Inside Report: Byrd's Ridge promotion

Posted: May 25, 2002 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON -- Sen. Robert Byrd, insistent that Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge testify to Congress, has inserted in the emergency supplemental appropriations bill a provision promoting Ridge to Cabinet status against President Bush's wishes. Bush has refused to let Ridge testify on the grounds that he is a confidential presidential adviser, but all Cabinet members must appear before a congressional committee when summoned. Byrd is expected to insist that the Ridge provision be included in the final version of the emergency money bill. A footnote: As Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman, Byrd also slipped a provision into the bill urging nationwide federal action against "puppy breeding establishments" who have caged dogs "in extremely inhumane conditions." Byrd has been mourning the death of his 15-year-old dog, Billy Byrd. CLINTON'S REVENGE Bill Clinton has effectively cut off California money badly needed by Brandeis University Prof. Robert Reich to win the Democratic nomination for governor of Massachusetts, according to political sources in the state. Clinton was once Reich's close friend as a fellow Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, but he has endorsed former Democratic National Chairman Steve Grossman for governor. Reich drew an unfavorable picture of life in the Clinton administration in his memoir as secretary of labor, and was not wholly supportive of the former president during the impeachment battle. Republicans regard Reich as potentially the strongest opponent of Republican businessman Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate who now leads all Democrats in the polls. If Reich cannot find sufficient funding, State Treasurer Shannon O'Brien will be the clear favorite for the Democratic nomination. CONDIT'S NON-ENDORSEMENT Rep. Gary Condit has not endorsed the former aide who defeated him in the California Democratic primary, giving Republicans some hope for picking up the Central Valley congressional seat. The Republican candidate, State Sen. Dick Monteith, is targeting the 37 percent of the Democratic primary voters who supported Condit against State Assemblyman Dennis Cardoza despite Condit's admitted affair with Chandra Levy. Cardoza is much more liberal than Condit, a problem in the Democratic but largely conservative district. Asian groups who backed Condit (Sikh and Philippine) have endorsed Monteith. Private polls give Cardoza only a single-digit lead. A footnote: With a renewed police investigation triggered by discovery of the missing intern's remains, legal sources speculate that Condit could take the Fifth Amendment if called before a grand jury. How such a development would affect the November general election is unknown. NO ON RENO Florida labor leaders are boosting lawyer Bill McBride as the Democratic candidate for governor because they fear that front-running former Attorney General Janet Reno will bring down the whole party ticket as the nominee against Republican Gov. Jeb Bush. McBride, who never before has sought public office, runs far behind veteran candidate Reno. Nevertheless, Republicans view him as potentially the strongest Democratic challenger. McBride, less well known than Reno, also lacks funding. The same insiders who tried to get former Rep. Pete Peterson to run for governor but did not supply the financing are doing the same for McBride. GOP DISHARMONY The White House is furious with conservative Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho, a member of the Senate Republican leadership as chairman of the GOP Policy Committee, for bucking President Bush on two key issues. Craig, normally a dependable vote for Bush's proposals, teamed up with freshman liberal Democratic Sen. Mark Dayton and successfully amended the trade bill to take away the president's negotiating authority. Craig then came out against quick action on the terrorism insurance bill pushed by Bush. Contradicting pleas from business and labor that help from the government is needed in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, Craig said: "The insurance industry is a dynamic industry. They can create pools, and such."