Robert Novak

WASHINGTON -- White House aides and leading Republicans in Congress debated among themselves last week whether President Bush should address a joint session of Congress to report on the U.S. military victory in Iraq, as his father did following Desert Storm in 1991.

Also under consideration is whether New York City's victory parade of 12 years ago should be repeated. While a presidential speech and a parade of troops would be popular, GOP dissenters fear these events would smack too much of triumphalism.

A footnote: Democrats have been sniping that the Bush political high command tried to take advantage of the 9-11 terrorist attacks by scheduling the 2004 Republican National Convention in September, an unusually late date.

CHUCK VS. HILLARY

The disclosure that Sen. Chuck Schumer has a phenomenal $15 million cash on hand for his 2004 re-election bid in New York further roiled his stormy relationship with the state's junior senator, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Democratic sources say Clinton was furious that Schumer had encroached on her territory in soliciting her key political donors. Even before that flap, the deteriorating relationship between the two New York senators was the talk of Capitol Hill.

A footnote: The failure of any Democratic presidential hopeful to break away from the pack has increased 2004 Hillary-for-president talk in Democratic circles.

A FRENCH CONTRACT

Despite deterioration of Franco-American relations, the U.S. government is about to award a $30 million, five-year contract for the nuclear waste program at Yucca Mountain in Nevada to a combine controlled by the French government.

The contract is to go to a team consisting of COGEMA and Framatome ANP, both headquartered in Paris. The firm, which owns all of COGEMA and most of Framatome, is controlled 79 percent by the French Atomic Energy Commission and 5 percent by the French government proper. Giving the contract to the French team was delayed by press criticism after news of it leaked.

The contract for a spent fuel dry transfer system is being contested by two other concerns (one U.S.-Japanese and the other U.S.-British), and it is not clear that COGEMA has the low bid. Bechtel, general contractor for the U.S. Energy Department, actually awards the contract. To protect its numerous industrial services provided to the French government, Bechtel may fear jeopardizing its relationship with COGEMA if it awards the Yucca contract elsewhere.

REPUBLICAN DISCORD

House Republican anger at Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist intensified when it was learned he met with House Speaker Dennis Hastert after the secret Senate deal to limit tax reduction, but did not inform him of it.

However, the principal target of House anger is Senate Budget Committee Chairman Don Nickles, who is considered the driving force behind the secret deal. While Frist is new to the Senate leadership, Nickles is an old hand who just finished six years as Senate Republican whip.

A footnote: With Congress still in its Easter recess, Frist returned to Washington Wednesday from an Asian trip. He immediately got on the telephone to make amends for what his staff privately concedes was a blunder of major proportions.

BUCKS FOR THE CONVO

Gov. George Pataki and Mayor Mike Bloomberg, having won the 2004 Republican National Convention for New York City, now face the daunting task of raising some $55 million to make it happen.

Given the soft economy and competing campaign demands, the city's corporate leaders so far are anything but generous in financing the convention. A complicating factor: While access to space for entertainment is usually an incentive for contributions, many corporate executives have their own facilities in New York.

A footnote: Republican leaders are chortling that Democratic National Chairman Terry McAuliffe was out-foxed in the national convention schedule. The long interval between the July meeting of Democrats in Boston and the September GOP convention means Democrats will have to eat into scarce funds to keep their national ticket before the public.


Robert Novak

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

 
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