Roll Call's Wallison reports, Dem "insiders are predicting
that a small group of party centrists and vulnerable incumbents
will abandon" expected Min. Leader Nancy Pelosi (D) in the 1/03
Caucus election "in an effort to distance themselves from the
liberal ... lawmaker." Some "knowledgeable insiders" say the
vote "could amount to the largest defection from one party's
candidate for Speaker since" nine GOPers deserted then-House
Speaker Newt Gingrich (R) in '97. A "senior party strategist":
"There's little doubt in my mind that there are a lot of Members
who are weighing how they are going to deal with this vote for
Speaker. A number of people are saying grace over this
together." One "senior" Dem aide "noted": "For many people, they
consider [a vote for Pelosi to be] political suicide."
There is "little chance Pelosi will receive votes from ...
conservatives such as" Reps. Ralph Hall (D-TX) and Ken Lucas
(D-KY). Blue Dog Dem Rep. Gene Taylor (D-MS) "has indicated that
he will once again back" Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) in the vote for
Speaker, though Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-GA) spokesperson Selby
McCash said the "centrist" Bishop is "as firm for Pelosi as [a
moderate Democrat] can be." A "senior Pelosi aide noted that in
every Congress there tends to be one or two Democrats who vote
against the party's candidate," but added no one has yet
"detected any evidence" of "any significant opposition" to
Pelosi: "If it's a political problem for some people then it's
something we'll have to discuss with them in the weeks to come.
We're not here to kill people."
Reps. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Martin Frost (D-TX) and Harold
Ford Jr. (D-TN) all "sought to challenge Pelosi's climb through
the leadership ranks by tapping" into the "anxiety ... that she
would serve as a useful symbol" for GOPers "hoping to paint"
Dems "as a party of intransigent liberals." Conservative group
Citizens for a Sound Economy said in a recent press release: "If
Nancy Pelosi wants to take radical positions, that is her own
business, but she shouldn't lead other Democrats down the same
path to economic and political oblivion."
However, "many party strategists doubt that Pelosi will
pose a problem for Democrats seeking re-election in 2004, in
spite of her ideology." Consultant Bob Doyle, "who has worked
with a number of party moderates": "My belief is that she will
see [the next two years] as a tremendous challenge, and will go
out of her way to find a leadership agenda that will be good for
these people" (12/19).
AT LEAST THE DCCC STAFF CAN'T VOTE AGAINST HER
Roll Call's Cillizza reports, Pelosi "is expected to
install her top fundraiser," '00 San Francisco ex-VP Gore
fundraiser and current Pelosi DCCC liaison Brian Wolff, "as the
finance director" at the 1/03 DCCC meeting "in an attempt to
answer critics who charge that the delay in choosing a chairman
will financially handicap" Dems in '04. Meanwhile, the DCCC "has
begun using Pelosi in its fundraising efforts, sending out its
first direct-mail appeal from" Pelosi 12/6, which DCCC
spokesperson Mark Nevins said "brought in the largest one-day
financial take ever recorded at the committee ... although he
would not say how much was raised." Nevins: "People are
incredibly energized by leader Pelosi. That is reflected in the
overwhelming response we got."
Both developments "come amid rising criticism that Pelosi's
continued silence about the next" DCCC "is hamstringing efforts
to remain competitive" in '04. A "senior" Dem leadership aide
said the delay gives the DSCC "a head start ... in the race for
hard dollars." Some "well-placed" Dems also "expressed concern
that Pelosi was planning a major house-cleaning of the current"
DCCC finance staff. On Pelosi's leadership problems: "It is
certainly not helpful."
Questions "surrounding the role the DCCC will play in House
elections given these fundraising constraints have made Pelosi's
job of recruiting a chairman much more difficult than in past
cycles." Candidates "who have shied away" from the post,
including Reps. Ed Markey (D-MA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and
Robert Matsui (D-CA) "greatly outnumbers those who have
expressed an interest in it": '02 DCCC chair Rep. Nita Lowey
(D-NY) "is not interested in a return engagement, and only Rep.
William Jefferson (D-LA) "has made his desire for the job
publicly known." Rep. Martin Frost (D-TX) "is also mentioned,
although most observers believe it is unlikely Pelosi will
install a longtime nemesis in a leadership post" (12/19).
ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE AISLE...
Roll Call's Crabtree reports, incoming House Maj. Whip Roy
Blunt (R-MO) "plans to offer a change to current House rules
that would eliminate the eight-year GOP term limit on the
Speakership." House Speaker Dennis Hastert's (R-IL) "term limit
will expire at the beginning of" '07, but "has repeatedly denied
perennial, widespread speculation that he is contemplating
retirement." Blunt said there is absolutely "no movement for
[Hastert] to leave" and denied "that his actions are aimed at
motivating Hastert to stay on as Speaker or to leave before his
term limit expires": "There needs to be a strong sense of
continuity -- a strong sense that the person who is making a
commitment to you has every opportunity to maintain that
commitment. The job benefits from consistency and continuity."
Hastert spokesperson John Feehery "said his boss would keep
his opinion about the rules change to himself in order to allow
the Conference to work its will on the matter. It's something
for the Conference to decide. Obviously he is not a
disinterested observer. He is obviously going to be impacted by
this decision, but he'd rather have the Conference decide."
Feehery "also dismissed any speculation" that Hastert "would
retire soon": "He really enjoys his job and is excited about the
next term as Speaker."
Even though "Blunt's name has been bandied about as a
potential successor to Hastert whenever he decides to leave
Congress, Blunt denied that his future plans played any role" in
the proposal: "The whip job is not the popularity contest job in
our Conference. I think it is a mistake for the whip to worry
about what we're going to do next. ... I'm focused on doing this
job the very best I can."
Blunt informed Hastert, incoming House Maj. Leader Tom
DeLay (R-TX) and Conference Chairwoman Deborah Pryce (R-OH) "of
his plans in a meeting earlier this week," explaining:
"Leadership limits just don't make sense ... We want to make
sure that Members are not immediately calculating whether the
Speaker will be around." Pryce: "This is definitely a good thing
regardless of when Denny Hastert is going to leave," she said.
"He isn't a lame duck, but that's what term limits would do.
This certainly isn't something that he's asked for. He's still
free to go whenever he wants. This just gives him the ability to
be in control while not becoming a lame duck" (12/19).
WE'LL SIT THIS ONE OUT, THANKS
In "stark contrast" to Senate GOPers' "public struggle over
the fate of" Senate GOP leader Trent Lott (R-MS), "the top four
members of the newly elected House GOP leadership team met
privately earlier this week to lay the groundwork for a smooth
transition." The Lott controversy "has consumed Washington's
chattering class for nearly two weeks and has drowned out any
talk of next year's legislative agenda." Pryce, on the matter:
"It won't make the overall picture any easier. We still operate
as a House, we still have our job to do. I don't think it will
make our job that much harder, but it might make things more
uncertain. We're still ready to roll. It's important to get our
act together and hopefully [the Senate] will be able to do the
same sooner rather than later." DeLay "declined to comment about
any distraction the Lott feeding frenzy has caused to their
planning process and also would not say whether he wanted Lott
to stay or go": "I'm not touching that with a 6-foot pole. The
Senate has to do what they have to do" (Crabtree, Roll Call,
THE DEMS WILL NOT BE TELEVISED?
Washington Post's Eilperin reports the DCCC's Harriman
Center, "which allows lawmakers to cut commercials, provide
digital tours of the Capitol and do interviews with reporters in
their districts," may "disappear altogether now that the
national political parties cannot accept" soft money. Rep. Bob
Filner (D-CA): "They kept me on television every week. [The
staff] can give you political advice. These guys are trying to
make you look good because they're Democrats." DCCC exec dir.
Howard Wolfson said the cmte "is laying off the center's five
unionized employees ... at least until it moves back into the
party's headquarters," adding: "Campaign finance reform will
mean a smaller committee. The next chair needs to weigh the
services provided by the Harriman Center against the costs of
running it in a post-McCain-Feingold era." Pelosi spokesperson
Brendan Daley "said a final decision has not been made on the
center": "We understand it's a very valuable service the
Harriman Center provides, and we would like to continue offering
that service to members."
NRCC spokesperson Steve Schmidt "said he is confident his
party will be able to provide members with television services":
"Because of our ability to mine hard dollars, we will not have
to close vital operations like our TV center. The committee will
be a little leaner, a little smaller, but it's going to be
involved in campaigns across the country in a very substantial
Watchdog group Democracy 21 head Fred Wertheimer: "The
bottom line here is, everyone's in a new world, where they have
to operate with hard money" (12/19).