HEADS I WIN, TAILS YOU LOSE
The White House is in a nasty war with Senate Democratic committee chairmen. Frustrated that many Bush nominations are being blocked, White House lobbyist Nicholas Calio has been attempting to negotiate terms that would allow some of the longest standing judicial and political nominations to slip through the Judicial and Foreign Relations Committees.
But those terms are steep. “Basically, if we want to get Republican nominations through, we have to put an equal number of Democratic nominations through. One for Bush, one for Biden, or one for Leahy,” says a Republican staffer on the Senate Judiciary Committee. “They want to exact some measure of revenge for what Republicans did to their nominees under Clinton.”
Most glaringly unresolved are presidential nominations to federal boards and commissions with multiple openings. In those cases, Leahy and other committee chairman are either pushing for re-nomination of Clinton-era selections, or are blocking Bush nominations unless a more favorable name is brought before the committee.
According to a Democratic Judiciary Committee staffer, last week Leahy approached the White House with a deal that would have allowed the nomination of federal judge Charles Pickering to slide through his committee for a full Senate vote. “He had a list of five Democratic judges he wanted elevated in the federal system. The White House freaked. A one for one maybe, but Pickering wasn’t worth that much to them.” Kind of flattering, though, if you think about it, to have one Republican worth five Democrats.
HOT MAIL FROM THE BEARDED ONE
Former Vice President Al Gore sent e-mails to over 100 reporters and columnists late Thursday afternoon responding to the Bush administration’s announced plan to deal with global warming. The Bush plan fills the void left by the administration’s earlier decision to opt out of the Kyoto treaty. “Instead of accepting an accord endorsed by over 170 nations, President Bush has put forward a plan that falls far short of the needs of both America and the world. He has tried this type of approach before — in Texas — and it failed,” the e-mail read. “A strong policy on climate change would lessen that dangerous dependence and move us to a clean and safe energy future. By contrast, this policy, like the administration plans to drill in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge, keep us tied to the dangerous global oil politics that pose a grave threat to our national well-being.”
The e-mail’s content is surprising, if for no other reason than it was evidently written several days ago, before the Bush plan was made public. “We’ve had it sitting around for some time just waiting for the announcement,” says a Gore staffer based in Tennessee. “We had a pretty good idea what would be in it, we didn’t need to know specifics.”
Interestingly, though, Gore, who attacked American businesses during the 2000 presidential campaign, seems to have changed his tune, saying a “strong plan” on greenhouse gas pollution “would stimulate the development of new transportation, power and manufacturing technologies and enable American companies to lead the world in capturing markets for those technologies.” If Gore has suddenly become a booster for American businesses, he’s not saying, at least not publicly. “The e-mail will have to speak for itself — and for Mr. Gore,” says the aide.
BOX SEAT WONDERS
Baseball owners aren’t the brightest bulbs in the box. A day after once again suffering through a hearing in which senators lambasted Major League Baseball’s anti-trust exemption, failed contraction plan for financially weak small market teams, and failure to have one of those teams moved to the nation’s capital, MLB commissioner (and Milwaukee Brewers owner) Bud Selig on Thursday told his fellow owners that it’s time to change their game plan in Washington.
“We’ve been in bed with the Democrats for a few years now, and it hasn’t done us any good. These guys put Bud up on the stand and just roast him on everything. We’re paying good money in that town and now we’re beginning to wonder where it goes,” says an executive of a West Coast Major League team. “Maybe Bud ought to forget his own political leanings and remember who’s sitting in the White House. He was one of us for a time.”
It’s true that Major League Baseball once had a large lobbying presence in Washington, but lately it has cut back on its spending. Today its most prominent lobbyist is Lucy Calautti, wife of Democratic Senator Kent Conrad. But aside from keeping its anti-trust exemption, baseball hasn’t had much to lobby for on the national level. Calautti is given high marks for her connections on Capitol Hill and for the job she’s done.
Meanwhile, Republican representatives and senators are grousing that perks, such as seats to Major League Baseball games, are hard to come by for themselves and their staffers. “Those seats Major League Baseball owns in Baltimore always seem to be taken by Democrats,” says a Republican senator. Whenever he’s at an Orioles game, the senator adds, “I make a point of walking by because I have a friend who sits nearby. Those MLB seats are real nice. I wouldn’t mind sitting there every now and then when my hometown team comes in for a series.”
Never mind that under lobbying gift guidelines, senators and congressmen shouldn’t be accepting such tickets to begin with. So what is MLB looking to do? “Perhaps we ought to up the lobbying budget to get a few Republican-friendly faces on the payroll,” says the baseball executive. “Everyone else does it. Why shouldn’t we?”