LCSN: Daschle set to take part in Domenici Public Policy Conference

August 31, 2011. Retrieved online August 31, 2011 from Diana M. Alba, Las Cruces Sun-News

LAS CRUCES – This year’s lineup at a policy conference in honor of retired U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici of New Mexico will feature a former Democratic colleague Sen. Tom Daschle, who once led his party in the Senate.

Also, a record attendance is expected at the event, the Domenici Public Policy Conference, said Domenici, speaking by phone Tuesday. The former senator said he’s pleased with the slate of speakers.

“We’re privileged and lucky to have some of the greats,” he said of the speakers. “It had the biggest sign-up.”

Indeed, more than 800 people – about 50 percent of whom were students – registered, prompting the sign-up to be closed Monday evening, said Janet Perez, with New Mexico State University communications. In previous years, registration has been at about 600.

Perez attributed the surge to a boost in student numbers, from across various fields, and interest in a one-hour documentary about Domenici, which will debut Thursday during the lunch event.

“There was a real push by the professors to get the students in,” she said.

Daschle, now senior policy adviser to DLA Piper law firm, is slated to talk about health-care reform this afternoon. He’s authored two books on the topic. He’ll be followed by New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, Republican, who’s expected to talk about state affairs.

The 79-year-old Domenici retired from the Senate in 2009 because of a degenerative brain illness.

Domenici and Alice Rivlin, a former White House budget director, will talk about a hot-button topic on Thursday: the national debt. The federal budget was a focus of Domenici’s 36-year-career.

Domenici, who arrived with his wife in New Mexico on Tuesday, said the health-care speakers represent diverse viewpoints.

But he said he hopes the “unequivocal facts” of one message are clear: “We’ve got to change the health-care programs of our country so it doesn’t cost so much, because we just can’t afford 10 years from now, if you don’t do something,” he said. “We’d be broke. In fact, probably five years would do it.”

The emphasis Thursday is national security. Attendees will hear from retired Gen. Michael Hayden, a former director of the CIA under President George W. Bush and former director of the National Security Agency under Bush and President Bill Clinton.

Asked about his health, Domenici said: “I’m doing pretty good.” He said it’s “harder to do things than before,” but he’s enjoying his work with the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C.

The event will take place at the Las Cruces Convention Center. Until now, it’s been held at the NMSU Corbett Center Student Union.

Read the Las Cruces Sun-News article.

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