Skip banner
HomeSourcesHow Do I?Site MapHelp
Return To Search FormFOCUS
Search Terms: "patients bill of rights"

Document ListExpanded ListKWICFULL format currently displayed

Document 1 of 85. Next Document

Copyright 2000 The National Journal, Inc.  
The National Journal

December 16, 2000

SECTION: CONGRESS; Pg. 3894; Vol. 32, No. 51

LENGTH: 1854 words

HEADLINE: The Senate Candidate Who Called It Even

BYLINE: Eliza Newlin Carney


Sen.-elect Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., was not the star of the Dec.
6 dog--and-pony show hosted by Senate Democrats to introduce
their nine newly elected members. That honor went to Sen.-elect
Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., who did her best to ignore the
mob of photographers and reporters crowding in on her at the jam-
packed press conference in the Senate Radio-TV Gallery.

     But Cantwell's arrival on Capitol Hill means at least as
much to Senate Democrats as the first lady's. Cantwell's narrow
win, just confirmed by recount on Dec. 1, over Sen. Slade Gorton,
R-Wash., ensures that with George W. Bush as President, the
Senate will be divided 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans.
Cantwell's arrival also means that Democrats will control the
chamber from Jan. 3-20, with Vice President Al Gore on hand to
break ties as the Senate's presiding officer.      It's fitting that Cantwell, a tough-minded high-
technology executive who spent some $ 10 million of her fortune on
her campaign, is at the forefront of an aggressive power grab by
Senate Democrats. Since the Nov. 7 election, they've been
demanding an equal say with Senate Republicans on everything from
the floor schedule to committee chairmen and ratios. But
Cantwell's win does more than bring Senate Democrats to parity.
She will also help several key blocs in the chamber reach
critical mass.

     Cantwell, who made the need to ban "soft" (or
unregulated) money in elections a centerpiece of her race, gives
campaign finance reform advocates a crucial extra vote that they
need to overcome a Senate filibuster. Along with three other
Democratic women elected to the Senate in November, Cantwell
brings the number of female Senators to a record 13. And, like
virtually all of her colleagues in her party's incoming Senate
freshman class, Cantwell is a pro-business, fiscally conservative
"New Democrat," significantly enlarging this coalition of
influential centrists.

     Cantwell typifies the Senate Democratic newcomers in
another aspect as well: She spent an extraordinary amount of her
own money to win election. Cantwell, Sen.-elect Jon Corzine, D-
N.J., and Sen.-elect Mark Dayton, D-Minn., dumped a total of $ 81
million of their personal wealth into their campaigns. (Most of
that money-$ 60 million or so-came out of Corzine's pocket.)

     "Democrats, the party of the working and lower classes,
now have candidates who win elections because they are multi-
multimillionaires," observed David J. Olson, professor of
political science at the University of Washington.

     But Cantwell turned her immense wealth-a potential strike
against her-into a political asset, Olson acknowledged. She was
one of several Senate candidates this year to ask her party and
friendly interest groups not to spend unregulated money on her
behalf. "She was able to make a virtue out of self-financing,"
Olson said. "It was a rather deft move on her part."

     Cantwell's victory furnishes evidence that campaign
finance reform can be a winning political issue, asserted Sen.
Russell Feingold, D-Wis. "On the issue of campaign finance
reform, this was the race that mattered the most," said Feingold,
who along with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., authored the leading
reform bill on the table that would ban soft money.

     Feingold was one of the first Senators to order his party
not to spend soft money for him on the campaign trail. "To have
another person do this-not take soft money, actually prevail over
an incumbent, and do it as a supporter of the McCain-Feingold
bill-is not only the additional vote we needed to break the
filibuster, but is also symbolically very important," Feingold

     In fact, Cantwell's appealing personal story was equally,
if not more, important, said Joe King, a Democrat who formerly
served as speaker of the Washington state House. Cantwell did not
start out wealthy. An Indianapolis native, she came to Washington
state to work on the 1984 presidential campaign of then-Sen. Alan
Cranston. She joined the state Legislature at age 28 in 1987 and
won election to the U.S. House in 1992, only to be defeated two
years later. She then made a killing as an executive with a high-
tech Seattle start-up now known as RealNetworks, an audio-video
Internet service.

     "I think what really motivated the public was her story,
and the way she ran her campaign," said King. "People loved
Maria's profile: Work your way through college; run at a young
age for the state legislature; run for Congress, get elected, and
then get beat; then jump into a new-economy (company) and make a
bloody fortune; and then jump back into public service."

     Whatever the case, campaign finance reform was-and
remains-critically important to Cantwell. "It was central to me,
and I tried to make it central to the campaign," Cantwell, now
42, said in an interview. The issue worked for Cantwell in part
because it amplified her larger message that Gorton, at 72,
embodied the Old Guard and was captive to special interests
inside the Beltway.

     Cantwell also made a point of discussing campaign reform
in the context of other policy issues, an increasingly important
strategy in the pro-reform movement. "You get more of a response
(from voters) when you say: 'And if we had campaign finance
reform, we could get a prescription drug bill, and we could get a
patients' bill of rights,' " Cantwell noted.

     It's no accident that Cantwell chooses health care as her
example. Improving access to affordable prescription drugs, and
protecting patients in managed care health insurance plans, will
be among her top priorities next year. Health care is one of
several kitchen-table issues that will test the clout of women
Senators as they seek to capitalize on their gender's best year
on the campaign trail since 1992, the much-vaunted "Year of the

     "The Senate Democratic Caucus is now 20 percent women,"
said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who recently was tapped to head
the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and who will be an
important ally to Cantwell during the 107th Congress. "And I
think that will help all of the Senate deal with issues that are
important to men and women every day."

     Cantwell is used to operating as part of an influential
bloc of women. In Washington state, women represent 40.1 percent
of the total number of House members and Senators, the largest
proportion in the country. Of 15 standing committees in the state
Senate, 13 are chaired by women.

     The arrival of more women Senators on Capitol Hill is
important, Cantwell said, because "it keeps your agenda in the
forefront of people's minds." This plays out in a variety of
ways, she added, "as basic as getting women on committees, to
legislation that we're particularly interested in."

     Cantwell is also accustomed to working across party lines
to get things done, her allies say. In the state Legislature, she
worked with Republicans to spearhead a leading growth-management
bill. Later, as a House member on Capitol Hill, she joined with
moderates in both parties to champion free-trade legislation and
deficit reduction measures. Her election this year, along with
that of several other fiscally conservative Democrats, has New
Democrats cheering.

     "You're going to see the Senate New Democrat Coalition
expand from 15 members to probably upwards of 20," said Matthew
Frankel, spokesman for the Democratic Leadership Council. With
both chambers of Congress so evenly divided, New Democrats argue
that moderate-to-conservative Democrats will play a critical role
in forging bipartisan compromises on budget, trade, and tax

     "She's going to be good at reaching across the aisle,"
said King. "Republicans are going to like her profile. Another
element that's going to make that possible is going to be the way
she financed her campaign.... She did this without special-
interest help, in particular without Democratic special-interest
help. And I think that gives her a certain freedom that is not
always the case in D.C."

     Not all Democrats, of course, agree that the party's
moderates will prove so powerful. "If you look to a particular
group of people as the ones who make the deals, it doesn't really
work that way," said Feingold, a progressive. "It depends on the
issue." Feingold couldn't help adding: "I don't necessarily think
that the DLC approach is the best one for Democrats, as the
strength of Ralph Nader suggested."

     It's an open question, moreover, whether Cantwell is
really such a centrist. When she served in the House, Cantwell
voted with her party 92 percent of the time. Asked about the role
of New Democrats, Cantwell said: "I'm sure that they will be
effective," a reply that stands out because it refers to New
Democrats as "they," not "we."

     Whatever her label, Cantwell's agenda is squarely pro-
business. Her priorities include privacy legislation,
transportation and energy policy, and a host of what she called
"new-economy" issues, including education and job retraining. She
opposes the Justice Department's antitrust lawsuit against
Microsoft-a likely point of agreement with a President Bush. But
like many of her deficit-minded Democratic colleagues, she is
skeptical of Bush's across-the-board tax cuts.

     Cantwell's unusual role as the person who handed
Democrats a 50-50 Senate split will no doubt boost her profile.
She has a good shot at a seat on at least one of her top-choice
committees: the Commerce, Science, and Transportation panel and
the Energy and Natural Resources panel. But Cantwell acknowledges
that things are different from when she was first elected to
Congress eight years ago.

     Back then, "we just elected a Democratic President, and
we had a Democratic Senate and House," she said. Moreover, she
added, "we had a big majority in the House. And so this is
different. This is very different."

     But Cantwell has the grit to stand her ground when things
get nasty, say Democrats in Washington state. Indeed, her
reputation as a tough negotiator who drives a hard bargain has
convinced some observers that Cantwell needs to soften her edges.
"She's not a warm and fuzzy person," said one state Democrat.
"She's very serious. She's very down-to-business. She has a heavy
personality, I'd say." Then again, Senate Democrats now grasping
for their fair share are not exactly in a warm and fuzzy mood.

     As a House member, Cantwell and two female colleagues
became the first women to play in the annual congressional
softball game. Now that she's in the Senate, Cantwell won't be
playing softball, which is a House tradition. Besides, it's
hardball time for Senate Democrats.

LOAD-DATE: January 9, 2001

Document 1 of 85. Next Document


Search Terms: "patients bill of rights"
To narrow your search, please enter a word or phrase:
About LEXIS-NEXIS® Academic Universe Terms and Conditions Top of Page
Copyright © 2001, LEXIS-NEXIS®, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All Rights Reserved.