Inside Report: Not trusting Bush

Posted: May 11, 2002 12:00 AM
Senate Republican leaders are demanding an explicit, unequivocal promise from President Bush that he will veto any terrorism insurance bill that permits lawsuits for punitive damages. Otherwise, they will not move to act on the long-stalled bill, which was passed last December by the House. Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott wants to go back to last year's bipartisan agreement that was abandoned by Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle when the potent trial lawyers demanded a provision for punitive damage. That has blocked insurance for terrorism, holding up construction projects across the country. White House aides want the Senate to pass a bill permitting punitive damages and promise to get that provision taken out in a Senate-House conference. But Lott feels he has been betrayed in the past by such promises and wants a veto pledge from Bush. THE SPEAKER SPEAKS Normally placid House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert turned red-faced last Wednesday while meeting with fellow Republican leaders, insisting that appropriators must be restrained in expanding the emergency appropriations bill beyond President Bush's $27 billion level. Later in the day, Hastert laid down the law to Rep. Bill Young of Florida, the House Appropriations Committee chairman, and James Dyer, the committee's powerful staff director. Dyer's angry voice could be heard in the hallway outside the speaker's office. Hastert got tough after President Bush, in a private meeting with Young requested by House Republican leaders, did not draw a clear line insisting on $27 billion. '04 DARK HORSE Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes, considered a lock for re-election this year, is being talked about in Washington as a dark horse possibility for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination. The politicians mentioning Barnes hardly know him, but they note the only Democrats elected president since the Kennedy-Johnson tenure (1961-1968) were Southern governors (Jimmy Carter of Georgia and Bill Clinton of Arkansas). While nearly all prospective candidates for 2004 are senators, John F. Kennedy (in 1960) was the only Democratic sitting senator ever elected president. Barnes, a 54-year-old career politician, entered the 1998 race for governor as a dark horse with a moderately conservative record in the Georgia Senate. He ran particularly well among African-Americans, rural voters and youths. Like George W. Bush in Texas, as a governor he has concentrated on education reform. TAPPING THE LOBBYISTS Washington's top lobbyists have been invited to a private fund-raising reception May 22 for former Gov. Lamar Alexander, running for the Republican Senate nomination in Tennessee, at the fashionable northwest Washington home of liberal GOP doyenne Julie Finley. Alexander faces a stiff challenge in the primary from conservative Rep. Ed Bryant for the right to run for the seat held by retiring Republican Sen. Fred Thompson. Bryant has assailed Alexander, who twice ran for president, as too liberal. Finley, the longtime Republican National Committeewoman for the District of Columbia, is a prominent pro-choice Republican. The ticket price for the 6:30-8 p.m. reception is $1,000. LIBERALS FOR DELAY House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, a tough Texas conservative, was among five Republicans honored last Wednesday night with a Rough Rider Award by the liberal Ripon Society at its annual banquet in a ballroom of Washington's J.W. Marriott Hotel. The Ripon Society was founded more than 40 years ago by liberal Republicans in reaction against Barry Goldwater's conservatism, but in recent years has tried to embrace the full length of the GOP ideological spectrum. Speakers at last week's dinner celebrated DeLay's unopposed election as the party's House floor leader after the 2002 elections. A footnote: Liberal Rep. Jim Greenwood of Pennsylvania, who received one of the Rough Rider Awards, at the Ripon banquet praised yet another recipient -- Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah -- for opposing President Bush's bill to ban human cloning. Pro-choice Greenwood enthused that the conservative pro-life Hatch had seen the light on cloning.