- The Washington Times - Monday, November 11, 2002

Likely incoming Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi, riding high after Republicans gained a Senate majority in Tuesday's midterm election, said yesterday that he favors making President Bush's tax cuts permanent and enacting a Republican version of a prescription-drug plan for the elderly.
Democrats have said the tax cuts should be allowed to expire because they are too costly, have benefited the rich and will deepen the federal budget deficit if made permanent.
Mr. Lott also said that when the Senate convenes for a postelection lame-duck session this week, he will have enough votes to pass a bill creating the Cabinet-level Homeland Security Department sought by Mr. Bush, a measure passed by the House.
Republicans were able to use their accusations of Democratic "obstructionism" on homeland security, tax cuts and presidential authority to make war on Iraq to help score what turned out to be historic gains in both houses of Congress for the president's party in midterm elections.
Mr. Lott suggested on NBC's "Meet the Press" that the homeland security bill, in some compromise form, will pass in the Senate during the lame-duck session regardless of whether he is majority leader by then.
Sen. George Allen, Virginia Republican, agreed that homeland security "probably" has the votes to pass but added, "If not, we'll get it done when the new Senate convenes in January."
South Dakota Sen. Tom Daschle, the Democratic leader, under fire from his party's more liberal wing for having taken an accomodationist position toward Mr. Bush on Iraq and other issues, also said yesterday that a homeland security compromise is reachable.
Mr. Bush campaigned five times in Mr. Daschle's state on behalf of Republicans, and yesterday Mr. Daschle gave the president the kind of credit Democratic leaders once gave another Republican president: Ronald Reagan. Mr. Bush "speaks a language people can understand [and is] as strong and as good an articulator of his party's message as they've had in a long time," Mr. Daschle said.
Mr. Daschle didn't spell out what a homeland security compromise that he could live with might look like but said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that he would provide one of the 60 votes required to silence a filibuster should fellow Democrats mount one.
In the months leading up to Tuesday's elections, Mr. Lott had been criticized by some fellow Republicans for not standing firmly enough against the Democrats, but a challenge to his leadership from Sen. Don Nickles, of Oklahoma, was abandoned. Mr. Lott regained the confidence of Senate Republicans and is receiving praise from many of them.
"Trent's behind-the-scenes leadership on getting the Iraq resolution passed [in the Senate] was masterful," Mr. Allen told The Washington Times. "Some of his masterful tactics you would know about only if you were watching him in a closed room with Republicans only."
Mr. Allen is expected to become one of two new members of Mr. Lott's leadership team in the Senate. Mr. Allen is a popular former governor of Virginia who was elected to the Senate in 2000 and is running unopposed to become chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, replacing Sen. Bill Frist, of Tennessee. Sen. Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, is expected to be elected assistant majority whip.
The homeland security measure has been held up by Senate Democrats because their labor-union constituency opposed the Republican version. Mr. Bush has held firm on his desire to have maximum flexibility and not be fettered by collective-bargaining constraints that the unions demand.
Mr. Lott had expressed little enthusiasm for a lame-duck session and said he wasn't convinced that it would yield passage of homeland security.
But Mr. Bush made it clear he wants the bill passed and on his desk before that session ends. White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. repeated the president's desire yesterday, saying he expects that Congress may be in session into December.
The plan would combine elements of other agencies and departments into a 170,000-employee department.
Sen. Evan Bayh, Indiana Democrat, also said he supports giving Mr. Bush the power to fire employees in the new department for national security reasons, but Mr. Bayh held out for guaranteeing some employee protections.

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