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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Conservatives Dog Dole's Campaign Path

WASHINGTON -- When conservatives in the House of Representatives last week led an insurrection that sharply scaled back anti-terrorism legislation the Senate had approved overwhelmingly, they underscored a dilemma coiled inside Senator Bob Dole's new political strategy.


With his party's presidential nomination all but in hand, Dole now wants to use his platform as Senate majority leader to both demonstrate that he can get things done and establish politically attractive contrasts with President Bill Clinton.


But his efforts on both fronts are complicated by resistance from conservatives in the House -- particularly House freshmen -- to follow his lead on issues from the budget to health insurance reform to terrorism.


"Will I go along with things for purposes of a presidential race that aren't good for the country? The answer is no,'' said Republican freshman Representative Mark Neumann.


On some issues, congressional Republicans have recently compromised to serve Dole's interest of placing legislation on Clinton's desk.


But last Wednesday's House vote to virtually throw out the anti-terrorism bill Dole shepherded through the Senate demonstrates that House Republicans will only go so far in sublimating their ideological goals to Dole's political imperatives.


Clinton administration officials and Democratic strategists view the House version of the bill as opportunity to paint Republicans as soft on terrorism and beholden to gun-owner groups who oppose the bill.


But freshman Republican Representative Bob Barr, who led the effort to rewrite the bill, shows no sign of softening his stand to reduce Dole's political difficulties. Asked if Dole deserved any special deference in shaping the anti-terrorism bill, Barr said: "No. I represent my constituents, and my constituents are the people who are telling me that these provisions,'' including expanded federal law enforcement powers and increased federal controls over items such as explosives, "are both unnecessary and violative of civil rights.''


Dole and House Republicans are still debating the extent to which they want to produce bills Clinton will sign -- as a means of demonstrating progress -- as opposed to bills he will veto, which helps them sharpen contrasts between the parties.


But before Dole can do either, he must first overcome longstanding divisions within Republican ranks that have prevented Congress from taking final action on a host of complicated issues. Last week, Republicans twice showed themselves willing to compromise among themselves for the sake of producing legislation that Dole could tout on the campaign trail. House Republicans made a major concession when they gave up a wide-ranging legal-reform bill in favor of a much narrower Senate measure.


Warring House and Senate Republicans also broke a longstanding logjam over line-item veto legislation. In that case, however, it was Dole and other Senate Republicans who had to make concessions and accept a compromise more in line with the House's bill, which went further than the Senate's in enhancing the president's power.


But agreement between Senate and House Republicans has proven more elusive on the budget, where Dole's common interest with Clinton in moving forward is running afoul of conservative House Republicans.


Both chambers passed a one-week temporary spending bill, as the Senate shaped a compromise on domestic spending, and the Republican leadership agreed on a bill to raise the federal debt ceiling.


Yet some House Republicans were complaining about what they saw as the conciliatory impulses of Dole and House Speaker Newt Gingrich.