San Diego Union-Tribune

May 24, 2001

Feinstein, Boxer wait in the wings for key posts


WASHINGTON -- California's two Democratic senators are poised to take control of key subcommittees if Vermont Sen. James Jeffords does as expected today and bolts the Republican Party.

Democrats will then gain control of the Senate, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein could take the helm of the Military Construction Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee. She is the most senior Democrat on the panel and therefore the top prospect.

As chairwoman, she would wield influence over how -- and where -- federal money is spent on military bases. She would be in a better position to protect California military bases from possible closure.

Sen. Barbara Boxer is the senior Democrat on the Superfund, Waste Control and Risk Assessment Subcommittee of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. She would have added clout over laws governing hazardous waste.

Boxer also is the senior Democrat on the International Operations and Terrorism Subcommittee of the Foreign Relations Committee. Feinstein has the same position on the Technology, Terrorism and Government Information Subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee.

Boxer and Feinstein likely would find it easier to move pet projects through the full Senate and block proposals of President Bush they oppose.

For instance, the senators were upset by Bush's plan to halve the federal reimbursement to California for the cost of jailing undocumented immigrants convicted of crimes, and to halve research money for solar, wind and hydroelectric power.

Feinstein would be better positioned to push for temporary caps on wholesale electricity rates, which Bush opposes. Feinstein, an advocate for gun controls, is also certain to pursue that passion with zeal.

Boxer would have added clout to oppose any possible move to lift
moratoriums on offshore oil and gas development off California's coast or drill in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Both senators are expected to join their colleagues in trying to prevent Bush from placing a conservative stamp on the federal judiciary.