Clinton-Obama Differences Clear In Senate VotesRecords Can Be Baggage In Bids for White House
By Shailagh Murray
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 1, 2007; A01
One budget-related vote with broader political implications would have stripped funding for TV Marti, which beams television programming to Cuba, though the Cuban government jams the signal. Critics in Congress complain that the United States has spent almost $200 million on the failed effort and have targeted the program year after year.
Obama twice voted to cut off TV Marti funding, while Clinton supported maintaining it. Those votes will have resonance in Florida, which is a key primary state and may reschedule its 2008 primary date from March to February.
Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said the senator's opposition to TV Marti was primarily about cost. But within Florida's large Cuban exile population, one of the most powerful voting blocs in the state, Clinton's and Obama's stances ally them with distinct groups: the older hard-liners and a younger, more progressive group of second-generation Cuban Americans and more recent immigrants whose numbers are growing. Clinton "is going with the status quo," said Sergio Bendixen, a Miami-based pollster who specializes in Hispanic voters. Obama, he said, "is with the position of change."
Senator Dorgan's amendment, which would have eliminated funding for TV Marti.
"We fund broadcasts into Cuba on something called Radio Marti which are very effective. The Cuban people listen to Radio Marti. Of course, they can listen to Miami radio stations as well. But we also fund something called TV Marti, and we have done it for years. The Government of Cuba, of Fidel Castro, jams the signals. We have Fat Albert, an aerostat balloon up there thousands of feet in the air, and the American taxpayer is paying for a fancy studio down on the ground. And up through this cable to Fat Albert we actually send signals into Cuba, television signals that the Cuban people can't see. Traditionally, they have been broadcast from 3 to 8 in the morning, and they are systematically jammed."
On the Motion to table the Dorgan amendment, Senator Clinton voted YEA, along with Bayh, Biden, Kerry, Lautenberg, Lieberman, Bill Nelson, Ben Nelson, Harry Reid, Salazar, Sarbanes, Schumer and 53 Republicans. Senator Obama voted NAY along with Dodd and 31 other Democrats as well as Enzi and Sununu.
Dorgan amendment, again regarding Television Marti (see above) Senator Dorgan:
"The amendment I offer today is very simple. It is an amendment that will eliminate the $21 million in this appropriations bill for something called Television Martí and will instead use that $21 million to restore funding for the Peace Corps."
The vote on this amendment was the same as the one above (#3) except that Senator Corzine decided that it made sense to vote against it to lock up the Cuban vote in his gubernatorial race. Mary Landrieu did not vote.