The Journal Editorial Report | May 20, 2005 | PBS
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Lead Story
May 20, 2005

A wild duck, a brown mallard, nests on a mulch pile near the main entrance to the Department of the Treasury in Washington in April 2005. (AP/Susan Walsh)

Highway Bill
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This week the Senate defied President Bush's spending limits on the highway bill -- voting $11 billion more than the president wanted, which was already generous. Mr. Bush has threatened to veto any bill that exceeded his spending limit, but even Senators of his own party don't seem to care. Is there any hope of enforcing budget restraint?

JASON RILEY: It looks like it will be up to President Bush. His ceiling for this bill, $284 billion, is very generous. It is 35 percent more than the last highway bill. This comes up every six years and what the Senate did this week undermines all the rhetoric from Republicans about bringing spending under control. This bill is just a spending bill, it is not about roads. This is about museums, bike paths and hiking trails. There is no policy debate going on any more around this bill. It's just let's shove as many earmarks on there as we can. If the president doesn't show he is serious in vetoing this bill, if it doesn't come in below his limit or at his limit, he'll open up the floodgates. They will walk all over him for the rest of his term.

DANIEL HENNINGER: There is so much public cynicism about this kind of spending. I think the president is risking some real damage to his reputation because, whatever else, people believe George Bush is a strong, credible leader. If he backs off on this veto I think he is going to take a hit.

PAUL GIGOT: One reason members of the Senate did this is because they don't believe the president will veto. They don't take him seriously because he hasn't vetoed anything yet. Jim Inhofe, the senator from Oklahoma, and Kit Bond, the senator from Missouri, went in and the White House said, "Look, we're going to veto it," They said, "So what."

Federal Judicial Nominees
Senate majority leader Bill Frist got his picture taken with two of President Bush's nominees for the federal bench, a photo opportunity in the power struggle between Republicans and Democrats over who controls the selection of federal judges. A show-down grew closer over whether Senate rules should be changed to prevent filibusters, and force an up or down vote on the president's nominees. Can there be a compromise here, and should there be a compromise?

HENNINGER: I think if you are Harry Reed and the Democrats, the answer is yes and yes. Reed and the Democrats have gotten to the point where they have invested a huge amount of political capital in this fight. It's really, let's face it, over second level Appeals Court nominations. They have got the big mother of all battles coming up over one, or maybe two, Supreme Court nominations. They probably want to reserve the filibuster for that, if anything.

They are going to need a lot of public support if they want to oppose a Supreme Court nomination. I think the public is disaffected over this battle and that the Democrats have to find a way to get past this fight that they are in right now, and that probably means a compromise.

GIGOT: There is some peril here for Republicans in the Senate, though, too. If they go up and put these nominations on the floor and the Democrats do filibuster and Republicans don't have the votes to make the rule change, it will be a real blow to them. I think a lot of Republican voters will feel that and wonder whether this is a coherent governing majority.

RILEY: It's important to remember that this is, for all the talk and all the discussion in the country, just a rule change. The filibuster rule has been changed before. It's not sacred. It's been altered before, but the president's ability and authority to name judges is in the Constitution.

GIGOT: I would argue this is probably the most important issue for an awful lot of Republican voters, more important than Social Security, more important than even tax policy or a lot of cultural issues.

It used to be okay to buy wine on the Internet only if you were buying within the same state. Now the Supreme Court has ruled that states allowing that kind of direct sale cannot prohibit direct sales across state lines. This seems to be a victory on many fronts for Internet commerce and consumers.

KIM STRASSEL: Pop the cork. This is a great decision. The people who always defended these laws like to make the argument that they were doing it to protect minors so that they couldn't buy wine online. They were always undercut in that argument by the fact that you could buy online within the state. These laws were only meant for one purpose, which was to protect in-state liquor cartels, these wholesale distributors who have complete control over the way that wine is distributed and didn't like being cut out of the process. This is great news for wine lovers, who are going to have much greater choice at much better prices and for all those hundreds of flourishing wineries around the country who are suddenly going to have a much bigger market.

GIGOT: Especially small wineries, which can now use the Internet when they couldn't before.

RILEY: I am curious to find out what states decide to do in the follow-up on this because, to be in compliance, you just can't discriminate. In other words, states could come into compliance by banning direct sales of everyone, out-of-state and in-state wineries. These distributors that have been pushed aside in this decision might exert their authority in some of these states and get their way.

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