Senate Banking Committee Chairman Alfonse M. D'Amato basked in the prime-time spotlight at the Republican National Convention this week.

As a reward for his dogged efforts on behalf of presidential aspirant Bob Dole and GOP Senate candidates, the New York lawmaker addressed the party faithful twice during the convention's opening session Monday.

Two House Banking Committee members also had key convention roles.

Rep. Bill McCollum, a senior member of the panel with close ties to Mr. Dole, gave no speeches from the podium. But as cochairman of a platform subcommittee, the Florida lawmaker was in the thick of the back-room tussle over abortion language in the party's platform.

Another major player was Rep. J.C. Watts, a freshman member of the banking panel from Oklahoma. A preacher, star college football quarterback, and black, Rep. Watts is a dream come true for the GOP, and he was given a prime-time speaking slot Tuesday night.

In his speech, Rep. Watts praised a Republican welfare reform bill passed by Congress two weeks ago.

"We don't define compassion by how many people are on welfare," he said to wild applause. "We define compassion by how few people are on welfare ... because we have given them the means to climb the ladder of success."

Sen. D'Amato's shot at the limelight came Monday night when he introduced Senate candidates to convention delegates. With a delivery that was part cheerleader, part game-show host, Sen. D'Amato heaped praise on the candidates and scornfully roasted President Clinton.

"Bill Clinton vetoed the balanced budget. He was wrong then; he is wrong now. And we are going to veto Bill Clinton."

The candidates Sen. D'Amato introduced included Rhode Island Treasurer Nancy Mayer, who is vying for retiring Democrat Claiborne Pell's seat; Alabama Attorney General Jeff Sessions, seeking to replace retiring Democrat Howell Heflin; New Jersey Rep. Dick Zimmer, who is dueling Rep. Bob Torricelli for Sen. Bill Bradley's seat; and Kansas Rep. Sam Brownback, running against stockbroker Jill Docking for Mr. Dole's old Senate seat.

Sen. D'Amato earned his place in the convention limelight as a reward for lining up the New York delegation behind Mr. Dole early in the primary season. To show his gratitude, Mr. Dole invited the senator to join him in his hotel suite Tuesday to watch television coverage of the convention.

As chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, Sen. D'Amato has raised $65 million for 1996 races, nearly triple the amount available to GOP candidates in 1994.

This year's election is crucial to Republican efforts to maintain control of Congress, and the party is pushing hard to build up its six-vote margin in the Senate. Democrats hold 15 of the Senate's 33 contested seats.

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