Skip banner
HomeSourcesHow Do I?OverviewHelp
Return To Search FormFOCUS
Search Terms: pap, medicare

Document ListExpanded ListKWICFULL format currently displayed

Previous Document Document 30 of 72. Next Document

Copyright 2000 The New York Times Company  
The New York Times

 View Related Topics 

March 20, 2000, Monday, Late Edition - Final

SECTION: Section A; Page 19; Column 1; National Desk 

LENGTH: 1169 words

HEADLINE: A Senior Statesman Is Facing the Threat of Youth



On a tour of low-income housing here, Leon N. Weiner, a prominent developer, turned to the senior senator from Delaware, William V. Roth Jr., and raised an increasingly familiar question.

"People ask me, 'Is Senator Roth, at his age, ready to make another six-year commitment?' " Mr. Weiner, who will turn 80 in May, said.

"I'm a year older than you are, Senator, and I wouldn't make it."

Without missing a beat, Mr. Roth, seeking a sixth six-year term this fall, shot back with a smile to his still-active constituent: "Knowing you, Leon, that's a lot of baloney."

As chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, Mr. Roth would be in a position to shepherd some of Capitol Hill's hottest legislation this year, like a China trade bill, tax relief and changes in health care law.

The longest serving politician in Delaware history, Mr. Roth has made a career of getting things done by working with Democrats, like Senator Daniel P. Moynihan of New York, the panel's ranking member.

But at 78 (Mr. Roth turns 79 in July) and facing a stiff re-election fight from Delaware's popular outgoing Democratic governor, Thomas R. Carper, Mr. Roth has become perhaps the Republicans' most vulnerable Senate candidate in campaign 2000. Since last fall the polls have been showing Mr. Carper, 53, with a 10-point lead.

In this state of 750,000 people, which takes pride in its moderate traditions and civil campaigns, voters seemed conflicted over the choice between Mr. Roth's experience and influence and the younger, more dynamic Mr. Carper.

"I'm torn," said Mr. Weiner, a Democrat. "Bill Roth is a sincere, decent and honest guy. If he were a Democrat, I'd support . . . him. But what really bothers me are some of his Republican colleagues, like Jesse Helms and Phil Gramm."

Over a lunch of cream of crab soup and Caesar salad in Dover while on a daylong swing through the state, Mr. Roth defended his decision to run again.

"I think I can make a difference, both because of my seniority and chairmanship," said Mr. Roth, a mild-mannered legislator who revels in being low-key. "This is the most exciting, challenging time to serve. I can have a real, direct impact on those key issues."

He said he was fit, despite a spill he took recently at a White House meeting on China trade. "My foot fell asleep."
Because the Republican party has term limits for Senate chairmanships, he would have to give up the Finance Committee in 2002, undercutting his argument for seniority. Mr. Roth, a former chairman of the less prestigious Governmental Affairs Committee, could head another panel.

Democrats have already been counting Mr. Roth's seat as theirs. "Clout is the political argument of last resort," said James Jordan, political director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Yet, from the banking hub of Wilmington to the farmlands of southern Delaware, the issues facing the Finance Committee resounded with residents here, underscoring Mr. Roth's pivotal role.

When the Senate returns on Monday from a weeklong recess, it will take up a popular bill that Mr. Roth supports that would allow most Social Security recipients, for the first time, to earn as much money as they wanted without sacrificing any retirement benefits.

After an awards ceremony at Beebe Medical Center in Lewes, Del., Peggy Paul, a 64-year-old technician, came up to the senator to urge the measure's passage. "I would have to cut back and I want to continue working," said Ms. Paul, who would lose nearly $8,000 in Social Security benefits under the current law when she turned 65.

The committee has also planned to begin hearings soon on legislation to grant China permanent normal trading relations, a vital step for Beijing's entry into the World Trade Organization. Proponents were hoping a strong vote by the panel would build momentum for accord in the House, where the prospects were dimmer.

Under the agreement, lower Chinese tariffs would benefit Delaware farmers as well as the banks and international chemical companies in the state's northern reaches.

"A lot of people don't understand it doesn't affect our markets," Mr. Roth said. "They already have access to our markets. What it does is give us access to their markets. If we don't get access, then we're handicapping ourselves.

"It would be a major fiasco if we do not act on this," he said. "A vote on normal trading relations may not only be the most important vote of the year, but of the decade."

Answering critics of permanent trade status, Mr. Roth said opening Chinese markets would also enhance democratic values there. "The more they trade, the more they tend to be guided by rule of law," Mr. Roth said. "It's a gamble, but it's the best gamble we have available."

Mr. Roth, perhaps best known for the Kemp-Roth tax cut of 1981 and the tax-free savings accounts that bear his name, has been backing an array of tax cuts, even though their public appeal seems to be waning in the booming economy.

The senator has backed Gov. George W. Bush's proposed tax cut of $483 billion over five years starting in 2002. But House Republicans were able to muster backing only for a smaller package, and prospects in the Senate were unclear.

"Benefits are going to those who are paying the taxes, but a lot of our proposals have been intended to help the working people," Mr. Roth said.

Which was why Republicans this year were slicing up last year's big tax package into more targeted proposals. The Finance Committee would soon be considering a Republican-sponsored bill that would reduce taxes for married couples.

Cutting taxes has not resonated with all Delaware voters.

Ron Marcozzi, a 61-year-old delicatessen owner, said he liked Mr. Roth's three decades of experience, but he wanted to hear from "the other guy" -- Mr. Carper -- because he was frustrated that Republican tax cuts have
been skewed toward the wealthy.

"Whether it's Democrats or Republicans, a little guy like me pays a lot of taxes," said Mr. Marcozzi, a Republican. "It seems the poor can't pay and the very rich don't do their part."

Mr. Roth has also played an important role in forging coalitions on health care legislation. In June 1997 he presided over late-night back-room negotiations that produced a bipartisan agreement to create a new health insurance program for children in low-income families. It was part of a comprehensive budget legislation that the Finance Committee approved by a vote of 20 to 0.

And it has not gone unnoticed here that Mr. Roth supported an increase last year in Medicare's minimum payments for pap tests, to $14.60 from $7.15 a test, insuring greater access to health-screening for female patients.

"If Senator Roth was not the Finance Committee chairman, I don't think we'd have gotten the pap-smear issue resolved," said Dr. V. Raman Sukumar, chief of pathology at Beebe Medical Center, and a registered independent. "Just this one issue will make me think of voting for him."

GRAPHIC: Photo: The Delaware senator, William V. Roth Jr., right, with Ron Marcozzi, a delicatessen owner, in Wilmington. (Keith Meyers/The New York Times)

LOAD-DATE: March 20, 2000

Previous Document Document 30 of 72. Next Document


Search Terms: pap, medicare
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.