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).


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).


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).


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,



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).

LOAD-DATE: December 19, 2002