THAT WAS A CLOSE ONE
Al Gore was “surprised,” says one aide, when the former vice president was contacted by media outlets for a comment on the final report filed by the Office of the Independent Counsel’s Robert Ray in the Monica Lewinsky investigation.
“When he first heard the questions he thought there was another investigation opening up and he just rolled his eyes. Like maybe Clinton had done something else,” says the adviser. “Then he seemed to realize it was the same old stuff and just brushed it off.”
Always good to see Al prepared to expect the worst — he is crisis ready.
TOM vs. DICK
In a morning conference call yesterday Senate Democrats debated whether to support the revised economic stimulus package the Joint House/Senate Tax Committee had approved, and which House Democrats said they would now support. “The package is basically to renew unemployment benefits that are due to expire,” says a Democratic staffer for a western senator. “Senator Daschle seemed to believe it might be a good thing to let the benefits expire, and then blame the Bush administration for cutting off the funds to people who lost their jobs after 9/11. It was all in the context of what could we do politically to hurt Bush.”
It wasn’t just majority leader Tom Daschle. Other senators taking part in the meeting openly discussed the long-term political advantages of killing the tax legislation in the Senate, with the hope that any short-term damage could be spun onto the Republicans.
In its original form, the Bush stimulus package included corporate alternative minimum tax cuts, a new timeline that would have sped up tax cuts from last year’s $1.3 trillion tax cut. Those measures are no longer part of the negotiated package. Instead, the administration and House Republicans put together a $42 billion deal that extends unemployment benefits, lets businesses write off purchases of computers and other equipment faster, and provides economic aid for New York.
In the end, though, Daschle was forced to go public and support the legislation, in part, because House Democrats had already announced their general support for the measure. “[Minority Leader]Dick Gephardt took the initiative before talking to the Senate,” says a House Democratic leadership staffer. “I think you’ll be seeing Gephardt do a lot of that. “
That’s because both Gephardt and Daschle are both looking to seek the Democratic presidential nomination. “What might be good for the party or might be good for Daschle might not be good for Gephardt,” says the Senate Democratic staffer. “They are going to be jockeying each other for the next 18 months.”
ANTI-ENRON RUNNER AND GUNNER
Concerned that Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. is positioning himself for a Senate run against him in 2004, Republican Illinois Sen. Peter Fitzgerald has decided to move left in order to discourage any such move. Fitzgerald, it will be recalled, spent $7 million of his own money to upset Carol Moseley-Braun in 1998. Labeled a conservative, Fitzgerald hasn’t been as dependable for conservatives as one might think and, according to a staff member, Fitzgerald is concerned the conservative label will hurt his coming re-election bid. “That’s why you see him laying into the Enron people the way he does,” says the staffer, who didn’t add that Fitzgerald is one of the few Republicans openly opposed to new oil drilling in Alaska. “He’s looking to break from the conservative label and make his own way. He’s really concerned about Jesse, Jr.”
Fitzgerald’s seat would be a natural target for Jackson, who’s been talking up a run for the Senate and perhaps the White House further down the road. Illinois’s other senator, Democrat Dick Durbin, is running for a second term this year. “Senator Fitzgerald has two years to re-create himself and ensure re-election,” says the staffer. “That means running to the left on just about everything but budget stuff. He’ll tick off Lott and other Republicans, but it’s just something he has to do.”
KATHERINE THE GREATEST
Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris is fundraising all over the country for her upcoming House run, and, no surprise, she’ll be in Washington later this month for a fundraiser that the Harris campaign hopes will net more than $100,000. Those funds most likely will never have spent on Harris’s own well-funded election bid. Instead, they will be spread around Florida and the country to other candidates in greater need.
Already, there is talk in California of Harris and gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon, Jr. holding a joint fundraiser in the conservative-rich San Diego area.