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Daschle-Lott Secret Deal Delays Bush's Agenda Until 2003

Friday, 08 November 2002 12:00 AM

NewsMax.com has learned that Senate Republican leader Trent Lott and Senate Democrat leader Tom Daschle made a pre-election agreement that, no matter how the election turned out, the GOP would not seek to control the committees in the coming lame-duck session. The newly-elected Senate will not be sworn in until January.

As explained to NewsMax by Daschle spokeswoman Ranit Schmelzer, this is the agreement:

If Sen.-elect Jim Talent, R-Mo., takes his seat in time for the lame-duck session (which is allowed because he is filling an unexpired term), or if the independent Minnesotan Dean Barkley (appointed to fill the remaining two months of the late Sen. Paul Wellstone’s term) decides to vote with the GOP, then Lott would be recognized as the majority leader. BUT ...

There will be "no reorganizing resolution” passed. Schmelzer says that means that the chairmanships of the committees will remain in Democrat hands.

In addition to that, the Washington Times reported Friday that Lott and Daschle had agreed the post-election session would last no more than five days.

"Well, that has yet to be decided for certain,” Daschle’s spokeswoman told NewsMax. Lott himself said at a news conference Wednesday that he was "not a fan of lame-duck sessions.”

The Homeland Security bill has been bottled up in the Senate for weeks. Any further delay flies in the face of President Bush’s demand Thursday at a White House news conference for a unified Department of Homeland Security before Christmas.

"It is imperative that the Congress send me a bill that I can sign before 107th Congress ends,” he said.

Theoretically, that could happen even with Democrats holding control of the committees. The Senate-approved and the House-approved versions of the measure have been sent to the Senate floor, and can be amended there. The problem is that whereas the House gives the president broad latitude as to how and where Homeland Security employees will be deployed (as is the case with other security agencies), the Senate bill insists on affording those employees union protections that could hobble the new department’s effectiveness in dealing with the war on terror.

If the Republican and Democrat Senate leaders seriously expect to wrap up business in five days, they will have to resolve their differences on labor protection quickly. Given that this involves a powerful Democrat constituency clashing with White House insistence on a bill the president feels he "can sign,” something will have to give, or the measure is dead.

Before the election, neither version of the bill was able to surmount the requirement for 60 votes, or three-fifths of the senators, to avoid a filibuster. As of this writing, the election does not appear to have changed any minds. Lott says securing its approval would be "a big leap.”

Other Bush initiatives remain bottled up in committee. With the Lott-Daschle agreement letting the Democrats keep committee chairmanships, conservative activists are angered that the Mississippian may have yet again caved in to the party of the left, which the voters have repudiated.

NewsMax.com’s repeated efforts for two days to get a statement from the GOP Senate leader’s office confirming, denying or in any way commenting on the deal were unsuccessful.

If the deal holds, it means, for example, that Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., can still sit on the nominations of Charles Pickering and Priscilla Owens and other Bush judicial nominees.

Judges Pickering and Owens were voted down in a straight party-line vote in Leahy’s committee, and the chairman refused to send the nominations to the full Senate floor, where it is believed they would have been approved on a bipartisan basis.

Again, theoretically, the committee could now send their names to the floor any day, a normal practice since they have both been accorded hearings on their nominations. If Leahy remains chairman during the lame-duck session, that is not likely to happen.

Why not wait until January, when the GOP will be in firm control of the panel? Further delay gives the radical left-wing groups that opposed them more time to attack them. Phony Anita Hill charges were leveled against Clarence Thomas in 1991 not only to smear him, but also to "raise more questions” so as to delay the nomination process.

Thomas, now a sitting Supreme Court justice, surmounted those attacks. The Pickering and Owens nominations to lower federal courts a decade later were also met with spurious charges that did not fly, but by then the Democrats had dropped all pretense that politics was not a consideration, and refused to send their names to the Senate floor.

The Lott-Daschle deal on committee chairmanships, if it holds, will likely block a full Senate vote on them this year. It also makes it improbable that the lame-duck session will be able to deal with President Bush’s initiatives on stalled House-passed energy legislation, which would move this country toward less dependence on terrorist-supporting nations in the Middle East.

The issue of speeding up the schedule for the phased-in tax cuts, which would spur the economy, the same so-called "worst economy since Herbert Hoover” that the Democrats wanted to make a major issue against the president would similarly be put on the back burner.

The president's insistence that lawmakers actually do some work to finish the business of the 107th Congress in five days, "set off a thousand groans on Capitol Hill,” editorialized Friday’s Washington Times, adding that "members and staffers had hoped to push off any heavy legislative lifting until next year and cut out of town. Airline tickets and hotel suites, after all, have already been bought.”

The Times says the operative word here is "work.” But that appears to have been trumped by end-of-the-year deal-making that seals forever in the history books the reputation of world’s most deliberative body as "a do-nothing Senate” in the 107th Congress.

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NewsMax.com has learned that Senate Republican leader Trent Lott and Senate Democrat leader Tom Daschle made a pre-election agreement that, no matter how the election turned out, the GOP would not seek to control the committees in the coming lame-duck session. The...
Friday, 08 November 2002 12:00 AM
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