Thursday, December 06, 2001

Bush-friendly Lucas stands up to the president

By Derrick DePledge
Enquirer Washington Bureau

        WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Ken Lucas, a conservative Boone County Democrat who often backs Republicans on key tax and social-policy votes, complained to President Bush this week that Republicans have not done enough to help workers displaced by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

        In a letter to the president and a follow-up conversation with a White House legislative affairs aide, Mr. Lucas reminded the administration that he has crossed party lines on important votes and that bipartisanship should be “a two-way street.”

        “Thousands of people have lost their jobs through no fault of their own in the wake of the Sept. 11th attacks,” Mr. Lucas wrote. “Not only do these job losses have a crippling effect on our economy, it is personally devastating for individual workers.”

        Mr. Lucas said in an interview that a $100 billion economic-stimulus package approved by the House was not sufficient to help the thousands of workers laid off since the attacks, including about 3,000 workers in Kentucky.

        The congressman was one of only three Democrats who voted for the package, arguing at the time that moving the issue forward was more important than his objections.

        The House package would repeal the corporate alternative minimum tax and provide other tax breaks that Republicans believe will invigorate the economy.

        States would get $9 billion in grants for unemployment insurance benefits and $3 billion for health-care coverage for displaced workers. President Bush endorses much of the House package, but negotiations have stalled in the Senate, where Democrats have insisted on more help for struggling workers.

        Mr. Lucas said he asked the White House to back a 26-week extension in unemployment insurance, federal money for job training, protections for health-care benefits, and some way displaced workers who find part-time jobs can keep a portion of their unemployment insurance.


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