Clinton Swerves Right, But House Takes a Left

PRESIDENT-ELECT Clinton won the White House by campaigning as a "new kind of Democrat," a candidate more centrist than previous contenders from his party. But the leadership of Congress increasingly appears to represent old-fashioned - i.e., liberal - Democrats.

Some recent changes in key committee chairmanships seem to underscore this trend:

* Rep. Martin Sabo (D) of Minnesota replaces Rep. Leon Panetta (D) of California - Mr. Clinton's choice for budget director - as chairman of the House Budget Committee. To win the post, Representative Sabo beat the more conservative Rep. John Spratt Jr. (D) of South Carolina. Sabo opposes giving the president line-item veto power or even enhanced rescission authority, and is generally considered to be a bigger spender than Mr. Panetta, who is a self-described "deficit hawk."

* Rep. Dave McCurdy (D) of Oklahoma was pushed aside by House Speaker Thomas Foley (D) of Washington as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Representative McCurdy is one of the leading conservative Democrats in Congress. He apparently offended Speaker Foley with his relentless ambition and publicity-seeking, which included a bid to become Clinton's defense secretary and even the possibility of challenging Foley for the speakership last year.

* Rep. Ronald Dellums (D) of California succeeds Rep. Les Aspin (D) of Wisconsin - who is slated to become defense secretary - as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. This is perhaps the most dramatic change in committee leadership, since Representative Aspin was one of the most conservative House Democrats and Representative Dellums is one of the most liberal. A self-described socialist, Dellums had close ties to Marxist Maurice Bishop's government in Grenada before the 1983 US invasion and h e has consistently opposed most military-appropriations bills. Dellums, however, has earned the trust of more conservative congressmen for his straight-shooting work on the Armed Services Committee during the past decade.

The overall tenor of these appointments concerns centrist Democrats, who formed the Democratic Leadership Council in the 1980s to push their party to the right. Speaking of the House leadership, one conservative House Democrat told the Associated Press: "They're thinking Great Society when we're thinking Democratic Leadership Council." One party too many?

Next week, there's going to be a great party in Washington. Willie Nelson and Herbie Hancock will be playing. Thousands will be dancing. Fireworks will be exploding overhead. And, oh yes, some guy is going to be sworn in, too.

For those less interested in the solemn state occasion than in the groovy happenings, here's an ultra-brief guide to a few of the highlights - and one low-light - of President-elect Clinton's much-hyped inauguration week.

The week will kick off Sunday with a complex, and slightly bizarre, fireworks show.

The Grucci firm of Long Island, N.Y., is planning to ignite a fiery 30-by-60 foot fireworks display dubbed "A Saxophone on fire" over the Potomac River. The white-and-gold display purports to show the prez-to-be jamming on his sax.

That will be followed by several days of virtually nonstop balls and parties. All of them, of course, will feature entertainment by such big-name performers as Tony Bennett, Michael Bolton, Kenny G, and Yo-Yo Ma.

The week's activities will climax in the 11 inaugural balls that will be held Wednesday, Jan. 20. More than 60,000 people are expected to attend that day's festivities.

While the Clinton folks are touting all those happenings, there's one event they probably would just as soon ignore: a glitzy "Friends of Ron Brown" party at the Kennedy Center. The event to honor the lawyer-lobbyist who was Democratic Party chairman and soon will become commerce secretary is being sponsored by a bunch of major companies that may have business before the Commerce Department.

The firms - including J.C. Penney, Anheuser-Busch Company, Pepsico, and Sony Music Entertainment Inc. - reportedly are paying $10,000 each to put on the gala.

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