Washington Prowler

Senate Pouters

Behind Daschle's patriotic fit. Also: John Edwards targets another judge.

By 9.26.02

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MAD DASCHLE
Perhaps Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle plans on making throwing a conniption a weekly event. In which case, we'd like to know the schedule, because his hissy fits really are entertaining.

The inspiration for this week's diatribe, according to Daschle, was a report he read in the Washington Post that quoted the president as saying that Democrats weren't interested in the security of the American people. Bush made this comment while pointing out that Daschle and his Democratic colleagues had stalled the Homeland Security Act, and had otherwise ground Senate business to a complete halt. It now appears doubtful that Congress will even pass a full set of appropriations bills before leaving town on fall recess.

As if to compound his obstructionism, Daschle launched into a ten-minute speech about patriotism and demanded that Bush apologize to Sen. Daniel Inouye, who fought and suffered permanent injuries in World War II. What that had to do with voting on legislation was unclear, but it probably made sense to Daschle at the time as he jumped from one topic to another in a great display of obfuscation. But it wasn't just that he thought Bush was calling Democrats sissies and no-goodniks.

What got Daschle really hot, according to Democrat leadership staff, were the four memos and press releases put out by Republicans in the past few days targeting the Democratic leader as Senate Problem No. 1. The one that really got his goat was entitled, "Tom Daschle: Epitome of a Failed Leader." That memo was faxed off to South Dakota newspapers.

"He's just blowing off steam," says one Democratic Senate staffer. "The White House is winning on the Iraq issue, and Daschle just has to go along for the ride until something else comes along. If the elections get even tighter, I'm sure you'll see more of these speeches on the Senate floor."

IN BAD FORM
Senator John Edwards is playing politics again with a Bush nominee to the federal bench. Last time, it was his show-boating interrogation of Judge Charles Pickering. This time, it's a less public display of senatorial hubris.

The White House nominated Raleigh, North Carolina lawyer James Dever to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, but Edwards apparently feels miffed that he wasn't consulted on the nomination.

As a result, the junior senator and presidential wannabe has declined to sign and turn in to the Judiciary Committee a nomination form senators from a nominee's home state are required to file before the nominee can be scheduled for a confirmation hearing. The office of Jesse Helms filed its form promptly.

Edwards has told the White House and the Judiciary Committee staff that he's still examining Dever's record, and probably won't get around to filing the form, if ever, until after the election recess. Dever, though, wasn't viewed by anyone -- White House, Judiciary Committee, Justice Department -- as a controversial pick.

"Not even close," says a Justice Department staffer. "This is just the kind of thing Republicans up on the hill should be screaming about. One lousy form, one senator bottles up the whole process."

Edwards apparently is miffed that none of the names he has put forward for the federal bench has been considered by the White House or Justice Department.

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