- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 8, 2000

House Republican leaders in a private meeting yesterday urged Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott to crack his legislative whip amid growing frustration that the Senate is squandering the House's achievements.
In a gathering of the top four Republicans from each chamber, Speaker J. Dennis Hastert emphasized to Mr. Lott the urgency that the Senate approve $1.7 billion for anti-drug efforts in Colombia. The House passed the measure six weeks ago, but it is stalled in the Senate, prompting President Clinton to accuse Republican lawmakers of neglecting the war on drugs.
Mr. Hastert "stressed that we need to get this done," said a House aide who attended the meeting, the tone of which was described as businesslike.
Lott spokesman John Czwartacki reiterated that a $9 billion supplemental bill including money for fighting drugs, hurricane relief and U.S. troops in Kosovo "is not going to happen," but that House and Senate leaders are exchanging ideas on how else to proceed.
Beyond the aid to Colombia, however, House Republicans are increasingly irritated with the Senate's inability to complete key legislation, such as phasing out the so-called "marriage penalty" tax and approving funding for elementary and secondary schools.
And Republicans, who hold a six-seat advantage in the House, also are worried that the legislative stalemate in the Senate will prevent them from going home to campaign in early October. The pace of appropriations was another topic at yesterday's meeting.
"I would never accuse the Senate of working to maintain the Republican majority in the House," said Rep. Jack Kingston, Georgia Republican. "There's true frustration with that."
Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, said he spoke with several House Republicans yesterday who expressed concern about the Senate's slow legislative pace.
"They feel some frustration," Mr. McCain said. "But at the same time, we feel some frustration over here about the House not giving us appropriations bills."
Publicly, House Republicans are content to blame Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota for halting Senate business with parliamentary maneuvers aimed at promoting the Democrats' agenda.
"The fundamental political strategy of the Democrats in Congress is to try to stop any accomplishments whatsoever of this Congress," said House Majority Leader Dick Armey, Texas Republican. "We understand the Senate always has its different rules. The senator [Mr. Lott] will have to work on that."
Privately, however, some House Republicans are expressing growing dismay with Mr. Lott for not breaking the Senate impasse, for example, by confronting Democrats who threaten a filibuster.
"Our members get tired of a senator saying 'filibuster' and the issue gets dropped," said a House Republican leadership aide. "We'd love to see Democrats stand up and filibuster the 'marriage penalty.' "
Individual senators can use a filibuster as a delaying tactic to object to legislation for as long as they are able to hold the floor.
Mr. Lott told reporters this week that "obstructionist" tactics by Senate Democrats are only part of his problem.
"We haven't been getting [appropriations bills] as fast from the House of Representatives as we had anticipated," Mr. Lott said.
The Mississippi Republican said the Senate would approve the marriage-penalty tax measure "sometime this summer" and would take up the elimination of the estate tax in September. The House is expected to try to repeal the estate tax tomorrow.
"We're going to do both of those before the year is out," Mr. Lott said.
Mr. Czwartacki said discussions between Mr. Lott and Mr. Daschle this week have produced "ideas for moving forward and doing so in an expedited fashion."
Mr. Kingston said he blames "a combination" of Mr. Lott's leadership and Democrats' deliberate delaying tactics.
"I do think Lott has a lot less power than people give him credit for," Mr. Kingston said. "It's the power to persuade and cajole."
Rep. J.D. Hayworth, Arizona Republican, said House members shouldn't worry about events they can't control.
"All we can control is our own agenda," Mr. Hayworth said. "We understand the interesting conditions in the Senate … and we make allowances for that. It's challenging enough just to take care of our job."
Mr. Armey said yesterday the House will approve 12 of 13 appropriations bills by the end of July, leaving only the spending bill for the District. The House took up the Defense Department appropriations bill yesterday and is expected to vote today on the largest, funding the Labor and Education departments and other federal agencies.
He said the House will vote on four appropriations bills next week, including the agriculture spending bill, which is entangled in a dispute over lifting sanctions against Cuba.
"We are very pleased with the pace with which we're moving in the House," Mr. Armey said.
Republican leaders had hoped the House and Senate would approve four appropriations bills by Memorial Day. Instead, the House passed two by that self-imposed deadline and the Senate approved only one.

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