- The Washington Times - Friday, August 2, 2002

The Senate left town yesterday for its monthlong recess with Republicans steeling themselves for more Democratic election-year attacks focusing on corporate greed and retirement security.
"We're going to be talking about corporate governance" this month, said Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, as he promoted a pension-protection bill with a destitute former WorldCom employee at his side.
"Democrats have a plan that offers real protections. The Republican plan will not," Mr. Daschle said.
Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee, chairman of the Senate Republicans' campaign committee, said "everybody knows" that Republicans are at a disadvantage on the issue because the public perceives them as being more friendly to business, and the corporate scandals have hurt pension funds.
"The issues that we'll see play out from a Republican standpoint over the next three months or so will be the issue of corporate responsibility, which we, as Republicans, have been very aggressive on," said Mr. Frist. "The president has been very aggressive."
He said Republicans will spend the next month talking tough with voters about corporate criminals.
"Our message is going to very aggressively, and very truthfully and very honestly, reflect the Republican commitment to put the criminals in jail," Mr. Frist said. "It is what people are thinking about as you travel back to home. People are worried about their pensions and their own financial security as we go forward."
Congressional Republicans supported the bill that President Bush signed into law this week that spells out tougher criminal penalties for corrupt executives. Mr. Daschle said Democrats will bring up a pension-security bill in September that would make it easier for workers to sell their company stock and diversify their holdings.
But Republicans accused Mr. Daschle of playing politics, saying he has ignored a pension-security bill the Republican-led House approved four months ago. Forty-six Democrats voted for that bill.
"The president is waiting to sign it, if only the Senate would act," said Rep. J.C. Watts Jr., Oklahoma Republican. "The majority leadership of the Senate should not go fishing until it votes on a bill to help working Americans plan ahead for their future."
Mr. Daschle blamed Senate Republicans, saying they delayed action on several bills and prevented him from calling up pension reform before the recess.
"The Republicans have kept us from getting to other pieces of legislation with their delays," he said. "So long as that exists, we're not going to be able to get to many of the bills we would have liked to."
Mr. Daschle also accused the Justice Department of being half-hearted in its investigation of corporate malfeasance.
"There hasn't been anyone in handcuffs from Enron," he said. "People are beginning to ask whether there is special treatment."
Republican lawmakers plan to meet with Mr. Bush at his ranch in Texas in mid-August to focus on the economy.
"August is very important," Mr. Frist said. "Unlike in past elections, people are paying attention earlier. People will be very concerned about the economy, and you'll hear the president talking on the economy throughout."
Republicans also held a news conference to highlight what they said was Democrats' intransigence for not completing legislation on energy policy, homeland security, prescription drugs, welfare reform and appropriations bills.
"In the classrooms of America, if you have a report card with this many incompletes, you're held back a grade," said Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican. "In this case, the solution is for the majority to be taken back and put into Republican hands."

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