Sunday, June 10, 2007

Wichita Eagle: Tiahrt's had better weeks

The Wichita Eagle's editorial board raised a gentle question on Saturday about Fourth District Congressman Todd Tiahrt.

Because the power in Congress has shifted to the Democrats, two measures closely associated with Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Goddard, have targets on them and soon could be history. His constituents in the 4th Congressional District need to follow the legislative drama in the coming days, and realize the role Tiahrt is playing -- fairly or not -- in policy debates far from Kansas.

In 1998, Tiahrt pushed through a measure preventing the District of Columbia from funding a needle-exchange program aimed at fighting HIV-AIDS, because he believed such programs promote drug abuse and threaten children. On Tuesday, Rep. Jose E. Serrano, D-N.Y., who now chairs a subcommittee that deals with federal appropriations to the District, stripped that ban from legislation making its way through the House. The Washington Post praised Serrano for taking the "first step toward ending this nuttiness."

Then Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., who chairs a Senate Appropriations subcommittee, said Thursday that she would strip what's most often referred to as the "Tiahrt amendment" from a spending bill before her panel. That's the 2003 legislation on gun-tracing data that Tiahrt says protects undercover law enforcement officers and that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and 224 other U.S. mayors say impedes crime-fighting. This week also saw the mayors' group run a full-page ad in USA Today on the issue, pairing text such as "America can't afford a Congress that is soft on crime" with a photo of police officers carrying another officer's coffin. Law enforcement officers from across the country also plan a D.C. press conference Tuesday in opposition to the Tiahrt amendment.

In the 2006 election, Tiahrt's campaign ads were mainly the "he brings home the bacon" sort. They certainly didn't make the case for electing a conservative Tiahrt. If Democrats are going to continue to be the majority party in the Congress, what is the rationale fro electing Tiahrt? Might the voters of the fourth district be better served by elected a moderate, mainstream Democrat?

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