Robert Novak

WASHINGTON -- Two freshman Democratic senators who indicated opposition last year to the current estate tax when they won seats previously held by Republicans are now listed as opposing even an imposition of cloture on repeal this coming week.
During the campaign, the National Black Chamber of Commerce had gotten the impression Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois opposed the "death tax." Sen. Ken Salazar of Colorado in his campaign favored a $10 million exemption of wealth subject to the tax, up from the $1 million in permanent law. Obama and Salazar now are listed by supporters of repeal as voting "no" on cloture but "in play."

 If all 55 Republican senators vote for cloture as expected, five Democrats will be needed to reach the necessary 60 votes. Repeal supporters currently list only four Democrats voting "yes."


 Benjamin Ginsberg, who long has represented the Republican Party nationally in legal disputes, is listed as a registered lobbyist to pass the bill giving native Hawaiians tribal status. The bill is opposed by Republican leaders and might be vetoed by President Bush if it passes.

 The Washington law firm of Patton Boggs has received an estimated $780,000 from the Hawaii state government's Office of Hawaiian Affairs for lobbying the bill. Ginsberg is one of six Patton Boggs lawyers listed on the registration form. National counsel to the Bush-Cheney campaign, Ginsberg played a key role in the 2000 Florida recount.

 Hawaii political leaders, including Republican Gov. Linda Lingle, support the legislation. However, polls show two-thirds of the state's residents are opposed.


 The White House has quietly passed word to anxious members of the financial community that it will not seriously consider picking a successor to Alan Greenspan as Federal Reserve chairman until 2006.

 That could mean Greenspan's 18-year tenure at the central bank will be extended briefly beyond his scheduled departure date next Jan. 31. Or, it might just be a way for presidential aides to get Fed-watchers off their backs.

 The Bush White House is adept at keeping secret top presidential appointments until they are officially announced. Financial insiders, however, note that President Bush shows a high regard for Ben Bernanke, who recently resigned as a Federal Reserve governor to head the President's Council of Economic Advisers.


Robert Novak

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

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