Robert Novak
WASHINGTON -- Senate Democrats are preparing an election year coup to position Al Gore, in his role as president of the Senate, to break a tie and thus enact a Democratic-backed patients' bill of rights. The death of Republican Sen. Paul Coverdell of Georgia and his replacement by Democrat Zell Miller puts the count for the bill at 50 to 50. Senate Republican Whip Don Nickles threatens a filibuster, but that could play into Democratic hands politically. Consequently, GOP leaders are attempting to split off two of the bill's Republican supporters: Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Peter Fitzgerald of Illinois. Neither is up for re-election this year. A footnote: Not only do Democratic strategists envision the bill boosting presidential candidate Gore. The proposal will be sponsored by Sen. Chuck Robb to help his difficult fight for re-election in Virginia. MCCAIN IS BACK Representatives of Sen. John McCain, who underwent a long operation for cancer on Aug. 19, let it be known that the Vietnam War hero will soon fulfill his television commitments for the Bush presidential campaign. McCain intends to make himself available for Sunday television interview programs Sept. 17 to warn against attempts to push Al Gore's spending programs through Congress in the session's closing days. Bush's primary election opponent earlier promised to play this role, but Republican politicians feared that his major surgery requiring multiple stitches would prevent it. With Gore pulling ahead of Bush in the polls, McCain's help is needed by the GOP candidate. Bush has lost support among independent voters, who like McCain very much. FLOODED POLITICS If President Clinton insists on changing the flow of the Missouri River to protect three endangered species, he could undermine Democratic Gov. Mel Carnahan's campaign to unseat Republican Sen. John Ashcroft in the state of Missouri. The government wants to permit a spring surge in the river's flow to provide a habitat for the pallid sturgeon (fish) and the least tern and piping plover (birds). Foes of this move say it would risk flooding that could be devastating to farmers and barge traffic. That is bad politics in Missouri, a key state where the polls show tight races for president and senator. The Senate voted 52 to 45 Thursday to keep the government's hands off the Big Muddy. But Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle has urged a veto by Clinton, who has hinted his agreement. DENNY & TRENT The two top Republicans in Congress -- House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott -- discussed congressional endgame strategy at the Capitol Thursday. It was the first time that they had met face-to- face since July. Aides of Hastert and Lott, rejecting Capitol Hill gossip that they don't like each other, contend that they were just unable to make connections for two months. But there is no doubt Lott felt closer to Hastert's predecessor as Speaker, Newt Gingrich. A footnote: Hastert and Lott, along with other congressional leaders of both parties, will meet with President Clinton at the White House this coming week to begin negotiations on trying to avert a government shutdown. DIALING FOR DOLLARS Republicans who have been only modestly generous were startled last week to receive an automated telephone call from none other than Republican National Chairman Jim Nicholson asking for a contribution to George W. Bush's presidential campaign. The call was followed by a personalized letter, signed by Gov. Bush himself, requesting money to the Republican National Committee's Victory 2000 program. Enclosed was a paid United Parcel Service envelope addressed to the RNC. "Would you rush $50, $75, $100 or whatever you can afford back to RNC Victory today in the UPS Next Day envelope I've provided with this letter?" asks Bush. This solicitation is not limited to big givers. The Nicholson call and Bush letter went to Republicans who previously had contributed as little as $50 to the presidential campaign.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.
 

 
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