Was Vote Ad Just Snake Oil?

Turns out that, even as Hillary Clinton was blasting Rick Lazio for missing an important House vote on Northeast heating oil, she may have been contributing to the delinquency of a Democratic congressman in much the same way.

Lazio derided the first lady Thursday for running a TV ad criticizing him for a missed House vote, saying she was at a fund raiser for a Democratic congressman - who was skipping the same vote.

"She clearly knew ... that she didn't have clean hands on this issue," Lazio said Thursday. "What she's trying to do is fool the people of New York and I just think her lack of straight talk is going to reverberate."

The Clinton campaign fired back that Lazio is trying to shift the finger of blame away from himself.

"I just think it's downright sad that Congressman Lazio would divert attention from the fact that he missed this critical vote," said Clinton campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson.

Lazio, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, missed the vote on a $10 million funding bill that would have established a 2 million barrel home heating oil reserve. The bill was defeated 195-193.

Lazio, who took a personal interest in championing the failed bill, was flying back to New York for campaign events when the vote took place on June 15.

He was only one of 47 House members, including five New York Democrats, who missed the vote. The other New Yorkers were Reps. Eliot Engel, Charles Rangel, Jose Serrano, Jerrold Nadler and Nydia Velazquez.

Engel skipped the vote to attend a fund-raiser for his campaign, held in Westchester County, which Clinton also attended.

Engel, in his re-election bid, faces a Democratic primary challenge by state Sen. Larry Seabrook. Engel's spokesman did not immediately return a call for comment on Thursday.

Two days after the missed vote, Lazio contended that there would be occasions during his abbreviated Senate campaign when he might miss House votes. The Long Island congressman entered the race in mid-May after New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani dropped out to have more time for treatment of his prostate cancer.

"We're going to miss some votes, because I need to get around the state," he said then. "We got into this race very late. It's the nature of it."

The following week, the Clinton campaign released a television ad in upstate New York that criticized Lazio over the missed oil reserve vote:

"Congress just defeated a plan by only two votes to lower home heating oil costs for New York and the Northeast. How did Rick Lazio vote? He didn't. He skipped the vote. Rick Lazio. The more you know, the more you wonder."

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