The change in the rule was inspired by the prospect that Democratic District Atty. Ronnie Earle in Austin, Texas, may soon indict DeLay in connection with his successful congressional redistricting in Texas. At Wednesday's conference, several Republican House members expressed fear that a straight repeal of the rule would send a bad political message.
Shortly after Sen. Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina was elected Senate Republican campaign chairman with support from 28 senators, she was approached by 29 senators saying they had voted for her in the secret ballot.
The Senate Republican Conference elected Dole, 28 to 27, over Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota. Just one week before the vote, Coleman had 32 senators personally committed to him. Coleman thought Dole's late-starting campaign had 19 votes at the most.
The sign that Coleman was in serious trouble came when Sen. George Allen of Virginia, the highly successful outgoing chairman, endorsed Dole. She also benefited from backing of allies of her husband, former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole.
Sen. Pete Domenici, chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, plans to push authorization of oil drilling in the Arctic Natural Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) through the new, more conservative Senate next year.
ANWR drilling was defeated 52 to 48 when the issue was last addressed on the Senate floor in March 2003. This year's election has produced a net gain of three senators in favor of the proposal for a positive tally of 51 to 49.
Tentative plans are for ANWR to be tucked into next year's budget bill. It then would take only a simple majority of 51 votes in the 100-member Senate under budget reconciliation to authorize drilling, while 60 senators are needed to break a filibuster if the bill was considered separately.