Inside Report: Daschle's home front

Posted: Mar 02, 2002 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON -- The Republican-controlled South Dakota Legislature has completed action on a bill urging Congress to pass anti-human cloning legislation, the latest of several measures embarrassing to the state's leading Democrat: Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. While each house of the legislature is Republican by slightly more than 2 to 1, these bills are passing by an overwhelming margin. Anti-cloning passed the state Senate, 32 to 1, and the House, 63 to 4, pressuring Daschle to bring up the bill in Washington. Earlier, the legislature adopted measures urging Congress to leave intact President Bush's tax cuts, to permit a Senate vote on the Bush-endorsed economic stimulus package and to oppose any tightened gasoline standards. On Monday, Republican Gov. William Janklow signed into law a bill prohibiting Daschle from simultaneously running for president and Senate re-election from South Dakota in 2004. DISSENSION IN LABOR Not only the Teamsters union opposed AFL-CIO President John Sweeney's call for increased political spending to help Democrats over the next three years. The Machinists also voted against the proposal when it was tentatively adopted in New Orleans Tuesday at the labor federation's executive council meeting. Teamsters President James Hoffa wants to support both Republicans and Democrats to achieve labor's goals and has moved closer to President Bush. No such movement was evident by Machinists President R. Thomas Buffenbarger before he opposed Sweeney Tuesday. Buffenbarger declined to comment on the closed-door meeting, but did not deny his opposition. He stressed the AFL-CIO executive council will not take final action until May on whether to assess the AFL-CIO's 66 unions for an additional $17 million in political aid. Unlike the Teamsters, the Machinists are not moving closer to the Republicans, but appear restive with Sweeney's leadership. BUSH'S STEEL SPLIT Secretary of Commerce Donald Evans, President Bush's closest personal friend in the Cabinet, leads Bush administration officials pressing behind closed doors for a high steel tariff. Bush must decide by Wednesday on the U.S. International Trade Commission's (ITC) recommendation of a 20 percent tariff to save domestic steelmakers. Industry leaders want 40 percent, and Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle last week made that a major issue. Vice President Dick Cheney and Bush's economic advisers in private meetings oppose tariffs, warning of global reprisal. The opposite view is taken by Evans, a Texas oil man who was chairman of Bush's 2000 presidential campaign. NUCLEAR WASTE POLITICS President Bush authorized the long-delayed construction of a nuclear waste repository at Yucca, Nev., despite warnings it could cost Republicans control of the House of Representatives. Nevada's two leading Republicans -- Gov. Kenny Guinn and Sen. John Ensign -- warned the White House that Bush's decision could mean disaster in the face of the state's 2002 elections. They said Republican Rep. Jim Gibbons could be defeated and the state's new third House seat would likely be won by a Democrat. Senate Majority Whip Harry Reid of Nevada will try to overturn Bush's decision by a Senate majority vote, but he faces an uphill task. Most senators are eager to send their nuclear waste elsewhere. RANGEL'S '02 CAMPAIGN Rep. Charles Rangel, senior Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, kicked off perhaps his last campaign to become chairman of the tax-writing panel by mailing a Feb. 25 fund-raising letter. He asked that contributions up to $5,000 be sent his National Leadership PAC (political action committee). He created it to send money to Democratic congressional candidates, whose victories in 2002 are needed for Rangel to take over Ways and Means. The mailing list included Republican-oriented lobbyists who might hesitate to turn down a potential future chairman. "We Democrats, and not Republicans, have proven to be the true guardians of fiscal discipline and balancing the budget," says Rangel's letter, without mentioning George W. Bush by name. The mailing includes a full-color, four-page flyer with a photograph depicting Rangel, President Bush and then New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani at Ground Zero.