Democrats to converge on Hopkins for caucus

Leaders of the Clinton administration and most of the Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives will retreat to Baltimore for two days this week to discuss issues.

This year's conference of the House Democratic Caucus, to be held at the Johns Hopkins University's Homewood campus, will have a new wrinkle.


For the first time since the caucus began its annual conferences in 1982, there will be a Democratic president in the White House, not just a Democratic majority in Congress.

"It's a different feeling," said Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland's 5th District, the caucus chairman. "This is the first time where we'll be including administration figures in a joint partnership to bring legislation to fruition."


It will be a refreshing change for the three-quarters of House Democrats who have never served under a Democratic president, Mr. Hoyer said.

At least two-thirds of the 260 Democrats in the House, including many of the 64 freshmen Democrats, will come to the university Thursday and Friday to discuss issues, particularly the economy, budget and health care.

The legislators will hear from Vice President Al Gore, several other members of the Clinton administration and representatives from business, labor and academia. Mr. Gore is scheduled to speak during lunch Thursday.

Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen will address the group, and budget Director Leon E. Panetta will take part in a panel discussion on the federal budget.

Also scheduled to participate in panel discussions on the budget and the economy are Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children's Defense Fund; Skip Lefauve, president of Saturn Corp.; Michael Bennett, an official with the United Auto Workers; and Gerald McEntee, international president of the Association of Federal, State, County and Municipal Employees.

None of the sessions will be open to the public, although much of the conference will be televised on C-SPAN.

Some Hopkins students and faculty will be allowed to participate in some of the sessions.

"The caucus has expressed an interest in having a chance to be exposed to students," said Hopkins spokesman Dennis O'Shea. "It's a good opportunity for them to get a feel for what's on the minds of college students."


The National Legislative Education Foundation Inc., the nonprofit group sponsoring the conference, also considered the University Virginia and Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

The foundation picked Hopkins because it is away from Washington and all of its distractions but near enough to attract a good turnout, said caucus spokesman Joseph Roscano Jr.

The group held its meeting in Columbia three years ago and at Piney Point in Southern Maryland last year.