Vote-Fraud Fracas May Slow Congress as Members Return to Work This Week, Disputes Simmer over Fraud Charges in Last Fall's Election

Article excerpt

The flow of legislation that courses through the halls of the US Congress - bills that deal with everything from renewing federal highway funds to extending the Superfund environmental cleanup program - could be blocked unless Republicans and Democrats resolve three difficult disputes.

The two parties are at odds over investigations of two congressional races last fall, as well as whether to hold a vote on campaign-finance reform.

As Congress returns to session this week, Senate Democrats vow to bring the chamber to a halt - except for "essential business" like budget appropriations bills - unless the Rules Committee, chaired by Sen. John Warner (R) of Virginia, ends its inquiry into last fall's Louisiana Senate race.

In that contest, Democrat Mary Landrieu beat by 5,788 votes Republican state Rep. Woody Jenkins.

Mr. Jenkins appealed to the Senate, claiming massive vote fraud in Orleans Parish. The Rules Committee began a bipartisan investigation, but committee Democrats walked out June 25, saying they had found no evidence that would overturn the election.

"Not only were the allegations of fraud untrue, {but} the witnesses revealed that they had been paid by agents of the petitioner {Jenkins} to tell their stories," charges Sen. Wendell Ford (D) of Kentucky, the committee's top Democrat.

Sen. John Breaux (D), Louisiana's senior senator, tried to negotiate a compromise between Senator Warner and the Democrats, but to no avail.

At the end of July the committee voted along party lines to empower Warner to issue subpoenas without the Democrats' agreement.

While Warner subpoenaed several witnesses and held hearings in Louisiana during the congressional recess, he told reporters there that "We have not, thus far, in my judgment, seen a quantity of evidence that would overturn the election. …