Terminate 'girlie men' over budget dissent, says Arnie

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The Independent US

An unrepentant Arnold Schwarzenegger refused to apologise yesterday for denouncing members of the California state legislators as "girlie men" and urging voters to "terminate" them at the polls if they did not go along with his latest state budget plan.

An unrepentant Arnold Schwarzenegger refused to apologise yesterday for denouncing members of the California state legislators as "girlie men" and urging voters to "terminate" them at the polls if they did not go along with his latest state budget plan.

The governor's blunt words - amid unexpectedly tough negotiations over California's finances - provoked a furore from state Democrats, especially the party's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Caucus, which denounced his words as homophobic and gratuitously insulting.

The governor's spokesman, Rob Stutzman, said Democratic legislators were "tasting steel", and suggested the tough talk might actually concentrate their minds enough to get the budget through, three weeks after the official 1 July deadline.

This is not the first time Mr Schwarzenegger has made veiled threats to members of the state legislature. On taking office last November, he warned them that if they did not co-operate with him he would consider reining in their powers and converting California's legislature into a part-time body.

But as well as the "girlie men" line - from an old Saturday Night Live sketch - he also said Democratic legislators were behaving like children, beholden to special interests that were "dug in ... like Alabama ticks".

The bluntness appears to be, in part, a sop designed to satisfy Republican legislators staging their own resistance to Mr Schwarzenegger's budget proposals. The Republicans rejected a first draft, saying the governor had become too cosy with Democratic interests, and insisted on curbs on the power of unions and trial lawyers, nothing to do with the budget, but in line with their right-wing agenda.

¿ John Kerry's campaign has set up a national network of specialist lawyers in an attempt to prevent a repeat of the election problems in Florida which Democrats say cost them and their candidate, Al Gore, the presidency four years ago.

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