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-Ariz.), working independently from his leadership, began circulating a letter to House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) during a late series of votes yesterday asking his leaders to revoke the Times's congressional press credentials. The Hill: GOP bill targets NY Timesexternal link

    FLAG BURNING BAN FALLS SHORT IN SENATE BY A SINGLE VOTE: The Senate rejected by a single vote yesterday an effort to amend the Constitution to allow Congress to ban desecration of the American flag, after a two-day debate freighted with political calculations and sharp disputes over the limits of free speech. The 66 to 34 vote fell just short of the two-thirds majority required to approve a constitutional amendment and submit it to the states for ratification... As expected, three Republicans -- Robert F. Bennett (Utah), Lincoln D. Chafee (R.I.) and Mitch McConnell (Ky.) -- voted against the amendment. Fourteen Democrats voted for it. The House approved the measure 286 to 130 last year. Washington Post: Senate Rejects Flag Desecration Amendmentexternal link

    "A DECLARATION THAT HE 'WILL DO AS HE PLEASES'": Senators on the Judiciary Committee accused President Bush of an "unprecedented" and "astonishing" power grab on Tuesday for making use of a device that gave him the authority to revise or ignore more than 750 laws enacted since he became president. By using what are known as signing statements, memorandums issued with legislation as he signs it, the president has reserved the right to not enforce any laws he thinks violate the Constitution or national security, or that impair foreign relations. A lawyer for the White House said that Mr. Bush was only doing his duty to uphold the Constitution. But Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, characterized the president's actions as a declaration that he "will do as he pleases," without regard to the laws passed by Congress. New York Times: Bush's Use of Authority Riles Senatorexternal link

    BUSH JOGS WITH DOUBLE AMPUTEE IRAQ VET: Shortly after Army Staff Sgt. Christian Bagge lost parts of both legs in Iraq when a roadside bomb tore through his Humvee last June, he vowed to not let the injury prevent him from doing things he could do before he was wounded. "I want to run. I want to swim. I want to mountain bike. The biggest goal of all is just to do what I did before," Bagge, 23, told CNN in an interview last month. On Tuesday, he did one of those things. He ran side-by-side with President Bush on the spongy black jogging track that rings the South Lawn of the White House. "And he ran the president into the ground, I might add," Bush said after jogging about a quarter-mile. USA Today: Amputee Iraq vet fulfills wish, jogs with Bushexternal link

    AMERICANS PAYING UNUSUALLY CLOSE ATTENTION TO MIDTERMS: Americans are paying unusually close attention to the congressional elections in November, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds. They are more inclined to deliver significant gains to Democrats than in any year since Republicans won control of the House and Senate in 1994. Those surveyed are more concerned about national issues than local ones  a situation that favors Democrats hoping to tap discontent over the Iraq war and gasoline prices - and prefer Democrats over Republicans on handling every major issue except terrorism. USA Today: Poll show Americans keeping an eye on Congressexternal link

    DEMS THREATEN TO BLOCK PAY RAISE FOR CONGRESS: Seeking to leave town on a political high note, Senate Democratic leaders vowed on Tuesday to block their own annual pay raise unless Republicans also allow for a boost in the federal minimum wage. Democrats offered few details about how they plan to carry out their promise to stop Congress' scheduled 2 percent pay hike from going into effect next January. But they said they have more than 40 Senate Democrats aligned behind them and will succeed in freezing Members' pay unless Congress approves a minimum wage increase by the end of the 109th. "They can play all the games they want... but we're going to do everything to stop the Congressional pay raise being put in - the right way, the wrong way or any way," said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). Roll Call: Reid Threatens Member COLAexternal link

    A PATH TOWARDS AGREEMENT ON IMMIGRATION? With the House and Senate stalemated over how to overhaul immigration law, the contours of one potential path to an agreement have begun to emerge. The House has approved a bill that focuses on improving border security and cracking down on illegal hiring. Many of the conservative Republicans who are dominant in the House have said that these security measures must be firmly in place before the House begins discussions about elements of a Senate-passed bill that would create a guest worker program and offer steps to citizenship for most illegal immigrants now in the U.S. Los Angeles Times: Senate May Budge on Immigrationexternal link

    BUSH CALLS FOR LINE-ITEM VETO: President Bush, urging the Senate to pass the line-item veto, on Tuesday criticized House Democrats who didn't back the measure even though they've called for federal spending restraint. A line-item veto would allow the president to cut certain provisions in spending bills without vetoing the entire measure. The House passed such legislation last week 247-172. Thirty-five Democrats joined with most Republicans in voting for the bill... The bill faces an uncertain future in the Senate. Democrats generally oppose the measure, and not all Republicans are excited about the idea. AP via Yahoo! News: Bush urges Senate to pass line-item vetoexternal link

    NELSON SAYS HE'LL FILIBUSTER DRILLING BILL: Florida U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson says he would start a filibuster in the Senate to block a measure on offshore drilling if it passes the House, which is expected to vote on the bill this week. The bill would end a 25-year ban on drilling off much of the U.S. coastline. It could bring rigs as close as 50 miles from Florida's beaches. Rising fuel prices have increased support for drilling in environmentally sensitive areas. The bill last week cleared the House Resources Committee 29-9 with bipartisan support. AP via Yahoo! News: Nelson vows to filibuster drilling billexternal link

    CANNON FENDS OFF PRIMARY CHALLENGER: U.S. Rep. Chris Cannon dodged another political bullet Tuesday, winning the Republican Party's nomination for the 3rd Congressional District, late returns of the 2006 primary election showed. Cannon withstood his greatest intra-party challenge yet, coming this year from John Jacob, a millionaire who pumped more than $400,000 into his effort to unseat the five-term incumbent. Cannon won 56-44 percent. In the end, Cannon crushed Jacob and all of his money  a victory near in size to Cannon's 2004 Republican primary win over former state Rep. Matt Throckmorton. And Throckmorton spent a fraction of what Jacob did. Deseret Morning News: Cannon victorious: Congressman crushes challenger, 56-44%

    MD'S EHRLICH KICKS OFF REELECTION BID TRAILING O'MALLEY: Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. starts his reelection campaign today significantly trailing Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, according to a new Washington Post poll. Although the state's voters give the governor good marks for the job he's done, they also appear inclined to return a Democrat to the governor's mansion. Ehrlich kicks off his campaign today at his boyhood home in the Baltimore suburb of Arbutus, attempting to become the state's first Republican governor in 50 years to serve a second term... The poll shows Ehrlich trailing O'Malley by 11 percentage points among registered voters and 16 points among those who say they are "absolutely certain" to vote in the Nov. 7 election. Washington Post: Poll Shows Ehrlich Lagging As He Opens Reelection Runexternal link

    THE FLUFF WAR IS OVER: A Massachusetts lawmaker is trying to get himself out of a sticky situation by dropping his opposition to Marshmallow Fluff. An amendment proposed by Sen. Jarrett Barrios to limit the availability of Fluff in schools sparked impassioned defense of the marshmallow spread, a lunch box staple of children for generations... Colin Durrant, spokesman for Barrios, D-Cambridge, said Barrios was abandoning the proposed amendment to the school nutrition bill. Barrios originally proposed the limitation after he learned his third-grade son was given a Fluffernutter as his school lunch. "It got to the point where the larger story overshadowed or obscured his original goal, which was to have a discussion about what is a healthy and nutritious meal for kids in school," Durrant said Tuesday. AP via Yahoo! News: Mass. lawmaker drops opposition to Fluffexternal link

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