- The Washington Times - Friday, June 30, 2000

Difference of opinion

House Republicans staged a rally on the steps of the Capitol Thursday to highlight their midyear achievements, while the White House press office distributed to the assembled media a report card titled "Republican Leadership's Failure to Act."

"Over the past four weeks we've passed legislation that strengthens our commitment to education, veterans and medical research," said Rep. J.C. Watts Jr. of Oklahoma, chairman of House Republican Conference. "We've created a lockbox for Medicare, paid down additional public debt, repealed the death tax and passed a prescription drug benefit for seniors that is voluntary, affordable and available to all."

Congress heads home Friday for the weeklong Fourth of July recess.

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois termed it a "pretty productive year" to date but said there is unfinished business, including Senate approval of eliminating the so-called marriage penalty tax.

"We're going to get this to the president's desk," Mr. Hastert said.

Democrats, naturally, were less enthusiastic.

"Republicans can hold phony accomplishment rallies, wave flags and whistle 'Happy Days Are Here Again' till they are blue in the face," said Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri. "But it will never mean they've accomplished a single thing for the American people."

Of the prescription-drug benefit for seniors approved by the House late Wednesday, Mr. Gephardt said, "The president will never sign it because it's a sham."

More to the story

John Del Cecato, of the Democratic National Campaign Committee, begs to differ with an item in this column Thursday that suggested Republican businessman Derek Smith will have an easy time winning a House seat in Utah's 2nd Congressional District.

Mr. Smith defeated incumbent Rep. Merrill Cook in the Republican primary Tuesday.

"I think you left an important piece out of your brief," the Democrat said in an e-mail massage. "The Democratic nominee in UT-02, Jim Matheson, is leading Derek Smith by a wide margin in the polls. In fact, a recent poll showed him leading Smith by 6 points among GOP primary voters."

Meanwhile, Roll Call reports that Mr. Cook feels betrayed by Republican House leaders, refuses to endorse Mr. Smith, and will no longer cooperate with the party on House votes.

Buying the Teamsters

Two Republican House members Thursday called for an audit of federal agencies to determine whether Gore advisers tried to steer government contracts to the Teamsters to influence the union's endorsement.

Reps. Peter Hoekstra of Michigan and Christopher Shays of Connecticut sent a letter asking Mr. Gore to list any federal agencies that he or his aides "have contacted within the last 120 days regarding projects being directed to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters … or any other labor union."

They were responding to a New York Times article last week that quoted anonymous Gore advisers as saying they were trying to prevent Mr. Hoffa from endorsing Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader, "to the point where they had directed projects through federal agencies that would use Teamsters."

"If the vice president or his representatives manipulated federal contracts in order to curry favor and influence the Teamsters' endorsement, that is unacceptable and must be exposed," said Mr. Hoekstra, chairman of the House Education and the Workforce subcommittee on oversight and investigations.

The House members also sent letters to the federal departments of Education and Labor.

"But it's not just the Labor Department, it's not just the Education Department," Mr. Shays said. "Ultimately, we need to know what is happening with HUD-directed money, we need to know what is happening with Justice-directed money. [HUD Secretary Andrew M.] Cuomo serves as the secretary and he's also a close adviser to the vice president. And we want to know how he feels about this."

Gore and Hammer

Vice President Al Gore had a long personal and financial relationship with the late oil man Armand Hammer, Wall Street Journal editorialist Micah Morrison writes, including a $20,000-a-year royalty payment for a zinc mine on the Gore homestead in Tennessee.

"As Albert Gore Jr. rose through the political ranks, Mr. Hammer continued to assist him. The Hammer family and corporations made donations up to the legal maximum in all of Mr. Gore's campaigns, according to Mr. Hammer's former personal assistant, Neil Lyndon, writing in London's Daily Telegraph. Mr. Gore regularly dined with Mr. Hammer and Occidental lobbyists in Washington, Mr. Lyndon wrote. 'Separately and together, the Gores sometimes used Hammer's luxurious private Boeing 727 for journeys and jaunts.' The former Hammer aide noted that the 'profound and prolonged involvement between Hammer and Gore has never been revealed or investigated.' "

'Light on substance'

Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, Thursday criticized on the Senate floor an ABC-TV special that aired Monday night titled "The Search for Jesus."

An ardent student of history, Mr. Byrd said the life of Christ deserves "more than the two hours devoted to it by ABC. Two hours in fact, much less than that when one subtracts the commercial time, which was substantial hardly scratches the surface."

The senator found the program "light on substance, but heavy on advertising, giving the effort the appearance, at the very least, of a high-toned money grab."

As for the show's conclusion that Jesus Christ was a man who did exist, Mr. Byrd said it "comes as no revelation to anyone who has lost someone dear and found solace only in the Trinity."

"There is, indeed, no need to go to the Middle East to find Jesus," Mr. Byrd said. "He can be found in any West Virginia hamlet or hollow. He can be found in the arid West, among towering urban buildings, and along peaceful shores.

"I do not judge the intentions or the views of those who helped to put together 'The Search for Jesus' program, but I know exactly where to place my faith," the senator concluded.

Commerce, CIA picks

President Clinton Thursday nominated former Rep. Norman Mineta to lead the Commerce Department, making him the first Asian-American Cabinet nominee.

Also Thursday, Central Intelligence Agency Director George J. Tenet announced that Mr. Clinton has selected a career intelligence officer to serve in the No. 2 spot in the CIA.

Mr. Clinton named John E. McLaughlin acting deputy director of central intelligence, the Associated Press reported. He succeeds Air Force Gen. John Gordon, who was sworn in this week as director of the new National Nuclear Security Administration in the Department of Energy.

Mr. Mineta, who served 21 years as a Democratic congressman from California's Silicon Valley, is a senior vice president at Lockheed Martin.

If confirmed by the Senate, Mr. Mineta would succeed William M. Daley, who is leaving July 15 to run Vice President Al Gore's presidential campaign.

Mr. Mineta is the son of an immigrant Japanese farmer who started an insurance business in San Jose.

Traficant's vow

Democratic Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. of Ohio Thursday vowed to vote with the Republicans next year when it comes time to organize the House.

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, is "a good man and I'm going to vote for him for speaker and I don't give a damn who knows it," Mr. Traficant said in a radio interview with Sean Hannity.

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