Sens. Jake Garn and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, have not always enjoyed peace and goodwill with the White House this year, even though it is occupied by fellow Republican George Bush.
They have had several fights and have found they are not always the ideological soul mates with Bush that they were with conservative Ronald Reagan. But Hatch and Garn publicly praise Bush, and say they work well with him.Still, some examples that not all is rosy include:
- Garn publicly said last week that the White House is full of people with "no guts, protecting their own behinds" after his former longtime aide, M. Danny Wall, was pressured by critics into resigning as the nation's top thrift regulator.
Garn complained that the Bush administration wasn't interested in standing behind Wall because "he was a Reagan appointee." He also complained that Wall had offered to resign long before controversy peaked, but he followed White House desires and stayed in the job - and suffered attacks without support.
- Hatch bucked the White House by fighting for a compromise child care bill he drafted with liberal Democrats, which Bush opposed. Hatch admits the White House made him pay for it.
"(White House Chief of Staff) John Sununu was very upset. Some underlings insisted I break my word with Democrats. But I said I don't break my word for anybody, not even the president of the United States," Hatch said. "They could have been more fair. They froze me out of negotiations on the Act for Disabled Americans, at least for a while. I guess I can't blame them."
- Stories have quoted unnamed White House officials saying Hatch is not on Bush's list of possible U.S. Supreme Court nominations, as he was with Reagan. Hatch said the White House itself has not talked to him about it. But he assumes Bush's list is different than Reagan's - and that he's not on it.
- Hatch became Bush's Senate point man on trying to raise the minimum wage to $4.25 an hour and no more, but Hatch said publicly that he personally preferred no increase at all. Hatch voted against the final compromise - supported by Bush - that Hatch felt did not offer a good enough "training wage."
- Hatch's name sometimes appeared in stories as being among Senate conservatives questioning Bush appointees rumored to be pro-choice on abortion or too liberal on judicial matters. But Hatch said he scored points with Bush when he fought to confirm Louis Sullivan as secretary of Health and Human Services despite his pro-choice newspaper quotes.
When Garn and Hatch were asked if all of those squabbles meant their relations with the White House were rocky, they said no. In fact, they said relations on a day-to-day basis had never been better.
"I've been here with four presidents, and George Bush is the easiest to work with," Garn said. "That's because he's been in Congress and he knows how we operate. John Sununu has been very pleasant to work with. It's amazing how fast he returns your phone calls."
But Garn admits, "Overall philosophically, I was closer to Reagan." Garn had one of the highest ratings in agreeing with Reagan stands on Senate votes. He said such ratings for Bush have not yet come out and he has not kept track of them, but he thinks his votes supported Bush less. "I always have and always will call them (votes) as I see them."
Hatch also said Bush's experience in Congress had made him easy to work with, despite some disagreements on issues.
"They have had me in a lot of times to talk," he said. "They listen to us, and have appointed several top Utahns. They are very accommodating. And they don't make it seem like they are doing me a favor; they make it seem like I am doing them the favor."