Hastert moves to block Specter and Harkin-named facilities

Seeking to strip a controversial provision from a pending appropriations bill, House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) sent a letter to Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) yesterday asking him to offer a resolution naming two new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention facilities after Rosa Parks and Mother Theresa.

The letter was sent in conjunction with an identical resolution that was expected on the House floor last night. The letter and resolution are part of a House effort to strip the provision from the conference spending report that would name the new CDC facilities after Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.).

The House has a rule prohibiting "the designation or redesignation" of any public space or facility "in honor of an individual then serving as a Member, Delegate, Resident Commissioner, or Senator."

Hastert's letter was sent last night and quotes the freshman Illinois senator's eulogy to Parks.

"When the history of this country is written, her name and her legacy will be remembered long after the names of senators and presidents have been forgotten," Obama said, according to a quote excerpted in the letter.

Referring to Obama's quote, Hastert wrote, "I believe it is a fitting tribute to memorialize her in this way. Therefore, it is my hope that you will lead the effort in the Senate to get this historic legislation enacted expeditiously."

Obama's office could not comment on the letter by press time.

Hastert and other House leaders were upset when the original provision naming the facilities for Harkin and Specter was included in the original labor, health and human services, and education appropriations conference report that was defeated on the floor last month.

Specter and Rep. Ralph Regula (R-Ohio), the appropriations subcommittee chairman supervising this spending bill, stripped discretionary spending from the bill the night before it came to the floor, which caused a number of House Democrats to oppose it.

The resolution naming the CDC facilities for Harkin and Specter was offered by Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii). This year's agriculture appropriations bill included a provision naming a building after Senate Appropriations Chairman Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and last year's omnibus spending bill named a facility for outgoing Appropriations Chairman Bill Young (R-Fla.).

Harkin is a strong opponent of the bill and did not sign the conference report that came out of committee.

"So we are going to go home for Christmas after giving the less fortunate in this country three bags of coal - a bad labor/HHS bill, an across-the-board cut against discretionary programs and reconciliation provisions that cut food stamps and Medicaid," Harkin said Monday night in the conference meeting. "All to give the rich a Christmas basket of tax cuts."