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Tax-cut packages stack up
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Tax-cut packages stack up

BY Bill Walsh

WASHINGTON -- The spirit of gift giving is in the air, and on Capitol Hill this holiday season that means tax cuts. President Bush and lawmakers from both parties are busy compiling their wish lists for the New Year, and there is no shortage of ideas for reducing some taxes, repealing others and speeding up those already set to phase out. It's not that the federal Treasury is suddenly overflowing. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office said that the federal budget ran a deficit of $157.7 billion for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, and, if the nation goes to war with Iraq, the federal balance sheet is expected to dip further into the red. Most of the would-be tax cuts are dressed up as "economic stimulus" measures, which are designed, at least in theory, to spur business and consumer spending and rev up the economy. While the economy grew a respectable 4 percent in the third quarter, year-end predictions are for an anemic 2 percent to 2.5 percent. So, proponents argue, although tax cuts will surely cost the country money, a robust economy will eventually put ample revenue back into the federal government. Bush is expected to outline a tax-relief package in his State of the Union address Jan. 28, but already some possibilities have emerged. According to congressional Republican sources, among the likely candidates are: Accelerating the start date of the phased-in $1.35 trillion tax cuts that were passed in 2001; providing business tax relief in the form of more generous expensing for small businesses and additional depreciation on capital purchases; and reducing or eliminating the tax on corporate dividends. Bush has made no secret of his desire also to make permanent the tax-cut package Congress passed last year. But skeptics, notably congressional Democrats, question how much the economy will be stimulated by such things as permanently eliminating the tax on multimillion-dollar estates. Bush contends it will. He has argued that the 2011 expiration date of the tax cuts creates "uncertainty" in the economy and that "people need a stable environment in order to create jobs." It wouldn't be cheap, though. Just a two-year extension of the 10-year tax-cut package is estimated to cost about $200 billion, according to Congressional Quarterly Weekly. Congressional sources say that the White House is aiming to have a total tax-relief package amounting to $300 billion over the next decade. The buzz over tax cuts represents a shift away from Clinton-era focus on debt reduction as a means of national economic stability. Not surprisingly, clamor for tax relief has only heightened since Republicans reclaimed the Senate in the midterm elections in November and Bush could look forward to a newly receptive Congress in January. No one has any illusions that Bush isn't also looking forward to 2004, when he stands for re-election. The fate of his president father, whose political fortunes tanked with the national economy, is undoubtedly on his mind. In recent weeks he has hired a new economic team whose job it will be to sell tax cuts to Congress and the American people. "If we pass something this spring or summer, it would provide some relief to the economy by 2004, which would provide some relief going into the election campaign," said Jeff Lemieux, a tax analyst at the centrist Progressive Policy Institute. But not everyone is enthusiastic about Congress tinkering with the economy. Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan has said that making the 2001 tax cuts permanent wouldn't offer much short-term voltage to economic growth, and he cast doubt on the ability of Congress to steer the economy. Instead, Greenspan has counseled caution, saying that the economy is merely in a "soft patch" on the way to recovery. Business groups and many Republican lawmakers see it differently and predict that Congress will move ahead with a tax-cut package anyway. "I don't think Alan Greenspan would say we are in a robust economy or this is a typical recovery," said Rep. Jim McCrery, R-Shreveport, a member of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee. "I wouldn't hesitate to cut taxes because Alan Greenspan doesn't think we should. The good news is that Republicans and Democrats see the need for further tax cuts as a way to stimulate the economy." The two parties share some common ground when it comes to tax relief. Popular in both parties are proposals to let small businesses deduct a larger amount of their capital expenses from their taxable income and allowing businesses of all sizes to depreciate a heftier share of their capital outlays. By giving businesses investment tax relief, the thinking goes, they will spend more money on new computers, machinery and other big-ticket items -- spending that will kick-start the economy. In general, though, Democrats are keeping a wary eye on the White House and are bracing for a battle over a critical point in the tax-cut debate: Who gets the relief? "We want to make sure the package isn't one that just gives away money to the high-income brackets," said Rep. William Jefferson, D-New Orleans, a member of the Ways and Means Committee. "It has to be something that really stimulates the economy. It shouldn't be to stimulate savings, but to stimulate consumption." Popular among Democrats is a temporary elimination of the 12.4 percent Social Security payroll tax that workers and businesses split. Known as a payroll tax "holiday," the idea would be to put cash in consumers' pockets immediately, and their spending will spur the economy. The idea has a diverse following, including the Business Roundtable, Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., also floated the proposal during her recent campaign, but it's unclear how forcefully she will push it in Congress. Critics acknowledge that it would put money in people's pockets, but they aren't convinced they will spend it. When consumers received government tax rebates last year, many of them paid off credit-card debt or put the money into savings, neither of which does much to jolt the economy. Jefferson said that a payroll tax holiday could be geared to low-income wage earners. "They will spend the money, so it will have the stimulative effect we are looking for," he said. When Congress returns, Democrats are also intent on providing some assistance to unemployed workers and are touting quick action as a means of economic stimulus. Bush has embraced an extension of unemployment benefits, and some House Republications are also receptive to the idea, although there is no consensus yet on what a proposal will contain. Neither party expects to monopolize a tax-cut package, and both recognize that to get the necessary votes, the largesse will have to be spread around. The National Association of Manufacturers, for instance, is pushing business tax breaks worth about $150 billion, leaving what they say is "room for competing ideas." Wayne Brough, chief economist for the business-friendly Citizens for a Sound Economy, said that despite Republicans controlling the White House and Congress, out of political necessity there will be room made for Democratic proposals in order to get any package passed. "Especially after a year of business scandals, it will be hard to say you are just cutting taxes for business," Brough said. "When you put the package together, you want something in there for everyone." . . . . . . .

12/23/2002
Service to America Medals 2002: recognizing the story of two FBI employees in Birmingham, AL and their groundbreaking a…
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Service to America Medals 2002: recognizing the story of two FBI employees in Birmingham, AL and their groundbreaking a…

BY Bethany Hardy Young

The Partnership for Public Service and the Atlantic Media Group, co-founders of the annual Service to America medals, recently honored the first slate of Service to America Medals recipients at a gala ceremony in Washington, DC. Special guests for the evening included Andrew Card, President Bush's chief of staff; John Spencer, the actor who plays chief of staff Leo McGarry on NBC's "The West Wing;" Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta; Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge; Senator George Voinovich; Representative Connie Morella; CNN anchor Judy Woodruff; and Office of Personnel Management Director Kay Coles James. The Service to America medals were created in early 2002 to pay tribute to the groundbreaking achievements of federal civil servants. This year's recipients were chosen from 26 finalists, who were selected from a pool of over 300 nominations. To view a list of the 26 Service to America medals finalists, visit www.govexec.com/pps. The 2002 winners were chosen by a committee of distinguished national leaders with a strong commitment to public service: Representative John Lewis; Kay Coles James; C. Boyden Gray, chairman of Citizens for a Sound Economy and former counsel to President George H.W. Bush; the Honorable Louis Caldera, vice chancellor for University Advancement, California State University; M. Peter McPherson, president, Michigan State University; Colleen Kelley, president, National Treasury Employees Union; Bernard Marcus, co-founder and chairman of the board, The Home Depot, Inc.; Jeffrey Swartz, chief executive officer (CEO), Timberland Company; Judy Woodruff; Senator Voinovich; Timothy B. Clark, editor and president, Government Executive; and Max Stier, president and CEO, Partnership for Public Service. Federal Employees of the Year Following is the story of the Federal Employees of the Year-William Fleming and Ben Herren, special agent and investigative special agent respectively with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Birmingham, AL. Fleming and Herren will split a $ 10,000 cash prize for their noble achievements in federal service. It was one of the most horrific events in the long struggle for African-American civil rights. Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley, and Addie Mae Collins were preparing for Sunday services in the basement dressing room of the 16th Street Baptist Church when a dynamite bomb planted outside exploded, killing all four girls and blinding another in one eye. Two of their killers remained beyond the grasp of the law for nearly 40 years. FBI Special Agent William Fleming and FBI Investigative Research Specialist Ben Herren took the lead in bringing them to justice. Ground Zero Birmingham, AL was ground zero for the civil rights movement in September 1963. Its epicenter was the 16th Street Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King, Jr., and hundreds of other African-Americans met and planned sitins and demonstrations for equal rights. They were met with massive resistance from the white state and local officials and the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). The city--known as "Bombingham" because there were so many bombings of black homes there--was infamous for the water hoses and dogs its police department unleashed on nonviolent civil rights demonstrators earlier that year. Yet no one was prepared for what happened on Sunday morning, September 15. "No other incident had such a dramatic effect on those of us in the civil rights movement than the bombing of this church," recalled Representative John Lewis, a veteran of the campaign for civil rights. The tragedy galvanized the civil rights movement and helped lead to enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The wheels of justice would prove to move slower than the dismantling of segregation. It wasn't until 1977 that Robert "Dynamite Bob" Chambliss was found guilty for his role in the bombing and sentenced to life in prison, where he later died. Another two decades would pass before two other perpetrators were held accountable. Reopening a Decades-Old Case In 1996, the special agent in charge of the Birmingham FBI office reopened the case to address the concern that the men responsible would never be brought to justice. The case was assigned to William Fleming and Ben Herren, then a Birmingham police sergeant. Despite long odds that had thwarted the success of two previous investigations in 1965 and 1977, Fleming and Herren went to work. During the course of their investigation, they learned that over 130 witnesses had since died, with more passing away each year. This limited access to valuable evidence and information, but they found new avenues of investigation and developed new evidence. Fleming and Herren tenaciously employed numerous sophisticated investigative techniques and federal grand jury testimony to develop proof that suspects Thomas Blanton and Bobby Frank Cheny were also involved in the bombing. They also relied on solid, old-fashioned investigative skills, such as re-interviewing witnesses who had not talked about the case in decades, and interviewing additional witnesses, including family and local 1960s-era KKK members, who offered never-before-revealed information. In fact, several witnesses indicated that they specifically heard Cherry make statements regarding his involvement in the crime. They carefully combed through 90 volumes of previous investigative activity, adding an additional 35 volumes of new work. They conducted an extensive, detailed review of approximately 8,000 investigative documents and created timelines that helped visualize a string of events that had happened over 30 years before. In fact, it was Herren's timelines that would eventually uncover a flaw in Cherry's alibi--directly leading to his eventual conviction. As they meticulously dug through old files, Fleming also uncovered crucial tape recordings of Blanton's conversations originally recorded during the initial investigation in the 1960s. He and Herren spent hundreds of hours reviewing the tapes; their contents proved to be essential evidence against Blanton. Going to State Court When federal criminal charges could not be proven, Fleming and the prosecutors took their new case to state court. A state grand jury responded with indictments of both men on four counts of murder. A Birmingham jury of eight whites and four blacks took just two-and-a-half-hours to find Blanton guilty in 2001, while another jury of nine whites and three blacks found Cherry guilty of murder in May 2002. Both are now serving life sentences. Devotion to Duty Both Fleming and Herren displayed remarkable devotion to seeing the case through to its conclusion. Fleming continually delayed his retirement for several years and, although scheduled for mandatory retirement in March 2001, even applied for an extension to continue to lend his expertise and institutional knowledge to the Cherry trial. After retiring from the Birmingham Police Department in 1997, Herren was immediately hired by the FBI to continue working on the case. His lifelong residence in Birmingham and his experiences in the city during the civil rights era helped investigators relate to witnesses. Fleming and Haerren's devotion to pursuing justice for the four girls who lost their lives in 1963 is truly extraordinary. Other 2002 Service to America Medals Recipients The Partnership for Public Service also saluted the seven other 2002 Service to America medals recipients: Call to Service Medal: $ 5,000 prize. This medal recognized an employee who has made a significant contribution to the country as a recent entrant to the federal workforce. The recipient was Rachel Billingslea, foreign policy specialist/Israel desk officer, Department of Defense, Washington DC. In her three years of federal service, she has played a leading role in developing national security policy to improve relations with US allies. Career Achievement Medal: $ 5,000 prize. This medal recognized an employee who has demonstrated lifetime achievement in public service. The recipient was Katherine Gebbie, director, physics laboratory, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Gaithersburg, MD. The founding director of the award-winning NIST Laboratory and a pioneer in the practical application of emerging technologies, she has helped enhance scientific career opportunities for women and minorities through a lifetime of service. Heroes of September 11 Medal: $ 5,000 prize. This medal recognized an employee who has made a national contribution during or after the events of September 11. The recipient was Kenneth Concepcion, chief of US Flag Deepdraft Vessels and Plan Review, US Coast Guard, Staten Island, New York. He directed the safe and orderly seaborne evacuation of 70,000 confused and frightened people from Lower Manhattan amidst the chaos of the September 11 attacks. Environment, Science and Technology Medal: $ 3,000 prize. This medal recognized the federal employee who demonstrated significant achievements within the environment, science, and technology fields. The recipient was Donald Sweeney, senior regional economist, US Army Corps of Engineers, St. Louis, MO. He saved taxpayers $ 1.5 billion in unnecessary construction projects after refusing orders to improperly falsify data. Justice Medal: $ 3,000 prize. This medal recognized the federal employee who demonstrated significant achievements within the justice field. The recipient was Robert Rutherford, criminal investigator/group supervisor, US Customs Service, Miami, Florida. His initiative, leadership, and ability to organize multiagency personnel into a cohesive unit led to a reduction in narcotics trafficking and crime in South Florida. National Security and International Affairs Medal: $ 3,000 prize. This medal recognized the federal employee who demonstrated significant achievements within the national security and international affairs field. The recipient was Alfred League, division chief, imagery and geo-spatial sciences, National Imagery and Mapping Agency, Bethesda, MD. His technological innovations provide American military personnel with real-time information they need to ensure operational success and protect our national security. Social Services Medal: $ 3,000 prize. This medal recognized the federal employee who has demonstrated significant achievements within the social services field. The recipient was Daniel Weinberg, division chief, housing and household economic statistics division, US Census Bureau, Suitland, MD. He led the development of an improved measure of poverty that more accurately reflects the needs of the poor; this will help leaders effectively target resources toward improving economic well-being. Nominations for 2003 Congratulations and thanks to all of the 2002 Service to America medal recipients for your tremendous service to our nation! The nomination period for the 2003 Service to America medals will open February 1, 2003. Nominations must be submitted online at www.govexec.com/pps. Bethany Hardy Young is the press secretary for the Partnership for Public Service (www.ourpublicservice.org). She can be reached at byoung@ourpublicservice.org

12/22/2002
Riley's chief of staff, 34, considered mature, smart
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Riley's chief of staff, 34, considered mature, smart

BY David White

MONTGOMERY Tobin Bernard "Toby" Roth rubbed elbows 18 years ago with President Reagan, Vice President Bush and other Republican stars such as Bob Dole, Jack Kemp and Phil Gramm, and it changed his life. The 16-year-old student volunteer at the Republican National Convention decided then and there that politics would be a big part of his future. Last week he flew to Washington, where he met Colin Powell, John Ashcroft, Tom Ridge, Gale Norton, Christine Todd Whitman, Rod Paige and other top presidential advisers, including chief of staff Andrew Card

12/22/2002
RILEY'S CHIEF OF STAFF, 34, CONSIDERED MATURE, SMART
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RILEY'S CHIEF OF STAFF, 34, CONSIDERED MATURE, SMART

BY DAVID WHITE

MONTGOMERY - Tobin Bernard "Toby" Roth rubbed elbows 18 years ago with President Reagan, Vice President Bush and other Republican stars such as Bob Dole, Jack Kemp and Phil Gramm, and it changed his life. The 16-year-old student volunteer at the Republican National Convention decided then and there that politics would be a big part of his future. Last week he flew to Washington, where he met Colin Powell, John Ashcroft, Tom Ridge, Gale Norton, Christine Todd Whitman, Rod Paige and other top presidential advisers, including chief of staff Andrew Card This time, he met them as a professional. Roth traveled as Gov.-elect Bob Riley's new chief of staff to attend briefings that President Bush's Cabinet held for incoming governors. Page 2A 1A Roth said he and Riley are negotiating a salary, something in the $80,000 to $100,000 range, for when he takes his position next month. But Roth, who also was Riley's campaign director, already is playing a big role in Riley's administration, helping him interview candidates for his Cabinet and other senior staff positions. Riley said he wants Roth to act as his chief operating officer, "to make sure policy is implemented, that schedules are taken care of, and that communications allow you to get your message to the people." He also said he wants Roth to be "an integral part" of setting policy. "He's one of the smartest people I know," Riley said. Roth has been a lawyer operating in private practice and has worked with the Business Council of Alabama and the Citizens for a Sound Economy, which bills itself as campaigning against "big government bureaucrats," "greedy trial lawyers" and "tax-and-spend liberals." Roth calls himself a fiscal and social conservative who believes in limited government. He sees himself as Riley's co-pilot and right-hand man, the one who will chair Cabinet meetings in Riley's absence and oversee staff operations. Once Riley decides on a position, after talking with top aides, Roth would be the one to step in if someone publicly broke with that view, he said. "After we have talked through the issue of the day and reach agreement on what the administration's perspective will be, then that's when I expect harmony. When I need to drop the hammer, I will." The age factor So can a 34-year-old, young enough to be a son to Riley, who is 58, handle the day-to-day operations of a Cabinet and staff filled with dozens of talented, experienced people? Roth says age has been an issue before when he's been hired for jobs, "and I've succeeded. There are more important issues, in terms of commitment, work ethic, your professionalism." Bill O'Connor, who as president of the BCA in 2001 hired Roth to oversee membership and fund raising, said, "Toby was born old. "While he has a sense of humor, he's serious-minded and pays attention to detail, all important assets for a chief of staff." Roth's father doesn't think his age will be a problem, either. "He's always been extremely mature, even when he was just a little kid," said Bob Roth, a New York Life agent in Muskogee, Okla. "You'd just tell him to do something one time. Nobody ever had to light a fire under him to do well. " Montgomery trial lawyer and former lieutenant governor Jere Beasley, who has been at the other end of barbs hurled by Citizens for a Sound Economy under Roth, said Roth's relative youth could cause slight problems at first. "It depends how he functions," Beasley said. "If he proves to be capable, I think everyone will say, 'OK.' If not, he won't be there long." Political heritage Born in Wichita, Kan., Roth moved with his family a few times before settling in Muskogee when he was 7. He said his father and mother, a stay-athome mom most of the years he and his older sister were growing up, instilled a strong sense of right and wrong in their children. "I do think our society's sense of right and wrong has gotten a little gray," Roth said. "I'm very appreciative to my parents." One of his great-grandfathers served in the Kansas Legislature. His dad's mother, a Democrat, ran in her 60s for mayor of Goodland, Kan. Roth played trombone at Muskogee High School. His father said Roth was valedictorian when he graduated in 1986, winning a scholarship to the University of Alabama. He graduated in 1990 with a bachelor's degree in political science. Three years later, he earned a law degree from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va. Roth and his wife of 11 years, Michelle, live in Montgomery and have three daughters. He and his family attend First United Methodist Church in Montgomery. Roth said, "I am a Christian. I am someone who holds my faith very dearly." First Methodist senior pastor Karl Stegall said Roth chaired the church's work area on evangelism this year, sits on its administrative board and is active in the church on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights. "He's very strong in his Christian faith," Stegall said, adding that Roth has a keen mind and warm heart. After law school, Roth practiced with Birmingham lawyer Ottie Akers until October 1995, when Harold See hired him to be finance director of his successful 1996 run for the Alabama Supreme Court. Roth said he took a big pay cut but wanted to work in politics. See called Roth "a fine young man. He works hard, he deals well with people. He's pleasant, he's considerate. "He's a respectful, decent person," See said. "He's not going to work for someone he doesn't believe in." Roth joined the Business Council as its manager of political affairs in December 1996. He left to be Alabama director for Citizens for a Sound Economy, a job he held from January 1998 to January 2001. Marty Reiser, vice president of public affairs for Citizens for a Sound Economy in Washington, was Roth's boss when he worked for the group. "He'd find lots of different ways to get things done," Reiser said. "If we needed a rally on the state Capitol steps, he'd do that. If we needed letters from business leaders, he'd get that done." Beasley said insurance, tobacco and pharmaceutical companies finance the group, which ran TV ads in Alabama that pounded Democrats and trial lawyers. CSE spokesmen said they don't publicize their donors. Roth, Beasley said, is: "Capable. Smart. Apparently a hard worker. He was a hired hand for them. He just did what he was told to do. "I don't think he was ever rude," Beasley said. "I think he was wrong." Stands on issues Roth said he still supports many of CSE's big issues. He would favor a flat federal income tax that imposed the same tax rate on the rich and middleclass alike, with the first $33,000 or so of a family's income exempt. Roth said he supports school choice and the idea of state vouchers that could help pay students' private-school tuition. He opposes lotteries on moral grounds, saying they hurt the poor people who tend to play them most. He also favors lower taxes, less government and less regulation. "I am an advocate of limited government," Roth said. But he said the problem of a big, intrusive government is much greater at the federal level. "At the state level, I don't think it's to as great a degree an issue," Roth said. "But any attempt to raise taxes, any attempt to increase the size of government should be skeptically considered. That does not mean it should be ruled out." When he left CSE in January 2001, Roth returned to the Business Council of Alabama as vice president for advancement, overseeing membership, endowment and BCA's political action committee. "He's a very straight shooter," O'Connor said. "You have a question and you'll get a direct response. " Roth left that job to become Riley's campaign director in June and agreed to be his chief of staff a few weeks ago. "Toby's one of those unique people who come around every once in a while who has a great work ethic combined with a really bright mind," Riley said. "I'm excited about the potential he adds to our Cabinet." Roth said he's committed to Riley, who has been in Congress since January 1997, and supports the changes on ethics, tax reform and other issues that Riley outlined in his "Plan for Change." "I'm a realist," Roth said. "I know it's going to be difficult. I feel I do bring the background here of having a pretty good idea of how things work in and around Montgomery to help him navigate the shoals." "It was an honor to be asked to do this," Roth said.

12/22/2002
Centrists Mixed on Pelosi Vote
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Centrists Mixed on Pelosi Vote

BY Ethan Wallison

Democratic insiders are predicting that a small group of party centrists and vulnerable incumbents will abandon Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D) in next month's Speakership election in an effort to distance themselves from the liberal California lawmaker. Some knowledgeable insiders suggest the vote could amount to the largest defection from one party's candidate for Speaker since nine Republicans deserted Rep. Newt Gingrich (R) in 1997, amid swirling ethics allegations against the Georgia lawmaker.

12/19/2002
HOUSE LEADERSHIP: A UNANIMOUS DEM VOTE FOR PELOSI? DON'T COUNT; ON IT
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HOUSE LEADERSHIP: A UNANIMOUS DEM VOTE FOR PELOSI? DON'T COUNT; ON IT

Roll Call's Wallison reports, Dem "insiders are predicting that a small group of party centrists and vulnerable incumbents will abandon" expected Min. Leader Nancy Pelosi (D) in the 1/03 Caucus election "in an effort to distance themselves from the liberal ... lawmaker." Some "knowledgeable insiders" say the vote "could amount to the largest defection from one party's candidate for Speaker since" nine GOPers deserted then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R) in '97. A "senior party strategist": "There's little doubt in my mind that there are a lot of Members who are weighing how they are going to deal with this vote for Speaker. A number of people are saying grace over this together." One "senior" Dem aide "noted": "For many people, they consider [a vote for Pelosi to be] political suicide." There is "little chance Pelosi will receive votes from ... conservatives such as" Reps. Ralph Hall (D-TX) and Ken Lucas (D-KY). Blue Dog Dem Rep. Gene Taylor (D-MS) "has indicated that he will once again back" Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) in the vote for Speaker, though Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-GA) spokesperson Selby McCash said the "centrist" Bishop is "as firm for Pelosi as [a moderate Democrat] can be." A "senior Pelosi aide noted that in every Congress there tends to be one or two Democrats who vote against the party's candidate," but added no one has yet "detected any evidence" of "any significant opposition" to Pelosi: "If it's a political problem for some people then it's something we'll have to discuss with them in the weeks to come. We're not here to kill people." Reps. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Martin Frost (D-TX) and Harold Ford Jr. (D-TN) all "sought to challenge Pelosi's climb through the leadership ranks by tapping" into the "anxiety ... that she would serve as a useful symbol" for GOPers "hoping to paint" Dems "as a party of intransigent liberals." Conservative group Citizens for a Sound Economy said in a recent press release: "If Nancy Pelosi wants to take radical positions, that is her own business, but she shouldn't lead other Democrats down the same path to economic and political oblivion." However, "many party strategists doubt that Pelosi will pose a problem for Democrats seeking re-election in 2004, in spite of her ideology." Consultant Bob Doyle, "who has worked with a number of party moderates": "My belief is that she will see [the next two years] as a tremendous challenge, and will go out of her way to find a leadership agenda that will be good for these people" (12/19). AT LEAST THE DCCC STAFF CAN'T VOTE AGAINST HER Roll Call's Cillizza reports, Pelosi "is expected to install her top fundraiser," '00 San Francisco ex-VP Gore fundraiser and current Pelosi DCCC liaison Brian Wolff, "as the finance director" at the 1/03 DCCC meeting "in an attempt to answer critics who charge that the delay in choosing a chairman will financially handicap" Dems in '04. Meanwhile, the DCCC "has begun using Pelosi in its fundraising efforts, sending out its first direct-mail appeal from" Pelosi 12/6, which DCCC spokesperson Mark Nevins said "brought in the largest one-day financial take ever recorded at the committee ... although he would not say how much was raised." Nevins: "People are incredibly energized by leader Pelosi. That is reflected in the overwhelming response we got." Both developments "come amid rising criticism that Pelosi's continued silence about the next" DCCC "is hamstringing efforts to remain competitive" in '04. A "senior" Dem leadership aide said the delay gives the DSCC "a head start ... in the race for hard dollars." Some "well-placed" Dems also "expressed concern that Pelosi was planning a major house-cleaning of the current" DCCC finance staff. On Pelosi's leadership problems: "It is certainly not helpful." Questions "surrounding the role the DCCC will play in House elections given these fundraising constraints have made Pelosi's job of recruiting a chairman much more difficult than in past cycles." Candidates "who have shied away" from the post, including Reps. Ed Markey (D-MA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Robert Matsui (D-CA) "greatly outnumbers those who have expressed an interest in it": '02 DCCC chair Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) "is not interested in a return engagement, and only Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA) "has made his desire for the job publicly known." Rep. Martin Frost (D-TX) "is also mentioned, although most observers believe it is unlikely Pelosi will install a longtime nemesis in a leadership post" (12/19). ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE AISLE... Roll Call's Crabtree reports, incoming House Maj. Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) "plans to offer a change to current House rules that would eliminate the eight-year GOP term limit on the Speakership." House Speaker Dennis Hastert's (R-IL) "term limit will expire at the beginning of" '07, but "has repeatedly denied perennial, widespread speculation that he is contemplating retirement." Blunt said there is absolutely "no movement for [Hastert] to leave" and denied "that his actions are aimed at motivating Hastert to stay on as Speaker or to leave before his term limit expires": "There needs to be a strong sense of continuity -- a strong sense that the person who is making a commitment to you has every opportunity to maintain that commitment. The job benefits from consistency and continuity." Hastert spokesperson John Feehery "said his boss would keep his opinion about the rules change to himself in order to allow the Conference to work its will on the matter. It's something for the Conference to decide. Obviously he is not a disinterested observer. He is obviously going to be impacted by this decision, but he'd rather have the Conference decide." Feehery "also dismissed any speculation" that Hastert "would retire soon": "He really enjoys his job and is excited about the next term as Speaker." Even though "Blunt's name has been bandied about as a potential successor to Hastert whenever he decides to leave Congress, Blunt denied that his future plans played any role" in the proposal: "The whip job is not the popularity contest job in our Conference. I think it is a mistake for the whip to worry about what we're going to do next. ... I'm focused on doing this job the very best I can." Blunt informed Hastert, incoming House Maj. Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) and Conference Chairwoman Deborah Pryce (R-OH) "of his plans in a meeting earlier this week," explaining: "Leadership limits just don't make sense ... We want to make sure that Members are not immediately calculating whether the Speaker will be around." Pryce: "This is definitely a good thing regardless of when Denny Hastert is going to leave," she said. "He isn't a lame duck, but that's what term limits would do. This certainly isn't something that he's asked for. He's still free to go whenever he wants. This just gives him the ability to be in control while not becoming a lame duck" (12/19). WE'LL SIT THIS ONE OUT, THANKS In "stark contrast" to Senate GOPers' "public struggle over the fate of" Senate GOP leader Trent Lott (R-MS), "the top four members of the newly elected House GOP leadership team met privately earlier this week to lay the groundwork for a smooth transition." The Lott controversy "has consumed Washington's chattering class for nearly two weeks and has drowned out any talk of next year's legislative agenda." Pryce, on the matter: "It won't make the overall picture any easier. We still operate as a House, we still have our job to do. I don't think it will make our job that much harder, but it might make things more uncertain. We're still ready to roll. It's important to get our act together and hopefully [the Senate] will be able to do the same sooner rather than later." DeLay "declined to comment about any distraction the Lott feeding frenzy has caused to their planning process and also would not say whether he wanted Lott to stay or go": "I'm not touching that with a 6-foot pole. The Senate has to do what they have to do" (Crabtree, Roll Call, 12/19). THE DEMS WILL NOT BE TELEVISED? Washington Post's Eilperin reports the DCCC's Harriman Center, "which allows lawmakers to cut commercials, provide digital tours of the Capitol and do interviews with reporters in their districts," may "disappear altogether now that the national political parties cannot accept" soft money. Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA): "They kept me on television every week. [The staff] can give you political advice. These guys are trying to make you look good because they're Democrats." DCCC exec dir. Howard Wolfson said the cmte "is laying off the center's five unionized employees ... at least until it moves back into the party's headquarters," adding: "Campaign finance reform will mean a smaller committee. The next chair needs to weigh the services provided by the Harriman Center against the costs of running it in a post-McCain-Feingold era." Pelosi spokesperson Brendan Daley "said a final decision has not been made on the center": "We understand it's a very valuable service the Harriman Center provides, and we would like to continue offering that service to members." NRCC spokesperson Steve Schmidt "said he is confident his party will be able to provide members with television services": "Because of our ability to mine hard dollars, we will not have to close vital operations like our TV center. The committee will be a little leaner, a little smaller, but it's going to be involved in campaigns across the country in a very substantial way." Watchdog group Democracy 21 head Fred Wertheimer: "The bottom line here is, everyone's in a new world, where they have to operate with hard money" (12/19).

12/19/2002
Centrists Mixed on Pelosi Vote
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Centrists Mixed on Pelosi Vote

BY Ethan Wallison

Democratic insiders are predicting that a small group of party centrists and vulnerable incumbents will abandon Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D) in next month's Speakership election in an effort to distance themselves from the liberal California lawmaker. Some knowledgeable insiders suggest the vote could amount to the largest defection from one party's candidate for Speaker since nine Republicans deserted Rep. Newt Gingrich (R) in 1997, amid swirling ethics allegations against the Georgia lawmaker. "There's little doubt in my mind that there are a lot of Members who are weighing how they are going to deal with this vote for Speaker," said one senior party strategist, who indicated that "multiple" Members have sought out his advice on the matter. "A number of people are saying grace over this together." But some centrists, such as Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.), have signaled that they will support Pelosi in the largely symbolic vote at the beginning of the 108th Congress. "He's as firm for Pelosi as [a moderate Democrat] can be," Bishop spokesman Selby McCash said. Nevertheless, one senior Democratic aide noted, "For many people, they consider [a vote for Pelosi to be] political suicide." Already Rep. Gene Taylor (D-Miss.), a member of the party's conservative Blue Dog Coalition, has indicated that he will once again back Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) in the vote for Speaker. Insiders say there is little chance Pelosi will receive votes from other conservatives such as Reps. Ralph Hall (D-Texas) and Ken Lucas (D-Ky.), who only recently flirted with switching parties. Neither Hall nor Lucas could be reached for comment this week. A senior Pelosi aide noted that in every Congress there tends to be one or two Democrats who vote against the party's candidate for Speaker, but indicated that no one has yet "detected any evidence" of any significant opposition to the California lawmaker. "If it's a political problem for some people then it's something we'll have to discuss with them in the weeks to come," the aide said, while indicating it is the leadership's "preference" - not its demand - that Members back Pelosi. "We're not here to kill people," the aide said. Uneasiness about Pelosi - but specifically with her liberal credentials - has been evident among moderate Democrats since the California lawmaker was first elected to the leadership as the party Whip. First Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and later Reps. Martin Frost (D-Texas) and Harold Ford Jr. (D-Tenn.) all sought to challenge Pelosi's climb through the leadership ranks by tapping this anxiety and suggesting that she would serve as a useful symbol for Republicans hoping to paint the Democrats as a party of intransigent liberals. That message would appear to have some traction in the Caucus. In spite of an 11th-hour start, Ford received 29 votes in his leadership matchup with Pelosi last month. In fact, many party strategists doubt that Pelosi will pose a problem for Democrats seeking re-election in 2004, in spite of her ideology. Bob Doyle, a political consultant who has worked with a number of party moderates, noted that voters are most likely to make judgments about the Democrats from observing the party's nominee for president, not from its leader in the House. Doyle, who has often in the past clashed with party leaders over ideology, said moderates are likely to find reason for optimism in Pelosi's reign as leader. "My belief is that she will see [the next two years] as a tremendous challenge, and will go out of her way to find a leadership agenda that will be good for these people," Doyle said. GOP strategists did in fact seek to link conservative Democrats such as Lincoln Davis (Tenn.) and Rodney Alexander (La.) to Pelosi in the just-completed election cycle. Both candidates won, but insiders suggest that neither is expected to back Pelosi for the Speakership. At least one outside group, Citizens for a Sound Economy, which promotes tax cuts and other conservative economic policies, has begun an effort to undermine Pelosi's tally - the Speakership election is a recorded vote - by seeking to pressure Democrats elected from relatively conservative districts. "If Nancy Pelosi wants to take radical positions, that is her own business, but she shouldn't lead other Democrats down the same path to economic and political oblivion," CSE said in a press release this week. CSE indicated it has targeted 14 moderates, who are identified on the campaign's Web site, http://www.notpelosi.com. They are Bishop, Ford, Hall, Lucas and Taylor, plus Reps. Marion Berry (Ark.), Leonard Boswell (Iowa), Brad Carson (Okla.), Bud Cramer (Ala.), Chris John (La.), Mike McIntyre (N.C.), Collin Peterson (Minn.), Max Sandlin (Texas) and Charlie Stenholm (Texas). CSE is likely to find that some of those targeted are not at all susceptible to whatever pressure is brought to bear. Berry, Peterson and Sandlin, for instance, are longtime Pelosi allies who supported her publicly through her first forays into leadership politics. Bishop, who is someone who has to rely on Pelosi's goodwill for a seat on the Appropriations Committee - or, alternatively, to take over for her as the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee - is a more recent ally.

12/19/2002
Economic Group Hopes to Undercut Pelosi's Rise to Prominence
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Economic Group Hopes to Undercut Pelosi's Rise to Prominence

BY Chad Groening

(AgapePress) - A Washington, DC, activist group is urging moderate House Democrats not to "rubber-stamp" the selection of Nancy Pelosi as the new minority leader, because of her radical voting on economic issues. Citizens for a Sound Economy calls itself a non-partisan grassroots group dedicated to lower taxes, less government, and more freedom. Spokesman Chris Kinnan says the CSE has rated members of Congress on 20 economic issues -- and Democrat Nancy Pelosi scored a perfect zero.

12/18/2002
All We Want for Christmas is PERS Reform!
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Press Release

All We Want for Christmas is PERS Reform!

The best Christmas present all Oregonians could receive is a long-term solution to the PERS crisis that continues to threaten the health and future of our state. While politicians in Salem continue to debate how best to address the latest biennium fiscal crisis, they ignore the most pressing fiscal problem facing the state, namely, the exploding unfunded costs of the state’s Public Employees Retirements System (PERS). Originally designed as a “competitive” pension system to allow state and local government to attract and retain talented people, PERS quickly morphed into a taxpayer-financed orgy for public employees with total unfunded liability currently estimated to range between $11.5 and $15.7 billion. If the legislature does not take immediate steps to rectify the problem, funding for schools, fire and police departments, and basic government services will be in jeopardy.

12/18/2002
Let the Confirmation Process Begin
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Press Release

Let the Confirmation Process Begin

When Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist lamented on the pace of judicial confirmations during the 107th Congress, you knew that something was wrong with the process in the Senate. Rehnquist solemnly wrote in his yearly review of the judiciary: in “times such as these, the role of the courts becomes even more important in order to enforce the rule of law. To continue functioning effectively and efficiently, however, the courts must be appropriately staffed. This means that…judicial vacancies must be timely filled with well-qualified candidates.” Moreover, when the editors at Washington Post bemoaned the dawdling rate at which President Bush’s judicial nominees were voted on -- let alone scheduled for a hearing in the Judiciary Committee – it’s a good indicator that someone or party stonewalled and hijacked the confirmation process.

12/18/2002

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