Washington Week In Preview

The Dick Cheney Comedy Hour

What’s really happening in Washington this week.


Judiciary chairman hijacked; president flees country: Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has one last chance on Monday to prevent immigration legislation from being hijacked by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist as part of his 2008 presidential campaign. Specter has scheduled a final “markup” of his legislation, which would couple the border crackdown conservatives crave with a plan to let millions of illegal immigrants stay. Earlier this month, Frist put the legislative equivalent of a gun to his head, introducing his own proposal that, out of respect for the wishes of GOP primary voters, skips the guest-worker plan and just goes for the crackdown. Either way, the full Senate takes up immigration on Tuesday, starting what is expected to be a two-week debate.

President Bush, who favors a guest-worker provision, on Thursday emigrates to Cancun, Mexico, for two days of meetings with Mexican President Vicente Fox and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The subject of immigration just might come up. While at the Mexican resort, Bush might also get a clinic from his Mexican counterpart on hurricane recovery: In contrast to New Orleans, Cancun, clobbered by Hurricane Wilma, has moved quickly to rebuild.

The Abramoff antidote: Fallen lobbyist Jack Abramoff has a sentencing hearing scheduled for Wednesday in Miami. On Monday, the Senate tries again to pass lobbying reform, and Rules Committee Chairman Trent Lott, R-Miss., thinks he can guide the measure through the chamber in just one day. The legislation would bar lawmakers from accepting meals or gifts from registered lobbyists, and reform-minded senators may try to create an independent Office of Public Integrity or impose a ban on travel on corporate jets. The proposal isn’t as tough as was once contemplated, but Lott sees hardship aplenty. “We would give up any pay, any outside food,” he said in a recent speech. “We would live in the Russell compound. We would have no conjugal visits. And for 15 minutes a day we would go out into the courtyard, which we would use to confess our sins and flagellate ourselves.”


Traffic court: Salim Ahmed Hamdan, the alleged driver for Osama Bin Laden, has a big court date today (not that he’ll be allowed to attend, being locked up in Guantanamo). The Supreme Court, in the much-anticipated Hamdan v. Rumsfeld case, will consider the constitutionality of the military tribunal the Bush administration has proposed for him. The justices, in the special, extra-long 90-minute argument, will also consider the reach of a new law passed by Congress stripping the courts of their authority to review the legality of the military trials.

Onward Christian voters: The rest of the country may be talking about Iraq, but deposed House Majority Leader Tom DeLay will be at the Omni Shoreham in Woodley Park to give his thoughts on “The War on Christians and the Values Voter in 2006.” That’s the title of a two-day conference sponsored by a group called Vision America, which will also be hearing from Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas and Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas. Among the hardy perennials to be debated: “ACLU and Radical Secularism: Driving God From Our Public Life” and “The News Media Megaphone for Anti-Faith Values.”

Reporters on the whiskey trail: The National Press Club, with an assist from Maker’s Mark distillers, upholds the profession’s honor with a postdeadline whiskey tasting at 7 p.m. Members: $5. Nonmembers: $10.


Dick Cheney, comedian: The vice president’s comic genius has not, until now, been fully appreciated. But last week came the leaked copy of Cheney’s demands for his hotel rooms: all lights on, thermostat at 68, televisions tuned to Fox News, four cans of Diet Sprite, four to six bottles of water (plus some Calistoga or Perrier if Mrs. Cheney is traveling), a fresh pot of decaf coffee, and directions to the ice machine. And tonight, Cheney appears at the 62nd Annual Radio-Television Correspondents’ Association Dinner, where he will be expected to perform his standup routine. The Harry Whittington jokes should really slay ‘em.  


Justice Kennedy, unbowed: Conservatives have turned on Anthony Kennedy, a Reagan appointee to the Supreme Court, over his citing of international law. Tom DeLay, irked by a Kennedy ruling on the death penalty, found it “incredibly outrageous” that Kennedy “does his own research on the Internet.” But it doesn’t appear that Kennedy is yielding. He’s giving the “plenary address” this afternoon to the annual meeting of the American Society of International Law.

Department of happy thoughts: Among Republican lawmakers, the talk is about how to limit Democrats’ gains in November so they don’t take control of Congress. But evidently they haven’t been consulting with conservative talk-radio host Hugh Hewitt who, aided by the Weekly Standard’s Fred Barnes, will be at the Heritage Foundation Thursday to discuss Hewitt’s book, Painting the Map Red, which coaches the GOP on “how to win everywhere.”

All Week

Only 953 days until Election Day 2008. Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., and Gov. Mike Huckabee, R-Ark., visit New Hampshire. Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass., gives a speech in Washington. Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas, goes to North Dakota, Gov. Tom Vilsack, D-Iowa, goes to Florida, and—oy vey—Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Presbyterian, gives the keynote speech at the Orthodox Union in New York.