Lame duck antics

Posted: Sep 14, 2002 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON -- If Republican Jim Talent defeats appointive Democratic Sen. Jean Carnahan Nov. 5 in Missouri, the GOP is determined to seat him immediately -- restoring a Republican majority for a post-election "lame duck" session. Present polls show former Rep. Talent has overtaken Carnahan, the widow of the late Gov. Mel Carnahan who posthumously defeated Sen. John Ashcroft in 2000. Secretary of State Matt Blunt (son of House Chief Deputy Whip Roy Blunt) would immediately certify Talent as U.S. senator. It is considered unlikely that Democratic Gov. Bob Holden, who narrowly defeated Talent for the governorship in 2000, would block the certification from reaching Washington. That would produce a bitter Senate confrontation, particularly if Democrats retain Senate control for the regular session beginning in 2003. A lame duck session is probable because Congress will not approve funding for the government before the election. NEW HAMPSHIRE DISCORD? Prospects for Republicans banding together to retain a Senate seat from New Hampshire got off to a shaky start Thursday when Sen. Bob Smith, defeated for renomination by Rep. John E. Sununu, did not attend a GOP "unity" breakfast. Republican strategists held their breath for Smith's concession statement Tuesday night and were gratified by his conciliatory posture. They were disappointed, however, when Smith said he must miss the breakfast to get back to Washington for Senate votes Thursday morning. The only vote was an 88 to 0 confirmation for a district judge in Florida. Polls show Sununu leading his Democratic opponent, Gov. Jeanne Shaheen. That lead could disappear, however, if Smith does not fully support Sununu. GOP DROUGHT Republican senators grumble that Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott missed a bet by not offering an alternative to the Democratic drought relief measure, which was passed by a 79 to 16 Senate vote Tuesday. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle outflanked the GOP by giving senators the choice of a bill breaking budget caps, or no drought aid. One Democrat, Sen. Russell Feingold of Wisconsin, voted against waiving the budget rules. Lott and Minority Whip Don Nickles both opposed the relief measure, but were followed by only 13 other Republican senators. Sen. Jeff Sessions, overwhelming favorite for a second term from Alabama this year, was the only senator up for 2002 re-election to vote no. UAW AND ABORTION The United Auto Workers risked disapproval of its members and some Democratic allies Wednesday by going on record against anti-abortion picketing in connection with the bankruptcy reform bill. That long-stalled measure came out of a Senate-House conference recently, when Rep. Henry Hyde of Illinois compromised by accepting an amendment by Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York that restricted bankruptcy filings by groups blocking access to abortion clinics. However, Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch broadened Schumer's amendment to cover labor union picketing. The UAW statement by legislative director Alan Reuther (nephew of the union's late president, Walter Reuther) attacked Hatch's language as impeding labor picketing. It then added that the union "has no objection" to the original Schumer proposals "that are directed at picketing or protest activities" violating current law "by blocking access to abortion clinics." WORRIED NY GOP The New York Republican Party's demand for impoundment of voting machines in Tuesday's primary, which gave self-financed billionaire Tom Golisano a narrow win in Independence Party polling over Republican Gov. George Pataki, came four days after the GOP refused Golisano's requested impoundment. When they first rejected impoundment, Republican strategists never dreamed Golisano would win a place on the ballot. They now fear Golisano running to Pataki's right in a three-way race with Democratic State Controller Carl McCall. A footnote: If Golisano loses the Independence nomination in a recount, he will seek the designation of the Liberal Party (about to lose its nominee, dropout candidate Andrew Cuomo). Golisano's brain trust, seeking to run a center-right campaign, then would try to change the name of the Liberal Party in time for the election.