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The Conservative Case For Supporting Sen. Mike DeWine

Social conservatives are upset with Ohio Republican Sen. Mike DeWine’s role on the recent bipartisan deal on judicial nominees — so upset, in fact, that they helped defeat his son Pat’s primary bid for the House seat vacated by Rep. Rob Portman (R-Ohio).

Where the deal on judges is concerned, the elder DeWine has clearly stated that if he “or any Member considered that another Member was filibustering a judge under a circumstance that was not extraordinary, that any Member or I had the right to pull out of that agreement and to go back and say: ‘I am going to use the constitutional option. … That is my right.’”

DeWine’s statement demonstrates not just a willingness to revive the constitutional option, but a commitment to prevent political funny business and to ensure an up or down vote on any future Supreme Court nominees.

Still, some conservatives subtly suggest that the elder DeWine may face a primary challenge in 2006. For example, Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, told Roll Call: “I wouldn’t say that I would like to see the defeat of Mr. DeWine. I would like to see a strong conservative in the Senate.”

To be sure, Mike DeWine’s Senate record will never be confused with that of former Sens. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) or Phil Gramm (R-Texas). But on core conservative issues — protecting the unborn, reducing marginal tax rates, promoting free trade and supporting a strong national defense — Sen. DeWine has been a consistent and reliable vote in the Senate.

When it comes to protecting innocent life, Sen. DeWine has done more than just vote to protect the unborn; he has been the leader in pushing pro-life legislation through Congress.

Sen. DeWine was the author of the “Unborn Victims of Violence Act,” otherwise known as “Laci and Conner’s Law.” In fact, DeWine first introduced this bill years before the tragic murder of Laci and Connor Peterson. This landmark bill, signed into law in April 2004, establishes that murdering a pregnant woman and her unborn child claims two lives, not just one.

Along with Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), Sen. DeWine shepherded through the Partial Birth Abortion Act in 2003. Since 1998, Sen. DeWine has annually ensured that appropriations legislation does not allow our tax dollars to pay for abortions for federal employees. And he has consistently supported legislation to prohibit human cloning and to ban federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research.

On economic issues, Sen. DeWine has been a consistent supporter of pro-family and pro-growth tax relief. He supports permanent repeal of the death tax and was an outspoken advocate for President Bush’s supply-side tax cuts in 2001 and 2003.

DeWine also has consistently backed the president’s free trade agenda and voted for product-liability reform and caps on punitive damage awards against small businesses. He has also co-sponsored major class-action reform, which was recently signed by Bush.

DeWine supports the president’s overtime modernization initiative, which will provide the first real update in labor laws in more than 30 years, and favors reducing costly class-action employment lawsuits — hardly a politically expedient position to take coming from a strong labor-union state such as Ohio.

In foreign policy, DeWine has long recognized the economic and strategic importance of Latin America, dating back to his service in the House of Representatives during the Reagan administration. DeWine strongly supported U.S. funding to bring freedom and democracy to Central America, and has devoted his years in the Senate to build on that success through greater economic opportunities throughout the hemisphere.

For those who know the history of Ohio politics, it is impressive, if not amazing, to see a second-term Republican Senator with these conservative credentials representing the Buckeye State. One of the many polls taken prior to last November’s election graphically demonstrate why Ohio is the true swing state: Of those surveyed, 35.2 percent identified themselves as Republican, 35.4 percent as Democrats and 27.8 percent as independents.

It’s no surprise that the three most noted Ohio Republicans elected statewide since 1990 — DeWine, Sen. George Voinovich and Gov. Bob Taft — are solid Republicans who sometimes take stands on issues that appeal to independent voters. And of those three, DeWine has done the most to advance the conservative policy agenda.

As a U.S. Senate staffer during most of the 1990s, I saw DeWine in action. He is a thoughtful, skilled and hard-working legislator whose conservative principles are most often put into practice fighting for children, including those in foster care, those in need of basic health care and educational opportunities, and of course, those who are not yet born.

Like many of Ohio’s GOP leaders, DeWine has an independent streak, and his participation in the filibuster deal should be put not just in that context, but in the broader context of his long record of achievement on core conservative issues. DeWine is a proven pro-growth, pro-family, pro-life Republican Senator who has a 96 percent voting record in support of Bush’s agenda — and knows how to win in perhaps the nation’s toughest political battleground states.

Going after DeWine won’t get conservative judges confirmed, but gaining a 60-vote GOP majority in the Senate certainly will.

Cesar V. Conda, a former adviser to Vice President Cheney and former Sen. Spencer Abraham (R-Mich.), is a principal at the firm Navigators LLC.

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