- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 26, 2001

Truckload of rhetoric

As the debate about Mexican trucks traveling on U.S. roads rages on, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and Minority Leader Trent Lott have found a good outlet for pent-up rhetoric.

On the heels of Mr. Lott earlier this week spotting an "anti-Mexican, anti-Hispanic, anti-NAFTA attitude among Democrats," Mr. Daschle yesterday suggested the Mississippi Republican look closer at his own party.

"His colleagues in the House, by a 2-to-1 vote, insisted on even stronger and stiffer standards than what the Murray-Shelby legislation reflects. So he'd want to go back and check with all of his Republican colleagues in the House, I would imagine, to see whether they're anti-Mexican and anti-Hispanic for having voted for the tough safety legislation that they voted for in the House," Mr. Daschle said. "My guess is that they would take issue with that characterization, and rightfully so."

The trucking issue, which has bogged down the Senate transportation appropriations bill, has created strange bedfellows all around.

Led by Sen. Patty Murray, Washington Democrat, and Richard C. Shelby, Alabama Republican, the current bill's language insists on spot checks and other controls on Mexican trucks before they are allowed to use U.S. roads.

On the other side stand the White House, occasional White House nemesis Arizona Sen. John McCain and other Republicans, who say controls flout the requirements of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Lazio shies away

Although House Republicans leaders are urging Rick Lazio to run for his old House seat on Long Island, Mr. Lazio shows little enthusiasm for the idea.

"Never say never, but I wouldn't bet on it," Mr. Lazio tells New York Post reporter Deborah Orin.

"I am committed to the position I have now [as CEO of the Financial Services Forum]. Life is very good. I have the opportunity to spend good, quality time with my girls," Mr. Lazio said, referring to his wife and two daughters.

Mr. Lazio gave up his House seat to run for U.S. Senate in 2000, but lost to Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton. Democrat Steven Israel captured the vacated House seat.

Rep. Thomas M. Davis III of Virginia, who heads up Republican candidate recruitment in the House, told the Post that Mr. Lazio would be "the best candidate," but has not agreed to run.

Just right or too small

Seventy-two percent of Americans think the tax cut was either the right size or too small, according to a survey by independent pollster Scott W. Rasmussen.

Only 21 percent agree with congressional critics of the president who say that the tax cut was too big, the survey found.

A plurality of 39 percent say the tax cut was about the right size. Thirty-three percent believe it was too small.

Fifty-five percent think that federal income taxes should be cut again next year. Just 27 percent disagree with the idea. Lower- and middle-income Americans are more likely than upper-income Americans to support a tax cut again for next year. Those lower on the income scale are also more likely to believe that the tax cut passed earlier this year was too small.

The telephone survey of 1,000 adults was conducted July 16-18. The margin of sampling error is 3 percentage points in either direction with a 95 percent level of confidence.

Democrats were split down the middle on whether taxes should be cut next year, with 42 percent in favor and 42 percent opposed.

Thirty-three percent of Democrats say the cut was too big, 30 percent too small and 30 percent about right. Even with the criticisms of Democrats in Congress, only 31 percent of rank-and-file Democrats believe that tax cuts are bad for the economy, the poll found.

Texas Dems squawk

A Republican-dominated panel has approved redistricting plans that favor the GOP in the Texas House and Senate, drawing protests from Democrats and some Republicans.

If the plans survive expected court challenges, Republicans could increase the majority they already hold in the Senate and could control the House for the first time in generations, the Associated Press reports.

"Texas has changed. We've got to look to new leadership and give the voters a chance to vote in competitive elections," said Attorney General John Cornyn, who was chairman of the Legislative Redistricting Board.

The board's action is final and does not require legislative or gubernatorial approval.

The five-member panel took over redistricting this year because the Legislature failed to do the job.

Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff and House Speaker Pete Laney, the lone Democrat on the board, both voted against the two legislative plans. Mr. Ratliff, who presides over the Senate, favored his own Republican-leaning plan for that chamber.

The House plan could give Republicans as many as 88 seats in the 150-member House, which is likely to cost Mr. Laney his job as speaker in 2003. Currently, Democrats control the House 78-72.

The Senate plan could give Republicans as many as 21 seats in the 31-member chamber. At present, Republicans control the Senate 16-15.

Millionaires' privilege

Three of the Senate's millionaires are using a surefire way to get around staffer salary restrictions: cash.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, is spending his own money to increase legislative director Carey Parker's salary to $171,000 — $31,000 over the maximum.

Sen. Mark Dayton, Minnesota Democrat, is personally writing checks to a staffer who can't receive federal funds because she's not a U.S. citizen.

And Sen. Herb Kohl, Wisconsin Democrat, supplements his executive assistant's salary so she can work on his personal business, Associated Press writer Frederic J. Frommer reports.

Senators are given allowances to cover salaries, offices expenses and travel, which vary depending on the state's population. Using personal funds to pay staffers is legal, but it must be disclosed in Senate filings.

Bloomberg trails

Michael Bloomberg, the leading Republican candidate for mayor of New York, has gained voter support in the past six weeks, but still trails all four of the Democratic contenders, according to a poll released yesterday.

In a hypothetical matchup against City Council Speaker Peter Vallone, the Quinnipiac University poll showed Mr. Vallone leading Mr. Bloomberg 53 percent to 28 percent. Public Advocate Mark Green led Mr. Bloomberg 54 percent to 28 percent, and city Comptroller Alan Hevesi was ahead of Mr. Bloomberg 51 percent to 29 percent. Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer led Mr. Bloomberg 48 percent to 33 percent.

The poll showed Mr. Green leading the Democratic contenders with 30 percent, followed by Mr. Ferrer with 18 percent, Mr. Hevesi with 17 percent and Mr. Vallone with 16 percent. Eighteen percent were undecided.

The survey of 913 registered voters — 560 of them Democrats — was conducted by telephone from July 17 to 23. It had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

Phony consensus

"Somewhere along the line, climate change was transformed from an interesting scientific hypothesis (unproven and probably unprovable) to a belief system one that politicians must indiscriminately honor if they know what's good for them," Wall Street Journal columnist Holman W. Jenkins writes.

"There's plenty of precedent for this — the resource depletion and global cooling mythologies of the 1970s were no less endorsed by established authorities. A turning point comes when it's no longer good manners to argue against a phony consensus."

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