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Bush Holdovers At Civil Rights Commission Attack Health Reform

By Ian Millhiser on August 11, 2009 at 10:30 am

"Bush Holdovers At Civil Rights Commission Attack Health Reform"

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usccrIn a self-congratulatory “EXCLUSIVE,” the Washington Times reports that a letter from the United States Commission on Civil Rights “says some little-noticed provisions in the House health care bill are racially discriminatory, and it intends to ask President Obama and Congress to rewrite sections that factor in race when awarding billions in contracts, scholarships and grants,”  but this “exclusive” buries the lede.  In truth, the only real news in the Washington Times story is hidden in just one paragraph:

The commission approved the draft language by a vote of 4-2, with two abstentions. Two Republicans and two independents voted for it, two Democrats voted against it, and two Republicans abstained. The letter needs to be approved again before being sent.

Once upon a time, the Commission played an essential role in enacting landmark civil rights legislation, visiting communities ravaged by segregation and Jim Crow to document widespread discrimination.  Today, however, it is little more than a dumping ground for opponents of civil rights from right-wing policy shops.

Although only four of the Commission’s eight members are presidential appointees chosen by George W. Bush, three quarters of its membership is controlled by the far right.  Indeed, the Commission’s two “independent” members–both chosen by Republicans in Congress–may be its most ideologically conservative.  They include Todd Gaziano, director of the right-wing Heritage Foundation’s legal policy shop, and Gail Hariot, who co-chairs one of the right-wing Federalist Society’s practice groups and who spearheaded the effort to pass California’s Proposition 209, a far-reaching ban on race-conscious laws in California.

And Gaziano and Hariot are hardly the only representatives from the right-wing policy community.  The Commission’s Bush-appointed Vice-Chair is Abigail Thernstrom, a leading opponent of civil rights laws who is a “scholar” with the American Enterprise Institute, a former Senior Fellow with the Manhattan Institute, and who serves on the board of the Institute for Justice, a radical libertarian law firm.  The Commission’s Staff Director, it’s most senior full-time staffer, is Martin Dannenfelser, a former vice-president with the Family Research Council–a virulently anti-gay organization which once claimed that gay men and lesbians view “pedophiles as the ‘prophets’ of a new sexual order.”

So the Washington Times’ big “exclusive” is that senior staffers at right-wing think tanks oppose health care reform.  Maybe next week, they’ll notice that the sky is blue.

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