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The go-to guy

"The go-to guy" Continued...

Issue: "Tools of a tyrant," Aug. 10, 2002

Overall, the Senate wants to authorize $770 billion in discretionary spending, while the president and the House are drawing the line at $759 billion. But the devil is really in the details. The Senate, for instance, wants to keep Amtrak afloat with a $1.2 billion cash infusion, but the president is willing to commit only $521 million. The Energy Department bill would include an extra $475 million for water projects, while Interior would get hundreds of millions of extra dollars for fighting fires. Senate Democrats also plan to slip funding for international family planning into the State Department appropriation, likely forcing a showdown with the White House.

Much more than judicial appointments, unresolved budget issues create images of gridlock in the minds of voters. By waiting until the last minute to pass its appropriations bills, the Senate may try to play chicken with the White House, larding bills with excess spending, then daring the president to issue vetoes on the eve of an important election.

Social Issues

The House passed its bill extending welfare reform back in May, but the Senate has yet to act. It took nearly a year for the Senate to follow the House's lead on human cloning, and that debate went nowhere. Just two weeks ago, the House passed another version of a law to ban partial-birth abortion, but the Senate doesn't even have anything in the works.

On these and other social issues, the Senate is unlikely to move a single piece of legislation under its current leadership. With voters focused on terrorism and corporate corruption, there is simply no pressure on Mr. Daschle to move-or even debate-issues important to religious conservatives.

Republicans hope voter pressure will lead to a stepped-up legislative pace once the Senate reconvenes after Labor Day. To avoid the dreaded "do-nothing" charge, Mr. Daschle may allow a few more laws to squeeze through the pipeline. But no amount of pressure is going to loosen a logjam purposely created by a partisan Democrat with presidential ambitions of his own. That's why Republicans are working feverishly to pick up just one seat in the Senate, banishing Mr. Daschle to the minority. This time, it's the voters' call.

-with reporting by Tim Graham

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