Robert Novak
WASHINGTON -- The transition team of New York's nominally Republican Mayor-elect Michael Bloomberg caught the eye of Washington-based Republican power brokers because of its tilt to the left. Included were two labor leaders who have always been hostile to GOP causes: Dennis Rivera, president of the Health and Human Service Union (1199/SEIU), and Randi Weingarten, president of the United Federation of Teachers. Also on the team were feminist activist Kathy Rodgers (NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund) and gay activist Matt Foreman (Empire State Pride Agenda). It was no surprise that life-long Democrat Bloomberg, who became a Republican in order to get on the ballot, would not name a conservative transition team. What worries Republican insiders in Washington is that Bloomberg might actually attend national party functions and push his liberal ideology. SOCIAL SECURITY BLUES Senior Republican members of Congress are so upset with early recommendations of President Bush's Social Security reform commission that they privately urge that the issue not be raised during the 2002 mid-term election year. What concerns Republicans are the bipartisan commission's preliminary recommendations, which include a decrease in benefits. That political blunder never would have been committed, GOP leaders say, if Bush had not rejected their pleas to include sitting members of Congress on the commission. It is headed by Democratic former Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York and Republican Richard Parsons, the newly promoted CEO of AOL Time Warner. Republicans still insist that Bush must preach Social Security reform to the country to prevent negative political consequences in the 2002 election. Now, however, they fear it may be too late for that. BUDGETER'S CONTRITION Budget Director Mitchell Daniels, who came under withering bipartisan fire from congressional appropriators for attempting to control spending, tried to make amends with contrite visits to the Cardinals of Capitol Hill who lead the Senate and House Appropriations Committees. The reaction was mixed. Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, the top Senate Republican appropriator who earlier had told Daniels to "go back to Indiana," seemed mollified. Sen. Pete Domenici of New Mexico, another senior GOP appropriator, lectured Daniels on spending realities. But Chairman Bill Young of Florida and other members of the House Appropriations Committee still complain about Daniels' audacity. A footnote: Daniels, an old Washington hand before taking an executive position with Eli Lilly in Indianapolis, is highly regarded by President Bush and his staff. The two Cabinet members least popular in the White House are Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman. DASCHLE RISING Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle continues to rise in internal Democratic consideration of the 2004 presidential nomination as he strengthens his control of the Senate despite enjoying only a one-vote margin. Daschle has an iron hold on the Senate agenda. This past week he was able to bring up farm legislation, even though the basic law does not expire until next year, and revived a railway labor pension reform that had been considered dead for this year. Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott failed to force a debate on energy and anti-cloning legislation. While few voters at large recognize Daschle's name, he is gaining strength with Democratic activists as former Vice President Al Gore continues to decline. GOP LATINO STAR? Although defeated last weekend for mayor of Houston, City Councilman Orlando Sanchez could be the Hispanic-American vote-getter sought by Texas Republicans -- possibly in a 2002 race for Congress. Sanchez collected 48 percent of the vote for mayor against 52 percent for incumbent Democratic Mayor Lee Brown, who is African-American. But Sanchez was backed by three out of four Hispanic voters, a bloc whose rise menaces the GOP. Sanchez is a prospective candidate in the Texas 25th congressional district, whose present representative -- Democrat Ken Bentsen -- is running for the Senate. The district was made slightly more Democratic as a result of recent redistricting, with Hispanics comprising nearly one-third of its voters.

Robert Novak

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

 
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