- The Washington Times - Monday, November 15, 2004

ASSOCIATED PRESS

For two of Congress’ old bulls, the lame duck session that begins tomorrow will be the last roundup.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens, 80, and his 73-year-old House counterpart, Rep. C. W. Bill Young, must surrender their posts by party rule when the next Congress starts in January.

Both Mr. Stevens, Alaska Republican, and Mr. Young, Florida Republican, will remain on those committees next year and hold powerful jobs. But Republicans have limited the terms of committee chairmen to six years, and both lawmakers are hitting that wall.

That means the upcoming postelection session will be each man’s last chance to play his accustomed role of leading the struggle to pass a stack of spending bills, while wielding unparalleled power to win big-dollar projects for the folks back home.

Knowing that, each is pushing to work out deals with the Bush administration and among Capitol Hill factions so the bills can be finished quickly.

“We want to finish our jobs,” Mr. Young said last week. “That’s just something ingrained in both of us.”

Mr. Stevens, the longest-serving Republican senator, with 36 years in the chamber, is known for loud tirades that many suspect are done more for effect than out of anger. The more mannerly Mr. Young, a representative for 34 years, will become the House’s longest-tenured Republican Party member in January now that Rep. Philip M. Crane, Illinois Republican, has lost re-election.

Through their seniority and continuing roles on the appropriations panels — where both may head the defense subcommittees next year — each man will exert considerable influence on spending. But they are unlikely to have the overall clout they enjoy as chairmen.

Conservatives have clashed particularly with Mr. Stevens, who has unabashedly made helping Alaska a focus of his Senate career. In seven of the spending bills for 2003, more than $600 million was allotted to Alaska projects, including money for rural water systems and for the University of Alaska to buy sonar fish counters.

“Ted Stevens has always been the king of pork. I think that will probably be the case again,” said conservative Rep. Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican.

Mr. Stevens, in turn, has called the groups that have criticized him “psychopaths” and “idiots,” and says helping his state is part of his job.

Mr. Young says he does not know how much he has won for Florida or his St. Petersburg district. It is at least many hundreds of millions of dollars — not counting the billions he helped win for his state to rebuild from this summer’s four devastating hurricanes.

“It’s going to be a little sad for us to take a back seat” after he steps down as chairman, said Dottie Reeder, mayor of Seminole, Fla., in Mr. Young’s district.

In recent months, Mr. Young has won $54 million to rebuild an aging bridge in his district, and over the years has steered steady streams of money to Florida colleges and highway projects.

“I don’t appropriate for my state or my district for junk,” Mr. Young said. “I don’t think anybody can really complain about the value of what we do.”

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