Inside Report: Begging by Steel

Posted: Sep 29, 2001 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON -- No sooner had Congress passed an emergency financial aid package for the airline industry than the steel industry was lobbying for a bailout on grounds that its dire condition was caused by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. That was the point made by steel lobbyists in telephone conversations with Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio. A steel industry representative approached Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania in a hallway and asked for help. Voinovich was skeptical, and Santorum was non-committal. Pennsylvania's Sen. Arlen Specter sounded as though he might be a little more helpful. In testimony before the International Trade Commission, he argued that protecting the steel industry is a national security issue -- the argument that steel has made for many years. POWELL SPEAKS OUT Secretary of State Colin Powell told a closed-door briefing of congressmen this past week that former President Clinton's peace-making failures were partially responsible for the critical state of Israeli-Palestinian affairs. Powell was responding to critical questioning by Democratic Rep. John Dingell of Michigan, the senior member of the House. Dingell was jabbing the secretary for not being more aggressive in the Middle East. Powell did not mince words in asserting that Clinton had been too aggressive. Republicans present were cheered by Powell's tough reaction. Although the secretary of state has been attacked by hawkish conservatives outside Congress for taking too cautious a position in the terrorist war strategy, he is very popular among Republicans on Capitol Hill. KEMP WON'T SIGN Jack Kemp declined to join his closest political allies in signing a letter to President Bush urging a harder stand in the war against terrorism because he felt that it "went way over the edge." The letter's 41 signers included William J. Bennett, Jeane Kirkpatrick and Vin Weber, former vice-presidential candidate Kemp's longtime associates in the Empower America organization. While commending Bush's stand on Afghanistan, it also called on him to "remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq" and to "consider appropriate measures of retaliation" against Iran and Syria unless they withdraw support from the Hezbollah guerrilla organization. "We're waging a war with terrorism, not with the Arab world," Kemp told me. He also objected to the letter, drafted by Weekly Standard editor William Kristol, for implying criticism of Secretary of State Colin Powell. BUNGLING ANTI-TERROR Vice President Dick Cheney told irritated Republican senators at their weekly luncheon Wednesday that the administration's anti-terrorism legislation must be finished by Oct. 5, marking the first words they had heard from the White House on this issue. While Senate GOP leaders do not want to publicly criticize the Bush administration during the crisis, they complain privately that the handling of anti-terrorism measures has been bungled. The proposals were submitted to Congress without consultation or discussion. A footnote: House Republicans are furious with Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan for slowing down economic stimulus tax cuts. One senior GOP lawmaker suggested privately that if Greenspan really wants to legislate, he should seek out a vacant Democratic congressional seat in the 2002 elections. "UNADULTERATED BIGOTRY" The post-Sept. 11 mood of bipartisan amity collapsed at least temporarily Wednesday when Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton, District of Columbia delegate, attacked Republican Rep. Dave Weldon of Florida for sponsoring a proposal that "is an expression of unadulterated bigotry" and "ugly prejudice." Weldon was trying to block a domestic partners law for the District of Columbia that Washington's City Council passed in 1992 but Congress has prevented from taking effect since then. Responding to Norton, Majority Whip Tom DeLay told the House: "Sometimes words that are said on the floor are very unfortunate. This amendment has nothing to do with bigotry." Despite support from DeLay and other GOP leaders, the Weldon amendment was defeated, 226 to 194, as 41 Republicans voted no. Washington city employees who are partners in same-sex relationships now will be able to buy health insurance at group rates.