New York Times
June 19, 2000


First Lady Attacks Lazio for Missing Vote in House


By ERIC LIPTON

Hillary Rodham Clinton intensified her criticism of Rick A. Lazio over the weekend, chastising the Long Island congressman for missing a vote on a plan to establish a oil reserve in the New York harbor area that could be tapped to limit surges in heating-oil prices in the Northeast.

Mr. Lazio had helped champion the legislation, which went to a vote on Thursday night, and once he even cited the plight of a 93-year-old woman who could not afford to pay her heating bills.

But he flew home to Long Island on Thursday evening to prepare for an upstate campaign swing Friday.

After he left, the House voted at 8:24 p.m. to reject the measure, 193 to 195.

Mrs. Clinton, speaking at the Albany County Democratic Party picnic in Altamont on Saturday, called Mr. Lazio's absence "a shame."

"That's the kind of vote that could literally save New Yorkers millions and millions of dollars," she said. "If he had been there, it might have made all the difference."

Mr. Lazio's spokesman, Dan McLagan, said yesterday that the congressman regretted having to miss the roll call, but "the bottom line is his vote would not have changed the outcome." Mr. McLagan said that Mr. Lazio was present for 99 percent of the votes in the House in 1999, but that he would have difficulty sustaining that record while running in a statewide race.

Among the 47 House members who missed the oil reserve vote were five New York City Democrats.

All week, Mrs. Clinton had increased her criticism of Mr. Lazio, the Republican who stepped in last month to replace Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and who is almost even with her in recent polls.

On Friday, she released television advertisements attacking Mr. Lazio's opposition to hate-crime and health-care legislation that she supports.

Mr. Lazio responded by issuing a paper titled "Desperate Clinton Campaign Goes Negative," saying that Mrs. Clinton had distorted his stands on the issues.

The vote Mr. Lazio missed was on an amendment to a House budget bill that would have set aside $10 million to create an oil reserve of two million barrels. It would be available if, as happened last winter, prices surge because the fuel oil supply drops, or if a winter is extremely cold. The House had earlier authorized the reserve, but had not set aside money to pay for it.

Representative Anthony D. Weiner, a Brooklyn Democrat who voted for the oil reserve, said yesterday that he understood the difficulty of running for the Senate while serving in Congress, and he noted that the House leaders had indicated that they intended to finish the day's business by 6 p.m.

But Mr. Weiner said he was still frustrated by Mr. Lazio's absence, in part because his influence as the Republican Senate nominee could have changed the votes of some of the 181 Republicans who voted against the measure.

Mr. McLagan said it was "ridiculous to hold Congressman Lazio responsible for the votes of others." He added that Mr. Lazio hoped to revive the matter in a House-Senate conference committee. Responding to the criticism of Mr. Lazio for being absent on the vote, Mr. McLagan said sarcastically that at least he has a voting record.

"Hillary Clinton has never voted or done a single thing for New Yorkers," Mr. McLagan said.

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