Robert Novak
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Anti-war Democrats in the House are so angry with Rep. Richard Gephardt's support of an Iraq war resolution that they privately are saying that he should quit now as House Minority Leader and devote himself to his presidential ambitions. Opponents of the resolution constitute no more than 45 of the 209 House Democrats, and they have not publicly voiced their desire for Gephardt's resignation. He is not exerting party discipline on the issue. A footnote: House Majority Leader Dick Armey, who is retiring from Congress, undermined his standing among Republicans last month by saying he could not support an "unprovoked" attack on Iraq. Since Congress returned from its August break, however, Armey has told colleagues he is now convinced there are grounds for military action. NOISY BYRD Sen. Robert Byrd's emotional denunciation of President Bush in the Senate on Wednesday for "despicable" conduct, the latest in a series of fiery floor speeches, alarmed his Democratic colleagues. The 84-year-old, eight-term president pro tem of the Senate has taken the floor with increasing frequency to deliver long, meandering attacks on the Bush administration. He has accused the executive branch of attempting unconstitutional seizure of power in the prospective war against Iraq, homeland security and federal spending. While concerned, fellow Democrats have not broached the subject to Byrd. A footnote: Sen. Tom Daschle also was passionate about Bush's criticism of Senate Democrats, but that was out of character for the usually low-key Senate majority leader. BLOCKING JUDGES Although two of President Bush's stalled conservative judicial nominees may have the votes to get out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, there is no sign Chairman Patrick Leahy will permit a vote before the life of this Congress ends at the beginning of 2003. Straight party-line votes killed two previous appellate court choices: Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen and U.S. District Judge Charles Pickering of Mississippi. However, University of Utah professor Michael McConnell and Washington D.C. lawyer Miguel Estrada appear to have at least the one Democratic vote needed to get on the Senate floor. No vote has been scheduled for either McConnell or Estrada. Forty-year-old former federal prosecutor Estrada, the first Hispanic American ever nominated to the prestigious Circuit Court for the District of Columbia, is opposed by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. APPROPRIATORS VS. MITCH Conflict between Mitch Daniels and appropriators reached the level this week that a senior Republican member of the House Appropriations Committee dismissed President Bush's budget chief as a non-elected politician with no right to interfere with congressional prerogatives. Donors attending a closed-door Republican fund-raiser in Washington reported comments by Rep. Ralph Regula of Ohio. He noted that Daniels had never been elected to office. Besides, Regula added, elected members of Congress have a perfect right to earmark funds for their own districts -- a process opposed by Daniels as director of the Office of Management and Budget. While Daniels never has been a candidate, leading Republicans in his home state of Indiana are urging him to run for governor in 2004. He has a longstanding reputation as a backroom political strategist at both state and national levels. CAUTIOUS ABOUT CHAFEE While the White House and Republican leaders have lined up 48 of the party's 49 senators in support of President Bush's homeland security bill, they are cautious about pressuring the necessary 49th vote for fear that Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island will "flip" to the Democratic side. Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia is the only Democrat opposing government employees union control over workers in the new Department of Homeland Security. Consequently, Chafee promises to provide the margin of defeat for Bush. Chafee is being handled with caution by the White House in view of the defection from the GOP last year by another New England liberal, Sen. James Jeffords of Vermont, giving Democrats a Senate majority.

Robert Novak

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

 
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