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D.C. Notebook: Huntsman: 'Political extremism' prompts scandals

Published May 19, 2013 7:23 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman says the nation's polarization is leading to the types of scandals tarring Washington lately, including the IRS scrutiny of tea party groups, the Justice Department's seizing of Associated Press phone records and the eight-month-long investigation into the Benghazi terrorist attacks.

"The events we're seeing playing out are in fact, to my mind, an extension of political extremism. The politicization of governance," Huntsman said last week in the inaugural SiriusXM program for the group No Labels. "We're where we are because people made choices based on politics not on what was right for American people."

Huntsman, who co-chairs the group seeking more political consensus, ran his failed presidential campaign on the theme of fixing the nation's trust deficit — that Americans can no longer trust their leaders — and noted the scandals will provide a "chilling effect" on actually getting any real reform out of Washington.

"If our collective eye is off tax reform, job creation, energy policy — the stuff that this country so desperately needs to get this economy working again — that's the price we pay when Congress goes 100 percent in pursuit of these scandals," Huntsman said. "We all suffer because of that."

Reid gets personal • Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is a supporter of banning workplace discrimination and identified a personal reason for why he thinks it's important to pass legislation: He has a gay niece.

Reid, a practicing Mormon, told a group of reporters for left-leaning blogs, that there's a chance he'll bring up the Employment Non-Discrimination Act this year and that it's important to those in the gay community who might face workplace problems.

"My niece is a lesbian," Reid said, according to the Huffington Post. "She's a school teacher. Her employment shouldn't be affected with that. We should have a law that says that, not just the good graces of wherever you work."

Stewart's first Obamacare vote • Freshman Rep. Chris Stewart made his first vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, last week.

"Jobs are being killed by the implementation of Obamacare," Stewart said on the House floor recently. "And that's not a statistic. That isn't some government projection. It isn't some estimation from CBO. That is a fact. It is a reality. "Obamacare is killing economic activity. Obamacare is killing jobs. And it's only going to get worse."

Stewart, like almost all Republicans, ran for office opposing the Democrats' health-care law but he has a long way to go to match his colleague's record in voting against the law.

Depending on how you count the roll call votes, Republicans have attempted to kill the law 37 or 38 times, on largely party line votes. On Thursday, Rep. Jim Matheson was one of only two Democrats to vote for repeal.

But the vote is only symbolic, with Democrats still holding the Senate and Obama in the White House. Chances are good Stewart will get a few more chances to vote against the law.

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Burr and Canham report from Washington, D.C. They can be reached at tburr@sltrib.com or mcanham@sltrib.com or via Twitter @thomaswburr or @mattcanham.