Washington Prowler

Cooling His Tarheels

A Republican favorite lets down, angers White House. Plus: Pvt. Lynch needs to be discharged. Also: Daschle Deforestation. And: Safe back home in Indiana.

By 7.2.03

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THE END OF A BEAUTIFUL FRIENDSHIP?
Rep. Richard Burr appears to be in the catbird seat in his race for the Republican nomination to challenge Sen. John Edwards -- or whomever the Democrat may be running for that seat -- in 2004. But he shouldn't get too cocky too soon.

Burr was one of the Republicans in the House the White House targeted during the close vote over Medicare "reform." In the waning hours of the debate last week, Burr was contacted several times by senior White House officials, perhaps even the President, though White House legislative aides declined to confirm that Bush was one of the people who called him.

Given the amount of support the White House had given Burr in his fundraising and in clearing the field of competition, you'd think Burr would be more than open to voting for a bill that President Bush wanted and needed badly. Instead Burr voted against the new entitlement, angering his fellow Republicans, the House leadership and the White House.

"It's the White House's fault," says a Burr staffer. "They waited until the very end and then tried to put on the full court press. They knew we weren't in love with this bill, and that we couldn't support it."

Already, there is talk of putting Burr in his place. The President, as well as the vice president, were both slated to appear at Burr events in the next six months. Now those appearances are in doubt. As well, the White House has discouraged -- for now -- Sen. Elizabeth Dole from sharing some of her donor lists from her 2002 campaign with the Burr camp.

HERE'S THE DEAL
Private Jessica Lynch may not remain a soldier much longer. According to several government sources who handle ethics issues for government employees (technically Lynch is such an employee and must go through the Defense Department on ethics-related matters), Lynch has already lined up a book deal, but was told she could not profit from it or even work on it until her service with the U.S. Army is complete.

Lynch is considering a number of media opportunities, including TV interviews, magazine articles for which she would cooperate, and the book deal. For her to profit from any of them, she would have to receive a waiver from the Defense Department, request her discharge due to her injuries or not re-enlist when her current tour of duty is up. The Defense Department could cite her injuries and grant her an honorable discharge or reassign her to duty more conducive to her rehabilitation.

DASCHLE DEFORESTATION
How nervous is Sen. Tom Daschle about his upcoming re-election bid (that is, if he doesn't retire)? Enough to stab his environmentalist supporters in the back.

Daschle very quietly introduced a bill last week that a number of South Dakota and national environmentalist groups have opposed in the past when similar legislation was introduced by Republicans. The bill would allow and provide funding for the thinning of trees in high-hazard forests across the country.

Daschle introduced the bill after seeing the amount of press coverage given to recent wildfire outbreaks out west, and recalling that the threat of wildfires was actually a campaign issue used by former Rep. John Thune against Sen. Tim Johnson in their Senate race last year. Daschle expects Thune to challenge him in 2004.

"We're disappointed to say the least," says a volunteer staffer for the Environmental Defense Fund in Washington, D.C. "Tom has been a staunch ally of ours for years. It's always sad to see someone you trust sell out for nothing more than political gain."

On principle, thinning the forest isn't something many environmental groups have opposed, but lately, they have been lobbying against it, in part out of concern that Republicans would use such a bill to increase logging in federally protected lands.

Daschle has opposed a number of timber-related bills in the past, and has been one of the most vocal senators in the Democratic caucus calling on his colleagues to excoriate the Bush Administration for its positions on environmental issues.

AN OFFER HE COULDN'T REFUSE
It appears that Karl Rove and Indiana Republican Party officials are thinning the competition for newly returned Mitch Daniels. You'll recall that Daniels has been mulling a run for Indiana governor for some time, and stepped down as President Bush's director of the Office of Management and Budget in order to get back home again for a clearer shot at the seat.

Now comes word that state senator Luke Kenley has stepped out of the ring to give Daniels a clearer shot. Kenley had been running for governor for almost two years.

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