In the canyons of New York's financial district they would say he's got "the power," on Chicago's Michigan Avenue it's "the juice," and on the south side of Philadelphia he would be "connected." But this is the nation's capital, and it is enough to say he is "the chairman."
The president may dictate foreign policy and set a domestic agenda, but it is the chairmen of select congressional committees who pull America's purse strings.One of the most powerful is Robert C. Byrd, the West Virginia Democrat who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Sen. Byrd, who also sits on the Senate's Armed Forces, Rules and Administration Committees, draws his real power from his appropriations assignment. Only those spending bills that he finds to his liking are likely to reach the Senate floor for consideration. In the Senate, voting against one of Chairman Byrd's pet projects could come back to haunt you many times over.
A CORRIDOR OF POWER
This week the Senate considers the Transportation Department's appropriations for fiscal year 1995. Not surprisingly, Sen. Byrd's fingerprints are all over it.
The bill would provide some $13.7 billion in budget authority for highways, mass transit, railroads, aviation programs and the Coast Guard.
The bill lists $352 million for special highway projects across the nation. More than one-quarter of that amount, $90 million, is earmarked for West Virginia's Appalachian Regional Corridor.
Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., one of the few people in Washington to cross swords with Sen. Byrd and live to tell about it, has called the grant obscene.
Sen. Byrd, who has tried in the past to get the Central Intelligence Agency to move out of Wolf's Northern Virginia district in favor of the mountains of West Virginia, shrugs off the criticism.
"Highways are our lifeblood," he says of West Virginia.
When you add the highway money to the $75 million West Virginia is slated to receive in the energy and water appropriations act, the state is looking at receiving $165 million.
Whenever his West Virginia constituents would like to come to Washington to thank their senior senator, and they have been doing so since first electing him in 1958, Sen. Byrd has made it easy for them to do so. That's good news for West Virginians but bad news for Amtrak.
Every year when Amtrak reviews its operations to determine its most profitable lines and which lines should be curtailed or eliminated, the top of its hit list is the one daily train from Harper's Ferry to Washington. And every year there is Sen. Byrd to review the Amtrak appropriation.
The transportation bill before Congress this week provides $772 million for the national passenger rail carrier. The train from Harper's Ferry to Washington boards at 9:43 a.m.
SO LITTLE TIME, SO LITTLE TO DO
That phrase should have been stamped on the forehead of each of the American executives who found out the hard way that turning around a company in an Eastern-bloc country after the fall of communism is no easy trick.
Gerald Greenwald, a former vice chairman at Chrysler Corp., and David Shelby and Jack Rutherford, both formerly with International Harvester, were part of a management team formed in early 1993 to lead Czech truck maker Tatra Koprivnice out of the morass left in its Eastern European markets following the collapse of communism.
What, they couldn't get a safe job like wrestling alligators?
This month, with the company continuing to stumble about, unable to right itself, seven of the company's directors resigned. The three Americans were among those heading for the exits.
Leaving seemed like a good idea. Tatra's losses in 1993 widened to some $77 million, about three times what the company lost in 1992.
Sales in 1993 had plunged to just over 4,000 vehicles after reaching 10,000 in 1990.
Although the company had planned to sell 5,100 trucks in 1994, it now expects to sell less than 2,500. Officials predict a loss in the neighborhood of $40 million.
The problem with Tatra's main product, the T815 truck, is an inability to find its niche. By any standard, the Czechs are making a very durable machine. Last year, the T815 won the prestigious Paris-Dakar rally. Earlier, the trucks were used by the Allies in their victorious Gulf War effort against Iraq.