Harry the Great

Robert Novak
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Posted: Apr 15, 2006 12:05 AM

WASHINGTON -- The talk of Washington during the first week of the congressional Easter recess was how Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid has seized control of the Senate despite a 10-seat advantage by the Republicans.

 Just before the recess began, Reid blocked immigration reform legislation scheduled by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. Earlier, the minority leader had torpedoed asbestos litigation reform, also put on the Senate floor by Frist. No minority leader has so dominated the Senate since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1953-54.

 Actually, Frist had turned over floor management on both immigration and asbestos litigation to the Judiciary Committee chairman, Sen. Arlen Specter. That makes Specter one for three against Reid, who lost out on the two U.S. Supreme Court confirmations.

IMMIGRATION POLITICS

 New national polling data shows, to the surprise of many politicians, that the immigration issue is one of the very rare areas where President Bush is gaining rather than losing strength.

 The conventional wisdom has been that Bush's guest worker proposal runs sharply against mainstream Republican opinion and contributes to the president's loss of party support. However, current polls show Republican opinion on the issue is split, as are the Democrats, with a national majority actually backing Bush (while he continues to drop in nearly every other category).

 Some Republican members of Congress have reported back from Easter recess to say that their constituents are less outraged by leaky borders than the possible loss of immigrant workers, some from their own households.

HILLARY'S LINE

 While Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's recent impromptu remarks have been so undisciplined that they have alarmed her supporters for president, she has moved toward the center in scripted remarks -- especially her address Tuesday night to the Chicago Economic Club.

 Clinton's first major economics speech quoted from Ronald Reagan, praised supply-side Republican economist Lawrence Lindsey and talked about her collaboration with Republicans Bill Frist and Newt Gingrich. She did criticize President Bush's economic record, but did not attack him by name.

 In contrast, Clinton was off message in a Bloomberg News interview last week when she suggested "this administration has been very willing to talk about using nuclear weapons [against Iran] in a way we haven't seen since the dawn of a nuclear age." There have been no such statements by President Bush or his aides. Earlier, she gave her supporters pause by saying Jesus Christ would be opposed to the House-passed immigration bill.

BUCKS FOR BOEING

 At the same time that the U.S. government has joined with the European Union in fighting government subsidies for aircraft production, the Export-Import Bank's annual report shows a majority of its financing in the last fiscal year subsidized Boeing's jet sales.

 Measured by dollar value, Boeing received 52 percent of Ex-Im's long-term loan guarantees. That marked the fourth year in a row that Boeing was given a majority of the Bank's subsidies.

 Rep. Don Manzullo of Illinois, the chairman of the House Small Business Committee, has complained about not enough Export-Import Bank loans going to small business. Ex-Im Acting President James Lambright has replied that 80 percent of the bank's loans have gone to small businesses, but he is measuring by number of loans rather than dollar amounts.

TARGETED DEMOCRAT

 Rep. Alan Mollohan, the top Democrat on the House Ethics Committee, is being targeted by Republicans for his supposedly safe West Virginia district because of multiple ethics allegations against him.

 Federal investigators are looking into Mollohan's use of his interest in Remington Corp. as collateral for a $2.3 million loan while filing a congressional report reflecting his interest in the company at less than $30,000. Mollohan, who reported 1999 assets between $179,012 and $562,000, did not disclose a $2.3 million promissory note that year.

 Mollohan, a moderate, is a major political figure in West Virginia who has been considered a possible eventual successor to Sen. Robert C. Byrd.