WASHINGTON -- White House aides are predicting to social conservatives that President Bush will include in his 2003 State of the Union something he omitted from his 2002 speech: a call for abolition of partial-birth abortions.
Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott has made clear that as majority leader next year he will bring up the abortion measure. While Bush would sign it, anonymous quotes from presidential aides have indicated no enthusiasm. Including a recommendation in the State of the Union would change that perception.
Bush's address this year, declaring war on the "axis of evil," did not mention the word "abortion."
NERVOUS ABOUT COLOMBIA
Senior government officials are skittish about being grilled on the Colombia crisis by Republican Rep. Dan Burton of Indiana in his swan song as chairman of the House Government Reform Committee.
Burton, who must step down under GOP term limits, obtained special permission to conduct the hearing Dec. 12 when Congress is not in session. He wants to ask three senior government officials why Colombia's narco-guerrilla menace is getting worse as the U.S. spends heavily in the country.
None of the three has agreed to testify. Drug Enforcement Administrator Asa Hutchinson cited what the Burton committee considered a valid schedule conflict. However, the committee regarded as evasive excuses given by Anne Patterson, U.S. ambassador to Colombia, and John Walters, director of national drug control policy.
SPECTER FACING TROUBLE?
Maverick Republican Sen. Arlen Specter, eyeing a possible 2004 fight for renomination in Pennsylvania, raised an extraordinary $3.4 million in the 2001-2002 election cycle and has $5 million cash on hand.
Conservative Rep. Patrick Toomey, self-limited to three House terms ending in 2004, is the potential challenger. He raised $1.4 million over the last two years and only had to spend half of that in his competitive congressional race this year. Specter has a 42 percent lifetime American Conservative Union (ACU) rating and a 59 percent liberal rating by the Americans for Democratic Action (ADA). Toomey's comparable numbers are 96 percent ACU and 5 percent ADA.
To win a seriously contested primary, Specter may have to re-register as Republicans the Philadelphia suburban voters who this year registered as Democrats to support pro-choice Ed Rendell's nomination for governor. These voters always have been the heart of Specter's GOP support.
The latest complaint by liberal Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island against his party's leadership may help to keep him from switching parties to join the Democratic caucus as his fellow New Englander, Sen. James Jeffords of Vermont, did last year.
Chafee and the two Republican senators from Maine, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, complained during the lame-duck session of Congress about House-passed amendments to the homeland security bill. Promises by Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott to reconsider these issues next year appeared to satisfy the protesting senators. GOP insiders are reassured that Chafee is happy about his treatment and will stay a Republican.
A footnote: Jeffords during the lame-duck session met secretly with his Republican successor as Environment Committee chairman, Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma. Wild rumors flew throughout Capitol Hill that Jeffords was bargaining for a return to the GOP. In truth, it was just a courtesy call.
Reports that newly installed House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi wants to show her more conservative side by naming Rep. Martin Frost as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) are at least premature and probably incorrect.
Frost, a Texas moderate, had warned that electing Pelosi, a California liberal, as leader would be a mistaken step to the left. Frost did not contest her because of insufficient support but privately offered to return to the DCCC post he formerly held if Pelosi wants him. Frost has not heard from Pelosi since.
A footnote: The Congressional Black Caucus is supporting Rep. William Jefferson of Louisiana for the DCCC post, but he has trouble with organized labor because of his support for free trade.