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House Democrats Unveil Alternative to White House's Energy Policy Proposals

Aired May 15, 2001 - 17:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, INSIDE POLITICS with Judy Woodruff.


REP. DICK GEPHARDT (D-MO), MINORITY LEADER: It is time for us to have an energy policy that listens to the people of this country and responds to their concerns.


ANNOUNCER: House Democrats try to pump up opposition to the soon-to-be-unveiled Bush energy plan.

Is the president trying to be more of a man's man, politically speaking? And on Capitol Hill, new fireworks over campaign finance reform. But on a related issue, some members apparently are getting along.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ours is perhaps the most curious alliance since Bob Dole teamed up with Britney Spears.


ANNOUNCER: Now, Judy Woodruff takes you INSIDE POLITICS.

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us.

Well, House Democrats say they are trying to achieve balance in the alternative energy proposal they announced today. But as the Bush administration prepares to unveil its plan on Thursday, the opposition party also is trying to score political points with voters, who are anxious about energy supplies and prices.

CNN's Kate Snow has more on how the Democrats are trying to drive home their message.


KATE SNOW, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The backdrop was no accident: a gas station on Capitol Hill, where regular is selling for $1.76. House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt went on the attack, calling Republican energy policies "stupid."

GEPHARDT: Their energy policy apparently is to let everybody fend for themselves. The government has no role. And everything will be just fine, because according to them, we live in a perfect world, in which if you just get out of the way, everything will be great.

SNOW: While the White House is expected to focus on long-term solutions for energy, House Democrats are seeking to draw a contrast, highlighting several short-term provisions. They endorse price controls on Western electricity costs. And in an effort to lower gasoline prices, Democrats call on OPEC to increase production of crude oil and ask the Department of Justice to investigate charges of price gouging.

REP. MARTIN FROST (D), TEXAS: Before President Bush was in office, he was saying, oh, if he were president he would pick up the phone and he'd call OPEC and get some more production. Well, pick up the phone, Mr. President, and call OPEC and get us some more production.

SNOW: For the long term, Democrats would provide tax credits for energy efficiency, credits for businesses that reduce emissions and exceed clean air standards, incentives meant to increase domestic oil production.

But it's the short-term suggestions that Democrats hope will attract Republican votes.

REP. ED MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Congress is a stimulus/response institution, and there is nothing more stimulating than thousands of your constituents complaining to you about high electricity and gasoline prices, which is why I'm confident that many Republicans are ultimately going to vote for the short-term solutions.

REP. RANDY CUNNINGHAM (R), CALIFORNIA: There's only two areas in which I support price caps. I'm a conservative: one is liberal trial lawyers and the other is when there is an emergency that means life or death.

SNOW: In Duke Cunningham's Southern California district, the pressure is on. He says his constituents are suffering, and he's open to temporary price caps.

CUNNINGHAM: This is an extreme situation which sometimes requires for extreme solutions.

SNOW: But Republican aides say the House leadership isn't worried. They say most Republicans will support the Bush administration view that price caps won't fix the problem in California.

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: They are not a short-term solution, they are at a long, comprehensive solution.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SNOW: Republicans say that all of the energy problems in the United States weren't created overnight and they surely aren't go away overnight, but privately some Republican aides telling us, acknowledging that there is a lot of talk here on Capitol Hill about gasoline prices and how perhaps to fix gasoline prices, lower the prices at the pump.

We're told by one senior Republican aide that this subject has come up with the White House, the message has clearly been sent to the White House that Republicans on the Hill are looking for some sort of relief that they may be able to offer upfront and immediately at the gas pump.

And Judy, Dick Cheney, the vice president, was here on Capitol Hill today. He's expected back here tomorrow, and one aide says he does expect this subject will certainly come up in his discussions with Republicans -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Kate, what do the Democrats you're talking to say to the Republican refrain that we saw often hear now, and this is that the Clinton administration was in office for eight years, they didn't have an overriding energy policy at all?

SNOW: Well, they say that they will point back to the Republicans as well, and the Republicans controlling Congress at that time. In fact, you heard Dick Gephardt call the policies of Republicans on energy "stupid." Well he was actually, right before that comment, referring back to 1995 and saying that Republicans for a long time have not taken the right approach.

So, there is a lot of blame being passed back and forth, Judy, from both sides of the aisle. It will be interesting to see whether they can work together and pass something that contains provisions from both points of view -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: It will be interesting. All right. Kate Snow at the Capitol, thanks.

Well, as Kate just mentioned, the president's energy pointman, Vice President Cheney, did meet with some fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill today. Did he get an earful? We're joined now by our congressional correspondent Jonathan Karl -- Jonathan.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the vice president did address the private close-doors meeting of the Republicans, their annual -- their weekly Tuesday lunch. He made the case for the president's energy policy, providing a preview, saying this will be a balanced approach, balanced between conservation on one hand and increasing energy supply on the other hand.

But he also said, he reminded the senators this was a long-term problem. And he said this is a problem that, according to Cheney, was caused by eight years of neglect by the Clinton-Gore administration with no energy policy whatsoever. He said, because it's a long-term problem, short-term solutions are merely window dressing. Now, that was not all that reassuring to one Republican senator in the room, Susan Collins. Susan Collins got up -- Susan Collins up for re-election next year in a tough state for Republicans, said that on her most recent trips back to her home state, she's been getting an earful from constituents concerned about high gas prices, and wondering if the energy companies, the oil companies are gouging customers.

She wasn't necessarily calling for a hearing into price gouging, but she was saying the Republicans better be prepared for a response, because that's about all she's hearing from her very upset constituents -- Judy?

WOODRUFF: Jon, what about short-term solutions, did they talk about that today?

KARL: Well, as a matter of fact, just after Susan Collins got up, Frank Murkowski, who's the senior -- the chairman of the Energy Committee in the Senate, Republican, talked about a number of possible short-term solutions. Number one on the list, is the one most talked about, which is repealing that 18.4 cents a gallon federal gas tax, but he pointed out there are significant negatives to that.

You know, first of all, the billions of dollars that it would take out of the highway trust fund, but also that there will be no guarantee that cutting the gas tax will ultimately can be passed on to consumers, in terms of lower gas prices.

He also -- one of the other possible short-term solutions that he talked about, very interestingly, was a temporary suspension in tolls. That's right, highway tolls. He said that this is something that could alleviate you know, put some extra money in the traveling public's pocket -- also, maybe, conserve some energy because these would be wasting money waiting on line to pay tolls during the summer travel season. But also, pointed out this is obviously a solution that wouldn't affect everybody, since not every state has tolls.

WOODRUFF: All right. Jon Karl at the Capitol, thanks again.

Vice President Cheney also spoke today with CNN's Lou Dobbs about the link between energy and the economy. Cheney suggested that the administration's energy strategy will fill a need that he said was left unmet by the Clinton White House.


DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Long term, our economic prosperity depends upon having adequate supplies of affordable energy. That's been one of the cornerstones of our economy for a long time, and we need to address that, because it's pretty clear that for the last several years, nobody really has.


WOODRUFF: You can see all of the vice president's interview later on Lou Dobbs "MONEYLINE." That's right after INSIDE POLITICS at 6:30 p.m. Eastern.

Adding more fuel to energy as a political issue: California's Public Utilities Commission is preparing to vote today on a revised plan to carry out a record power rate hike. Under that plan, residential customers would pay up to 47 percent more for electricity.

Also today, a Power Industry Group reports that California will experience more blackouts this summer than originally predicted. And the group warns that New England, New York City and Texas should be on guard for possible power shortages.


TIM GALLAGHER, POWER PRODUCERS SPOKESMAN: We do expect to see rotating blackouts in California throughout the summer. We expect tight capacity conditions in the Pacific Northwest, in New England, in New York City, and we do expect to see continuing heavy loadings on the transmission systems.


WOODRUFF: The report by the North American Electric Reliability Council says California's power problems will be aggravated by drought conditions in the Pacific Northwest, which will reduce the output of hydroelectric plants.

Turning to another influence on the economy, the Federal Reserve today cut rates for the fifth time this year, lowering a benchmark rate 1/2 percentage point to 4 percent. On Wall Street, stock traders didn't necessarily seem impressed by the Fed's move. Let's go now to CNN Financial News reporter Jan Hopkins. Jan, tell us what the markets did today, and why did they do it?

JAN HOPKINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are a couple of explanations, one is that the market was expecting the Fed to do what it did, to lower rates by 1/2 percentage point. And so, that was already built into the market, and thus prices really didn't move.

The other explanation is that the Federal Reserve is worried about the economy, saying that it could lower rates again, and investors want to see companies saying that things are getting better before they're willing to buy more stock.

Now, the real winners in all of this: consumers, and they've been spending all along. They've been refinancing their mortgages, and they've been spending money as a result. And they will have lower interest rates, the prime rate lowered by half a percentage point as well -- Judy

WOODRUFF: Jan, do we know for a fact that the Fed is doing this cutting because it is worried about the economy into a recession?

HOPKINS: That's true. And the Fed saying that it's willing to lower rates again if necessary. The Fed saying it's more worried about what's going on in the economy than it is about inflation. That's worried some in the market. Because, as you've been talking, energy prices are going up and that means that there could be more inflation ahead.

So, the Fed has to watch both the economy and inflation. Right now, it's focusing on the economy.

WOODRUFF: So, given all that, Jan, any educated guessing as to whether there will be another rate cut this year, or have we seen the end of it for the year?

HOPKINS: Well, the market is already betting when the Fed meets


...half percentage point cut in the Fed fund's rate and maybe the discount rate as well.

WOODRUFF: All right, Jan Hopkins reporting from New York. Thank you.

Campaign finance reform returns to the spotlight, but the Senate legislation is going nowhere fast.

Straight ahead on INSIDE POLITICS: John McCain heads to the Senate floor to try to maneuver around his party's own majority leader.

Also: an APB at the FBI. Bureau field offices comb their files in search of any more documents related to the Timothy McVeigh case.

And later:


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: What Bush's policies have in common and what appeals to men is the element of risk-taking and competition.


WOODRUFF: Senior political analyst Bill Schneider on President Bush and the guy thing.



WOODRUFF: About an hour ago, Arizona Republican John McCain went to the floor of the Senate to try to force the issue on one of his signature causes: campaign finance reform.

McCain's bill has already passed the Senate, but that was more than a month ago. CNN Congressional correspondent Jonathan Karl joins us once again with more on what McCain said and why he decided to do what he did -- John.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good to see you again, Judy. It was 43 days ago that the Senate, by a vote of 59-41, passed McCain- Feingold campaign finance legislation.

Senator McCain, who has fought for that as part of his crusade that's basically defined his political being here, is upset what happened here, since that has past, it has not crossed its way over to the House Of Representatives.

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott has decided not to do what is often done when a bill passes the Senate, which it moves over to the House for consideration over there. He has decided not to do that. McCain went to the floor to very loudly protest that action.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (D), ARIZONA: I want to say to my colleagues in all seriousness, if this practice is condoned, and I say to you, watch out, if you prevail, and it is against the majority leader's wishes for that bill to be sent over to the other body. By not sending this and every piece of legislation passed by the Senate over to the other body, we may be beginning a very dangerous precedent.


KARL: McCain said that Senator Lott was essentially acting as a minority of one blocking the will of the Senate, through essentially doing a pocket veto on this, saying this is delaying action in the House of Representatives.

Now, Senator McCain's part of this is introducing an amendment to the education bill, calling for what's called a sense of the Senate resolution, calling on the Senate to immediately pass that legislation over to the House of Representatives. This has caused a response from Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott.

Through a spokesperson, has released this statement, saying, quote: "The House has already announced it will take up campaign finance reform around July 4th. It's unfortunate that Senator McCain has chosen to stall the president's top priority, education reform, also the main concern of the American people, in an attempt to coerce the House into taking up this Senate's version of campaign finance reform. The House should be permitted to work its will on the issue."

So, the dispute once again, putting the majority leader of the Senate at odds with Senator McCain. The vote on this is expected in about 10 minutes -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Jon, what exactly does McCain accomplish by doing this?

KARL: Well, McCain is hoping to put some pressure on Lott to send this bill over to the House. What is happening here is essentially, McCain would like to see the House of Representatives consider exactly the bill that was passed by the Senate, making it more likely it will ultimately pass the Congress and be sent down to the White House.

So, this is a sense of the Senate resolution. It is non binding, although it does call on the secretary of the Senate, who McCain points out, is an employee of the full Senate, to unilaterally act and move that legislation over to the House of Representatives.

Right now, the secretary of the Senate has not done that, because Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott has instructed him not to do so.

WOODRUFF: All right, Jon Karl, good to see you, again, thanks.

Besides campaign finance, another issue that has divided senators is election reform, but today, four senators -- two from each party -- have agreed to combine their competing bills. The move gives new life to efforts saying, that streamlining the nation's voting laws and procedures is winning early praise.

One of the senators sponsoring the legislation is Republican Mitch McConnell. He also happens to be a long-time player in the campaign finance debate. And he's chairman of the Senate Rules Committee. He joins us now from the Capitol.

Senator, let me first ask you about what is going on with Senator McCain. Is he right when he says that Senator Lott, by withholding this bill from the moving over to the House, is in effect, thwarting the will of the Congress and acting as a one-man veto, if you will?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY: It's all really quite silly, Judy. Even if the bill went over today, under the rules of the House, and the proponents wanted to try to get this up by discharge petition. It wouldn't get in the House any sooner than the speaker already said they will debate the issue. So, this is all really quite silly and I wish we could go on and work on the education bill, which is the nation's number one priority.

WOODRUFF: But when Senator McCain says it's a "dangerous precedent"...

MCCONNELL: It's not a dangerous precedent. I really think that -- this is rather silly. And shouldn't appear with our debate on the education bill, which is the nation's number one priority.

The House has already said it will go to the subject of campaign finance reform sometime in late June or early July. And under the procedures in the House, even if this bill went over, was assigned to a committee and discharged out, none of that cold take place before the time they're going to bring it up anyway.

WOODRUFF: What do you think is going to happen on this vote coming up?

MCCONNELL: I would think everyone would vote for it. I can't imagine that they wouldn't. It's just a sense of the Senate resolution anyway.

WOODRUFF: And is Senator Lott correct when he said that Senator McCain was holding up education reform?

MCCONNELL: Yeah. I mean, that's the subject on the floor. We've been on the education bill now for a couple of weeks. This is the nation's No. 1 one priority and we'd like to move along. There had been a gentlemen's agreement that the amendments on the education bill would be germane to education and this certainly isn't related to education.

WOODRUFF: All right, senator, let me now move to the subject that we invited you here to talk about.


WOODRUFF: We're glad you were able to comment on the other as well.

What is it that this election reform bill would do that is not -- that one can't do now in this country?

MCCONNELL: Well, there are a lot of competing bills, and what Chuck Schumer and I decided to do is to merge our two bills, putting them together -- about a fourth of the Senate are co-sponsoring them -- to set up a new federal agency that would be the repository, Judy, of all the latest information on voting machines and voting technology in the country.

It would be a bipartisan commission -- four appointed by -- four Democrats appointed by the president on recommendations from the Democrats, four Republicans on recommendations from the Republican Party, evenly divided, nonpartisan, bipartisan, if you will. And they would dispense grants, matching grants, to localities that were unable to afford upgrading their election systems.

I think this is a logical response to what happened in Florida last year. It has broad ideological spectrum behind it. Chuck Schumer and I are not exactly ideological soul mates. We think this is a bill that's got an excellent chance of making it through the Senate very soon.

WOODRUFF: Now, you, as I understand it, you suggested recently that election reform may not really be a priority for the federal government. How do you square that with what this role that you're setting up here?

MCCONNELL: I don't think I said that. I probably did say that the federal government should not take over the administration of elections. And we clearly don't do that here. We don't seek to nationalize elections. There are some states that are going to have different procedures. But what we do is provide an opportunity for there to be one place where there is expertise. We centralize the election administration division of the FEC and the military voting office over in the Pentagon, where we had a lot of problems with military voting, all of that in one place so people no where to go to find out the best way to vote.

WOODRUFF: Now, this would cost -- what is it? -- I see the number 2.5 billion over five years.

MCCONNELL: Yeah, we authorized that over five years. Obviously, this would have to be appropriated. But I think everyone feels that there is a role, be it -- albeit limited, but a role for the federal government to play in this area, and it should be in the area that we've defined here by this legislation.

WOODRUFF: But the president has put nothing in the budget at this point, or at least the budget that he sent over, for election reform. Are you confident you can get the White House to go along with this?

MCCONNELL: Yeah, I don't think -- well, I've not spoken with them about it, but this has such a broad bipartisan base of support, Judy, I can't imagine that this is going to be a controversial piece of legislation. In fact, we're hoping that we'll be able to get it up in the Senate some time in the next couple of months with a rather limited time agreement.

WOODRUFF: Let me ask you finally, senator, about a quote in "The New York Times" this morning you may have seen. They're quoting David King, who's an elections expert at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, suggesting that you might have been motivated in proposing this in part by the fact that you were defeated when it came to campaign finance legislation and you're trying to put your stamp on this.

MCCONNELL: No. I mean, I'm chairman of the Rules Committee. We have jurisdiction over this issue.

Judy, as you know from our discussions of campaign finance over the year -- over the years, I haven't exactly been apologetic about my position. I've been very open about it in defending the First Amendment and my view of that issue. I've never been sheepish about it, and I'm not trying to make up for anything.

It's just that the committee I chair happens to have jurisdiction over elections.

WOODRUFF: And -- and senator, what's your prediction on this? You gave me a projection -- a prediction a minute ago on this sense of the Senate resolution. What do you think is going to happen on this?

MCCONNELL: I think it's got an excellent chance of becoming law. We have a broad bipartisan support for it already. I think we're going to get even more in the coming weeks, and we hope the majority leader will bring the bill up some time in the next few months.

WOODRUFF: All right, Senator Mitch McConnell.

MCCONNELL: Thank you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Thanks very much. Appreciate you joining us.

Pointed questions from Capitol Hill about the FBI stumble in the case of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. Up next, a look at who was in the hot seat here in Washington today.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WOODRUFF: FBI field offices are redoubling efforts to find any remaining documents related to the Oklahoma City bombing. This comes after the Baltimore office discovered seven additional files that were not released to Timothy McVeigh's defense attorneys. The FBI blunder has raised the ire of some on Capitol Hill. And today, senators had a chance to question Director Louis Freeh.

Kelli Arena reports.


KELLI ARENA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The FBI director had nothing to say publicly about his agency's latest embarrassing mistake. But senators briefed by Louis Freeh behind closed doors are openly troubled.

SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R-AL), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Too many failures, too many blunders and a lot of concern.

ARENA: Freeh told senators documents turned over just last week to Timothy McVeigh's defense attorneys will have no bearing on the Oklahoma City bombing case, but that and the revelation that the Baltimore field office failed to turn over seven additional files did little to quiet criticism.

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: I don't know that -- that we have ever been more concerned about the current state of affairs in that bureau as we are right now.

ARENA: Senators say Freeh is ultimately responsible, but still found room for praise.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: I have confidence in Louis Freeh because he's an -- he's an absolute straight-shooter.

ARENA: And some lawmakers suggested others within the bureau, besides Freeh, should be held accountable.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: I wouldn't blame him, because he's done so much to try and straighten the problems out.

SHELBY: There are a lot of other people that are responsible in the FBI.

ARENA (on camera): Several FBI agents, who asked not to be identified, tell CNN they fear a witch hunt. They say, in an effort to spare Freeh further embarrassment in his final days, others will be taken to task.

Kelli Arena, CNN, Washington.


WOODRUFF: We consider the importance of men to the president's political base later on INSIDE POLITICS. But first, a train carrying hazardous materials rumbled through Ohio with no engineer at the controls. Details of where the train started and how it was stopped, next in our news update.


WOODRUFF: We will have more of the day's political news coming up, but now a look at some other top stories.

Railway officials say a CSX freight train carrying hazardous chemicals left a freight yard in Toledo with no one on board. The runaway train crossed Northern Ohio for about two hours before a railroad worker was able to jump aboard and bring the train to a halt. Initial reports, that the train's engineer had suffered a heart attack, proved to be false.

CSX says the engineer was left behind in Toledo when the train took off for reasons being investigated.

Medical experts today called for a more aggressive treatment of high cholesterol, a move that could triple the number of Americans on cholesterol drugs. Guidelines recommended by the National Institutes of Health include: increased use of diet and exercise, more aggressive use of cholesterol-lowering drugs, and the addition of diabetes as a heart disease risk factor.

One key target of the guidelines is to reduce high levels of low density lipoproteins, the so-called "bad cholesterol."

This is the season for graduation ceremonies. Some high schools are phasing in graduation tests for seniors.

As CNN's Bill Delaney reports, so far, the test is not going very well in Boston.


BILL DELANEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Huggins La Fond, a senior at Boston's Fenway High School: good grades, good kid. Admitted to five good colleges, and he failed the Massachusetts Statewide Proficiency Exam, the MCAS.

HUGGINS LA FOND, STUDENT, FENWAY HIGH SCHOOL: It casts some doubt in your mind. You question, you know what I'm saying, like, what you're really capable of doing, and you know...

DELANEY: Demoralizing.

LA FOND: Exactly.

DELANEY: What's demoralizing now, though, could prove disastrous in two more years. Tenth-graders taking the test this spring, unlike Huggins La Fond, will have to pass it to graduate.

(on camera): The looming disaster: That more than 75 percent of seniors here at Fenway High School, like Huggins La Fond, both got into college and failed the MCAS test. Fenway High School Principal Larry Myatt's nightmare scenario is that in 2003, when the tests count, similarly high percentages of his students get into college, but can't go for failing to qualify for a high school diploma for failing the MCAS.

LARRY MYATT, PRINCIPAL, FENWAY HIGH SCHOOL: Hard to get behind something that's going to keep some of your best and brightest out of college. You're going to put a lot of kids in harm's way that are on their way college to have a dream and a future and a plan to activate that -- that dream, who may not get the chance.

DELANEY: At least 29 states now are phasing in statewide exams to graduate high school. Tests touted by education officials from the White House on down as how to lift standards at sinking schools.

DAVID DRISCOLL, MASSACHUSETTS EDUCATION DEPARTMENT: I find it very hard to believe kids are failing MCAS and getting into college. We -- our statistics show that kids who fail MCAS are failing otherwise.

DELANEY: Some high school administrators, though, say education officials and politicians in favor of state exams aren't aware how many colleges and universities now look beyond standardized tests.

Right off the principal's office at Fenway High School, there's a list of colleges this class of seniors got into. What makes this school swell with pride this year, though, may one day break its heart.

Bill Delaney, CNN, Boston.


WOODRUFF: Is there still a gender gap in support for President Bush? Our Bill Schneider checks public opinion. Plus, Bruce Morton on how the Bush tax-cut plan became a cure-all for America's woes when INSIDE POLITICS continues.


WOODRUFF: While more than half of Americans say they approve of President Bush's job performance, there is one group, in particular, that's responsible for his favorable rating. Our Bill Schneider explains.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): If you're a political leader, you need a base, because sooner or later, you're going to get in trouble and your base are the people who are with you when you're wrong.

President Bush has been cultivating his base. Conservatives? No. A much bigger base than that. The gender gap goes back to Ronald Reagan. Reagan was always more popular with men than with women, but women voted for him: twice.

With Bush, the gender gap is larger and more decisive. There's an old saying in politics, "Dance with the one that brung you." Who brung George W. Bush to the White House? The answer is men. Men voted for Bush by a decisive majority. Women voted just as decisively for Al Gore. The result is government by gender gap. What do men like? Well, they like sports and business. Bush was a businessman who ran a ball club. He's the fan-in-chief when it comes to major league sports and minor league sports.

Is there a payoff? You bet. At the outset of his administration, Bush drew slightly better ratings from men than from women. At the end of 100 days, his ratings had stayed about the same among women, but he soared among men, and not just because of symbols. Men like Bush's policies. In selling his tax cut, Bush associated himself with two other presidents who were especially popular with men.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Forty years ago and then 20 years ago, two presidents, one Democrat, one Republican, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, advocated tax cuts to, in President Kennedy's words, "get this country moving again."

SCHNEIDER: A solid majority of men support Bush's tax cut, but not women. Men like Bush's proposal to allow workers to invest a portion of their Social Security taxes. Women are skeptical. By a narrow majority, men favor Bush's missile defense plan. Women don't. And men tend to support school vouchers. Women say no.

What Bush's policies have in common, and what appeals to men, is the element of risk-taking and competition. Let people spend their own money instead of giving it to the government. Let private schools compete with public schools. Let private investments compete with Social Security. Let us defend ourselves with high-tech, space-based weapons. Risk-taking, competition -- that's what sports and business are all about; that's what President Bush wants government to be all about. When Al Gore warned voters about Bush's "risky schemes," Bush ridiculed him.

BUSH: If my opponent had been at the moon launch, it would have been a risky rocket scheme.

SCHNEIDER: Most women don't think government should be about risk-taking and competition. They think government should provide security. What attracted women to Gore was his commitment to the safety net. Has Bush threatened the safety net? Yes, on the environment. And polls show both men and women give President Bush low marks for his environmental policies, but men are still standing by President Bush. He's their president. And men are his safety net.

(on camera): President Clinton got into plenty of trouble. Who stood by him? Women, despite what he had done. President Bush can only hope for that kind of loyalty from men.

Bill Schneider, CNN, Washington.


WOODRUFF: Before this day is over the Senate Finance Committee may give approval to a modified version of President Bush's tax cut plan. The compromise package cuts taxes by more than $1.3 trillion. Over the next 11 years. As the committee takes action, it's interesting to note how the president has promoted his tax cuts since they were first unveiled.

Here's CNN's Bruce Morton.


BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When presidential candidate Bush first proposed his tax cut, it was simply good Republican philosophy, conservative common sense.

BUSH: It's conservative to cut taxes. It's compassionate to trust people with your own money so you can save and you can dream and you can build for your future.

MORTON: Then the economy turned soft, and the sensible Republican tax cut became the, "bring back the good times," anti- recession tax cut.

BUSH: Tax rates need to be cut. We can afford tax cuts and the way our economy is behaving today, we can't afford not to have tax cuts.

MORTON: And then, with gasoline prices going up, it became the, "take the refund to the gas station and fill up your tank" tax cut.

BUSH: Tax relief will be good for our economy, but tax relief is also a very important way to help deal with high energy prices.

MORTON: Is the anti-recession approach to selling a tax cut good politics? Probably, for many voters.

STUART ROTHENBERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: If you can tell them, if you can prove to them that a tax cut means that financially and economically, they're going to be better, that things are rough now but they're going to get better, I think that's the way you sell a tax cut. I think the initial Bush effort to sell the tax cut: there's a lot of cash, it's your money, you ought to have it, is a weaker one in trying to rally public opinion.

MORTON: In fact, the tax cut wasn't designed as a recession fighter. Most of the money goes to wealthier Americans and most of their cuts don't happen right away. But in a CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll last March, 68 percent said they thought the tax cut was likely to help the economy. And support for the cut has gone up a bit, 52 percent for it, last October, when the economy still looked strong, 56 percent last month.

The anti-recession sale seems to be working. The president isn't getting as big a cut as he wanted, but he is getting a major tax cut, and maybe sooner than a lot of people thought.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.


WOODRUFF: Revisiting election 2000. Was Al Gore to blame for the Florida fiasco? Ahead, one author's take on the post election fallout.


WOODRUFF: Voters are going to the polls today in Pennsylvania with a special congressional election in the ninth district, drawing much of the attention. Democrat Scott Conklin faces Republican William Shuster. Shuster's father, representative Bud Shuster, retired in January after 28 years of service. In Pittsburgh, Mayor Tom Murphy is opposed by four candidates in the Democratic mayoral primary, including City Council President Bob O'Connor.

The reviews of election 2000 continue, meanwhile, and one of the latest is by Bill Sammon of "The Washington Times." His new book, "At Any Cost: How Al Gore Tried to Steal the Election," gives us a different perspective on who's to blame for the post-election chaos, as many of us call it. And Bill Sammon joins us now. Thank you for being here.

BILL SAMMON, "WASHINGTON TIMES": Thanks for having me.

WOODRUFF: Your title, "At Any Cost: How Al Gore Tried to Steal the Election," do you really mean how he tried to steal it? .

SAMMON: Yes, you know, when I first took on this project, the publisher and I talked about this title, and I said, you know, that's a little over the top. It's a little incendiary. Let's water it down and they said fine, no problem. I then spent the next three or four months immersing myself in the story, researching it. Handed in the manuscript, I said, can we change it back, because I now feel I can back it up.

WOODRUFF: with what?

SAMMON: Well, the word "steal," if you look it up in the dictionary, it means to take another's possession, especially by unjust means. The 25 electoral votes in Florida were always Bush's possession because he always won each count of the votes. And to take them away, Gore resorted to means that I argue are unjust. This includes the disenfranchisement of military ballots, the smear campaign against Katherine Harris, et cetera. I argue these are unjust means.

WOODRUFF: Well, let's take those one at a time. Disenfranchising the military. Are you able to prove in here, to your satisfaction, that Gore was actually trying to keep people from casting a legitimate ballot?

SAMMON: His campaign was trying to limit the amount of ballots of course that were cast by the military members serving overseas. And this business about, well, it was not really Gore officially in there protesting military ballots, is really a fiction.

Because it was his very lawyers, in fact, the people who had official capacities in his campaign, that were among the lawyers there arguing vociferously to throw out some of these ballots. One of the guys was named Michael Langton, who was one of the Gore officials in Florida. He was there into Duval County arguing to throw out these ballots on hyper-technical grounds.

WOODRUFF: The question then becomes, wasn't he just doing what anybody would do under those circumstances, who were challenging the result? After all, the state law said if the result is close enough, there's an automatic recount. And we need to go back through this again.

SAMMON: Absolutely. Well, the first recount, as you say, was automatic and Gore had no choice. He couldn't have stopped it if he wanted to. So, I argue that both sides were OK with the first recount. But that only took 72 hours and it reaffirmed the original count.

After that, Gore started resorting to more adventurous means to try to get the presidency. First, we get the butterfly ballot -- I call that his plan B. But there was no suitable remedy there. And he eventually went to the selective hand recounts, which I call his plan C, which was the bulk of those 36 days.

But once he got in there, he was trying the side plans, like, let's limit the damage from the military ballots, let's take down Katherine Harris. These things, while not illegal in the sense of stealing, were certainly -- I argue -- unethical.

WOODRUFF: Let me ask you about a couple of other points you make in the book. At one point, you say the television network's decision to call the Florida winner for Gore at 7:50 Eastern time cost George W. Bush at least 10,000 votes. How do you know this?

SAMMON: Well, there were three studies done on this subject...

WOODRUFF: And I should say, CNN was the first one to make that call.

SAMMON: I wasn't going to mention that. I'm kidding. There were three studies. One was by a Republican polling firm, one was by Yale Law School and one was by Democratic strategist Bob Beckel, who is a very hard-core Democrat, who tried to flip electors. So, we know that he...

WOODRUFF: And you spent a lot of time talking to him.

SAMMON: Bob was very cooperative for the book. But, all three of these studies found that Bush lost a net 10,000 votes roughly. Bob came up with 8,000. Somebody said 12; somebody said 10. But it was roughly 10,000 votes.

The reason that was important, is that, as we know, Gore lost by a few hundred votes in Florida. And it was the very closeness of the race that was so tantalizing to him. He kept fighting, trying to coddle together 51 votes in this county, and 217 votes in that county, to get above where Bush was.

If he had been faced with a 10,000 vote deficit, I argue he wouldn't have hung in there for 36 days. WOODRUFF: I asked about that, partly because the independent outside review done for CNN -- which was really looking at everybody's work -- said it best: there was only anecdotal evidence. But you're saying, what you came up to went beyond that.

SAMMON: Yes, these are studies done by three different organizations. And I also spent a lot of time in the Panhandle talking to people. I had the same reaction: why would anyone not vote at the last minute...

WOODRUFF: Especially with only 10 minutes to go.

SAMMON: And 10,000 sounds like a lot of people, but there's half a million registered voters in the western Panhandle. And, 10,000 isn't that big of a percentage of them.

WOODRUFF: One other point you make, is, the networks were quicker to call a state that went for Gore than one for Bush. This is something else that the independent review panel looked at for us and for the others. They say that those states called within one hour of poll closing times had a margin of victory of 5 points for Gore.

Those states called for Bush, between one and two hours of poll closing times, had a majority of 3-4 points. The point being, it was a closer result and therefore, unexplainable why it took longer to call.

SAMMON: I can't speak for that review and how they framed it in their parameters. But the way I looked at it was I would take a state where Gore won by 6 points and another state where Bush won by 6 points. And invariably -- and there were a lot of states -- I would look at the time that the networks took to call the state.

In case after case after case, the networks waited longer to call it for Bush. And the reason that that's important is I argue it influenced voter turnout nation-wide...

WOODRUFF: Are you saying that that was deliberate, that there was a bias on the part of the people....

SAMMON: There were two biases. First of all, the Voter News Service exit polling -- I spent a lot of time talking about this in the book -- had a Democratic bias. And I don't say that in a pejorative sense; I say that in a statistical sense. There was a Democratic bias in their exit polls, that they knew about, talked about, tried to weight against. They tried to correct against, but they didn't really. It showed a stronger showing by Gore than he really had.

Secondly, I do argue there was some bias in the media, a willingness to go with that information, instead of some of the harder data that was coming in from such sources as the Associate Press, that had a hard number showing Bush stronger. And they went with the VNS data.

WOODRUFF: I wish we had more time to talk about it. Because I know I, for one, who worked at CNN, is not aware of any bias here to call the results one way or the other. But, we only have so many minutes to talk about the book.

I want to thank you, Bill Sammon, for joining us. We appreciate it. Again, the book is "At Any Cost: How Al Gore Tried to Steal the Election."

WOODRUFF: Past connections that weigh on the White House and could impact the 2002 elections. That and more in the next 30 minutes of INSIDE POLITICS.


WOODRUFF: Oil producers and the Bush administration: the ties that may be putting the president's upcoming energy plan in a bind.

And we'll explore the question: can a nature refuge survive oil drilling? Plus:


SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: As citizens, we have the right to own guns. We have the responsibility not to sell them to criminals.


WOODRUFF: We'll talk to Senator Joe Lieberman about new legislation aimed at closing the so-called gun show loophole.

Welcome back to INSIDE POLITICS.

Today was not the first time, and it probably won't be the last time, Democrats head to a gas station to drive home their energy proposals. Fuel pumps provided the backdrop as House Democrats rolled out their alternative to the soon to be announced Bush energy plan.


GEPHARDT: Our energy principles include helping families and businesses cut their energy costs now, which will save money and energy for the American people. They include making America the world leader in energy efficiency by tapping into our bottomless capacity for innovation and new technologies.


WOODRUFF: The Democratic plan calls for, among other things, price caps on Western electricity costs, which the Bush administration opposes. The Democrats also are urging the OPEC oil cartel to increase production. And they're urging the Bush administration to tap into the nation's own emergency oil reserves if necessary.

The energy strategy to be unveiled by the Bush White House on Thursday is expected to emphasize new oil production more than conservation. Critics contend that policy is a result of the administration's close ties to the oil industry.

Our John King has been looking at the Bush team's energy connections.


JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Oil man was on George W. Bush's resume long before governor or president. And energy ties are a common bond at this table, the task force behind the administration's sweeping new long-term energy proposal. Vice President Dick Cheney, Commerce Secretary Don Evans and Interior Secretary Gale Norton are among the senior officials with energy ties.

Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham is a former senator who was a favorite of energy and transportation interests. And his experience the industry says is proving its worth, that the White House calls for new exploration and natural gas, and new power plants fueled by coal and nuclear energy.

JACK GERARD, NATIONAL MINING ASSOCIATION: I think this White House clearly recognizes the challenge we face with a national energy policy. The previous administration unfortunately felt that it perhaps could be addressed by moving to one sector or another.

KING: Critics say the administration is exaggerating the scope of the problem to justify drilling in environmentally sensitive areas, and see the new strategy as a little more than political payback.

Energy industry groups gave nearly $50 million to the Republicans in the last campaign cycle, three times the amount contributed to Democrats. Bush presidential campaign received nearly $3 million, and Secretary Abraham's unsuccessful Senate re-election campaign received more than $400,000 from the industry he now regulates.

Transportation interest with high stakes in the energy debate also favored the G.O.P. in the last cycle, contributing 39 million to Republicans, compared to 15 million to Democrats.

DANIEL BECKER, SIERRA CLUB: It is very disturbing that the president of the United States raised millions of dollars from a group of polluting industries in the coal, oil, nuclear, utility and auto industries, and is now paying them back with very lucrative deals that will benefit them, but will hurt the rest of us.

KING: The White House rejects any suggestion of payback or favoritism.

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The old stereotypes kind of need to be set aside, and we need to calm down a little bit, get everybody down off the ceiling, and sit down and have an informed, intelligent debate of where we ought to go with the energy policy.

KING (on camera): But critics promised to make the energy connections of the president, the vice president and other top administration officials a major factor in the political debate, as Mr. Bush tries to sell the country on a new long-term energy policy.

John King, CNN, the White House.


WOODRUFF: Before we talk more about energy, this report in from the United States Senate: Senator John McCain, so-called Sense of the Senate Resolution, urging the Senate majority leader, Republican leader Trent Lott to move Senator McCain's campaign finance reform legislation that has passed the Senate a month and a half ago, is urging Senator Lott to move it over to the House.

That has now passed. We don't have numbers for you because the vote is still under way, but it is more than a majority. Senator McCain having criticized Senator Lott on the floor of the Senate today for not moving the legislation along, saying that he is thwarting the will of the majority of the Senate.

And now, back to energy politics. We're joined by Stu Rothenberg of the "Rothenberg Political Report." Stu, who is more vulnerable on this whole question of energy? Is it the White House, which the Democrats would have us believe, or do the Democrats and the outgoing Clinton administration share any sense of responsibility -- share any responsibility?

STU ROTHENBERG, "ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT": Well, they may share some of the responsibility, but in political terms, the danger is all with the Republicans and the White House.

I think in a sense, Judy, that this crisis is bigger for the Republicans and for the president than the Chinese crisis earlier in the year. There, at least we knew there was a process, a way of talking to the Chinese government to get the detainees back to this country. To resolve the issue here, the Republicans are talking about a long-term approach to energy.

And we may well need that, but politically this is a short-term problem, and the problem -- if it continues over the next few months -- will only worsen for the president, in terms of job approval and maybe the Republican Party's overall image.

WOODRUFF: You've been talking to a lot of people, you've been looking at the polls, what are the American people saying right now about all of this?

ROTHENBERG: Well, look, they want an answer. It seems to me that they're less concerned with placing blame, who is responsible -- is it Bill Clinton's fault, who was responsible six months ago or a year ago. They want lower prices.

Interestingly, the American public -- they want everything. They want clean environment, they want easy access to energy at reasonable cost -- less than reasonable cost. So, they want it all.

The Democrats are in fact promising that. I have here the House Democratic caucus energy task force report, which talks about helping consumers, promoting growth, supporting production, protecting the environment. They are offering it all. And I don't know if the American public is going to buy this, but clearly the pressure is on the president to perform.

WOODRUFF: How long can the White House persist in saying, we don't need to focus on the short term, what really matters is the long term?

ROTHENBERG: Well, they may be right about policy. And when the vice president says we need an informed debate, that assumes an extended period of very rational discussion, detached from the day-to- day concerns, but as the price of energy goes up, as the price of gasoline goes up, as it's more expensive to live each day, I think the White House, the Republicans, the president, they are going to see immediate problems.

We're already seeing drop in the president's job approval. So I don't think they can wait at all. The problem is, there isn't an obvious short-term solution that works, I think, or that the Republicans are willing to embrace.

WOODRUFF: Well, one of the things they talked about, for example, is reducing the federal tax on gasoline. Is this something that could make...

ROTHENBERG: Well, I was at a luncheon today with Democratic leader Dick Gephardt. He was asked about that. He said Democrats were against that when Bill Clinton was president, they are against it now that George Bush is president, so they're not going to give him any help there.

There are alternatives, in terms of strategic reserves, price caps, but none of them are particularly good alternatives, or at least maybe a better way of saying it. Everyone entails some risks and some complaints.

WOODRUFF: Stu, to what extent the administration's position on the environmental questions play into this? I mean, they have been quite visible early in the administration, talking about everything from arsenic to the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge, the perception is that they are taking a harder line on the environment, although they might argue with that. Is that affecting the political play here?

ROTHENBERG: Well, you would think that energy shortages would give the administration a bit of a whip here to make their argument for drilling in ANWR and the arctic reserve, and their overall emphasis on finding more energy sources, which is the number one -- name of the game for this administration.

But I think they are caught between a rock and a hard place. I think all of the talk about CO2, Kyoto, arsenic in the water, has made some Republicans a bit gun-shy about pursuing more and more drilling in the like.

WOODRUFF: And the fact that many polls, at least the ones that I have seen, show the public is leaning more toward conservation than they are to production.

ROTHENBERG: Well, of course, Judy. Again, the public wants both. They want production and conservation.

But I think you're right. Conservation seems like, at least initially, kind of an easier way to go. We'll just turn off a few lights, we'll conserve. But we've heard, in fact, that energy use in California has gone down, and the prices have gone up. So, the relationship is not necessarily as direct as some Americans would like to believe.

WOODRUFF: All right. You could say California is a special case, but on the other hand...

ROTHENBERG: If you listen to the Democrats, if you listen to Dick Gephardt, if you were there during lunch, he believes California is going to spread across the country. I don't think the Democrats want that from a policy point of view, but from a political point of view, that wouldn't hurt them, would it?

WOODRUFF: All right. Stu Rothenberg. Brace ourselves.

Well, we'll talk with Senator Joe Lieberman about the so-called gun show loophole after the break.

And later: can energy exploration be friendly to the environment? We will travel south to Louisiana, to see how two wildlife refuges handle the search for natural gas.


WOODRUFF: On this very busy day on Capitol Hill a bipartisan group of Senators introduced legislation to close the so-called gun show loophole. The bill would require background checks at all gun shows where at least 75 guns are sold, and would apply the checks to both registered and unregistered dealers. Joined now by a key sponsor of that legislation, he's Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut. Senator, how is this different from the gun show legislation the White House is saying it is supporting?

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: Well it's frankly not clear to me at this point exactly what gun show loophole closing legislation the White House is supporting at all. I was encouraged to read a statement from some spokesperson over at the White House that they thought that it was a good idea to try to close the hoop hole, and I agree. This is the largest legal loophole that allows people who shouldn't have guns, felons particularly, to get them.

And what's most significant about this, John McCain and I lead a group of bipartisan cosponsors. This is our attempt to respond to some of the concerns expressed about a previous bill on this subject that passed the Senate after Columbine and then just got boxed up in the House. And we think this bill ought to get bipartisan support. And we ought to break through the deadlock and do something to protect people from gun violence. WOODRUFF: So, basically, Senator, we're talking about a 3-day waiting period before someone would be allowed to buy a gun, versus, I gather, 24 hours or one day that the president supports. Is that about accurate?

LIEBERMAN: Well, I'm not sure, Judy. You may know more than I do, but here's what happened. We have had said three days after a gun show purchase is about to be made, but we've said if a state can prove that 95 percent of the records they need to check whether somebody is eligible to buy a gun is available to them by computer, then we can reduce it to 24 hours. So this is all highly technical stuff. But it's the kind of stuff that got some people worried about this proposal before.

We ought not to, because hundreds of thousands of guns are purchased by people, many of whom unfortunately, are felons at gun shows. That's what the record shows.

WOODRUFF: Well, that's what I wanted to ask you about, Senator, because with all the discussion about how the democrats, in effect, ran away from gun control as an issue last year, this seems to be a very small gesture. I mean, how much difference will this really make if it were to pass?

LIEBERMAN: If it were to pass, we've made some small changes from the bill that previously passed the Senate and got stopped in the House, but those small changes, we think, ought to reassure gun owners and their advocates here that this proposal will not compromise at all the rights of law-abiding citizens, but it will close loophole that today is the largest loophole in our gun laws allowing felons to buy guns.

If they go to federally licensed firearms dealer, or a gun shop, for instance, their background is checked. If they go to a gun show, it is not, and that's wrong.

WOODRUFF: And what do you say to some of your Democratic colleagues who say this is just too weak, it doesn't do enough?

LIEBERMAN: Well, what I say is, it accomplishes what I believe they want to accomplish, and most important, it has a chance to pass. I mean, John McCain and I -- supported the stronger legislation last time. John McCain opposed it. And we talked to each other and said let's find common ground here. Let's break through the gridlock and let's get this done.

And the important thing to say is that if this bill that we proposed today passes, criminals won't be able to buy guns at gun shows and that means that there are a lot of people out across America who won't be injured or, at worst, god forbid, killed by criminals with guns.

WOODRUFF: Senator, bear with me, if you will. I want to turn the corner just slightly and ask you about an article in "The Washington Post" yesterday talking about several potential presidential candidates in the year 2000 on the Democratic side. Each one of you, and of course your name's on that list, teaming up with Senator McCain in an effort to appear bipartisan, to work with the very popular Republican. Talk about the political workings in something like this.

LIEBERMAN: Oh, I don't know. I got a kick of that article. It struck me that maybe we have a very early primary which is called the McCain primary. But you know, this is the result -- this is the way the Senate ought to be. And honestly I don't think it has anything to do with the next presidential election.

John McCain and I have been friends for a long time. We've worked on a lot of things together. He came back, as I did, from last year's national election and said we had a great opportunity. We didn't get to take office but we had lot of people who supported us want us to come back here and get something done. And that's how we got together on this and a host of other things we're working on.

And I think that's probably true of John, with my other colleagues on the Democratic side that he's working with on other issues. I think this is all about the kind of bipartisanship that actually produces legislation.

WOODRUFF: Senator Lieberman, on a somewhat related note, some of your Democratic colleagues and Democrats outside the Congress are talking more openly about a lack of leadership among Democrats, that they're looking for who is running this show, in effect. What are your thoughts on that?

LIEBERMAN: Well, I hear that occasionally, and look, we're getting used to new reality which is that Democrats don't control the White House after eight years in which we did. And with the White House goes the loudest megaphone in American politics. We have a lot of very strong leaders in the Democratic party beginning with Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt.

Obviously Bill Clinton and Al Gore and a lot of us like me who try to do our part to be spokespeople for the party. So, I think we're all trying to get out of the message of the values or party stands for, to speak affirmatively about what we are in favor of, and to contrast ourselves from what we see as the fiscal irresponsibility, anti-environment, anti progressive energy program of the Bush Administration. And we are going to just keep doing our best at it.

WOODRUFF: Do you worry the party is not speaking with one voice?

LIEBERMAN: No, I don't. And I think there are many voices, because that's the stage we're at in the history of the party, because we don't have central leader who is the president. But in fact, most of us on the issues are -- the people I mentioned -- are speaking with one voice. Sometimes that's one of the good results, unfortunately, about being out of power.

WOODRUFF: I guess there are some good results in that.

LIEBERMAN: Not too many.

WOODRUFF: All right, Senator Joe Lieberman, we thank you so much.

LIEBERMAN: Thanks, Judy. Be well.

WOODRUFF: See you again.


WOODRUFF: The long running debate over a patients bill of rights was renewed today with a Senate proposal that the support of the White House. The bipartisan plan would require patients to use a medical review process in disputes with their insurance providers. The proposal also allows patients to sue their insurers in federal court.


SEN. JOHN BREAUX (D), LOUISIANA: What we have tried to do here is to reach a middle ground which I think this represents. It's an emphasis on helping people before they get hurt, as opposed to waiting until they suffer in irreparable injury and allow them to sue. And I think that what we have tried to do is to say, we want people to know what their right are quickly, expeditiously, and the decisions be made by medical professionals.


WOODRUFF: Opponents, though, say the bipartisan bill doesn't go far enough. A competing Senate bill, sponsored by Democrats Edward Kennedy and John Edwards and Republican John McCain, would permit lawsuits in state courts with no limits on awards to patients.

Balancing nature with the need for energy. Ahead on INSIDE POLITICS: Inside a sanctuary for wildlife that is also used to drill for natural gas.


WOODRUFF: There's more INSIDE POLITICS coming up. But first, let's go to Lou Dobbs for a preview of what's ahead at the bottom of the hour on "MONEYLINE." Hello, Lou.

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, Judy, thank you. Coming up tonight on "MONEYLINE," full coverage of today's move by the Fed to cut interest rates once again. It's the most aggressive treatment in decades to cure a slowing economy.

And tonight, we'll hear from Vice President Dick Cheney on what the White House calls an energy crisis. Also, three of the most powerful men in corporate American: Disney's Michael Eisner, Intel's Andy Grove, Ford's Jack Nasser. And the New York Stock Exchange's Chairman Dick Grasso joining us tonight on "MONEYLINE." We hope you do as well.


WOODRUFF: Supporters of energy exploration in places like the Arctic National Wildlife Refure say advances in technology mean that oil and gas drilling will have little effect on the environment.

CNN environment correspondent Natalie Pawelski recently traveled to a couple of refuges in Louisiana to see firsthand how energy exploration affects the area.


NATALIE PAWELSKI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Wild animals in their natural habitat: the sights and sounds you'd expect to experience at a national wildlife refuge. What you don't expect: a drilling platform, large and loud, boring through the earth in search of natural gas.

STERLING VAUGHN, MERIDIAN RESOURCE CORPORATION: We can drill on a refuge and have a safe operation pollution-free. It needs to be done. I mean, if we have all that gas, we need to develop it and put it on the market.

HAROLD SCHOEFFLER, SIERRA CLUB: It comes down to the question of: Do you want a wildlife reserve or do you want oil and gas drilling? If you want a wildlife reserve, you really can't do it and have oil and gas. It's just -- they're not compatible.

PAWELSKI: There are more than 500 national wildlife refuges across the country. The Fish and Wildlife Service allows drilling on a couple dozen, including Louisiana's Delta and Lacassine Refuges.

HOWARD POITEVINT, U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE: When I went to college to study wildlife management, I certainly didn't go to college to learn how to oversee an oil and gas operation on a refuge.

PAWELSKI: As manager of the Delta Refuge, Howard Poitevint collected user fees from drilling companies and used the money to restore habitat.

POITEVINT: We've found a way to help mitigate or offset the effects of the oil and gas operations here. That doesn't mean that we haven't had some bad effects or bad results. I could -- if we could just say no, we'd say no probably.

PAWELSKI (on camera): Managers here can't say no to drilling. That's because for most of the refuge, the mineral rights are in private hands, and the owners have the legal right to go after gas and oil.

(voice-over) For Sterling Vaughn, in charge of this rig, regulations and his company's goals call for zero pollution.

VAUGHN: You know, to say we never have a leak -- I guess you really couldn't say that. But we try to stay on top of things and monitor it as close as we can and do the best we can do.

PAWELSKI: After the initial drilling, these big platforms are moved to new sites, leaving the refuges dotted with small wellheads and large oil and gas terminals, the marshes cut by canals and crisscrossed by pipelines. SCHOEFFLER: Well, I think that this reserve has pretty much been devastated.

PAWELSKI: The Sierra Club's Harold Schoeffler owns a Cadillac dealership, hardly your typical tree-hugger. But he's worried about pollution and about dredging and erosion that's turned native marsh into open water.

SCHOEFFLER: Some critters will live in it and occupy it, but it won't function to feed the fish that are living in the Gulf, or the shrimping that's in the coastal bays, or the oysters and everything else that depend on these natural systems for their livelihood.

PAWELSKI: In hot, wet Louisiana everything from trees to microbes grows quickly. So scars on the land are usually quick to heal. Even so, if you know where to look, these wildlife refuges are forever changed by the hunt for energy.

Natalie Pawelski, CNN, Delta National Wildlife Refuge, Louisiana.


WOODRUFF: Finally, the nation's first pregnant governor apparently is just a couple of hours away from giving birth. In Massachusetts, an aide says acting-Governor Jane Swift is experiencing intense labor contractions and doctors plan to deliver her twins by caesarean section tonight at 8:30 Eastern. Swift has been hospitalized in Boston since May 8. She's been trying to run the state government from her hospital bed, which has added to the political stirs surrounding her pregnancy. We'll bring you the results tomorrow.

That's all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS, but of course, you can go online all the time at CNN's AOL keyword: CNN. You can also e-mail us at I'm Judy Woodruff. "MONEYLINE" with Lou Dobbs is next with Lou's interview with Vice President Cheney.



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