Robert Novak

 WASHINGTON -- To counter runaway spending in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, the conservative Republican Study Committee is considering a proposal to station a watchdog congressman on the House floor to curb expedited approval of money bills.
To do so would be a vote of no confidence in the regular Republican leadership. "Too much spending is being voice voted," freshman Republican Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas said in an appeal this week to fellow Study Committee members. "Are you willing to help?" Supposedly routine legislation is brought to the House under a suspension of the rules that requires two-thirds support on a voice vote.

 Hensarling contends that this week, five bills authorizing $435 million over the next four years were passed on voice votes, some without a text available. Within the last month, Congress added $464 million in current-year spending by suspending the rules. House members usually do not know when they vote how much these bills cost.


 Rep. Richard Gephardt's close associates, who felt a week earlier that he was leading the pack to be Sen. John Kerry's vice-presidential running mate, now believe that Sen. John Edwards has become the favorite.

 Kerry is much closer personally to Gephardt, but supporters have told him that a Kerry-Gephardt ticket would look too much like business as usual and turn off Howard Dean loyalists. Edwards has come across as the favorite of the party's rank-and-file.

 A footnote: The boom for Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack may have run out of steam. The Gephardt insiders have been advised that Vilsack now is running a poor third behind Gephardt and Edwards. Nevertheless, insiders say that Kerry is more comfortable with Vilsack than with either Edwards or Gephardt.


 Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, fresh from a state legislative victory on tort reform, will be the featured speaker in Sandwich, Ill., on July 16 at an event for House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert.
Barbour, a former Republican national chairman, has kept close to home since his election as governor last year. However, his victory on tort reform has freed one of the GOP's most recognizable figures nationally to go beyond the borders of Mississippi. He signed the bill into law Wednesday, ending Mississippi's tenure as the national haven for trial lawyers.

 The $25-a-ticket barbecue is Hastert's 17th annual "Farmers' Picnic" at the Sandwich Fairgrounds.


Robert Novak

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

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