Inside Report: A Democratic judge

Posted: Nov 18, 2000 12:00 AM
U.S. District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks, who rejected the Bush campaign's call for an injunction against manual counts of Florida ballots, was a modest but consistent contributor to Democratic candidates -- including Al Gore -- prior to going on the federal bench in 1997. A member of a Miami law firm that included future Attorney General Janet Reno, Middlebrooks contributed $260 in 1979 to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's unsuccessful campaign for president. His 26 subsequent contributions over the next 17 years included support for failed presidential campaigns of Sen. Joseph Biden (1988) and Sen. Bob Kerrey (1992). Middlebrooks gave $250 to Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential candidacy and $500 to the 1996 Clinton-Gore campaign. His record shows one Republican donation: $250 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee in 1996, a year before the Republican-controlled Senate confirmed President Clinton's nomination of Middlebrooks as a federal judge. HARD-LINE REPUBLICANS WASHINGTON -- House Republican leaders in Washington, unhappy with George W. Bush's strategy in Austin, are pleading for a tougher line on the presidential election count. The congressmen want Bush to go beyond Florida's borders by demanding recounts in other states where Al Gore has a slender lead: Iowa, Wisconsin, New Mexico and Oregon. Capitol Hill Republicans contend that Vice President Gore will do anything to win and that Gov. Bush must respond in kind. Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri, the chief deputy House Republican whip and a rising GOP star, is in the forefront of the hard-liners. Blunt from the start opposed a constitutional challenge of the late Gov. Mel Carnahan's election in his state's U.S. Senate election, but takes a different posture in the presidential dispute. GOP DEFECTOR If George W. Bush winds up as president, veteran Republican Rep. Connie Morella can expect no favors from the White House. She intends to vote for Al Gore in the unlikely event that a deadlocked Electoral College throws the election to the House of Representatives, breaking the 4-to-4 Republican-Democratic tie in the Maryland House delegation. Bush campaign aides in Austin were incredulous when they read in Wednesday's Baltimore Sun that Morella intended to vote for Gore because her Washington suburban congressional district overwhelmingly supported the vice president. A telephone call was made to Morella's office, and the newspaper account was confirmed. Morella usually wins easily in her heavily Democratic district, but on Nov. 7 recorded a surprisingly low 53 percent. Her newly precarious political situation wins her no sympathy from the Bush camp, however. Gov. Bush's political aides promise a very cold shoulder from Bush if he is elected president. SAVING MONEY? Congressional budget experts estimate that by deferring final action on the budget for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, Congress saves an estimated $55 million a day. Because total federal budget authority is authorized until Dec. 4 at a rate no higher than the level of the previous fiscal year, higher spending passed by Congress does not go into effect. The total reduction for the entire fiscal year would be $20 billion. A footnote: Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, the Appropriations Committee chairman branded by reformers as a major instigator of pork barrel spending, has been swamped. Before Congress quit for the election, Stevens privately complained he could not keep up with the spending desires of both Republican and Democratic colleagues. DETHRONING THE KING Rep. Bud Shuster of Pennsylvania, undisputed king of pork on Capitol Hill, not only loses his power base as Transportation Committee chairman in the next Congress, but has been kicked off the Republican Steering Committee that governs party affairs in the House. A 12-to-11 vote Wednesday of House members from Pennsylvania, Ohio and Delaware ousted Shuster as their regional Steering representative. Shuster's fellow Pennsylvanians stuck with him, but the congressmen from the other two states wanted the post passed around and voted instead for Rep. Ralph Regula of Ohio. A footnote: While forced to surrender his Transportation chairmanship under term limits on chairmen imposed six years ago and confirmed Wednesday, Shuster will still try to direct highway outlays -- and perhaps the entire committee -- as chairman of its surface transportation subcommittee.