Sunday, October 08, 2000

DeWine's politics not easily defined

Weighs in on surplus

By Derrick DePledge
Enquirer Washington Bureau

        WASHINGTON — Mike DeWine was the quiet, practical link in the revolution.

        Conservatives who brought Republicans to control over Congress in 1994 for the first time in 40 years talked brashly about radical political change. Mr. DeWine promised reflection.

        At the close of his first term in the Senate, Mr. DeWine of Cedarville, just northeast of Xenia, has established a record that extends beyond the confines of conservative or moderate or liberal.

        Ted Celeste, a Grandview Heights real estate broker, is the Democratic challenger in the November election. Mr. Celeste, claims Mr. DeWine is too close to corporate interests that contribute to his campaign.

        “I don't have those corporate hooks in me,” Mr. Celeste said.

        Sen. DeWine's biggest legislative achievement is the Workforce Investment Act, which consolidated about 60 federal job-training programs into three block grants that give states more flexibility in program management. President Clinton described it as a GI Bill for workers and an essential companion to welfare reform.

        As he had been during his years in the Ohio Senate, the House of Representatives and as the state's lieutenant governor, Mr. DeWine has been an advocate for children and the mentally ill.

        He also has proposed more federal money for drug interdiction and taken an interest in drug proliferation and foreign policy in the Americas. He has worked to open the federal government's files on the Nazis during World War II.

    • Age: 53.
    • Born: Jan. 5, 1947, in Springfield, Ohio.
    • Education: Bachelor's degree from Miami University, 1969; law degree from Ohio Northern University in Ada, 1972.
    • Family: Married to Frances Struewing, eight children.
    • Home: Cedarville.
    • Career experience: Greene County prosecuting attorney, 1977-81; Ohio Senate, 1980-82; U.S. House of Representatives, 1982-90; Ohio lieutenant governor, 1990-94; U.S. Senate, 1994 to present.
    • Committees: Judiciary, Antitrust, Business Rights and Competition Subcommittee (chairman); Health, Education, Labor and Pensions; Select Intelligence.
    Campaign finance: Totals from 1999 to June 30, 2000
    • DeWine: $4.1 million
    • Democratic opponent Ted Celeste: $309,921
    Sources: The Almanac of American Politics 2000, Federal Election Commission
        As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee's antitrust subcommittee, he has been a skeptic of corporate mergers in telecommunications, cable television, airlines and the oil industry.

        Although he is a soldier for his party on social issues such as abortion, Mr. DeWine mostly has avoided the partisan clashes that often have paralyzed the Capitol in the past six years. But he was a player in the impeachment of Mr. Clinton, and Senate leaders chose him to watch the deposition of former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

        His November opponent, Democrat Ted Celeste, said Mr. DeWine has talked about popular issues such as prescription drug coverage for Medicare only as the election approached.

        As a senator, Mr. Celeste said he would concentrate on providing prescription drug coverage, public education and a “patients' bill of rights,” which would include the right to sue a health maintenance organization over denied medical care.

        “He's responding to issues that Democrats have tried to get passed,” Mr. Celeste said. “Republicans are sounding more like Democrats.”

        Mr. DeWine discussed his record in an interview with the Enquirer.

        Enquirer: The federal government is now in a budget surplus situation. There seems to be a consensus around preserving Social Security and Medicare. But what should the next president and Congress do with the rest of the money?

        DeWine: I think that we start with a commitment not to spend any of that part of the surplus that is generated by Social Security. We set that aside.

        I think we then prioritize, and my top priority is to make significant payments every year on the national debt. At the end of this year, we should have, over the last three years, paid down the national debt by approximately $530 billion. We need to continue to do that.

        I do believe, however, that we can make that significant payment but at the same time make some long-overdue changes in our tax code.

        Enquirer: Everyone seems to agree that some form of prescription drug coverage should be added to Medicare, but how do you think it should be structured?

        DeWine: We need to be concerned about the poor, who, in some cases, have to choose between food and their prescription drugs.

        It also has to provide for catastrophic illnesses, which is what the middle class worries about. There has to be a point beyond which people know they will not have to pay any more for prescription drugs.        

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