Robert Novak
WASHINGTON -- President Bush has privately informed conservative Republicans in Congress that he welcomes passage of a bloated supplemental appropriations bill, because it would give him a chance to exercise an important veto. Two key Republican senators -- Appropriations Chairman Ted Stevens and Budget Chairman Pete Domenici -- have signaled that they are planning a supplemental bill to pay for flood relief and extra defense spending. Individual members of both parties in both houses of Congress plan to load up that measure with funding for their favorite projects. Bush told sympathetic lawmakers that he relishes the prospect of vetoing such a measure to show he means business about holding down government spending. He expressed confidence that his veto would be sustained in Congress. MOYNIHAN'S CO-CHAIRMAN Richard Parsons, chief operating officer of AOL Time-Warner, first said no to becoming Republican co-chairman of the Social Security reform commission but was talked into accepting the offer. An aide to Nelson Rockefeller as both governor of New York and vice president, Parsons earlier this year rejected a feeler to be deputy Treasury secretary. But he was viewed at the White House as ideal for the Social Security commission: an ideologically moderate African-American Republican who, at age 53, belongs to the early baby boomer generation. Parsons is no expert on Social Security -- unlike the commission's Democratic co-chairman, former Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Although they are both New Yorkers, Parsons and Moynihan hardly know each other. They talked for a few minutes Wednesday after President Bush unveiled the commission in the White House Rose Garden. NO SEN. FORBES Magazine publisher and two-time presidential aspirant Steve Forbes is unlikely to ride to the rescue of New Jersey's beleaguered Republican Party by running against Democratic Sen. Robert Torricelli next year. Forbes has opened the door a slight crack, but close friends consider it highly unlikely that he will make the run. That adds to deep pessimism within the New Jersey GOP. The state's Republicans privately predict the loss of the governorship, the state assembly and perhaps the state senate in the 2001 elections. A footnote: Party leaders have urged Republicans to lay off criticism of Torricelli, whose campaign financing practices are under federal investigation. They have high hopes of getting Torricelli's votes for tax cuts and don't want to antagonize him. JEB BOWING OUT? Well-placed Florida Republicans believe there is a real chance that Gov. Jeb Bush will not seek election to a second term next year. Bush was an easy winner in 1998, but the bitter Florida presidential recount eroded his popularity. Speculation about 2002 also centers on family troubles experienced by the president's brother. Without Bush running, Lt. Gov. Frank Brogan would be the likely Republican nominee. The strongest Democratic prospect is former Rep. Pete Peterson, who is finishing up as U.S. ambassador to Vietnam. A footnote: Florida joins the list of major states with a current Republican governor but facing a strong Democratic challenge in 2002: New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Michigan and even Texas. MCCAIN'S CONFLICT Sen. John McCain, principal sponsor of campaign finance reform, was spotted chatting with a House Democratic ally shortly after a Republican-sponsored House hearing that McCain had said he would miss because of a "scheduling conflict." The hearing was called by Republican Rep. Robert Ney of Ohio, House Administration Committee chairman and a foe of the McCain-Feingold bill. Ney and McCain have been at odds ever since the congressman held a town meeting in Arizona, the senator's home state, that featured criticism of his bill. Although Sen. Russell Feingold and other backers of the reform testified at last Tuesday's hearing, McCain declined because of the unspecified scheduling conflict. But shortly after the hearing ended in the Longworth House Office Building, McCain was seen in a corridor there -- on the other side of Capitol Hill from his own office -- talking to Democratic Rep. Martin Meehan of Massachusetts, co-sponsor of the House counterpart to McCain's bill.

Robert Novak

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

 
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