- The Washington Times - Friday, November 16, 2001

Partisan warfare in Congress reached a post-September 11 peak yesterday as Democrats accused Republicans of trickery to block aid for the unemployed and top Republicans ridiculed Democratic leaders for taking a "siesta" in Mexico.

Republicans roundly criticized Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri for planning a trip to Mexico this weekend while Congress still had no plan to stimulate the U.S. economy.

"This is not the time for the Democratic leadership to be skipping town," said Rep. J.C. Watts Jr. of Oklahoma, chairman of the House Republican Conference. "Democratic leaders, no siesta for you."

Mr. Daschle replied, "Saturday and Sunday are not usually legislative days. I'm concerned about the statement we'd make if we didn't go."

The administration is also angry that Mr. Daschle will be visiting with Mexican President Vicente Fox while Senate Democrats are blocking President Bush's nominee for drug czar, John Walters. As a result of Democratic "holds" on his nomination, Mr. Walters is unable to attend a U.S.-Mexico conference on drug issues in Mexico City that ends today.

"It's obscene that the president's Cabinet is not complete," said one administration official. "It sends a horrible signal to Mexico and all those who care about the war on drugs, when the United States can't send its drug czar to bilateral talks."

Mr. Daschle said several of his Democratic colleagues have "unanswered questions" about Mr. Walters' nomination.

"We're trying to work through this," Mr. Daschle said.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Daschle surrounded himself with union members as he blamed Senate Republicans for using "a procedural trick" a common parliamentary move known as a "point of order" to kill a Democratic bill proposed to help stimulate the economy.

"For too long, Republicans have stopped our efforts to help the economy, and help the people who have been hardest hit," the South Dakota Democrat said.

Republicans said Mr. Daschle employed the parliamentary tactic often as minority leader. A point of order requires 60 votes to proceed with legislation, rather than a simple majority.

"He's used it a lot," said Sen. Larry E. Craig, Idaho Republican. "The reason we used it is because we learned it from Tom Daschle the number one trickster. He pointed the finger in the wrong direction."

The White House issued a statement yesterday applauding the Senate for rejecting the bill it called "nothing more than a Democrat spending proposal."

"The president believes that the House and Senate tax writers should now come together quickly to produce a bipartisan economic stimulus bill that encourages consumer spending, promotes business investment and helps dislocated workers," said Treasury Secretary Paul H. O'Neill.

But congressional leaders reported no progress in setting up negotiations. Mr. Daschle was insisting on including a $15 billion package for homeland security in the talks spending that Mr. Bush has vowed to veto.

Republicans were resisting Mr. Daschle's demand that Republicans promise not to raise a point of order against the homeland security package.

"That's the hang-up," said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, Montana Democrat.

Said Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, "This is just not the time to hold us hostage to additional spending that has not been requested and has not been reviewed. So we should set that aside."

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