Gephardt said Traficant's status is 'independent.'
STATES NEWS SERVICE
WASHINGTON -- James A. Traficant Jr. remains a man without a party in Washington, with House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, D-Mo., avowing the Poland politician would be a Democrat in self-description only.
That means Democrats are likely to support another candidate in 2002. "We are not for Representative Traficant," Gephardt said at a gathering with reporters this week.
When the House voted on the administration budget plan this week, Gephardt noted that only five -- and not six -- of the party faithful had crossed over to support President Bush's package.
Asked if the leader was "purposefully leaving Mr. Traficant off" the list, Gephardt said, simply, "Yes, I am."
Ousted from caucus: Traficant, Gephardt said, was better categorized now as an independent since he was ousted from the House Democratic Caucus for supporting Rep. J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., for Speaker of the House.
The Democrats had run Gephardt for the position.
House Majority Leader Richard Armey, R-Texas, also has said Traficant was not being invited to cross over -- an action that often comes with an acknowledgment of seniority and the right to step up to some positions of authority.
"So I guess the best category for where he is at this point is independent," Gephardt said, promoting the line that with only five cross-overs, there was remarkable party unity against the Bush plan.
"That is about as unified as you will ever see any party, certainly the Democrats in Congress."
Asked that if Traficant ran in a 2002 primary, would he earn support, Gephardt said the party will be going for a Democrat, and there "may be more than one opponent."
"We are going to be for a Democrat and there may be a number of Democrats, and we will try to elect a Democrat in that [17th District] race," Gephardt said.