Robert Novak
WASHINGTON -- Newly installed Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, accustomed to working odd hours as a physician, may force Democrats to actually filibuster if they intend to prevent a confirmation on judicial nominee Miguel Estrada. In recent years, the mere threat of a filibuster has been sufficient to block action unless 60 senators voted cloture. Frist may consider "doctors hours" for the Senate, imposing around-the-clock sessions to force a vote on Estrada's selection for the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. Estrada, a 41-year-old conservative lawyer, is a prospective Supreme Court justice if he first serves on the appellate bench. Republicans see only five (out of 49) Democratic senators backing Estrada, so the 60 senators needed for cloture seem unattainable. The closest to a real filibuster the Senate has come since the 1960s was three days of talk against a 1982 highway funding bill, after which cloture was voted. A NATIONAL PRIMARY? Prominent Democrats, encouraged by National Chairman Terry McAuliffe, want more 2004 presidential primary elections pushed up to Feb. 3. That will become, in effect, the first nationwide primary ever. Eight states already have changed to Feb. 3, and there is a push for four more big ones: California, New York, Illinois and Ohio. Democratic insiders are writing off traditional preliminary tests in Iowa and New Hampshire, because of the advantage by semi-favorite sons from neighboring states (respectively, Rep. Richard Gephardt of Missouri and Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts). McAuliffe has pushed for selection of the Democratic nominee at the earliest date in order to conserve funds for the general election campaign. That strategy will work, however, only if a front-runner emerges by Feb. 3. CHENEY ON THE RIGHT Vice President Dick Cheney not only represented the Bush administration at last week's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, but volunteered to appear. Mary Matalin, Cheney's political adviser, telephoned in advance to offer the vice president's appearance. That contrasted with 2002, when Cheney and Attorney General John Ashcroft were listed as speakers for the annual conservative gathering but did not show. In addition to Cheney's attendance this year, President Bush spoke to the right-wingers via telephone. A footnote: When nobody was manning the New York Conservative Party's booth at CPAC, someone put up a hand-written placard reading: "We Brought You George Pataki." The state's Conservative Party has been under fire for endorsing Gov. Pataki's re-election last year despite his leftward drift. REASSURING THE SPEAKER House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who faces increasing congressional criticism of President Bush's proposed repeal of the tax on dividends, called three conservative economists into his office last week -- and was reassured. Advising Hastert were Bill Beach of the Heritage Foundation, Alan Reynolds of the Cato Institute and Kevin Hassett of the American Enterprise Institute. They praised the dividend tax proposal as the part of the tax package most likely to promote economic growth. A footnote: Rep. Bill Thomas, the House Ways and Means Committee chairman who has expressed misgivings about the dividend tax provision, has told colleagues his big worry is opposition in the Senate. BROTHER MARVIN Lobbyists and others on a select Washington mailing list have been invited to a two-hour presentation Feb. 26 by one of President Bush's brothers: Marvin Bush, who heads a private investment firm in Alexandria, Va. "You are cordially invited to learn more about methods of managing risk in volatile markets utilizing alternative investment strategies," says the invitation. The event is scheduled at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, with "light refreshments" promised to be served. "Seating is limited to 50 guests," says the invitation, which also sets a financial requirement for guests: "Investor suitability: $5 million of investable assets." Bush is co-founder, president and a partner in Winston Partners, described as a sub-adviser to Brown Brothers Harriman Hedged Partners. Bush promises to discuss hedge funds and how "volatility" is reduced by "alternatives to stocks and bonds."

Robert Novak

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

 
©Creators Syndicate