WASHINGTON (AP) — Paul Wellstone came to the Senate saying he despised arch-conservative Sen. Jesse Helms because of his “racist politics.” Now Wellstone has something new to say of Helms: “Mr. Chairman.”
Wellstone, D-Minn., said Tuesday that he will take a Democratic vacancy on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, of which Helms is chairman.
“That wouldn’t give me any pause. The disagreements are policy disagreements. Personally it’s fine,” Wellstone said of his relationship with Helms.
Wellstone made his remark about despising Helms shortly after winning election in 1990. Wellstone, a former college professor, earned his graduate and undergraduate degrees from the University of North Carolina, in Helms’ home state.
Minnesota has a long history of having representation on the Foreign Relations Committee. The state’s junior senator, Republican Rod Grams, is on the panel. Hubert Humphrey served there, and so did former Sen. Rudy Boschwitz, whom Wellstone defeated in 1990 and again this year.
“Minnesotans have a long and distinguished tradition of bringing the voices of our citizens into the arena of global affairs and the global economy,” Wellstone said.
“I also plan to be a strong voice for human rights, which must regain a central place in our foreign policy.”
Wellstone said he disagreed with Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle, who recently said the United States should give China permanent preferential trade status.
Daschle said the trade status no longer should be used as a standard for dealing with other issues between the two nations. President Clinton initially insisted on linking human rights with trade and other issues, but reversed himself in 1994 under pressure from Beijing.
Wellstone may have to give up his seat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to move to Foreign Relations. Wellstone has frequently clashed with other members of the committee, which is dominated by Western and pro-development interests.