Republican hardball

Robert Novak

4/24/2004 12:00:00 AM - Robert Novak

 WASHINGTON -- Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is being urged by colleagues to threaten to close down the Senate for the rest of the year unless Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle ends his disruptive tactics.

 In addition to menacing all judicial nominations, Daschle is now preventing legislation from being sent to Senate-House conferences to resolve differences in bills passed by both Houses unless the outcome is guaranteed.

 Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee, and other conservatives want Frist to counter Daschle by bringing the business of the Senate to a halt. This would mean passing an omnibus appropriations bill and then awaiting the outcome of the elections. Democrats could not offer their pet amendments, but it also would prevent passage of a budget resolution and, therefore, kill any chance of making the Bush tax cuts permanent.

DELAY INDICTED?

 The word spread through Republican circles on Capitol Hill is that a runaway Democratic prosecutor in Texas may indict House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, creating upheaval in the GOP leadership.

 DeLay is a Republican hero for orchestrating the off-year congressional redistricting that promises to produce six additional House seats for his party. However, District Attorney Ronnie Earle in Austin may bring an indictment against DeLay for alleged illegal cash payments in connection with the redistricting fight. That would force DeLay to step aside as majority leader at least temporarily.

 DeLay predicts there will be no indictment, but concedes the old saw that a grand jury would indict a ham sandwich if the prosecutor so desires. Earle indicted Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in 1993 on trumped-up charges, but he dropped the case after the trial judge's ruling indicated that, in effect, there was no case.

"STAY IN PITTSBURGH"

 Teresa Heinz Kerry, Sen. John Kerry's vivacious wife, was a major asset on the campaign trail during the primary elections but has run into backstage criticism since then -- particularly in Philadelphia last week.

 Mrs. Kerry asked Rep. Bob Brady, master of ceremonies at the event, whether she could introduce Gov. Edward Rendell (who in turn would introduce the prospective Democratic presidential nominee). The candidate's wife then launched into a 10-minute speech about her early life in Mozambique and on the iniquities of George W. Bush, but forgot to introduce Rendell.

 After the event concluded, Brady told a Kerry aide: "Next time you come to Philadelphia, leave her in Pittsburgh (Mrs. Kerry's hometown when she was married to the late Republican Sen. John Heinz)."

FUNDING THE LEFT

 The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (AID) dropped sponsorship of a conference in Washington June 1-4, "Youth and Health: Generation on the Edge," that espouses left-wing causes after conservative Republican congressmen protested.

 The Bush-bashing MoveOn.org, funded by billionaire investor George Soros, is one of the conference's presenters. Also included are the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), which does not qualify for federal family planning grants because it advocates abortion, and the pro-abortion United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

 The House Republican Study Committee last Wednesday drafted a letter to HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson and AID administrator Andrew Natsios expressing "great concern and disappointment" over funding of the conference by their agencies.

LOUISIANA LOG JAM

 The sudden interest in a political comeback by Republican former Gov. Buddy Roemer is threatening to deflate high GOP hopes for winning a U.S. Senate seat from Louisiana for the first time since Reconstruction.

 Polls show Republican Rep. David Vitter leading Democratic Rep. Chris John, retiring Sen. John Breaux's handpicked successor, and Democratic State Treasurer John Kennedy. Roemer, an ex-Democrat who served a controversial hitch for governor (1988-1992), could change all that if he enters the race with better name identification than any other candidate.

 In Louisiana's non-party free-for-all election, Roemer and Vitter could divide up the Republican vote and lose to a Democrat. With Democrats strongly challenging Republican-held seats in Colorado, Oklahoma, Alaska and Illinois, Republicans may have to take Louisiana to keep control of the Senate.