- The Washington Times - Friday, August 3, 2001

President Bush, capping a week of victories on some of his toughest domestic priorities, paid a surprise visit at a rally of Republican lawmakers yesterday as Congress prepared for its summer recess.
"You have a lot to be proud of," Mr. Bush told lawmakers in the private meeting at the Capitol. "Go home and be proud of the tax relief."
The president added, "And when you come back, we'll work until Christmas." His audience, a rare gathering of senators and representatives, roared with laughter.
Congressional Democrats, whose political base has splintered on several issues this year, were more somber as they headed into the break.
Asked to cite House Democrats' biggest achievement so far this year, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, said simply "Jeffords," referring to Vermont Sen. James M. Jeffords' defection in June from the Republican Party to become an independent. His decision gave control of the Senate to Democrats for the first time in more than six years.
"There's been mixed results," Rep. John Conyers Jr., Michigan Democrat, said of his party's efforts. "Sometimes we succeed; many times we don't."
Mr. Bush, Vice President Richard B. Cheney and Republican lawmakers had reason to celebrate as Congress approaches its monthlong vacation.
In less than 24 hours this week, the Republican-led House approved the administration's national energy policy, including a proposal to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), and a compromise version of a patients' rights bill.
Those legislative victories came on top of the administration's earlier achievements in Congress: a $1.35 trillion tax cut, an education package with stricter accountability standards now in House-Senate conference, and House passage of Mr. Bush's faith-based social-service plan.
"This has truly been one of the most remarkable six months, I think, in any administration," said Mr. Cheney, a Washington insider since 1968. "This is far and away the most productive period I've ever seen in terms of work between the executive and the legislative branch."
At a sparsely attended rally on the opposite side of the Capitol, Democratic leaders offered a different review. They brandished photographs of rusting cars and called the House "the GOP junkyard" of good ideas.
House Democratic Whip David E. Bonior, Michigan Democrat, gave his list of Republican achievements: "More arsenic in our drinking water. Oil rigs off the beaches of Florida and Michigan. A complete sell-out of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. A total abandonment of American leadership on global warming.
"This environmental record is abysmal," Mr. Bonior said. "It's reminiscent of the 1950s slash-and-burn smokestack mentality that is completely out of sync with the mainstream of the American people."
The most surprising Bush victory in Congress this year, according to lawmakers in both parties, came shortly before midnight Wednesday when the House approved oil exploration in ANWR. Many House Republicans had predicted its defeat.
But that was before House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, teamed up with labor leaders to push the proposal.
Union officials, interested in the 700,000 jobs that the plan could create, held six meetings in Mr. DeLay's office on Wednesday alone as the vote neared.
In the end, 36 House Democrats voted for drilling in ANWR, ignoring furious opposition from the environmental lobby.
"Mr. President, mission accomplished," Mr. DeLay said yesterday.
The ANWR debate now shifts to the Senate, where Democratic Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut are vowing to kill the proposal.
"We would be proud to lead a filibuster in the Senate to stop it from being adopted," Mr. Lieberman said.
But Jerry Hood, a top aide to Teamsters President James Hoffa, said yesterday that big labor plans to "double our efforts" in the Senate.
"It's going to make it," Mr. Hood said of the ANWR plan. "We picked up 36 Democratic votes [in the House]. They went against their leadership, and we hope the same will take place in the U.S. Senate."

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