- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Sen. Tom Daschle and his fellow Democrats will continue to control the Senate when it begins a "lame duck" session today as Dean Barkley, the interim senator from Minnesota, has announced he will remain unaffiliated with either party.
"I am an independent, the governor who appointed me is an independent, and I believe the best way to serve the people of Minnesota is to remain independent," Mr. Barkley said in a written statement last night declaring his intention to remain unaffiliated for organizational matters.
That leaves the Senate with 49 Democrats, 49 Republicans, one independent who organizes with Democrats and Mr. Barkley. That adds up to Mr. Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, retaining the majority leader's slot and deciding which bills the Senate will consider in the few weeks before the 107th Congress adjourns.
Mr. Barkley, a member of the Independence Party, is serving the remainder of the term of deceased Sen. Paul Wellstone, a Democrat. If he had supported Republicans in organizing the Senate, the Republican Party would have held control by dint of Vice President Richard B. Cheney's tie-breaking vote, and Sen. Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, would have become majority leader.
Mr. Barkley's announcement ended a week of speculation about control. On Friday, when asked who would be in charge today, Mr. Daschle, to much laughter from reporters, said, "I think I am."
Still, "Majority Leader Lott" is not far off, thanks to Sen.-elect Jim Talent of Missouri, a Republican who will succeed Democratic Sen. Jean Carnahan. Mrs. Carnahan had been appointed to begin serving the term that her husband won posthumously after his plane crashed during the 2000 campaign; Mr. Talent was elected to serve the remaining four years of the term.
Local elections officials in Missouri have until Nov. 19 to submit their results to the secretary of state. The secretary then will verify the results and the governor will submit the results to President Bush. Republicans expect Mr. Talent to be sworn in later that week, giving them the 50 senators they need for a majority.
Republicans then will control both chambers and the White House.
Another early change could result if Mr. Barkley, rather than serve until the 108th Congress convenes in January, resigns early in order to give Republican Sen.-elect Norm Coleman seniority over the other incoming freshmen.
Mr. Daschle's office didn't return phone messages yesterday, and Capitol offices were closed for the Veterans Day holiday.
But on Friday, Mr. Daschle said the agenda is set regardless of who controls the Senate.
"It really doesn't matter that much who is majority leader, because we know what has to be done," Mr. Daschle said.
Mr. Bush has demanded that Congress, before adjourning, pass and send him a proposal to create a Department of Homeland Security.
A bill has been stymied by a dispute between the White House and Senate Democrats. The administration wants to maintain authority to hire and fire department employees and suspend collective-bargaining agreements when the president determines national security is at stake, a power that almost all Senate Democrats oppose as an infringement on the rights of unionized workers.
Before the Nov. 5 midterm elections, Democrats had a one-vote majority in favor of a bill to create the department while protecting union workers, but Republicans blocked a vote on their proposal. Now, Republicans think Mr. Barkley may vote with them on the issue and Democrats may be more willing to accede to the president's wishes. Mr. Bush used the issue effectively in successful campaigns against Sen. Max Cleland, Georgia Democrat, and Mrs. Carnahan.
Mr. Lott, White House officials and a select group of Democrats and Republicans tried over the weekend to forge a compromise on the bill. The House, controlled by Republicans, has passed a bill to create the department but is expected to go along with any proposal that is approved by the Senate and is satisfactory with the president.
Both parties in the Senate expect to try to approve a series of presidential nominees awaiting confirmation, and both the House and Senate will try to make some progress on federal spending.
Only two of the 13 appropriations bills for fiscal year 2003, which began Oct. 1, have been signed into law, and the government is operating under a "continuing resolution" that will carry it through Nov. 22. Congress either must pass spending bills or a longer continuing resolution before it adjourns its lame duck session.

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