Robert Novak
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WASHINGTON -- While Alaska's new Gov. Frank Murkowski at this writing had not disclosed his selection to fill the U.S. Senate vacancy created by his election Nov. 5, Teamsters Union officials have lost hope he will select one of their own. Word was spread during the campaign that Jerry Hood, Alaska's top Teamster official since 1994, was on top of Murkowski's Senate list. Hood had worked closely with Murkowski in trying to authorize drilling in Alaska's ANWR (Arctic National Wildlife Refuge). Senate Republican leaders were appalled at the prospect and told Murkowski that there was nothing Republican about Hood except his support for ANWR drilling. A former Democratic National Committeeman from Alaska, Hood changed parties earlier this year. A prominent Wall Street investor has been informed by a senior administration official that President Bush, seeking to stimulate investment and the economy, will propose much lower taxation of stock dividends -- "something you will like." Such a proposal would reduce the actual taxes paid rather than just reduce the amount of dividends taxed. As such, its first impact would be a big revenue loss. While the White House was privately talking about this big tax cut, Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill was going in the opposite direction in Manchester, England. Reporting on an interview with O'Neill, the Financial Times said: "Far from promising a hefty tax cut, he . . . hinted at looking at some proposals to boost tax revenues, not cut them." UNITED'S FRIEND The vote by Transportation Department general counsel Kirk Van Tine, attempting to keep alive a $1.8 billion loan guarantee for United Airlines, shocked White House aides and officials of other airlines. Representatives of the Federal Reserve and the Treasury on the three-member Air Transportation Stabilization Board opposed the bailout, defeating it 2 to 1. The White House worried that approval of the United loan would have undermined President Bush's efforts to hold the line on federal spending, and other airlines feared that bailing out one airline without rolling back labor benefits would give unions a blank check. "He is really out to lunch," an airline executive said of Van Tine, a Washington lawyer whose appointment to the Transportation Department last year began his first government service. DEMOCRAT LAST STAND Democratic Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, though already part of the Senate minority, has called one last hearing as chairman of the Senate Permanent Investigations Subcommittee -- on the Enron scandal. Certification of Republican Jim Talent as the new senator from Missouri replacing defeated Democrat Jean Carnahan was enough to shift the Senate majority to the GOP without the additional new senators arriving in January. No resolution to reorganize the Senate with a Republican majority will be considered until the 108th Congress convenes in January. Banking officials from Chase Manhattan and Citibank, assuming they had seen the last of Levin as chairman, were stunned this past week to be summoned to face the tough Democratic interrogator one more time on Dec. 11. BANKING NEMESIS Apprehensions of banking lobbyists were realized Thursday when Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama delivered his first speech as presumptive new chairman of the Senate Banking Committee to the Consumer Federation of America's convention in Washington. Delight by banking interests over Republican recapture of the Senate ended when it became clear that with the retirement of Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas, consumer advocate and former Democrat Shelby would be the Banking Committee's top Republican. Banking lobbyists talked about bumping up Sen. Robert Bennett of Utah to make him chairman, but that idea was stillborn. Joining Shelby in addressing the Consumer Federation was liberal Democratic Sen. Jon Corzine of New Jersey. Shelby, who long has protested banks selling the names of their depositors, declared: "Individuals should have greater control and choice on how their financial information is shared and sold." He promised hearings and legislation aiming at "a greater threshold of protection for individuals."
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Robert Novak

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

 
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