WASHINGTON -- Senate Democrats are preparing an election year coup
to position Al Gore, in his role as president of the Senate, to break a tie and thus
enact a Democratic-backed patients' bill of rights. The death of Republican Sen.
Paul Coverdell of Georgia and his replacement by Democrat Zell Miller puts the
count for the bill at 50 to 50.
Senate Republican Whip Don Nickles threatens a filibuster, but that could
play into Democratic hands politically. Consequently, GOP leaders are
attempting to split off two of the bill's Republican supporters: Arlen Specter of
Pennsylvania and Peter Fitzgerald of Illinois. Neither is up for re-election this
A footnote: Not only do Democratic strategists envision the bill boosting
presidential candidate Gore. The proposal will be sponsored by Sen. Chuck
Robb to help his difficult fight for re-election in Virginia.
MCCAIN IS BACK
Representatives of Sen. John McCain, who underwent a long operation
for cancer on Aug. 19, let it be known that the Vietnam War hero will soon fulfill
his television commitments for the Bush presidential campaign.
McCain intends to make himself available for Sunday television interview
programs Sept. 17 to warn against attempts to push Al Gore's spending
programs through Congress in the session's closing days. Bush's primary
election opponent earlier promised to play this role, but Republican politicians
feared that his major surgery requiring multiple stitches would prevent it.
With Gore pulling ahead of Bush in the polls, McCain's help is needed by
the GOP candidate. Bush has lost support among independent voters, who like
McCain very much.
If President Clinton insists on changing the flow of the Missouri River to
protect three endangered species, he could undermine Democratic Gov. Mel
Carnahan's campaign to unseat Republican Sen. John Ashcroft in the state of
The government wants to permit a spring surge in the river's flow to
provide a habitat for the pallid sturgeon (fish) and the least tern and piping plover
(birds). Foes of this move say it would risk flooding that could be devastating to
farmers and barge traffic. That is bad politics in Missouri, a key state where the
polls show tight races for president and senator.
The Senate voted 52 to 45 Thursday to keep the government's hands off
the Big Muddy. But Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle has urged a veto by
Clinton, who has hinted his agreement.
DENNY & TRENT
The two top Republicans in Congress -- House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert
and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott -- discussed congressional endgame
strategy at the Capitol Thursday. It was the first time that they had met face-to-
face since July.
Aides of Hastert and Lott, rejecting Capitol Hill gossip that they don't like
each other, contend that they were just unable to make connections for two
months. But there is no doubt Lott felt closer to Hastert's predecessor as
Speaker, Newt Gingrich.
A footnote: Hastert and Lott, along with other congressional leaders of
both parties, will meet with President Clinton at the White House this coming
week to begin negotiations on trying to avert a government shutdown.
DIALING FOR DOLLARS
Republicans who have been only modestly generous were startled last
week to receive an automated telephone call from none other than Republican
National Chairman Jim Nicholson asking for a contribution to George W. Bush's
The call was followed by a personalized letter, signed by Gov. Bush
himself, requesting money to the Republican National Committee's Victory 2000
program. Enclosed was a paid United Parcel Service envelope addressed to the
RNC. "Would you rush $50, $75, $100 or whatever you can afford back to RNC
Victory today in the UPS Next Day envelope I've provided with this letter?" asks
This solicitation is not limited to big givers. The Nicholson call and Bush
letter went to Republicans who previously had contributed as little as $50 to the