Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Kerry's `Heart Aches' over Key Vote

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Kerry's `Heart Aches' over Key Vote

Article excerpt

The long, nerve-racking wait was over.

Sen. Bob Kerrey, D-Neb., rose from his desk Friday night, announced he would cast the decisive vote for President Bill Clinton's budget plan and then unburdened himself in excruciatingly blunt and biting language.

Kerrey chastised everyone: his own colleagues, for running from difficult choices; Clinton for giving in to the "threats"; and the Republicans, for locking themselves into "opposition, not to an idea but to a man."

"My heart aches with the conclusion that I will vote yes for a bill which challenges Americans too little, because I do not trust what my colleagues on the other side of the aisle will do if I say no," Kerrey declared.

When he was finished, he received a rare ovation, apparently more for his vote than for his jarring words.

Kerrey had agonized for days, straining the patience and nerves of his colleagues, some of whom wondered about his political motives and his attraction to the limelight. His public and private soul-searching, including ruminations about his thought processes, was bizarre, even for the Senate. But his performance over the last few days brought him the full attention of the Senate and the cameras Friday night when he finally announced his decision on the floor.

Kerrey called on Clinton to move off "the low road of the too-easy compromise or the too-early collapse" and "get back on the high road, Mr. President, where you are at your best." He called on Clinton to return to the early words of his administration when "you told America that deficit reduction was a moral issue and that shared sacrifice was needed to put it behind us."

Taxing the wealthy, as Clinton proudly claimed he was doing in the budget bill, is not enough, Kerrey said. "Our fiscal problems exist because of rapid, uncontrolled growth in programs that primarily benefit the middle class," he added, in what amounts to near-heresy for a Democrat at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Turning to his fellow Democrats, he accused them of running from nearly everyone - from "those who didn't want to pay or didn't want to accept less from their government," from those who opposed energy taxes or higher taxes on the elderly, from the "program getters, the salary seekers, the pay-raise hunters" and more.

The price of the bill is not too high, as Republicans charge, but too low, he said. "I began by saying that I did not trust 44 Republicans enough to say `no' to this bill. And I close by saying, I suspect the feeling is mutual. But the challenge for us - and too much is at stake for us to even consider the possibility of failure - is for us to end this distrust and to put this too partisan debate behind us, and for the sake of our place in history, rise to the high road the occasion requires."

Clinton had called him to the White House. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Daniel P. …

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