- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 24, 2001

The political civility that President George W. Bush committed himself to restore in Washington took a major hit late Monday night in the U.S. Senate. As midnight rapidly approached, the Democratic leadership and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton conspired to quash a genuinely humanitarian gesture by Democratic Sen. Joe Biden. At the time, the Democratic leadership was in the process of demanding votes on scores of amendments to the 11-year, $1.35 trillion tax-relief compromise meticulously developed in a bipartisan fashion in the Senate Finance Committee. Many of the amendments, known in advance to be futile gestures, were mischievously crafted. Their purpose was merely to delay its passage beyond the Memorial Day weekend set by Mr. Bush as his goal. Meanwhile, the Democratic leadership intensified its efforts to woo Republican renegade Sen. James Jeffords, perhaps with an eye toward delaying the much-needed tax relief longer still.
Late Monday night, Mr. Biden graciously offered to allow 98-year-old Republican Sen. Strom Thurmond, who was obviously exhausted, to go home to sleep. By offering to "pair off" with Mr. Thurmond, meaning that both would leave the floor, Mr. Biden would have ensured that their departure would not have changed the outcome of any vote. It is a practice that has a long tradition in the U.S. Senate. Indeed, for votes conducted on the same day, Democratic Sen. Daniel Inouye had agreed in advance to remain on the sidelines so that Republican Sen. Ted Stevens could deliver a speech at his granddaughters high school graduation in Alaska.
Mr. Biden approached Minority Leader Tom Daschle, Assistant Minority Leader Harry Reid and Mrs. Clinton to inform them of the deal he had made. A two-minute discussion ensued during which the three Democrats talking with Mr. Biden appeared very "serious," according to a Republican aide who observed the brief meeting. Mr. Daschle said he told Mr. Biden to approach 86-year-old Democratic Robert Byrd and attempt to "pair" him off with Mr. Thurmond. Mr. Byrd declined the offer. Mr. Biden then approached Mr. Thurmond, who has been hospitalized several times this year, and Republican Sen. Phil Gramm, who had earlier been party to Mr. Bidens humanitarian gesture. No deal, Mr. Biden told them. Indecent and shameful are just a few of the words brought to mind by the actions of the Senates Democratic leadership.
Meanwhile, the delaying tactics continued throughout the next day and into the night. Numerous amendments offered by Democrats on Tuesday were virtually identical to the amendments that were defeated Monday. "Were in no rush," Mr. Daschle candidly admitted. Incoherently, Mrs. Clinton, who has shown little economic acumen since she suspiciously turned $1,000 into $100,000 in the cattle futures market during the late 1970s, argued that the bipartisan tax-relief proposal crafted in the Senate Finance Committee "has nothing to do with an economic policy."
Yesterday afternoon, 12 Democratics joined 50 Republicans to pass a bipartisan $1.35 trillion tax cut. A good ending to a disgraceful episode.


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