- The Washington Times - Friday, June 9, 2000

A short debate

The traditional Republican battle over the pro-life plank in the party's official platform, which often grabs a week of headlines before the Republican National Convention, may not happen this year.

The Republican Party is drawing up plans to drastically cut the length of its platform deliberations this year from a week to two or three days, Reuters reports.

"That's our expectation at this point. It's probably going to meet later in the week Thursday-ish, or Friday-ish," spokeswoman Ginny Wolfe said Thursday.

The Republican National Convention, at which Texas Gov. George W. Bush will be formally nominated for the presidency, convenes in Philadelphia on July 31. Under the tentative plan, the platform committee would meet there between July 27 and 29.

In past years, the platform committee has met for a full week before the convention. The deliberations have often been dominated by a battle between a minority, pressing to amend the document's opposition to all abortions, and the majority, which has invariably succeeded in maintaining or strengthening the pro-life plank.

Lazio's open seat

Republicans have anointed the town clerk of Islip, N.Y., to run for the House seat being vacated by Senate candidate Rep. Rick A. Lazio.

Joan Johnson, 66, is a black woman who has served five terms as town clerk, the New York Post reports.

"Our internal polls show she's leading both the leading Democratic candidates by double digits," Martin Babin, of the National Republican Congressional Committee, told the newspaper.

Suffolk County legislator David Bishop and Huntington Town Board member Steve Israel will square off in the Democratic primary in September for the right to face the Republican in November.

Clinton's words

A Republican group throws President Clinton's words into the face of his wife in a new TV spot that begins airing in New York State Friday.

The ad, paid for by the Republican Leadership Council, features Mr. Clinton's praise of Long Island Rep. Rick A. Lazio's legislative record. Mr. Lazio is first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's Republican rival for a U.S. Senate seat.

Official White House statements show that Mr. Clinton, on several occasions, praised Mr. Lazio for his legislative work on behalf of the physically disabled and breast and cervical cancer victims.

Here is the text of the ad, which includes pictures of the president:

Announcer: "Republicans and Democrats agree Rick Lazio is a leader. Lazio fought to cut taxes, reform welfare and balance the budget. Even President Clinton repeatedly praised Lazio for his 'leadership' in protecting health care for the disabled, and his strong 'bipartisan support' for work on behalf of breast cancer victims. The record is clear. Rick Lazio is a leader. Call. Tell Rick Lazio to keep fighting for issues important to us."

Said Mark Miller, executive director of the group: "It's going to be impossible for Mrs. Clinton to deny the fact that her own husband the president of the United States has very specifically praised Rick Lazio on key issues of importance to New Yorkers."

Nine lawmakers AWOL

Majority Republicans lost a vote on the House floor Wednesday on an amendment to legislation that would create a national conservation area in the San Rafael Swell, a dramatic sandstone uplift 35 miles wide and 85 miles long in the desert of southeastern Utah.

Shortly thereafter, the legislation was pulled, and another, less troublesome one brought up for debate.

But the Republican leadership was not amused, Associated Press writer David Espo reports.

"The Democrats were the majority party earlier today," because nine Republicans were missing, an aide to House Republican Whip Tom DeLay wrote in an e-mail to Republican aides. "Even more troubling is the six of your bosses who did not bother to tell us they were not going to make the vote."

The nine Republicans who didn't vote were Reps. Phil English of Pennsylvania, Amo Houghton of New York, Nick Smith of Michigan, Matt Salmon of Arizona; James C. Greenwood of Pennsylvania; Marge Roukema and Bob Franks of New Jersey, George Nethercutt of Washington; and John E. Sweeney of New York.

No word on which six didn't notify the whip's office in advance.

Kinder and gentler

Texas Gov. George W. Bush, who promised to bring civility to Washington, plans to break with tradition and lower the decibel level on partisan attacks at the Republican National Convention by focusing on his plans for the White House, aides said Wednesday.

"Governor Bush is a different kind of politician. He plans to offer a different kind of convention," chief campaign spokeswoman Karen Hughes said in a telephone interview, the Associated Press reports.

Mrs. Hughes and other advisers said Mr. Bush, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, hoped to strike a more high-minded tone than in conventions past. Though some criticism of Democratic Vice President Al Gore and his party is expected, aides said there will be at least one concrete departure from the past: No single night will be set aside for attacks on Mr. Gore during the July 31-Aug. 3 convention in Philadelphia.

"We need all four nights to focus on his positive proposals. That will be a break with the past, where traditionally Tuesday night was set aside for criticizing the opponent. That does not mean there will not be contrasts with the vice president. We will not, however, devote a full night to criticizing Vice President Gore," Mrs. Hughes said.

First McCain win

Former presidential contender Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, has his first evidence of success on campaign-finance reform the central issue of his failed campaign for the White House.

The Senate unexpectedly agreed Thursday night to his amendment placing limits on a particular kind of political-action group.

"The first one, the first one," a jubilant Mr. McCain told reporters as he convened an impromptu press conference after the vote.

Mr. McCain's amendment, which he stuck on the unrelated defense-authorization bill for next year, requires groups known as "527 organizations" named for the code section of the law to disclose their contributors.

Currently, a loophole in the law allows the tax-exempt groups to accept unlimited contributions and run unlimited political ad campaigns, so long as they don't specifically call for the election of a particular candidate.

Mr. McCain's previous reform proposals have failed in the Senate.

The proposal approved by the Senate Thursday is unlikely to become law. House leaders have said they will strip it out because, under the Constitution, bills related to revenue in this case tax-exempt status must originate in the House.

Web site unveiled

House Republican leaders Thursday opened a Web site that will allow the public to keep tabs on most Republican lawmakers.

GOP.gov (www.gop.gov) is designed to give immediate access to news releases, schedules, and other information from Republican members of Congress.

Majority Leader Richard Armey and Majority Whip Tom DeLay joined Rep. J.C. Watts Jr., chairman of the House Republican Conference, to show off the site at the annual training meeting for Republican district directors.

More than three-quarters of Republican members are participating in the Web site.

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