WASHINGTON — THE Speaker of the House, Thomas Foley, has thrown a bucket of cold water on the prospect of the House issuing subpoenas to five senators who came to the aid of the beleaguered Lincoln Savings and Loan Association. At a breakfast meeting with reporters Wednesday, Representative Foley, a Washington Democrat, said, ``I will personally intervene'' if any member of Congress or a committee tries to issue a subpoena to a senator. Foley says it is a ``violation of good order'' for members of opposite houses to subpoena one another.
The issue of hearing from the five senators - Dennis DeConcini (D) of Arizona, John McCain (R) of Arizona, Alan Cranston (D) of California, John Glenn (D) of Ohio, and Donald Riegle (D) of Michigan - has made front page news this week.
Edwin Gray, former chairman of the Home Loan Bank Board, testified that the senators and former White House chief of staff Donald Regan were swayed by political contributions to seek special treatment for Lincoln. The Lincoln bailout is expected to cost more than $2 billion.
This testimony prompted Rep. Toby Roth (R) of Wisconsin to suggest that the senators be invited to testify. Although Representative Roth did not specifically suggest a subpoena (all the other witnesses have been subpoenaed), he also pointed out to Rep. Henry Gonzalez (D) of Texas, the chairman of the House Banking Committee, that there was precedent for subpoenas. Mr. Gonzalez has stated that he would give anyone who wanted to testify the opportunity to appear.
Although Foley would not comment on the specific allegations concerning the senators, he defended the right of members of Congress to provide so-called ``constituent services,'' which is the senators' defense.
``It has always been a principle function to intervene and assist constituents dealing with federal agencies,'' Foley says, adding, ``there is obviously some sensitivity when you are dealing with regulatory and law enforcement agencies.''
Foley also says he is hopeful Congress will wrap up the budget reconciliation bill next week.
``We have to come to some agreement with the Republican leadership - then we can move very quickly,'' he stated. At issue is still the question of stripping provisions President Bush has picked out as ``veto bait.''
Should Mr. Bush veto the final budget bill, Foley says it is uncertain that there are enough votes to override the veto. ``But I think he is going to sign it,'' he says.
If the president decides to exercise the so-called ``line-item veto,'' vetoing just a portion of a bill, Foley says the Democrats will rush to court to challenge the veto. ``I don't think he has the authority,'' says the speaker. The White House says the the Constitution allows for a line-item veto.
Once the budget battle is done, Foley says he still wants to move on an ethics package that will place some limits on Congressional honorariums and trips.
He also hopes to complete action on a child-care bill, which will be removed from the budget package. The House might complete action on the Americans With Disabilities Act, which categorizes who is disabled and prohibits descriminating against them, and a voter registration bill before year's end. The clean-air bill will wait until next year.
The Speaker says he believes the capital-gains issue will also return next year, but he says it is unlikely the House will pass the measure.
If a capital-gains tax cut does not pass next year, the Democrats will have to come up with new sources of revenue. Foley says he would favor raising the gasoline tax - though the move is very unpopular among voters, especially those from western states where speaker Foley is from.