Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Clay Beams as Clinton Signs Hatch Act Changes

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Clay Beams as Clinton Signs Hatch Act Changes

Article excerpt

With a stroke of the pen, President Bill Clinton wrote a triumphant final chapter Wednesday to Rep. William L. Clay's 19-year struggle to allow more political activity by federal workers.

As Clay beamed at Clinton's side in the White House, the president signed a bill that changes parts of the 1939 Hatch Act and gives 3 million federal and postal employees the chance to engage in some politics off the job. The law continues to ban on-the-job politicking.

"Bill Clay is happy as a lark," Clinton quipped to an audience of more than 120 of the bill's backers who gathered in the East Room to witness the signing. "He's put 30 years on his life today."

That's only 11 years more than Clay worked in Congress in a series of thwarted efforts to revise the Hatch Act.

"It's exhilarating to see your efforts finally rewarded," said Clay, 62, D-St. Louis.

When Clinton handed Clay a pen that he used to sign the bill, it was the second such pen that Clay collected this year at the White House: In February, Clinton signed the Family and Medical Leave Act, sponsored by Clay and others.

Having two major bills signed in one year is a rare achievement in Congress.

"After so many years of frustration and vetoes of my bills, I'm very proud of what's happened this year," Clay said after the ceremony.

But he's still not satisfied. Clay says he is going for the legislative hat trick this year: trying to get Congress to approve his bill that would ban permanent replacement of striking workers.

The House approved Clay's striker-replacement bill on June 15, but the bill is bottled up in the Senate, where Republican opponents have threatened a filibuster. It takes 60 senators to block a filibuster.

"We have enough votes to get the bill passed in the Senate, but we are two votes shy of breaking a filibuster," said Clay, chairman of the House Post Office and Civil Service Committee. "I don't know what's going to happen in the end."

In a speech this week to an AFL-CIO convention in San Francisco, Clay urged organized labor to step up its lobbying in favor of the striker-replacement bill. But business groups are lobbying heavily against the measure. …

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