AMP POLITICAL INTELLIGENCE V THE BENTSEN for Vice President story is one that won’t die. Whether it’s kept alive by East Coast reporters calling in Texas and looking for Bentsen stories, by the quiet machinations of the Bentsen staff in this state, or by capital insiders, remains uncertain. Reporters continue with occasional queries. And several sources here have Bentsen running hard while maintaining a low profile. Bentsen operatives are said to be talking to Lieutenant Governor Bill Hobby’s supporters and consultants and State Democratic Chair Bob Slagle about how the Senator is to play his hand at the state convention in Houston in mid-June. The Senator’s staff is also said to have made some overtures toward the Jackson campaign, suggesting that Bentsen’s record on civil rights is acceptable. Not so, according to Bentsen’s Washington office, where they insist that the Senator is simply not interested in the job. Bentsen, however, is in a unique position. Texas is the only state with an election code that allows an incumbent U.S. Senator to run for the Vice Presidency and his current office, then select where he will serve after the polls close. The prospect of a Clementsappointed interim Senator imagine Senators Gramm and Hance might discourage some Bentsen boosters. But though he is not exactly Mister Excitement, the courtly senior Texas Senator is Vice Presidential. And including him on the top ticket could give the Party a chance to carry Texas and perhaps win a number of difficult downballot races. V IN AUSTIN Bentsen took a swipe at the President’s opposition to the trade bill and even defended the plant closing provision. “Japan has it and they’re competitive. Germany has it and they’re competitive. And when I was in business and I closed down a position, I gave 90 days notice,” Bentsen said. He also described a plan that provided bonuses to Bentsen’s employees who remained as long as their services were required. “If you stayed to the last day,” Bentsen said of those displaced by closings, “you got that bonus. If you quit, you got your paycheck. Bentsen made his remarks in May to a statewide gathering of Certified Public Accountants. V FROM THE BENTSEN senatorial campaign comes a steady stream of press releases that draw attention to Bentsen’s Republican opponent, Amarillo Congressman Beau Boulter. We are reminded that at least ten Republican candidates refused Minnesota Senator Rudy Boschwitz’s supplications that they run against Bentsen. Not even former Dallas Cowboy quarterback Roger Staubach would carry the Republican standard. And former Amarillo Mayor Jerry Hodge, who “attended church with Boulter” for years, has signed on with Bentsen. Hodge reveals that Boulter is running for the Senate not to serve the country but “for his own uncontrollable ambition.” That Boulter had already decided in 1981 to run for Congress the following year, before he was even sworn as a first-term county commissioner, convinced Hodge that Boulter is a crass political opportunist. Meanwhile, former Longview mayor W.D. Northcutt III, and that city’s current mayor Lou Galosy are part of an East Texas committee of Republicans and Independents for Bentsen. The Gregg County committee includes several members of the Longview business establishment, including Tom Meredith, publisher of the Longview NewsJournal, Robert Cargill, Jr., of Cargill Investments, Tommy Barrow, of Barrow Energy Company, and several independent oil executives. fro IT DIDN’T HURT Bentsen’s support among oil producers that he was a major force in shepherding the repeal of the windfall profits tax through the conference committee that hammered out the omnibus trade bill in April. The repeal was seen as a political device to help lessen the business resistance that the trade bill was drawing because of the provision that requires companies to give 60 days notice before closing a plant. And sure enough, oil and gas companies big and small rallied their forces to pressure wavering members of Congress to approve the trade bill. On the other side, lobbyists for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National ,Association of Manufacturers continued their longstanding resistance to any plant-closing legislation. They were able to win enough support in the Senate that, even though the trade bill passed 63-36, it didn’t win a large enough margin to make a veto override seem likely. Bentsen’s performance now will be interesting to watch. As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, he has made the trade bill his major cause. Working in conference committee with Rep. Dan Rostenkowski of Illinois, Bentsen was able to push the bill along this spring and fashion something that the business lobby could be happy with \(except for the plant-closing enough that he will backslide on plant closing? V THE SAME QUESTION can be directed toward House Speaker Jim Wright. Will Wright be amenable to a diluted trade bill? There was a point in April, according to the Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report, when Wright “hinted” he might try to push for the removal of the plant-closing provision. But after a meeting with labor representatives who indicated they would oppose the entire bill if the provision was removed, Wright stood firm. V THE TEXAS DELEGATION’S vote on the plant-closing measure is interesting, in the light of past efforts to obtain such legislation. A plant-closing bill House in November of 1985 by a vote of 203-208. The Texas Democrats who buckled under business lobby pressure and helped defeat the bill were: Reps. Jake Pickle of Austin, Jim Chapman of Sulphur Springs, Mike Andrews of Houston, Marvin Leath of Waco, Charlie Stenholm of Stamford, and Ralph Hall of Rockwall. This time, the only Democrat voting with Republicans to axe the plant-closing measure in the trade bill was Ralph Hall. The Republican-sponsored effort failed 167-253. All Texas Democrats voted for final passage of the trade bill, as did two Republicans Rep. Mac Sweeney of Wharton, and Rep. Larry Combest of Lubbock. The state’s other Republicans, in voting against the trade bill, were also voting against the repeal of the windfall profits tax that is usually so dear to their hearts. Sweeney’s vote may have something to do with his upcoming re-election battle against Democratic challenger Greg ‘Laughlin, which is expected to be close. V AMONG REPUBLICANS in the Senate voting against the trade bill and, thus, against windfall profits repeal, was Senator Phil Gramm. In typically arrogant fashion, Gramm explained his vote this way to the Dallas Morning News: “As I have told everybody, if you want to see my amendment repealing the windfall profits tax become law, you need to throw out the plant-closing provision and allow us to get on with the job of passing a trade bill.” In other words, to keep the special-interest measure for the oil companies you must delete the provision for ordinary laborers. Wow. V SENATOR BENTSEN is being targeted by SANE/FREEZE, the national nuclear disarmament lobby on the issue of the test ban. According to Don Gardner, Co-Chair of the SANE/FREEZE National Board of Directors, should Bentsen abandon his opposition to the comprehensive test ban, 16 JUNE 3, 1988
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