Washington Watch



In the months before a national election Congress usually concentrates on electioneering and posturing. Little of significance can be expected unless they slip a few things in on us. The House passed the Postcard Registration bill in a flurry of prostration to Jimmy after the Democrats anointed him. But Jimmy's managers saw that the liberal image wasn't doing him much good, so they backed off that one, and are unlikely to ask for action on such gems as Humphrey-Hawkins.

The Budget Committee is indulging in an orgy of self-congratulation over busting the budget in a more systematic way than it did in the past. The new Budget consideration procedure, which a few naive souls thought could lead to budget reductions, has done nothing of the sort. But it does make the process more systematic.


The question of the day for Capitol libertarians is: why is the National Rifle Association opposing the Ron Paul resolution to invalidate the District of Columbia's new gun control law?

As reported last month, the DC gun control law (which the Washington Post calls "a model for the nation") is a piece of repressive bad news. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) introduced H. Res. 1447 to disapprove the new law, under powers which Congress rightly or wrongly has over D.C. Paul's resolution would force Congressmen into a vote on gun control before the election, which is anathema to pro-control members, and would probably invalidate the D.C. law.

The surprise is that the National Rifle Association is lobbying conservative Congressmen against the Paul resolution. To some they've claimed that it might open up the whole issue of gun control, which it wouldn't. The resolution is highly privileged and non-amenable.

Apparently the N.R.A. is determined to have a court test case on the new D.C. law. They are preparing to go to court to have it declared unconstitutional. Thus they oppose the simple Congressional resolution which would invalidate the law.

It is strange to rely on the courts to invalidate this measure. Do many people really believe that the Supreme Court today would strike down the whole law? They might invalidate certain sections of it, but would probably leave large portions intact. Why trust the courts to make your case in preference to a simple yes-or-no vote in Congress which you have a good chance of winning?

Some have gone so far as to suggest that the N.R.A. feels that the court route is best for fundraising. There's the original trial, the appeal and the appeal to the Supreme Court, a three-step procedure which could drag on for years of happy fundraising. We've never been crazy about conspiracy theories, but it is hard to explain the N.R.A.'s stance.


The House Agriculture Committee recently approved a bill to amend the procedures under which peanuts are marketed and get price supports. A look at the present program and the proposed modifications should give an insight into just how much a peanut farmer in this modern world understands about the market and free enterprise.

To quote from the Agriculture Committee Statement: "the legislation is designed to lower the cost of the peanut program. It reduces the allotment by 22.5 percent. At the same time, it permits anyone wishing to do so to produce peanuts; however the marketing of non-quota peanuts by either new or old growers would be allowed only for export and crushing. Non-quota peanuts could enter the domestic edible market only if there was a shortage of any variety of quota peanuts.…

"Other provisions of the bill specify that all non-quota peanuts must be marketed through area grower associations; all non-quota peanuts, except those contracted by shellers, will be placed in pools by area and by type to be marketed by the grower associations unless the need is demonstrated for domestic edible use. Shellers may contract with growers to produce non-quota peanuts solely for crushing or export; all seed shall be considered as quota peanuts. Lease and transfer of peanut allotments would be permitted under the measure and not subject to discretion of the Secretary of Agriculture."

And this is a bill to liberalize the peanut marketing system!

Alan Bock is director of Libertarian Advocate, P.O. Box 3117, Falls Church, VA 22043, a lobbying organization formed to present libertarian viewpoints and proposals in legislatures and other key forums.