Robert Novak
Washington -- Former Republican Rep. Rick Lazio of New York has been granted most of his private demands as a precondition for trying to win back the congressional seat in Long Island, N.Y., that he gave up in 2000 to run against Hillary Clinton for the Senate. Nevertheless, he has given no signal of whether or not he will run. Meeting with Republican leaders, Lazio was promised he could reclaim membership on the House Appropriations Committee and would be given some help in erasing his $1 million-plus debt remaining from the Senate campaign. He was turned down in requesting the health care subcommittee chairmanship on the Energy and Commerce Committee. Democratic Rep. Steve Israel, who succeeded Lazio in the House, would be a cinch for re-election if Lazio does not run. If Lazio does run, Israel would be the House's most endangered freshman Democrat. Applauding Rudy Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, presenting himself as a conservative Republican, wowed the party's high-dollar contributors Wednesday night at the Washington Hilton Hotel. As featured speaker at the National Republican Congressional Committee's fund-raising dinner, Giuliani mixed partisanship with patriotic fervor. He left party insiders talking about him as George W. Bush's running mate in 2004 if Dick Cheney does not run for vice president. GOP operatives want to make heavy use of Giuliani on the 2002 campaign circuit. They are buzzing about his success in campaigning for Michael Bloomberg to succeed him as mayor and for Bill Simon, the upset Republican nominee for governor of California. But Giuliani is just beginning a heavy lecture schedule at $100,000 a crack. Hastert vs. O'Neill The decibel level rose and the intensity was unusual this week in House Speaker Dennis Hastert's office when Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill pleaded for action on extending the debt limit. Others present at the heated session denied reports that Hastert kicked O'Neill out of his office. However, when the secretary grew strident in predicting desperate trouble for the country in the absence of congressional action, the speaker raised his voice to make clear that he had heard all of O'Neill's arguments before. A footnote: Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle's claim that the bipartisan congressional leadership had agreed on passing a debt limit bill without amendments did not take into consideration a powerful exception: House Republican Whip Tom DeLay is insistent on adding popular amendments to a bill that GOP conservatives do not like. New GOP Star The masterful job performed by Sacramento-based political consultant Sal Russo in managing Bill Simon's uphill campaign for governor of California is likely to rescue him from a decade in the GOP doghouse. Russo, a veteran of 36 years in Republican politics, offended party insiders when he joined fellow Californian Ed Rollins to attempt, however briefly, running Ross Perot's 1992 independent campaign for president. Until recently, party insiders scoffed at political neophyte Simon running for governor and whispered that Russo was seeking a fat payday from his multi-millionaire client. But Russo ran a deft operation that skillfully navigated treacherous social issues such as abortion and gun regulation, with Simon alienating neither conservatives nor moderates.

Robert Novak

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

 
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