Robert Novak
WASHINGTON -- Senate Democratic Leader Thomas Daschle has no intention of scheduling the McCain-Feingold finance reform bill or other controversial legislation during the 17 days, starting Jan. 3, that he will be majority leader. Daschle will hold that post until Dick Cheney replaces Al Gore as vice president and Senate presiding officer, giving Republicans the tie-breaker in a Senate divided 50 to 50 between the two parties. Since the majority leader sets the Senate's schedule, Republican senators feared Daschle would pass McCain-Feingold during the interregnum. But Daschle, preaching a new bipartisanship, vows he is not interested in "17 days that shook the world." He wants to be a model of fairness for Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott when he resumes the majority leader's chair on Jan. 20. ANGRY HOFFA During a conference call between AFL-CIO union presidents and political directors, Teamsters President James Hoffa expressed intense displeasure with Washington insider Terry McAuliffe becoming the Democratic Party's next national chairman. Hoffa told AFL-CIO President John Sweeney that McAuliffe is unacceptable to the Teamsters. Privately, Hoffa fumes that Sweeney used labor back-channels to win support for McAuliffe without Teamster involvement. His union would have preferred Labor Secretary Alexis Herman or Energy Secretary Bill Richardson. Hoffa's associates never have forgiven McAuliffe for participating, according to court papers, in the illegal 1996 swap of Teamster and Democratic campaign funds in Ron Carey's election, later voided, against Hoffa as union president. Teamster officials fear more unfavorable publicity if the new Republican-controlled Justice Department resumes prosecution of the case. TARDY HILLARY Sen.-elect Hillary Clinton turned up 50 minutes late for a "power coffee" for the 13 female senators Dec. 6 in the office of Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland. Like her husband, Mrs. Clinton is habitually tardy. But Senate insiders noted that committee hearings will not wait for her if she is not on time. A footnote: The first lady's Secret Service detail is frustrated in protecting her at the Capitol, unable to clear areas and clashing with Capitol police. She could decline Secret Service protection to which she is entitled as a former president's spouse, but she is expected to keep the agents during her Senate tenure. LOSING OUT Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating mysteriously lost out to be attorney general even though he is a close associate of President-elect Bush because he failed to pass the vetting process for undisclosed reasons, according to well-informed sources. Bush thinks so well of Keating that he was really his first choice for vice president. The assumption is that he was not named to the Cabinet for the same unknown reason that he was not put on the national ticket and, therefore, never had a chance to be attorney general. A footnote: Unlike Keating, former Sen. Dan Coats of Indiana missed being Secretary of Defense because Bush was unimpressed during their personal interview. Coats was strongly recommended by Vice President-elect Cheney, who is running the transition. But final decisions are made by Bush. WHO'S MR. TAX? Rep. Philip Crane of Illinois, given up for dead three weeks ago, has pulled even with Rep. Bill Thomas of California in their battle to be chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee. Crane, a favorite of conservatives, did well in interviews with the House Republican Steering Committee while the more moderate Thomas hurt himself by showing his abrasive side. Thomas had been considered certain to breach seniority and defeat Crane as better able to deal with his Democratic counterpart on Ways and Means, Rep. Charles Rangel of New York. The 28-member Steering Committee votes Jan. 4. A footnote: Support has developed in the Steering Committee to give Rep. Henry Hyde a waiver from term limits for chairmen and permit him to head the Judiciary Committee another two years. The argument is that the Clinton impeachment prevented Hyde from pursuing his agenda. But Rep. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, next in line to succeed Hyde, is fighting hard for the chairmanship.

Robert Novak

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

 
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