- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 23, 2002

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is earning a nearly perfect liberal voting score in her first year-and-a-half in office, while boosting her job approval polls with frequent trips to upstate New York to smooze with voters and bring home the bacon.
Mrs. Clinton's voting record is so consistently liberal that the National Taxpayers Union, whose voting indexes are based on nearly 200 roll-call votes, gave her a 3 percent score for all of 2001. That is the lowest score NTU has ever given a freshman senator since it began tracking votes in 1977. The taxpayer advocacy organization and other groups say that her votes look no better this year, either.
The liberal Americans for Democratic Action, give her a 95 percent favorable score on her votes. Among them, she voted against President Bush's tax-cut plan, to block the repeal of the estate tax, against Attorney General John Ashcroft's confirmation, for campaign finance reform and against a move to eliminate the marriage penalty tax.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, on the other hand, gives her votes a score of 43 percent. Only five other senators scored lower, while most of her Democratic colleagues scored higher. Even relatively liberal Democrats such as Sen. Robert G. Torricelli of New Jersey won a 62 percent score from the pro-business chamber.
"Her numbers are on the low end of the scale. Tax cuts and regulatory issues are critical to small businesses, and that's where she was voting against us virtually every single time," said Bill Morley, the chamber's vice president of congressional affairs.
"We're willing to work with anybody but she has shown a tendency to vote against small business," he said.
More recently, Mrs. Clinton has voted against giving Mr. Bush fast-track trade promotion authority, making the death tax repeal permanent and drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
"New York is a liberal state whose voters want to know 'what's in it for me.' We have a what's-in-it-for-me senator. We have two of them, in fact," said pollster John Zogby, whose international law firm is headquartered in Utica in upstate New York.
Notably, her voting record has been virtually identical to that of her equally liberal Democratic colleague, Sen. Charles E. Schumer who received a 9 percent score from NTU. The ADA's index on her voting record shows that Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Schumer voted the same way on 20 key votes scored by the liberal lobbying group.
In all but one of those votes, Mrs. Clinton voted the way the ADA wanted, except when she supported a motion last September by Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican, to authorize a new round of U.S. military base closings. The proposal is a major priority of the Bush administration.
But New York pollsters such as Mr. Zogby say that her job approval scores have risen substantially since she entered the Senate, when her polls were at 30 percent, according to the Marist Institute for Public Opinion.
A voter survey taken by Marist in April showed her with a 47 percent positive approval rating. Mr. Zogby's poll gave her a 57 percent approval score.
"There's no question that she's doing well and I attribute it to the fact that she's omnipresent throughout the state, especially upstate where she didn't do as well in 2000. She's serving soup in Batavia. She's at a senior center in Watertown. There is no community that is too small for her to visit," Mr. Zogby said.
Mrs. Clinton has made a total of 130 trips to upstate cities and towns over the past year and a half, according to her office. Since the passage of the farm bill, which she voted for, she has been concentrating more of her trips in her state's rural areas, explaining the bill's subsidies, which will deliver an average of $15,200 in assistance to New York dairy farmers.
Also, senior aides to New York Gov. George Pataki speak highly of her ability to reach out to the state's delegation and work with them on legislation.
"For a number of reasons the administration doesn't want to have to work with her, but she gets along better with her colleagues. The Republicans in the New York delegation prefer dealing with her than with Schumer because they are able to trust her more," a top Pataki aide said.
"She is easier to work with. She is more open-minded. She doesn't have to hog the spotlight, unlike Schumer, who wants his credit and your credit," the aide said.


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