Robert Novak

WASHINGTON -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is pressuring Gen. Tommy Franks, weary from his efforts commanding the Iraq war, to change his mind and agree to become the Army's next chief of staff.

Franks, who turned down Rumsfeld during the secretary's recent visit to the Gulf, would be more amenable to the Pentagon's civilian leadership than outgoing Gen. Eric Shinseki has been. However, Pentagon sources say there is no certainty that Franks would go along if Rumsfeld advocates the equivalent reduction of two Army combat divisions.

A footnote: Secretary of the Air Force James Roche, replacement for the fired Thomas White as secretary of the Army, can be counted on to support Rumsfeld's downsizing. Out of office, White would likely go public against a two-division reduction.

BUDGET CHIEF PORTMAN?

Rep. Rob Portman of Ohio, one of President Bush's favorite members of Congress, is being mentioned inside the White House as a successor to departing budget director Mitchell Daniels.

However, Portman might not want to end a promising congressional career for the politically thankless task of heading the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Currently the appointed chairman of the House Republican Leadership, Portman at age 47 is considered a House speaker of the future.

A footnote: Daniels is favored to be the Republican nominee for governor of Indiana even though he trails former Rep. David McIntosh, the 2000 GOP governor candidate, in the polls. Hoosier Republican activists believe the first million dollars spent for Daniels would wipe out McIntosh's name identification advantage.

FORCING MAJORITY RULE

Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, the 79-year-old president pro tem and senior Republican in the Senate, has been a tiger in closed-door Republican meetings urging an effort to rule filibusters against judicial nominees out of order so that a simple majority of 51 votes would be sufficient for confirmation.

Freshman Sen. Jim Talent of Missouri has made public the 51-vote plan, but Stevens has led the way inside the GOP conference. However, all 51 Republicans are not yet on board for this plan.

Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, facing a conservative primary election challenge this year, may be one of the Republican holdouts. He is privately pleading with Democrats to end the filibusters so that Republicans will not attempt an effort that would put Specter on the spot.

MARRIOTT'S DEMOCRAT


Robert Novak

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

 
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