Bipartisan Rebellion Burns White House, GOP

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Lock-and-load bipartisanship was the order of the day on Capitol Hill Wednesday, but by the end of the day the wounded included the leadership of both parties. While the establishment of a national missile defense system sailed through the Senate with an overwhelming 97-3 margin and presidential consent, a House bill limiting steel imports passed by 289 votes to 141 -- despite concerted opposition by both the White House and the Republican congressional leadership. Ignoring warnings that the protectionist measure violates U.S. free-trade obligations under World Trade Organization agreements, 91 Republicans followed Pat Buchanan's call to mutiny, while 197 Democrats marched with Dick Gephardt (leaving only 13 voting with the White House).

The protectionist rebellion signals a stormy electoral season for both parties as industrial America feels the effects of the global economic slump -- Wall Street may be booming and the overall employment numbers holding steady, but the U.S. has shed more than 300,000 manufacturing jobs over the past year. Wednesday's victory will boost Buchanan's guerrilla campaign in the Republican primaries. And for Al Gore it's a signal that his support from Gephardt and the labor unions is far from unconditional.