Robert Novak

A furious Stevens stormed out of a Tuesday meeting when Young said that he absolutely would not permit the Senate's add-ons in the final version of the bill. Stevens did not show up for a scheduled Wednesday morning Senate-House conference to negotiate differences between the two versions, forcing postponement of the meeting.

Young would be in trouble in the House if he agreed to senatorial extras after closing the door to similar demands by House members. Conservatives in the House were especially unhappy with Stevens agreeing to projects pressed by such liberal Democratic senators as Patrick Leahy and Tom Harkin for their home states of Vermont and Iowa.


Sen. Arlen Specter, facing conservative opposition from Rep. Patrick Toomey in next year's Pennsylvania Republican primary, took a surprisingly soft approach toward Labor Secretary Elaine Chao in a Senate hearing Wednesday.

Specter, one of the Republican Party's strongest friends of organized labor, was expected to unload on Chao for enforcing financial reporting requirements on unions. Instead, he politely expressed concern and asked the secretary whether labor is being treated the same as business. Chao replied that corporations actually have much stricter standards.

In 2001, when a newly confirmed Chao testified on ergonomics, she was treated roughly by Specter. He made her cut short her prepared testimony and then dismissed her early to hear from other witnesses. In contrast, Specter on Wednesday was cordial to Chao, coming over to chat with her after the hearing.

Robert Novak

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

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