Friday, December 15, 2000

Lucas: It's time to work together

He joins new Centrist Coalition

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Kentucky U.S. Rep. Ken Lucas, a Boone County Democrat who kept a low profile during the six-week presidential election contest, is now speaking out and calling for unity in Congress.

        Mr. Lucas has joined the newly formed Centrist Coalition, a group of 10 self-described moderate Democratic and Republican legislators who say they plan to avoid gridlock and move legislation through the 107th Congress.

        “It is time to end the partisan grandstanding and gridlock that for so long has prevented real reform,” Mr. Lucas said Wednesday.

        “Only through bipartisan cooperation will we improve the quality of education and health care, protect Social Security, enact a prescription drug benefit for seniors and provide common-sense tax relief for working families.”

        Mr. Lucas was elected Nov. 7 to a second term representing the 4th Congressional District. As the only Democrat in Kentucky's eight-member Washington delegation, he took great pains to stay out of the fray over presidential ballot counting in Florida.

        Despite pressure from fellow Democrats, Republican protesters who twice picketed his office, and requests from reporters, Mr. Lucas remained silent about his opinion of Vice President Al Gore's election challenges.

        Mr. Lucas said that was because the matter could have ended up before Congress, so he did not want to pass judgment until the time came to cast a vote.

        But Republicans accused Mr. Lucas, who represents a largely conservative district that backed Republican George W. Bush in the election, of dodging the issue.

        With the election finally decided, Mr. Lucas joined others in Washington, including Mr. Bush and Mr. Gore, in calling for bipartisan cooperation.

        The U.S. Senate is split 50-50 and Republicans hold a slim 221-212 edge in the House.

        Other members of the Centrist Coalition include Democratic House members Tim Roemer of Indiana, Ellen Tauscher of California and Jim Davis of Florida and Republicans Jim Greenwood of Pennsylvania, Nancy Johnson of Connecticut and Fred Upton of Michigan.

        Last week the group sent a letter to House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Illinois, urging Congress to complete its work for the year before leaving for the holidays.


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