Advocacy groups ready for high court battle


Published: Sunday, January 1, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 1, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
Advocacy groups are turning up the volume on their lavishly funded campaigns in the home states of wavering senators over Samuel Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court.
Expect a very nasty - but quick - fight that will end in February. Liberal organizations such as People for the American Way say they already know enough about Alito from his writings to oppose his nomination without listening to what the nominee says in his confirmation hearings. On the other side, Progress for America is launching a three-day pro-Alito blitz in 19 states to persuade senators to block any filibuster on the Senate floor.
Targets of the campaigns are wavering GOP senators Mike DeWine of Ohio; Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, Gordon Smith of Oregon and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island. Pro-Alito forces also are concentrating on persuading Democrats like Bill Nelson of Florida and Ken Salazar of Colorado to shirk the filibuster and allow a straight vote on the nomination.
n n n It's a trail of tears for the unloved Sacagawea $1 "golden" coin.
But Congress is determined to try again - for the third time - to tear Americans away from their tattered greenbacks with a new $1 coin that has the Statue of Liberty on one side and depictions of presidents on the other. Under legislation awaiting President Bush's signature, the first presidential coins could be minted in mid-2007.
The U.S. Mint spent $62 million on an unprecedented public relations campaign to sell Americans on Sacagawea in 1999. But they gave up in 2002 after the "gold" on the coin tarnished and exposed an unattractive sandwich of metals lacking the heft of the old silver dollars favored in Las Vegas casinos. The Treasury has an estimated 324 million unwanted Sacagaweas in its vault, along with bags of unused Susan B. Anthony $1 coins minted in 1979.
Rep. Mike Castle, R-Del., cites Mint surveys concluding Americans might be more receptive using $1 coins if the designs were changed more often. The new $1 coins will be minted at the pace of four presidents a year, until all presidents are exhausted.
P.S. The Republican Study Committee cautions the measure could cost state and local public transportation systems a mint of their own, refitting parking meters and vending machines to accept the new coins.
n n n The FBI is being thrown into the war against organized shoplifters. Congress earmarked $5 million for the FBI to establish a clearinghouse where agents and retailers can cooperate spotting organized rings of shoplifters. Many of these rings move quickly from state to state, raiding shopping malls and stores.
n n n In the latest scramble to add to those rows of ribbons on military uniforms, the Pentagon brass has approved humanitarian medals for military personnel who participated in Hurricane Katrina and Rita relief. Those who worked more than 30 consecutive days are also eligible for the prestigious Armed Forces Service Medal.
n n n Toronto's 20-year contract with a Detroit landfill to dump its trash has touched off a garbage fight in Congress, with Michigan's congressional delegation leading the effort to stop the unwanted imports.
Opponents contend drugs or money could be smuggled in the sealed garbage trucks crossing the border and charge Canadians are violating Michigan's bottle return laws by including glass bottles in their trash. Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm says she wants to stop the imports, but is barred from interfering because of a 1992 Supreme Court decision that says only Congress can regulate international trash movements.
Legislation to regulate the shipments was approved by the House Commerce Committee in a voice vote in July, but has since languished on the House calendar because the leadership has not brought it up for a vote.

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