To take advantage of President Clinton's moral woes, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, says it's time for Senate Republicans to push bills promoting traditional values.
And without specifically naming Clinton, Hatch threw plenty of darts at him for eroding values at two press conferences Tuesday and Wednesday to promote some "values" bills.That included one rally where Republicans called for quick action on a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning and another where they vowed to push a vote this week on a bill to strengthen parental notification laws on abortion.
Republicans also plan votes soon to possibly overturn Clinton's veto of a "partial-birth abortion" ban and on a measure to halt the spread of doctor-assisted suicide - which Hatch said is part of an overdue emphasis on values.
"We've allowed a lot of things to deteriorate around here," Hatch said at the flag amendment rally Wednesday at the Capitol.
He said sending that amendment to state legislatures for possible ratification would create nationally "a terrific debate - a debate on values."
He added - word for word at press conferences both days - "It's time to take a stand on some of these things."
At the rally about abortion-related issues on Tuesday, Hatch said, "We are looking at a nation that is clouded a bit in regard to public virtue." Without saying it, the implication of course was that Clinton's woes are fueling that.
"This legislation helps restore public morality . . . draws lines that certain things can't be permitted in our society," Hatch said of the abortion legislation, and he later repeated similar wording about the flag burning amendment.
The abortion bill would outlaw people trying to evade state requirements to notify a parent (or judge) before a minor can have an abortion by transporting them to another state where no such notification is required.
Joyce Farley of Pennsylvania said the law is needed because after an adult raped her then 12-year-old daughter, the rapist's mother secretly took the child to another state for an abortion. The daughter almost died after later hemorrhaging - which caught Farley by surprise. She was also surprised to find the rapist's mother could not be prosecuted for such action.
Sen. Spencer Abraham, R-Mich., the main supporter of the bill, complained that transport of minors for prostitution is illegal - as is transportation of stolen goods or dangerous substances - but secretly transporting minors for abortions is not.
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott said the Senate would vote on the bill sometime this week. The House passed the bill last July. But Clinton has vowed to veto it, saying close relatives of minors should be given the same rights as parents to take them across state lines for abortions if they choose.
Meanwhile, no exact date has been set for the vote on the flag amendment - although Hatch says he expects it sometime this month. The House passed it earlier, but Hatch says he's still two or three votes short of the two-thirds majority he needs for its passage.
Of note, Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, is among the few Republicans who have opposed it, saying it is more important to protect the freedom of expression the flag represents than the flag itself.
But Hatch, the American Legion and other supporters rallied around a "flag poll" the legion commissioned by the Gallup Organization, which was released Wednesday, that said 76 percent of Americans favor an amendment to protect the flag.
Also, 82 percent said they felt such an amendment would not decrease their freedom of speech.
Among those rallying for the amendment was singer Pat Boone. He held up a dollar bill and said, "Even though I earned it and I own it, it is illegal for me to deface it because it has value to someone else."
Boone added, "If we don't hold something as sacred and precious to us, it won't be conveyed to our children."