2 Gop Senators Take Aim At Hatfield Santorum And Mack Want To Punish Him For His Vote On The Balanced-budget Amendment. Others Disagree.

Posted: March 08, 1995

WASHINGTON — A pair of young Republican turks in the Senate will try to strip a veteran senator of his committee chairmanship today because he helped kill the proposed balanced-budget amendment.

They are expected to fail, underscoring how the conservative, take-no- prisoners zeal that is driving the House toward passage of its agenda is faltering in the more genteel and tradition-bound Senate.

The two - Sens. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Connie Mack of Florida - will urge a closed-door meeting of the 54 GOP senators to punish Sen. Mark O. Hatfield of Oregon by taking away his chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee.

The Senate has not punished a committee chairman for a political position since 1924, when a conservative majority demoted three progressive chairmen.

"He can vote against the balanced-budget amendment. But he shouldn't be in the leadership," Santorum said.

Mack said: "Mark Hatfield should step down from his chairmanship."

About 10 other senators expressed their support privately, Mack said, but he and Santorum were the only ones publicly calling for Hatfield's demotion.

Hatfield drew their ire when he voted against the proposed constitutional amendment Thursday. After passing the House easily, it fell one vote short of the two-thirds majority it needed in the Senate. Hatfield, who opposed similar measures before, was the only Republican against it. Thirty-three Democrats voted against it.

Santorum and Mack stressed that they supported Hatfield's right to vote according to his conscience. But they said committee chairmen had a responsibility to support major party goals because they were elected by their peers and were considered part of the party leadership.

"This is an issue that is at the core of what Republicanism is all about," Santorum said. "I see this as a major stumbling block in the way of the agenda."

Hatfield refused Mack's personal request yesterday morning to step down.

"I'm going to fight to keep the chairmanship, and I expect to win," he said.

Others agreed that Hatfield was likely to keep his gavel, including Hatfield's home-state colleague, Sen. Bob Packwood, and the man who will preside over the meeting, Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi.

Nonetheless, Hatfield said it was disturbing to be challenged for a vote he said came from a deep belief that the balanced-budget amendment was a gimmick.

"I do not care for the implication that a conscience vote is no longer possible on the Republican side of the aisle," Hatfield said. "There are occasions when conscience must be your guide."

He added that the party split was more "generational" than philosophical.

Hatfield, 72, has been in the Senate since 1967 and embodies its devotion to congeniality and seniority. Mack, 54, has been in the Senate for six years, and Santorum, 36, is in his first year. Both came to the Senate from the House, which is more combative and more responsive to public sentiment on such issues as the budget amendment.

Pointing to the House side of the Capitol, Santorum said wistfully that ''what happened over there is the people's will."

House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R., Texas) said last week: "In the House, our guy would not be in the chairmanship position after a vote like that."

But in the Senate, there was little stomach for a confrontation, among older or younger members.

Veteran conservatives like Cochran and Sen. John McCain of Arizona said they would support Hatfield. Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina said: "It would be the wrong thing to deprive him of his chairmanship."

Even Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas, who once tore down the portraits of two moderate Republicans when they bucked the party line, supported Hatfield. Gramm ripped down the pictures of Sen. James M. Jeffords of Vermont and then- Sen. Dave Durenberger of Minnesota after they suggested compromising with Democrats on campaign-finance reform.

"I guess I've always felt more comfortable with trying to inspire people than trying to punish them," Gramm said.

Packwood said the party knew Hatfield opposed the amendment when it elected him chairman at the beginning of the Congress.

"We did not make it a litmus test when we elected chairmen," he said, adding that the House leadership did promote less senior members to chairmanships over less ideologically committed veterans.

Maine Sen. Olympia J. Snowe, one of 11 freshman Republican senators, declined to join Mack and Santorum. She said the GOP should have considered Hatfield's stance before making him chairman.

"We should be focusing on the six Democrats who switched from supporting it (the amendment) to opposing it," Snowe said.

|
|
|
|
|