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Jesse Helms Pulls No Punches, No Surprises

Love him or loathe him, Helms has a remarkably consistent record

By Bruce Morton/CNN

WASHINGTON (Sep. 12) -- Friday's special meeting of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was vintage Jesse Helms.

First there was a jab at the victim: "Hi! Got your tickets for Mexico yet? Good tours down there!" Sen. Helms said while greeting William Weld before the start of the meeting.

Then there was a jab at the press: "But I'll tell you, I've never seen such a barrage of misstatements of fact or such a collection of idle speculation, mostly erroneous but published as fact," Helms said.

But Sen. Helms (R-N.C.) is not just "Senator No," as some call him. Love him or loathe him, he is a man whose principles have changed very little during his 25 years in the Senate. He's in favor of school prayer, against funding for the arts annd tough on homosexuals.

"What I don't like is for the Congress of the United States to bow and scrape to homosexual pressure and give them federal funds and rights and privileges that other Americans are denied," Helms has said on the Senate floor.

One change is he no longer publicly defends racial segregation. But otherwise, his belief in old-fashioned values and his dislike of liberals is constant. In his victory statement last year he said, "There's going to be six more years of torment for Ted Kennedy and all those other liberals up there."

Former New Hampshire Republican Sen. Warren Rudman said, "People have a stereotype of Jesse Helms and if they want to have it, that's fine. Fact is, he has a record in there that he is proud of and a lot of other people agree with. I think he's been remarkably consistent -- in many cases, I think wrong -- but remarkably consistent on a number of issues he believes."

Where principle is not at stake, he'll compromise, as he has with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

But there is one more part to the Weld story. Helms is a committee chairman in a Senate that values its perks and defers to its chairmen.

Rudman said, "The Senate does have rules which allow almost any senator to put enormous hurdles in front of getting anything done, causing the opposition to have to get 60 votes. That's in the legislative sense. In a committee sense, chairmen do set the agenda. If they don't wish to place a nomination on the agenda, it doesn't get on the agenda."

The Senate is a lot of things: a debating society, a breeding ground for filibusters. But one of the things it is and has been for generations is a club -- a mens' club, mainly. Members respect each other's privileges. Committee chairmen know that a blow against one chairman can hurt others. William Weld wanted to fight the system. So far, the system seems to be winning.


In Other News:

Friday Sept. 12, 1997

Helms Scolds His Colleagues On Weld Nomination
Jesse Helms Pulls No Punches, No Surprises
Senate Panel Briefed On Possible China Connection
Clinton Names Satcher As Surgeon General

Poll:
Bad, Good News For Gore

FDCH Transcripts:
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Special Meeting
Senators Make Remarks After S.F.R.C. Meeting
Clinton Nominates Satcher For Surgeon General
White House Regular News Briefing





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