Lazio Courts Jews With Syria BillBy Shannon McCaffrey, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - Senate candidate Rick Lazio, eager to score points with New York's critical Jewish voters, gained House passage Tuesday for a bill designed to ease the way for Jews fleeing persecution in Syria and seeking to become U.S. citizens.
Democrats complained that Lazio, a Republican facing Hillary Rodham Clinton in New York's Senate race, hijacked the bill from freshman Rep. Anthony Weiner, whose district in south Brooklyn is home to many of the 2,700 Syrian Jews who have emigrated to the United States.
``It's a lesson in senatorial politics for me, but at the end of the day, no blood, no foul,'' said Weiner, a Democrat. ``I'm just happy it passed.''
Weiner had tried in May to get the bill attached to legislation authorizing more visas for high-tech workers. Republican leaders rejected his amendment but said they would find a way to pass the bill. That happened when Lazio introduced his bill in June.
Weiner called Lazio's support ``belated,'' but said that without it the bill likely would have died.
The Lazio camp noted he allowed Weiner and other Democrats to remain co-sponsors of the bill.
``This demonstrates Rick Lazio's legislative style, which is to reach out across the aisle and do things in a bipartisan way,'' Lazio spokesman Bryan Flood said.
The bill would require the attorney general to adjust the status of Syrian Jews from asylum-seekers to permanent residents, which would allow them to travel more freely, work in their chosen professions and more quickly seek to become U.S. citizens.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., is sponsoring the bill in the Senate.
Since entering the Senate race, Lazio also has signed on as a co-sponsor to a resolution by Rep. Benjamin Gilman, R-N.Y., to free Jews being held in Iran.
The Jewish vote is considered crucial to any statewide race in New York. Lazio's campaign has just hired Jonathan Greenspan, Gov. George Pataki's top adviser on Jewish affairs, in part to help him make inroads with Jewish voters.