- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Top Senate Republicans yesterday said Democrats are attempting an orchestrated "coup" to keep control of the Senate and ignore the results of November's elections.
Democrats are demanding a nearly equal split in committee funding and are blocking efforts to organize the Senate until they get their way.
Until such an organizing resolution is passed, the committees remain as they were in the 107th Congress with Democrats holding the committee gavels and new senators without committee assignments. Republicans also are accusing the Democrats of using talks on the organizing resolution to aid their efforts to block President Bush's judicial nominations.
"It's tantamount to an attempted coup right here on the floor of the United States Senate," said Sen. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican and chairman of the Senate Republican Conference.
"The fact is the Republicans won the election," Mr. Santorum said. "The Democrats should recognize that by approving a routine resolution which simply appoints members to committees."
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Texas Republican and vice chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, cited a Jan. 2 e-mail from Mr. Daschle's staff to Democratic aides, which noted that Republicans would need the organizing resolution in order to move their agenda and predicted "the organizing resolution will be delayed."
"I think this is clearly an organized plan," she said.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, brought a Senate organizing resolution to the floor yesterday after several days of unfruitful negotiations with Democrats over how to split committee funding and resources.
But Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle promptly promised a filibuster, a move Republicans would need 60 votes which they would not have to overcome.
The resolution would set Republican committee chairmen and members, giving Republicans their one-vote majority on committees, without resolving how to share money.
Mr. Frist said it "simply recognizes the fact that the Republicans won elections in November, that we are in the majority."
"They want to hold on to the gavel a little while longer even though in the election last November, they lost," Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, said of the Democrats.
Democrats strongly disagreed.
"This is not undermining the election," said Assistant Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat. "We agree they should be chairman. We're only asking that we be treated the way Republicans were treated when we were in the majority."
Mr. Daschle also denied that his staff e-mail proved any delay plan.
"There is nothing in there that says our agenda is to slow the Senate down," he said.
Late last night, Mr. Frist said behind-the-scenes talks had made progress and that negotiators were "very, very close" to a deal and hoped to pass the resolution today.
As a "backstop" or "preventative measure" in case a compromise could not be reached, Mr. Frist filed a motion to invoke cloture.
"I feel good about the progress that has been made," Mr. Reid agreed. He said that "in spite of the threatening nature of the speeches on both sides" yesterday, he thinks today "will be a better day."
Mr. Santorum also said some Democrats are trying to use the dispute over the organizing resolution to prevent confirmation of Mr. Bush's judicial nominees.
He cited a letter written by Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats to Mr. Daschle, asking that any organizing resolution agreement contain guidelines, including:
Each Senate Judiciary Committee hearing should contain only one "controversial nominee."
Each hearing should include only one circuit court nominee.
Hearings should be held no more frequently than every three or four weeks.
No hearings should be scheduled until the American Bar Association submits its review of the nominee and the committee gets three weeks to review the nomination. "We're not going to slow-roll the process as this memo suggests that we do," Mr. Kyl said.
Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, said the guidelines were based on how hearings were conducted in the past, and noted that Democrats moved about 100 judicial nominations using this process.
Democrats say a nearly equal split in committee funding is only fair, since that was the setup when they controlled the Senate last session. It had carried over from the beginning of last session, when the Senate was split 50-50, with Republicans in control.
"If it was good enough last year, it ought to be good enough this year," said Mr. Daschle, who noted repeatedly that the Senate's breakdown was 51-49 last session when Democrats controlled the Senate and is now 51-49 in the other direction. He said last session should set the precedent and the division of committee resources should closely reflect the breakdown of the Senate.
Republicans say last session was unique because Senate control was handed to Democrats halfway through the first year, and it was impractical to negotiate a new funding arrangement.
Majority-party chairmen historically have received two-thirds of the funding for committees, and the minority party has received one-third. Republicans also note that committee funding does not run out until February, so there is time to work out a deal without delaying the reorganization of committees.
While Democrats insist that committee business can proceed while the dispute is worked out, Republicans say Democrats are preventing them from dealing with leftover appropriations bills, nominations and other important agenda items.
Sen. Wayne Allard, Colorado Republican, said Democrats' "obstructionist politics" have delayed the confirmation hearing of Tom Ridge to head the new Homeland Security Department. A hearing originally set for yesterday is now set for Friday.
Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman the Connecticut Democrat who was chairman of the Governmental Affairs Committee in the 107th Congress says he will turn over the gavel to the panel's incoming Republican chairman if the Senate organizing dispute is not resolved.
A Finance Committee hearing on the nomination of John W. Snow to be Treasury secretary is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 28.
Sen. Pat Roberts, Kansas Republican, compared the Democrats to petulant children on a school playground.
"As this drags on, I think this really represents the kind of sandbox silliness that prompts folks outside this Beltway to wonder if this is the United States Senate or a partisan romper room."


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