No vote on "The Internet Gambling Prohibition Act"
By Lisa S. Dean
I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that the Republican leadership in the House, minus Majority Leader Dick Armey, stood firmly on principle and refused to allow H.R. 3125 "The Internet Gambling Prohibition Act", a bill sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, Republican from Virginia and Senator Jon Kyl, Republican from Arizona to be put on the calendar for a vote this session.
Why not? Their decision certainly wasn't driven by party politics. Both sponsors of the bill are Republican. If nothing else, that would have been an encouragement for them to support the bill, especially in an election year when Republicans need as much help as they can get. It certainly wasn't because these men support Internet gambling. Certainly most of the leadership opposes gambling.
While Armey supported the bill and even pushed hard to get it on the calendar, the rest of the leadership opposed it because they did something quite unique for Washington politicians: they looked at the whole pie rather than a narrow slice and saw the situation for what it was.
Not only was H.R. 3125 a fraud in terms of actually banning gambling on the Internet, with all the carve-outs that the horse-racing, dog-racing and jai alai industries were receiving from the bill, it was a fluffy, feel-good bill filled with empty promises of prohibiting a social ill from spreading to the online community, when in fact, it did nothing to solve the problem.
Furthermore, it outlined no guidelines where law enforcement's authority began and ended with regard to the online monitoring of Net users' activities to enforce a "no Net gambling policy". With a Justice Department that is looking for any excuse and any mechanism to expand their snooping capability to the Internet, H.R. 3125 would have been a God-send.
Also, the bill sets a very dangerous precedent with regard to federal content regulation of the Internet. If gambling is prohibited, the next session of Congress would likely extend that prohibition to perhaps, auctions or day trading or perhaps even the gun industry or any industry that Washington doesn't like.
Even the conservative movement, which largely is opposed to gambling of any kind, was divided on this bill, for various reasons, mostly because they recognized that the bill didn't do what it purported to do at all and more or less resembled an election year ploy to appease unhappy constituents, rather than help unhappy families torn apart by a member's gambling addiction.
There is no doubt that if passed, H.R. 3125, would have further eroded our liberties and further empowered an overly ambitious FBI. The House Leadership recognized that and realized that this is one issue best dealt with in the next session of Congress where there can be more time to explore better, more effective methods of combating the problem without threatening our rights and causing division, rather than simply acting like sheep by blindly allying themselves with their colleagues.
What these men did was courageous because by doing so, they broke with the party line thinking that is so typical of Washington politics, and instead, thought about what was best for the country. That is a practice that many of us across the country have been demanding of our leaders for so long and we got it.
But of course there is always a price to pay for being courageous and Rep. Goodlatte and Senator Kyl are making them pay that price for daring to oppose them. Goodlatte and Kyl are on talk radio all over the country rallying the grassroots against the Republican leadership two months before an election, on an issue that the country can afford to put on hold until next year.
In other words, these two would rather hurt their own party and cause division within the ranks rather than look at the big picture, as their leaders are doing, and do what's best for both the Republican party and the nation by putting this issue on the back burner. If that isn't a fine display of Washington pride and arrogance, I don't know what is.
While Goodlatte and Kyl are busy cutting off their noses to spite their faces outside the Beltway, inside, Majority Leader Dick Armey is doing the same thing by pushing for the bill, despite the opposition of his leadership colleagues, including House Speaker Dennis Hastert on the subject.
It's not as if this election season is going to be a day at the beach for Republicans. They are faced with losses in both houses, with the potential being the loss of their majority status in Congress. This, one would think, would be of greater concern, especially for a majority leader, than passing a fraudulent bill that would only damage the country and serve as fodder for GOP opponents, taking the chance of hurting GOP incumbents in November.
The behavior of Armey, Goodlatte and Kyl is irresponsible at best, reckless at worst. If their pride takes precedence over the good of the nation, then perhaps their constituents ought to question whether they should actually rejoin their colleagues in Washington next January.
In the meantime, the following members of the House leadership should be congratulated for their courage in standing up to fight for our liberties and the good of the country by refusing to allow H.R. 3125 to come to the floor for a vote this session: House Speaker Dennis Hastert, Majority Whip Tom DeLay, Rep. Roy Blunt, Rep. Tom Davis, Rep. David Dreier, Rep. Deborah Pryce, and Rep. Chris Cox. The number for the Capitol Switchboard is 202-224-3121. Please call and convey to these members your appreciation for their courage in standing up to their own members for the good of the country and to stand strong against this bill because the battle is not yet won.
Lisa Dean is Vice President for Technology Policy at the Free Congress Foundation.
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