Robert Novak
WASHINGTON -- Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, beginning her third year in the Senate, showed her rising influence there when she quelled an all-out Democratic rebellion on opening day that Democratic Leader Thomas Daschle could not control. Actually, Clinton started the trouble by complaining about the limitations of the bipartisan unemployment compensation bill that she herself was co-sponsoring. The process got out of hand when Democratic senators, led by Sen. Richard Durbin, pressed for expansion of the compromise measure. Daschle could not get the rebels to abandon their rebellion, but Clinton did. A footnote: A prominent conservative operative in Washington, fearing the prospect of Hillary Clinton on the Democratic ticket for vice president next year, is urging Senate Republicans "not to do anything to help her ambitions by building a Senate record." Specifically, he urged not co-signing letters or co-sponsoring legislation with Clinton, not getting photographed with her, and not socializing or travelling with her. RALPH WON'T RUN Georgia State Republican Chairman Ralph Reed, who became a national political celebrity heading the Christian Coalition, has notified the potentially crowded field for the state's 2004 U.S. Senate race that he will not be a candidate. Reed does not deny ambitions for elective office, but feels that the party leader should not add to what is shaping up as a big Republican field to succeed retiring Democratic Sen. Zell Miller. The GOP's optimism runs high in Georgia after winning the governorship and the other U.S. Senate seat in 2002 upsets. Rep. Johnny Isakson is considered the strongest Republican general election candidate, but faces primary election trouble as a pro-choice moderate. Rep. Charlie Norwood would be strong in both the primary and general election, but may pass up a multi-candidate primary race. NON-GREEN FRIST Sen. Bill Frist rebuffed two power moves from the environmental lobby during his first week as Senate majority leader. The environmentalists sought to keep anti-pollutant legislation out of the Environment and Public Works Committee now that it is headed by conservative Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma. They wanted all or part of it assigned to the Commerce Committee, which will give a friendly reception to greens under Sen. John McCain's chairmanship. Frist kept the bills in Inhofe's committee. Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania pressed for a seat on the Environment Committee. With Specter vowing to push green bills, Frist blocked him. In compensation, however, the White House may sponsor a fund-raiser for Specter against possible conservative opposition from Rep. Patrick Toomey in next year's Republican primary. WASHINGTON GRIDLOCK When Democratic Sen. Joseph Lieberman tried to hold confirmation hearings Wednesday on Tom Ridge's nomination as Secretary of Homeland Security, neither Republican senators nor the White House would go along. Lieberman was still nominally chairman of the Senate Government Affairs Committee because Democrats were blocking a reorganization resolution confirming the Republican takeover mandated by last year's election. Republicans protested bitterly when Lieberman scheduled the Ridge hearing. In response to these complaints, Lieberman offered to let his GOP counterpart -- Sen. Susan Collins of Maine -- preside over the Ridge hearings. She declined the offer and said she and the committee's other Republicans would not show up. That became moot when the White House said it would not permit Ridge to testify. JOE MCCARTHY'S SUCCESSOR Freshman Republican Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota, the former mayor of St. Paul with no legislative experience, was assigned the post that made Joe McCarthy famous a half-century ago: chairman of the Senate Permanent Investigations Subcommittee. McCarthy was followed as chairman by such influential senators as Democrats John McClellan and Henry M. (Scoop) Jackson. Coleman will exercise wide powers, including the ability to issue subpoenas without committee approval. Coleman's immediate predecessor is Democratic Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, a tough political in-fighter with 24 years experience in the Senate. Levin continues on the subcommittee as its ranking Democrat.

Robert Novak

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

 
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