- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 29, 2003

California Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger, the biggest Republican star not living in the White House, arrived in Washington yesterday to shake the money tree for his financially strapped and fire-ravaged state.

Mr. Schwarzenegger spent the day meeting with Capitol Hill leaders and members of the California congressional delegation, who couldn’t resist staging several media events with the actor-turned-governor.

His Hollywood star power is expected to help expedite congressional action on money to assist the fight against wildfires that have consumed hundreds of thousands of acres in Southern California.

“We’ve got a guy who knows how to muscle decision makers,” said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican, “and that’s the only pun of the day.” It wasn’t.

Mr. Schwarzenegger repeatedly referred to himself as the “Collectinator” to stress his desire to get federal assistance for the firefighting efforts and to help bridge the state’s estimated $20 billion budget gap.

“I will be back many times,” he said, playing off the most famous line from his “Terminator” films. “I didn’t want to say, exactly, the line ‘I’ll be back,’ but I will be back many more times, believe me.”

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay joked about Mr. Schwarzenegger’s famous Mr. Olympia physique after a meeting with Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, a stocky Illinois Republican, and other House Republican leaders.

“Despite what you hear, the speaker did not arm-wrestle him,” Mr. DeLay, Texas Republican, said.

Mr. Schwarzenegger also met with California’s Democratic congressional delegation, none of whose members voted for him in his recall election victory over Democratic Gov. Gray Davis on Oct. 7.

Rep. Tom Lantos, California Democrat, pledged to fight against Mr. Schwarzenegger if he endorses President Bush’s tax policies — a strong possibility, as cutting taxes was the centerpiece of Mr. Schwarzenegger’s campaign — but even he got into the joking spirit.

“I told him that I am ready to discuss with him the restoration of the Hungarian-Austrian empire,” said Mr. Lantos, a 75-year-old Hungarian immigrant who, like the Austrian-born Schwarzenegger, hasn’t lost his East European accent. “He said he was very interested.”

Mr. Schwarzenegger was flanked all day by a security team that rivaled the size and vigilance of the detail that surrounds Vice President Dick Cheney or international dignitaries when they visit the Capitol.

A Senate aide said the press coverage of the Schwarzenegger visit was more intense than it had been during the latest visits by former South African President Nelson Mandela, Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat and former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.

House Republican aides said the weekly caucus meeting, which normally features many absences, was convened in the morning with nearly every member present.

Congressmen were “jumping up to get their picture taken” with Mr. Schwarzenegger, said Mr. Rohrabacher.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat who campaigned against Mr. Schwarzenegger a month ago, said the actor has lots of charm and has shown an affinity for using it in the world of politics.

“It certainly gives him an advantage early on,” Mrs. Feinstein said. “Whether that continues when he’s sworn in as governor remains to be seen. It certainly demands attention and, as he governs, he will command respect.”

Mrs. Feinstein narrated an ad against the recall of Mr. Davis, bringing to voters’ attention the accusations that Mr. Schwarzenegger had a habit of groping women in his 30-year Hollywood career. But yesterday she declared an end to the groping issue.

“Obviously, the people looked at it and voted for him overwhelmingly,” Mrs. Feinstein said. “I think that chapter is closed.”

Mr. Schwarzenegger’s visit to the capital continues today with a meeting with the vice president at the White House in the morning.

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