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
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.
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
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.
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.