- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 20, 2001

Senate Democrats, in power only two weeks, already are having trouble making the trains run on time.
Majority Leader Tom Daschle, facing delays yesterday in the Democrats initial bill — a patients bill of rights — threatened to cancel the Senates Fourth of July vacation.
"There will be no break until this bill is passed in the United States Senate," Mr. Daschle said.
The Senate also has yet to agree on its reorganization, leaving committees in legislative limbo and freshman senators without assignments.
"Power aint what its cracked up to be," said an amused Sen. Phil Gramm, Texas Republican.
"Theyre off to a little bit of a rough start," said Sen. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican, about the Democratic majority. "This thing was sort of thrust on them, and its probably going to take some time for them to get a grasp of how to get this show working in the Senate."
Democrats say their experience of the past two weeks is nothing new for the Senate, no matter which party controls the floor.
"Its the same process," said Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat. "Theres no surprise. They have the right as the minority to slow" legislation.
Last night, one point of contention seemed closer to being resolved as Mr. Daschle told reporters that he would submit the Republican request for a guaranteed floor vote on Supreme Court judges to a vote by the full Senate.
"We will provide them an opportunity for the vote, but I would hope the Senate would show its common sense and would vote against that particular proposal," said Mr. Daschle, who said he would ask his party to vote against the provision when the Senate votes.
Republicans originally asked for guaranteed Senate votes on all federal court nominees, but Mr. Daschle refused.
But Republicans scored a victory in Mr. Daschles acceeding to their request that the senatorial "blue-slip" veto process on all federal judges become public instead of private, as it has been in the past.
"We certainly oppose private blue slips, and Im prepared to incorporate the public blue-slip policy in the organizing resolution itself," Mr. Daschle said.
Senate Republicans are not making life any easier for the party in charge, to be sure. But some of the Democrats stumbles seem to be self-inflicted, such as their strict adherence to a 20-minute vote rule that caused Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat, to miss an education vote last week. He was acting as chairman at a committee hearing, something he had not done in more than six years.
Other challenges for the Democrats are inherited. A Democratic senator was heard to complain to a Republican colleague last week that Sen. James M. Jeffords, Vermont independent, had promised to vote with Democrats on a key education amendment but voted with Republicans instead.
It was Mr. Jeffords who threw control of the Senate to the Democrats earlier this month by quitting the Republican Party, leaving the chamber with 50 Democrats, 49 Republicans and one independent.
The story about Mr. Jeffords prompted a Republican aide to smile and remark of the Democratic majority, "Welcome to our world."
The patients bill of rights is Mr. Daschles first real test, and two weeks ago he announced he would compromise no further on the Democratic bill. He imposed a deadline of June 29, when Congress is to adjourn for its traditional weeklong Independence Day recess.
But Republicans, concerned that the bill will drive up premiums and open new avenues for lawsuits, want more time for debate and are starting to compare the soft-spoken Mr. Daschle to a despot.
"Its a bit autocratic of the majority leader to say were not going to have hearings, were going to take the bill up, were not going to accept any further compromise and you have to do it by the end of the week," said Sen. Judd Gregg, New Hampshire Republican.
Mr. Kerry said Democratic leaders have told senators "that our schedules need to be flexible" and they may need to work through July 4. Mr. Gramm scoffed at that news.
"Im going home for the Fourth of July recess and so is everybody else," Mr. Gramm said. "What are we going to do, call off Christmas, too?"
Replied Mr. Kerry, "If there are 51 of us here, thats a quorum, well pass a bill. Maybe thats our solution to half our problems — go home, Phil."
Republicans say the bill should receive a hearing in committee, overlooking — or perhaps mindful of — the fact that Senate committees are frozen in time. Without a reorganizational resolution, the committee memberships have reverted to those of the last Congress, when Republicans ruled.
The panels do have Democratic chairmen and have been holding oversight hearings, but Mr. Daschle has said the committees will not take up new legislation or consider the administrations nominees until both parties come to an agreement on the reorganization.
In the meantime, Republicans are asking for more time to examine the patients bill of rights and are shrugging off Mr. Daschles self-imposed deadline to complete the legislation. They say a series of Democratic amendments delayed passage in recent weeks of the administrations tax-cut and education packages.
"We wanted to pass the education bill in two weeks, and it took us seven weeks," said Sen. Don Nickles of Oklahoma, assistant Republican leader. "And that was a bill that was unanimously reported out of committee and had bipartisan support.
Mr. Nickles said from experience of running the Senate, "Sometimes its easier said than done."

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