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From meisenscher@igc.org Thu Aug 10 13:38:22 2000
Date: Tue, 8 Aug 2000 23:33:52 -0500 (CDT)
From: Michael Eisenscher <meisenscher@igc.org>
Subject: Best GOP VP Candidate Democrats Could Find?
Organization: ?
Article: 102214
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Senator Often Stands to Right of His Party

By David E. Rosenbaum, The Record,
8 August 2000

WASHINGTON, Aug. 7 -- In his two terms in the Senate, Joseph I. Lieberman has often taken positions at odds with Vice President Al Gore and important constituencies of the Democratic Party on school vouchers, affirmative action, regulation of managed care, capital gains taxes and product liability.

He has sided with the Clinton administration on all important budget votes, and unlike many other Democrats he has supported the administration's positions on trade and welfare.

Senator Lieberman's views are completely in tune with the vice president's on abortion, the environment, gun control, gay rights and the death penalty.

On Social Security, a central point of conflict between Mr. Gore and Gov. George W. Bush of Texas, Mr. Lieberman has suggested that he could support allowing workers to invest a portion of their payroll taxes in the private markets. That is Mr. Bush's position. But Mr. Lieberman has never been faced with a vote on the matter and never made explicit what kind of investments he would allow and in what circumstances.

He has usually supported the Clinton administration on foreign policy issues, and in 1991, Mr. Lieberman and Mr. Gore, who was then a senator, were among only 10 Democratic senators who voted to give President George Bush the authority to use military force in the Persian Gulf.

When he has opposed the Clinton administration, Mr. Lieberman has invariably taken a more conservative stance, often the one held by Republicans.

For example, since he first entered the Senate, Mr. Lieberman has supported and sponsored legislation establishing pilot programs in which the federal government would give parents vouchers they could use to pay their children's tuition at private schools, including those with religious affiliation.

Mr. Gore has argued that such programs could undermine public schools. Teachers' unions, which are important supporters of Democratic causes and contributors to Democratic candidates, strenuously oppose vouchers. And many Democrats believe that vouchers violate the doctrine of separation of church and state.

Mainly because of Democratic opposition, no voucher plan has ever become law.

But in testimony in 1997 before a Senate committee about schools in the District of Columbia, Mr. Lieberman declared: "There are some who dismiss suggestions of school choice programs and charter schools out of hand, direly predicting that these approaches will 'ruin' the public schools. The undeniable reality here is that this system is already in ruins, and to blindly reject new models and refuse to try new ideas is simply foolish. We can and must do better for these children, and to cling stubbornly to the failures of the past will just not get us there."

Similarly, Mr. Lieberman has been critical of programs that give special breaks to blacks and other groups to make up for past discrimination. Mr. Gore has been a strong supporter of affirmative action.

In a speech on the Senate floor in 1995, Mr. Lieberman said: "Affirmative action is dividing us in ways its creators could never have intended because most Americans who do support equal opportunity and are not biased don't think it is fair to discriminate against some Americans as a way to make up for historic discrimination against other Americans. For after all, if you discriminate in favor of one group on the basis of race, you thereby discriminate against another group on the basis of race."

On managed care, Mr. Lieberman was part of a bipartisan group that tried last year to break a deadlock between the Clinton administration and Republican senators over how to regulate health plans. The administration maintained that the legislation Mr. Lieberman favored would have been too generous to insurance companies. Consumer groups and labor unions were among those siding with the administration.

In the early 1990's, when Democratic senators used a filibuster to block the Bush administration's proposal for a cut in the capital gains tax, Senator Lieberman opposed his party's leaders and voted with Republicans against the filibuster and in favor of the tax cut.

Mr. Lieberman has also regularly voted for legislation to limit damages that can be assessed in civil lawsuits. In doing so, he took on not just the Clinton administration but also trial lawyers, who are among the Democrats' biggest contributors.

Many of Mr. Lieberman's friends said he had no alternative but to take this position because it was the one favored by the insurance industry. The industry is important to Connecticut's economy and has generously donated to Mr. Lieberman's campaigns over the years.

But that is not Mr. Lieberman's explanation for his stand. At a news conference last year, he said the American system of civil law had "gone way off track and become a lottery in which literally a few people do very well but most of the people injured don't really get adequately compensated."

His vote in 1996 in favor of overhauling the welfare system lost him friends among liberal Democrats. And his consistent support of international trade measures like the North American Free Trade Agreement and favorable trade relations with China runs against the views of organized labor.

On the other hand, on other issues of primary importance to the unions like increases in the minimum wage and prohibitions against employers' hiring permanent replacements for striking workers, Mr. Lieberman has taken labor's side.

Throughout his career in Congress, Mr. Lieberman has voted for proposals to overhaul the campaign finance system. Most recently, he supported legislation that would ban unregulated gifts to political parties, known as soft money, a position also backed by Vice President Gore.

Republicans tried today to portray Mr. Lieberman as less than 100 percent in favor of abortion rights. They produced a letter he wrote to a constituent in 1989 suggesting that he favored a requirement that parents of a minor be notified before an abortion could be performed.

But the organizations here that favor abortion rights said Mr. Lieberman had never wavered in his votes on abortion, and the National Right to Life Committee put out a statement criticizing Mr. Lieberman's record across the board.

On national security issues, Mr. Lieberman has regularly voted against efforts to reduce the military budget and has supported submarines and aircraft built at least in part by the many military contractors in Connecticut. Until the Clinton administration took office, Mr. Lieberman favored cutting funds for the Star Wars missile defense system, but recently he was one of the first Democrats to endorse deployment of such a system as soon as it was technologically realistic.

The one time he challenged the Clinton administration on a major foreign policy matter was in 1995, when he and Bob Dole cosponsored legislation requiring the president to break the United Nations embargo on sending arms to Bosnia.

Copyright 2000 The New York Times Company

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