Republicans are trying to pass legislation in the next few weeks to kick off the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s birth, and the only hurdle appears to be Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), who is refusing to let the Senate vote on the bill.
Feingold’s decision to block passage of a bipartisan commission to celebrate the former president’s 100th birthday has nothing to do with antagonism toward the conservative icon. But he does want to use the momentum behind the bill to drive legislation of his own.
“Sen. Feingold has no interest in blocking this bill,— said a Feingold spokesman, referring to the Ronald Reagan Centennial Commission Act. “He wants to offer an amendment to it, but that request was blocked by a Republican Senator.—
Feingold’s amendment would establish two commissions to study the internment and restrictions of German and Italian Americans and Jewish refugees during World War II, and it is unrelated to the Reagan bill. The Reagan measure would establish a commission to plan federal and state celebrations around Reagan’s centennial birthday in February 2011.
Feingold’s spokesman said that the noncontroversial bill would be a good vehicle for the internment amendment, which he said is also noncontroversial.
Supporters of the Reagan commission question Feingold’s motives for blocking a bill that passed the House 371-19 on March 9.
Ryan Patmintra, a spokesman for Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), said if Feingold’s amendment is truly noncontroversial, he should simply go through the regular committee process and move it to the Senate floor.
“It should have no problem passing through the Judiciary Committee where Democrats have a 12-seat majority,— Patmintra said. “Sen. Feingold has decided to hold this bill hostage using his own— amendment.
On May 11, Kyl rejected a request by Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) on behalf of Feingold to attach the Wartime Treatment Study Act to the Reagan commission bill.
A GOP aide said some Senate Democrats were not comfortable with Feingold’s amendment.
“That’s why he wants to attach it. [The Reagan bill] is a commission that everybody supports,— the aide said.
This is not the first time Feingold has blocked the bill in an attempt to attach his amendment, which passed the Senate in the 110th Congress with a vote of 67-27 but ultimately died as a part of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007.
Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.) also blocked the Reagan bill last year because its original language would have used taxpayer dollars to fund the commission.
Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.), the bill’s lead sponsor in the House, said the commission’s funding has been restructured and that private donors have been found to pay for the Reagan tributes, which are likely to cost millions of dollars.
“I didn’t question their motives,— Gallegly said. “We got all the funding struck from it and passed it out of committee with overwhelming support.—
He added, “In a matter of a week we got 140 co-sponsors.—
Gallegly said he had hoped to have the legislation passed in time for the unveiling of Reagan’s statue in the Rotunda on June 3, since former first lady Nancy Reagan will be attending the ceremony.
Gallegly said it would be a shame “to have her here and not to be able to do these things concurrently [because] of folly about what should be simple.—