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Helms may block former senator as ambassador to New Zealand

Updated:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman
Jesse Helms erected a road block today to the ambassadorial
nomination of a former colleague with whom he'd tangled, Illinois
Democrat Carol Moseley-Braun.

Moseley-Braun, who served one term as the first black woman
senator but lost her re-election bid in 1996, was nominated earlier
this month by President Clinton to be ambassador to New Zealand.

Helms said through a spokesman that Moseley-Braun's nomination
to be ambassador was under a cloud, suggesting his panel would
closely scrutinize it.

The spokesman, Marc Thiessen, said Helms would issue a statement
on the controversy later today.

A White House spokesman suggested Helms was acting on a
six-year-old grudge dating from a quarrel on the Senate floor about
the Confederate battle flag.

"The Constitution was not written to provide individual
senators with a way to even the score," said White House spokesman
Joe Lockhart.

Roll Call, a twice-weekly newspaper on Capitol Hill, quoted
Helms as saying, "I don't think she (should) hold her breath until
she becomes an ambassador. She better look for another line of
work."

Helms was a leader in the conservative effort that resulted last
week in the Senate defeat of a landmark international test ban
treaty.

In 1997, he single-handedly scuttled the nomination of former
Massachusetts Gov. William Weld, a fellow Republican, to be
ambassador to Mexico, by simply refusing to hold hearings.

Moseley-Braun lost her re-election bid in 1996 to Republican
Peter Fitzgerald, who attacked her on several controversies that
had surrounded her during her term. She was heavily criticized for
a 1996 visit to a Nigerian dictator and never-proved allegations
that she used 1993 campaign funds to pay for personal luxuries.

Helms and Moseley-Braun clashed during her one term, most
memorably a battle on the Senate floor in 1993 over the use of the
Confederate battle flag.

She led a successful effort by the Senate to reject an amendment
by Helms to Clinton's national service legislation that would have
granted the United Daughters of the Confederacy a renewed patent on
an insignia featuring the Confederate battle flag.

Moseley-Braun called it a cruel reminder that blacks were once
"human chattel" in America.

She later recounted a meeting in a Senate elevator between
herself, Helms and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. She said when she got
on, Helms started to sing the song "Dixie" and told Hatch: "I'm
going to sing 'Dixie' to her until she cries."

At the time, Helms and Hatch portrayed the episode as a
good-natured exchange.

Lockhart, the White House spokesman, accused the Republican-led
Senate of a "certain cavalier attitude" toward its constitutional
advise and consent responsibilities.

He suggested Helms was behaving immaturely, out of annoyance
with Moseley-Braun over their six-year old disagreement.

"I think if this is truly Sen. Helms' belief, that he would
block anyone he does not like, he has an obligation to articulate
how that squares with his constitutional responsibilities,"
Lockhart said.

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