Inside Report

Posted: Jul 14, 2001 12:00 AM
CONDIT'S SHAKY DISTRICT WASHINGTON -- High-ranking Democrats privately consider winning Rep. Gary Condit's district in California's Central Valley next year to be hopeless unless the California Legislature can change its boundaries. Democratic insiders say the Chandra Levy affair has made Condit unelectable in that Republican-leaning district. They hope he will not resign, which would force a special election prior to any redistricting. George W. Bush carried the district last year while Al Gore was sweeping California. Condit won the district with 87 percent in 1998 (without a Republican opponent) and 67 percent in 2000. He frequently votes with Republicans on key congressional issues and at one time considered changing parties. BUSH LOBBYING George W. Bush, criticized by supporters lately for not being sufficiently engaged in promoting his agenda, has been making progress with behind-the-scenes lobbying of House members on HMO regulation. At a closed-door meeting Wednesday of House Republicans, Bush made a pitch in behalf of the "Patients' Bill of Rights" version sponsored by GOP Rep. Ernie Fletcher of Kentucky. The president also has been meeting one-on-one with individual Republican members of Congress, seeking to pull them away from the Senate-passed Democratic measure that opens the way wider for lawsuits against HMOs. A footnote: It has become more difficult for White House staffers to see the president. All requests for meetings with Bush now must be submitted in writing to Chief of Staff Andrew Card. CONSERVATIVES VS. NEWT Previously steadfast conservative supporters of Newt Gingrich are furious with the former House Speaker for coming out strongly in favor of federal stem-cell research. Gingrich has been drifting leftward ever since his dramatic resignation from Congress in January 1999. But his strong position on stem cells particularly bothers social conservatives because of Gingrich's current role as a commentator for Fox News. Opponents of federal research are currently trailing in the battle for public opinion. A footnote: Many conservative members of Congress have not committed themselves to either side on stem-cell research but are waiting for President Bush to announce his decision. DEMOCRATIC CONTROL Republican Sen. Christopher Bond of Missouri learned the facts of life in a Senate now under Democratic control June 27-28, when he was refused a chance to testify about 2000 election abuses at Senate Rules Committee hearings presided over by newly installed Chairman Christopher Dodd of Connecticut. Bond had substantial evidence of voting abuses in Missouri, where Democrats narrowly won races for the U.S. Senate and governor. Instead, the hearings heard members of the Congressional Black Caucus relate their familiar claims that African-Americans were denied the right to vote in Florida last November. Dodd's explanation was that his committee's first hearings were for House members only and that senators, such as Bond, would get a chance to testify later. No date had been set for Bond at this writing. TROUBLE ON THE RIGHT Sen. James Inhofe, one of the Senate's staunchest conservatives, is furious with the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a prominent conservative think tank, for undermining his closely contested battle for re-election in Oklahoma next year. An article on National Review Online by the CEI's Angela Logomasini links Inhofe with Sen. Hillary Clinton in co-sponsoring reauthorization of the federal Environmental Education Act. She contends the program indoctrinates children with an anti-industry bias. The link with Clinton is being used by supporters of Inhofe's Democratic opponent, former Gov. David Walters, to undermine the senator's conservative base. Inhofe argues that he was informed by both the White House and Sen. Ted Stevens, the top Republican on the Appropriations Committee, that there is no way that environmental education funds could be blocked entirely. He contends that Clinton -- and the CEI -- does not realize that the guidelines in the reauthorization bill cripple the program.