SACRAMENTO — As treasurer-nominee Rep. Daniel Lungren engaged in another round of contentious face-to-face arguments with Senate Democrats Wednesday, Gov. George Deukmejian went on the offensive, vowing not to withdraw Lungren's nomination under any circumstances.
Deukmejian charged that "politics and partisanship" are driving the Senate's confirmation hearings. Speaking at a hastily arranged press conference timed to offset anti-Lungren testimony being presented in a nearby hearing room, Deukmejian pledged not to cave in to mounting Democratic opposition.
"I have no intention of withdrawing his name whatsoever. His name will not be withdrawn," the governor declared.
While continuing to express optimism over Lungren's chances, Deukmejian said he is convinced "there has been an orchestration and a script prepared ahead of time" by Democrats aiming to defeat his nominee. "That has never been done to my knowledge with any of my other appointees. It looks like from the first day they were following the script pretty closely."
As Deukmejian was speaking, Lungren and top Senate Democrats found themselves in yet another shouting match over which side has shown more partisanship in the confirmation process.
Lungren, who charged Tuesday that the Senate was following a "script for a political lynching," once again referred to a memo written by an aide to Senate President Pro Tem David A. Roberti (D-Los Angeles) that recommended the hearings be used to showcase Lungren as "an unyielding ideologue." Lungren also charged that a background report prepared by the Senate Rules Committee at a cost of $15,000 specifically excluded positive information about him.
"I'm used to working in Washington, D.C., (with) partisanship up front," the five-term congressman told the committee. "I battle people straight out on the floor of the House. I don't make side deals or tell them one thing and then have something else happen."
That brought a sharp rejoinder from Sen. Nicholas C. Petris (D-Oakland), who claimed that Republicans had been equally partisan in sending out a recent fund-raising letter that used Lungren's name to attack Democrats opposed to his confirmation.
"This is up-front partisanship," Petris declared. "It's not partisan for the Republicans to line up in a bloc and not one of them object (to the nomination) and not one of them raise any criticism, at least not publicly. But if the Democrats . . . do, they are partisan. This rankles me."
At this point, Roberti jumped into the fray, suggesting that the fund-raising letter was far worse than the political memo written by his aide. "If you are going to be shocked by partisan memos, than at least be a little bit fair about it," Roberti angrily told Lungren. Democrats, he said, are being asked to "confirm you for a position which you are going to use against us."
Later, responding to Deukmejian's remarks, Roberti said the governor set the "tenor of partisanship . . . a long time ago."
The hostility exhibited on both sides of the aisle was widely viewed as a sign that Lungren's confirmation is in serious trouble in the Senate.
Deukmejian, however, said he is "not at all" convinced that Lungren will be defeated. He expressed hope that at least four out of five uncommitted Democrats and the Senate's sole independent, San Francisco Sen. Quentin Kopp, would join the Senate's 16 Republicans to give Lungren the 21-vote majority needed for confirmation. Top Democrats have said that there already are 19 Democrats planning to vote against Lungren.
Hoping to apply public pressure to the undecided Democrats, Deukmejian told reporters that a defeat for Lungren "will demonstrate to the public that (Senate Democrats) are not carrying out their responsibilities, but instead they are acting in a very petty, partisan manner and that certainly is not going to run to their credit."
Labor Record Assailed
During Wednesday's confirmation hearing, a parade of labor witnesses attacked Lungren's votes in Congress on issues involving senior citizens, unions, the environment and Social Security.
Tom Rankin, research director of the AFL-CIO's California Labor Federation, said Lungren had the 10th-worst voting record on labor issues among the 435 members of the House of Representatives, voting with unions only 5% of the time.
Rankin called Lungren's record "abysmal" and said it reflected "insensitivity" to issues of concern to working men and women.
George Sandy, of the Congress of California Seniors, said that of 79 key votes on bills affecting the elderly tracked last year by his organization, Lungren voted only twice for bills favored by the group.