- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 19, 2002

The clock is ticking

The House is set to pass a resolution today urging the Senate to act on welfare reform before the legislation expires Sept. 30.

Congressional failure to extend the welfare or child-care programs "would threaten the opportunities currently available for low-income families and create fiscal uncertainty for states," says the resolution.

"The clock is ticking," Rep. Wally Herger, California Republican and chairman of the House Ways and Means welfare subcommittee, said Tuesday. "I don't think we can allow this to fail. There's millions of needy Americans who are depending on this."

Last week, 50 senators wrote to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, pledging to work quickly on the bill passed in June in the Senate Finance Committee.

However, as of late yesterday, welfare reform was not scheduled for a Senate debate.

The big issue

The issue of whether to go to war against Iraq has taken center stage in the high-profile U.S. Senate race in South Dakota.

"After a campaign year that has focused largely on local issues like drought and the farm bill, [Republican Rep. John] Thune, in a speech to Rotary members on Monday, called for a swift congressional vote to support the president on Iraq without waiting for the United Nations," the New York Times reports.

"Mr. Thune's campaign has also been staging rallies of veterans who have questioned [Democratic Sen. Tim] Johnson's vote against the Persian Gulf war in 1991 and noted that he was among a group of lawmakers who sued the first President Bush in an effort to require him to seek congressional approval before going to war," reporter Alison Mitchell writes.

"Mr. Johnson shot back [Tuesday] with a letter to President Bush that said he believed that 'it is in our national-security interests to pursue regime change in Iraq' and that he was dismayed by recent news stories quoting political operatives on whether gains could be made on the issue. His campaign has sent out its own military veterans to call on Mr. Thune not to exploit Iraq for political gain."

Leahy's record

It is "extremely rare for a Judiciary Committee chairman to vote against nominees in the first two years of any presidency, even when the chairman, like current Chairman Patrick Leahy, is of the opposite party," the Wall Street Journal notes.

However, information "compiled by a dogged Capitol Hill denizen who spent a few days recently researching the voting history of Judiciary Committee chairmen over the past 100 years" shows that Mr. Leahy is in a class by himself, the newspaper said in an editorial.

"With eight 'no' votes, Sen. Leahy is the easy winner. Second place goes to Sen. James Eastland of Mississippi with five anti-civil rights votes in the late 1950s."

Mr. Leahy so far has voted against judicial nominees Priscilla Owen, Charles Pickering Sr., D. Brooks Smith and Paul Cassell; drug czar John Walters; Attorney General John Ashcroft; Assistant Attorney General Charles James; and Solicitor General Ted Olson.

"Sen. Leahy keeps saying he's just conducting business as usual," the newspaper observed. "As the history of the past 100 years proves, that's factually untrue. This isn't advise and consent; it's devise and obstruct."

Black-Jewish rift

Participants in this month's Congressional Black Caucus conference say the defeat of two black House members in bitter primaries not only suggests a widening rift with Jewish Democrats, but trouble within the Democratic Party itself, Kelley Beaucar Vlahos reports at the Fox News Channel Web site (www.foxnews.com).

"People were talking retaliation," said Ron Walters, the director of the African American Leadership Institute at the University of Maryland, of last week's CBC events in Washington. "They were saying [presidential hopeful] Sen. Joe Lieberman is dead in the water, and so on and so forth."

The anger stems from reports that several Jewish groups took a particular interest in defeating Georgia Rep. Cynthia A. McKinney and Alabama Rep. Earl F. Hilliard, two Democrats who sided with the Palestinians in their conflict with Israel.

A handful of CBC members have approached the leadership, not to blame them for their members' losses, but to request meetings even a retreat to help ease the growing tensions between the Jewish and black factions within the party, staff members said Tuesday.

Veneman's diagnosis

Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman said yesterday she has an early, treatable form of breast cancer and plans to begin treatment this week.

Miss Veneman, 53, said in a letter to colleagues at the department that she intended to continue as secretary during the treatment, but would be unable to travel for several weeks. "It is 98 percent curable and my doctors expect a complete recovery following treatment," she wrote.

The treatment will include a lumpectomy, a breast-saving type of cancer surgery in which only the lump is removed, followed by six weeks of radiation therapy, she said.

She identified the cancer as "ductal carcinoma in situ," tiny tumors that aren't invasive cancer and don't always become life-threatening. "While being diagnosed with cancer is not easy news to accept, I am grateful that it was not more serious and that with appropriate treatment, a full recovery is expected," she said.

Bean ball

George W. Bush wanted to be commissioner of baseball, but political hardball killed that dream, forcing Mr. Bush to seek other offices governor of Texas and president of the United States.

At least that's how former baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent tells the story in his new book, "The Last Commissioner." Passages from the book concerning Mr. Bush were printed in the Milwaukee Journal yesterday and reported at www.msn.espn.go.com.

"Fay, what do you think about me becoming commissioner?" Mr. Bush supposedly asked Mr. Vincent several months after Mr. Vincent was forced out as commissioner in September 1992. Mr. Bush owned the Texas Rangers at the time.

"I think it's a great idea," Mr. Vincent said.

"Do you think I'd make a good commissioner?" Mr. Bush asked Mr. Vincent.

"Absolutely," Mr. Vincent answered. "You're smart. You love baseball. Is it something you want?"

Replied Mr. Bush: "Well, I've been thinking about it. [Bud] Selig tells me that he would love to have me be commissioner and he tells me that he can deliver it."

Mr. Vincent, who blames Mr. Selig for his ouster, says Mr. Bush's comment set off alarm bells in his head. Mr. Selig, owner of the Milwaukee Brewers and acting commissioner at the time, eventually took the job for himself.

Back up to 70%

President Bush's job-approval rating is 70 percent in the latest CNN-USA Today-Gallup Poll, his highest mark since late July.

The survey also found overwhelming support for Mr. Bush's tough stance on Iraq, with more than seven in 10 Americans agreeing that Saddam Hussein will use weapons of mass destruction against the United States if military action is not taken.

Trend reversed

Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland, a Republican, can breathe a little easier after hearing the results of the latest poll from the University of Connecticut.

Mr. Rowland has seen a 31-point lead over Democrat Bill Curry slowly shrink since the beginning of the year. In April, the margin was 25 percentage points. In July, it was 15. And two weeks ago, Mr. Curry trailed by only 9 points.

But the latest survey, conducted Sept. 13-16, showed Mr. Rowland's lead growing to 14 points, 43 percent to 29 percent.

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