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Report from Washington I

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I’m here to work on a feature story and also to interview members of the Texas congressional delegation. The latter has been less successful than the former, because, although I allotted an entire week for the visit, no votes were scheduled for last Friday or this Monday or Tuesday, which is another way of saying that they are taking a five-day weekend. Just about everybody went back to their districts.  I learned more here from two interviews and a day of reading than I knew from a month of reading the Times and the Post and watching cable news back home for a month. In addition to the papers and the networks, a number of specialty publications are devoted to coverage of Congress. Two of them have been around for awhile — The Hill and Roll Call — and the others are Politico, CQ Today (Congressional Quarterly), and CongressDaily AM (National Journal).  One of the interesting things that I picked up from these publications: * Relations are strained between Senate Republicans and the White House over the president’s veto of the Medicare bill that prevented cuts in payments to physicians. Bush vetoed the bill after a 69-30 cloture vote in the Senate to end a “filibuster.” (These days, no one actually filibusters; they just object to a bill, and it takes two-thirds to override the objection.) Four Republican senators stuck with the president through the cloture vote but then voted to override his veto. Some of the comments from a GOP aide: “The White House asked its members to stick their necks out one time too many.” “”Even though it seemed clear that the votes weren’t there, the White House sent it back up to ask members to walk the plank once again.” And this from respected GOP elder statesman Richard Lugar, who, when asked if the White House was disgruntled about his vote to override, said he would tell them, “Well, you better get real and understand what is occurring out here in America, with actual people.” For the one-millionth time, I cannot help but wonder what in the world has happened to the George W. Bush I knew. Or thought I knew. He isn’t even making a pretense of leading the country any more.

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