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Democrats Dine For Dollars; Congress Nears Prescription Drug Vote

Aired June 26, 2003 - 16:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: Drumroll, please. Congress moves toward a big finale, after years of promising to help seniors pay for prescription drugs.

A sign of the times?

RUTH HARLOW, LAMBDA LEGAL: I think the court is just catching up with American society, which has already recognized gay people's equal liberty, equal humanity.

ANNOUNCER: Did the Supreme Court reflect public opinion in striking down laws barring gay sex?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This event has raised over $1.7 million.

ANNOUNCER: Democrats dine for dollars and take jabs at the president.

TERRY MCAULIFFE, DNC CHAIRMAN: He has put a big old for-sale sign on the United States Capitol, with Tom DeLay standing behind the cash register.

ANNOUNCER: We'll ask the next chairman of the Republican Party if he wants to fire back.



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

Well, one day after President Bush lent his muscle to the push for Medicare reform, he sent his second in command to Capitol Hill to twist a few arms.

As Congress moves closer to votes on new prescription drug benefits, our congressional correspondent Jonathan Karl is following all the last-minute lobbying.

Jonathan joins us now -- Jon.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, Republicans remain confident that they can pass this prescription drug bill, but there is some real drama on the House floor.

With a vote expected later tonight, possibly very late tonight, Republican leaders still do not have the votes they need to pass the plan that the president wants so badly to pass. And much of the pressure right now is on fellow Republicans who simply don't like the bill.


REP. BILLY TAUZIN (R), LOUISIANA: And there's some politicians in this town who still don't get it. The seniors figured it out. They figured out that this is the time to get a prescription drug benefit for all seniors in America and it's not time to get another debate.

KARL (voice-over): But conservative backbenchers are tying Republican leaders in knots. A day after undecided conservatives were summoned to the White House to meet with the president, Vice President Cheney went to Capitol Hill to meet with handful of renegade Republicans who don't like the bill. After the meeting, freshman Steve King said he still plans to vote no.

REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: If this bill passes, we have to come back year by year and be looking at ways we can try to slow the growth of this, because there's no way that our economy, under current growth circumstances, can sustain the growth in government that's been coming forward in the last few years.

KARL: House leaders say there are now about 20 Republicans poised to vote no. If something doesn't change before tonight's expected vote, that could be enough to defeat the bill.


KARL: Now, Judy, less than 48 hours ago, the Senate voted on an amendment that would say that members of Congress would see their drug benefit cut to the level of benefits offered to seniors under this bill. Well, now members of both parties up here in the Senate say that that provision is almost certain to be stripped out before this bill comes law, and some Republicans are going public on that point, Republicans who voted for the measure. The measure passed 90-3.

Now, one of those Republicans is Rick Santorum, the No. 3 Republican in the Senate, who says in "Roll Call," a story that just came out -- quote -- "Most members saw this as demagoguery. And we weren't going to condone it publicly by taking it seriously. So we all voted for it." So now Republicans are saying they voted for something that they intend to take out. They don't want to see their benefits cut to the level of benefits that will be offered to seniors in this bill.

WOODRUFF: So, Jon, where is this headed, finally? We're talking about a very late debate tonight and vote.

KARL: You're talking about a very late debate. It could pass by as few as a one-vote margin over in the House. It could be well after midnight. The Senate vote may actually slip until tomorrow.

And, Judy, remember, even after that, the two sides have passed different bills. They need to come together, reconcile those differences. We're still a ways away from getting a prescription drug bill signed into law.

WOODRUFF: All right, Jon Karl at the Capitol -- thank you, Jon.

Well, a number of Democrats on Capitol Hill are applauding today's Supreme Court ruling striking down laws barring gay sex. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called it -- quote -- "a victory for privacy in America."

As our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider reports, the ruling also is a reflection of changing public opinion.


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): The times, they're a changing, Bob Dylan once sang. So is the Supreme Court, reversing its decision 17 years ago that allowed states to criminalize gay sex.

PETER SPRIGG, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: Nothing has changed since 1986 to justify overturning the decision in Bowers v. Hardwick, except for the shifting winds of cultural fashion.

SCHNEIDER: Boy, have those winds shifted. Back in 1986, only a third of Americans believed homosexual relations between consenting adults should be legal. That number reached 44 percent 10 years later and a majority by 2002. And now? Sixty percent say it's OK.

HARLOW: I think the court is just catching up with American society.

SCHNEIDER: What's behind the shift?

It's partly a generational change. Americans under 30 are overwhelmingly tolerant. Seniors get a little freaked out. Gay liberation has made a difference. More and more Americans know someone who is openly gay. Research shows that makes them more tolerant. So does the view that gay people are wired that way. More and more Americans believe people are born gay. Only 13 percent endorsed that view in 1977, 19 percent in 1989, just over a third in 1999. Now almost 40 percent say people are born gay.

Those people are strongly accepting of gays. As Justice Sandra Day O'Connor writes in her new book: "Rare indeed is the legal victory that is not a careful byproduct of an emerging social consensus."


SCHNEIDER: Sometimes, public opinion follows the court, as it did with school desegregation. And sometimes the court follows public opinion. That's what it did in this case -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: It sure looks that way based on these polls. All right, Bill Schneider, thank you very much.

Well, if one or more of the Supreme Court justices plan to retire, the announcement did not come up on this last day of the Supreme Court session. But the political maneuvering over -- at least not so far -- but the political maneuvering over a possible high court nomination continues anyway. Majority Leader in the Senate Bill Frist sent a letter to fellow senators, urging quick consideration of any Bush Supreme Court nominee, as he says, the president did for President Clinton.

In a warning to Democrats who might try to block the nomination, Frist wrote -- quote -- "Any tactics to endlessly delay the process would be inconsistent with the Constitution and contrary to the Senate's traditional practice."

Now to the campaign money chase: Democrats raised more than $1.7 million last night at their first fund-raiser of the 2004 presidential campaign. Trailing the Bush fund-raising machine in a big way, DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe accused of president of selling out to the wealthiest Americans.


MCAULIFFE: President Bush campaigned with a promise to change the way that Washington worked. Folks, he's changed it all right. He has put a big old for-sale sign on the United States Capitol, with Tom DeLay standing behind the cash register.


WOODRUFF: The latest Bush campaign fund-raising blitz has netted more than $12 million so far. And, yesterday, White House political adviser Karl Rove reportedly urged supporters in Texas to help raise enough money to allow the GOP to make inroads on the Democrats' turf. Looking forward to the end of the current fund-raising quarter, Karl Rove reportedly said June 30 is the first battle.

Still ahead, we'll talk about the 2004 race and the Democrats' attack lines with President Bush's choice to be the next RNC chairman, Ed Gillespie.

And now checking the headlines in our "Campaign News Daily": Some of the Democratic hopefuls are heading West for a forum on environmental issues. Six of the White House candidates say they plan to attend the event tonight in Los Angeles. A potential vote on Medicare reform, however, could prevent Senators Kerry, Lieberman and Graham from making the trip.

Dennis Kucinich plans an appearance tonight with a man that some Democrats still blame for costing Al Gore the 2000 election. Kucinich is expected to attend an event with 2000 Green Party nominee Ralph Nader in Baltimore. Now, Nader has not decided on another run for the White House, but he tells CNN he hopes Kucinich is the Democratic nominee.

Voting has now concluded in the online Democratic primary sponsored by the group The group reports, more than 317,000 people cast votes in the nonbinding survey. Now, that's roughly twice the number of people who voted in the 2000 New Hampshire Democratic primary. The winner will be announced tomorrow at noon.

Well, there's much more INSIDE POLITICS ahead.

Should President Bush get involved in the campaign to drive out California Governor Gray Davis? Bay Buchanan and Donna Brazile will debate that one.

And later, we'll find out which Democrat put the fun in fund- raising.


WOODRUFF: Gearing up for a reelection run: Coming up next, I'll speak with the man President Bush chose to run the Republican Party.

Stay with us. INSIDE POLITICS back in just 90 seconds.


WOODRUFF: President Bush last week named GOP strategist Ed Gillespie as his choice to succeed Marc Racicot as chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Ed Gillespie is with me now to talk about his selection to run the RNC, as well as have a big role in next year's election.

First of all, congratulations.


WOODRUFF: Now, some people would look at your job, Ed Gillespie, and they would say, you've got a sitting president who's very popular. You've already got majorities in the House and the Senate. You're raising money, as much as money as -- more money than the Democrats, by far. This is going to be a cakewalk for you.

GILLESPIE: I hope you're right, but I'm not expecting a cakewalk at all.

The fact is that the parties are at parity in this country. The president is very popular right now. But when it comes to election time, we are optimistic about his fortunes. But it's likely to tighten, obviously. We have good opportunities in the House and the Senate to expand our majorities there and also to pick up some governorships. So, yes, I am optimistic, but taking nothing for granted.

WOODRUFF: How do you keep from being overconfident?

GILLESPIE: You look at past history and you realize that the voters are very careful about their selection every other November. And they weigh these things seriously. And I think that it's important to keep telling them what it is you're going to do in the future, not just what you've done in the past.

WOODRUFF: A reporter who -- probably most respected reporter when it comes to politics in this town, "The Washington Post"'s Dan Balz, wrote just a couple of days ago -- he said preparations are under way behind the scenes at the White House and the RNC for what he calls a comprehensive assault on the electorate, he said using everything, political and governmental strategy, available.

He talked about the war. He mentioned the war on terror. He mentioned prescription drug benefits being added to Medicare. He talked about an ideologically charged battle for the Supreme Court. Are we really looking at both politics and policy when it comes to winning this election?

GILLESPIE: Well, I think that voters cast their votes based on good policy. And what is the policy you're for?

I believe that the president has laid out a very positive agenda. And that's why he's been so strong and so popular. He's out there trying to help create more jobs, trying to add momentum to this recovery, trying to restore our 401(k) and college funds, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, provide to seniors a prescription drug benefit in their Medicare program, while modernizing the program.

So I think he's had a very proactive and positive agenda the voters like. And Republicans in the House and Senate have moved forward with this agenda. And I think they'll be rewarded for those positive issues come next November.

WOODRUFF: Now, Karl Rove was out West yesterday and was quoted in a meeting -- well, out in Texas yesterday -- was quoted in a meeting as saying that you're not only targeting the states you won, which would be the clear thing you'd want to do, but you're also going after some of the states that Al Gore won. He mentioned New Mexico, Iowa, Oregon, Wisconsin. Is this realistic, do you think?

GILLESPIE: Well, Judy, I don't -- if the RNC members see fit to affirm the president's recommendation next month at their annual summer meeting and I'm the chairman, my view will be that there's nowhere that we're not competitive.

I think that we can compete in states that we did not carry in 2000. I think the president is very popular and very appealing to voters across the country, including in the Northeast, on the West Coast, places where traditionally we've not been strong in the past. And, yes, I would stretch the battlefield as far and wide as we can in 2004.

WOODRUFF: Let's talk about another thing we keep hearing about lately. And that is the Republican Party wanting to target married women. Now, we know that, among -- at least the pollsters tell us that women had more difficulty supporting the war in Iraq. Is that going to be an issue with these women? And is that something you feel like you need to address?

GILLESPIE: Of course. I think that talking about foreign policy, national security, homeland security, the economy, education, all those issues matter.

And I'm not one who believes that there are women's issues. There are issues that women care about. Women care about a broad range of issues, and they want to know about the war. They want to know about international relations. They want to know about what we're going to do on education, about jobs and retirement funds. And so I think that we can improve our numbers there.

I think we can improve our numbers with Hispanic voters and African-American voters and Asian American voters as well. We have opportunities to grow in a number of areas. And we have the message to do that with in this election cycle.

WOODRUFF: We heard -- we played a couple of times during the show the sound of Terry McAuliffe last night saying President Bush has hung a for-sale sign on the Capitol and talking about Tom DeLay. What's your reaction when you hear things like that?

GILLESPIE: Well, Terry McAuliffe talking about fund-raising tactics is a little bit like Madonna saying we ought to be careful about dressing more appropriately.

I think that Terry's -- he gets his message out. But, look, the president's been able to raise a lot of money in his campaign, all from individuals, because of this positive agenda I just mentioned. And when you look at -- I looked at the RNC. And I was looking at our numbers there at the RNC. And since the president was sworn in, 915,000, and then some, new donors have contributed to the Republican National Committee. Their average contribution is less than $30.

People see the president, they see the party trying to get things done. When you look at Terry and the Democratic field, all you hear is negativity, what they're against. And I think that that frustrates voters.

WOODRUFF: Well, you may say you've got your work cut out, but people still look at this and they see the president very popular and an election that's something that we're going to be watching right here on INSIDE POLITICS.

GILLESPIE: I hope so.

WOODRUFF: Ed Gillespie, good to see you. And, again, congratulations.

GILLESPIE: Thank you for having me. Thank you.


Well, President Bush, we've been talking about him. He heads West tomorrow. Should he weigh in on the drive to recall California Governor Gray Davis? The take from the left and the right when we come back.


WOODRUFF: With us now: former Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile and American Cause president Bay Buchanan.

Bay, President Bush heading tomorrow out to California. Should he get involved in the effort to recall Governor Gray Davis?

BAY BUCHANAN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN CAUSE: Well, Judy, a couple months ago, he did come out against the recall effort. I believe that was a mistake. I believe he should stay absolutely out of it. It's in his best interests that the recall did not go ahead. He would love to have had Gray Davis there at 37 percent when he's running for president.

However, it is going to go ahead. Gray Davis -- it looks like his days are very much numbered. And the president should stay out of it, because this is a California affair, nothing to do with national politics.


DONNA BRAZILE, FORMER GORE CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, I agree with the first part of what Bay said. The president said he wouldn't get involved, and he shouldn't get involved. And I don't think that Gray Davis will be recalled.

I think voters will let out their steam by signing those petitions. But when it comes time to pull the lever, they'll keep Gray Davis there, because they know that he knows where the bones are buried and he can get the budget back in balance.

WOODRUFF: All right, let's quickly


BUCHANAN: You know, Donna, you're dreaming, dreaming, Donna.

WOODRUFF: Go ahead.

BUCHANAN: This thing is well on its way. The rock is coming down that hill and you're not going to be able to stop it.


BRAZILE: Go ahead, Judy.

WOODRUFF: We're going to quickly move on to Medicare. And that is a bill moving through the Senate. Now, the president has not gotten everything he wanted. But in this effort to add a prescription drug benefit to Medicare, Donna, isn't this going to turn out to be a big victory for the president, even though it's not exactly what he wanted?

BRAZILE: I think this is going to be a short-term victory for the president, only because the headlines will be: Senate, House pass a prescription drug care benefit for Medicare seniors.

But, look, this is a bitter pill for many seniors to swallow. When they find out that the House bill contains a provision that will allow HMOs to run their prescription drug program, they're going to rush to the medicine cabinet and get some relief. This is a bad bill. It's a flawed bill. But I do believe, in the short term, Republicans will be able to say that they've passed a bill, because Democrats urged them to do so.

BUCHANAN: Donna has a couple good points here, to be quite honest, Judy.

I believe, in the short term, it's good politics, because the president is going to say, look what we've done, and he's going to really warm up a lot of the elderly towards the Republicans. But it's awful policy. They're basically selling their soul, in my personal opinion, for the gains, political gains, which I don't believe are long-term at all.

The elderly are smart. They're going to see they're not getting it fast enough. They're not going to get what they want. And the Democrats are going to be able to say: Look, we're going to get them everything. Vote us in and we'll get you everything. And Republicans cannot go that route. This is a terrible mistake. An entitlement of this size is something Republicans should be totally and absolutely opposed to. And we're selling out our soul in order to get it.

WOODRUFF: Well, we've got divisions in both parties on that one.

Let me quickly turn you both to fund-raising. The Democrats put on a big party here in Washington last night, Donna. They raised $1.7 million. It sounds like a lot of money, but it's nothing close to what the White House and President Bush have raised. Should the Democrats at this point be intimidated by the Republican money machine?

BRAZILE: Oh, absolutely not.

As Ed Gillespie was leaving the stage here with you, Judy, I was picking up all of the nickels and dimes he left around. Look, the Republicans are raising an obscene amount the money. But I think Democrats will have enough money to win the election next year, get their message out, and mobilize their voters.

BUCHANAN: This is chump change for the Republicans. And I happen to think $4 million is a lot of money. I'm one that usually is with candidates where $4 million is substantial. But it is chump change to the other side.

They're looking at $200 million in the primary alone. But the good news for Republicans in addition to that is that you're going to have six or seven Democrats who are staying in this race. They're all raising pretty good money. They'll stay in it. They'll be a very confused message out there. They'll not have any focus as the primary continues. And when then finally the one guy emerges, he's going to find himself exhausted, tired, in a ring with (CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN: ... Godzilla, tanned and ready to go -- Godzilla.

BRAZILE: Bay, Bay...


BRAZILE: It's an obscene amount of money. And thank God they're raising that amount of money. Maybe we can pay for the prescription drug plan, because, after all, it costs $400 million.

WOODRUFF: We got to go. Donna, Bay, thank you both.

BRAZILE: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: Chump change or an obscene amount of money? We can't get agreement on it.

Still ahead: They were after campaign cash, but which presidential candidate also went for the laughs?


WOODRUFF: Being able to poke fun at yourself can be a plus in life and out on the campaign trail. Two Democratic presidential hopefuls did just that at the DNC fund-raiser here in Washington last night.

Dennis Kucinich joked about his short stature.


REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And in the back there, I'm already standing up.


WOODRUFF: Howard Dean, for his part, tried to put a humorous spin on his sometimes less-than-kind remarks about his Democratic rivals.


HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: First of all, Mr. Chairman, let me say how delighted I am to have all my opponents here in one room, so I can apologize to each and every one of you right this moment. I really -- shoot, we'll give you -- issue a blanket apology at this time, should one ever be needed at a later time during the campaign.


WOODRUFF: A little humility helps us all.


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