Robert Novak
WASHINGTON -- In successfully boosting Elaine Chao to become Secretary of Labor, her supporters noted that she had been friendly with AFL-CIO President John Sweeney while she headed United Way. But many Republicans dread an endorsement by Sweeney, who led the assault on Linda Chavez for the Labor Cabinet seat. Seeking approval from the labor leader who did his best to defeat George W. Bush for president and then helped derail Chavez might indicate weakness by the president-elect. A footnote: Margaret Zwisler, the neighbor who Bush transition officials believe leaked the account of Chavez's illegal immigrant problem, is not only a member of a prominent Democratic law firm. Her brother, Terry Moran, is a reporter for ABC News, which first broke the story on Chavez's problems. PRESSURING SENATORS The Rev. Jesse Jackson was furious with Senate Democratic Leader Thomas Daschle for not supporting efforts by the Congressional Black Caucus to challenge the certification of George W. Bush as winner of the electoral vote. One member after another of the Black Caucus rose to protest the decisive Florida vote during the joint congressional session Jan. 6, which tabulated the electoral vote. But all failed for lack of the necessary signature by any senator. Jackson berated Daschle for not helping. The Senate leader did not attend the joint session, but advised Democratic senators not to cooperate. They did not. CONGRESSIONAL TAX WRITERS The two new chairmen of the congressional tax-writing committees -- Bill Thomas (California) of House Ways and Means and Charles Grassley (Iowa) of Senate Finance -- went off in opposite directions during their first week in office. Although Grassley has been never known as much of a tax-cutter, he immediately endorsed President-elect Bush's call for across-the-board tax cuts. In contrast, Thomas signaled that he would be setting his own agenda on the House side. A footnote: Thomas and Grassley met for lunch Wednesday. Their predecessors -- Rep. Bill Archer of Texas, who retired from Congress, and Sen. William Roth of Delaware, who was defeated for re-election -- did not like each other and hardly ever met. CHENEY'S WYOMING PAL Western interests are concerned that Vice President-elect Dick Cheney, chief of the transition, is considering a top spot in the Interior Department for John Turner, a close friend from back home in Wyoming who is closely linked to environmentalist causes. Cheney, an old fly-fishing buddy of Turner's, put him on the Bush transition team and on the short list to be Interior's assistant secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks. A former president of the Wyoming Senate, Turner headed the Fish and Wildlife Service during the earlier Bush administration. But Turner heads the Conservation Fund, one of the nation's liberal environmental trusts. That makes western conservatives uneasy that Turner could undermine Interior Secretary-designate Gale Norton's advocacy of free-market solutions. HOUSE GOP GAMES Rep. Philip Crane of Illinois not only was beaten by Rep. Bill Thomas of California as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee but, thanks to Thomas, also lost out on a consolation prize offered by House Speaker Dennis Hastert. Hastert, who did not help his fellow Illinoisan in his long battle with Thomas, telephoned Crane after he was defeated to suggest he might like to be the top House member on the Joint Congressional Tax Committee (a position always held previously by the Ways and Means chairman). But Thomas vetoed the move, fearing that Crane would undercut his authority. A footnote: Hastert has named Rep. Rob Portman of Ohio, a fast-rising junior member of the House, to the long vacant post of chairman of the Republican Leadership. Besides chairing meetings of House GOP leaders, Portman will be their liaison to George W. Bush. Among Republican insiders, Portman is seen as strengthening Hastert's hand against the two Texans who sometimes differ from him: Majority Leader Dick Armey and Majority Whip Tom DeLay.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.
 

 
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