A loss for Rove

Robert Novak
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Posted: Dec 11, 2004 12:00 AM

 WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Retention of John Snow as secretary of the treasury was viewed in the Capital's inner circles as a defeat for presidential adviser Karl Rove, who wanted a high-profile manager of President Bush's second-term economic program.
 
Two Wall Street executives were approached as Snow's possible successor, but neither expressed any interest. Without a ready replacement, it was decided at the White House to relieve Snow from his uncertainty and keep him in office.

 Bush's hand was forced by a Wall Street Journal lead editorial Wednesday calling for "a stronger Treasury" and boosting former Sen. Phil Gramm. Anticipating continued pressure for specific Treasury candidates, it was decided to stick with Snow for now.

GREENSPAN'S GOOF

 Sources at the Federal Reserve Board close to Chairman Alan Greenspan admit he made "an uncharacteristically poor choice of words" in Frankfurt, Germany, recently when his remarks accelerated the dollar's fall. Greenspan was described by his colleagues as trying to warn against exposed financial positions based on the expectation of perpetually low interest rates. Instead, his impromptu comments sounded like a warning of impending financial crisis.

 Breaking normal civility between central bankers, European Central Bank officials are furious with Greenspan for what they considered talking up the already excessively strong euro.

SEN. KATHERINE HARRIS?

 National Republican planners feel that Rep. Katherine Harris, attacked nationally by Democrats as the villain of the 2000 recount when she was Florida's secretary of state, is the GOP's strongest candidate against Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in 2006.

 Harris has not been a controversial member of Congress since her election in 2002, and President Bush's comfortable re-election margin has quieted outrage over her role in the 2000 recount. With Gov. Jeb Bush ruling himself out of the Senate race, Harris is the best-known potential Republican candidate.

 A footnote: The appointment of Nebraska Gov. Mike Johanns as secretary of agriculture does not take Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson off the hook for re-election in 2006. Although Johanns would have been an overwhelming favorite in the Senate race, Nelson is in trouble in the heavily Republican state no matter who opposes him. Nelson has begun reaching out to conservative groups. A likely Republican candidate is State Attorney General Jon Bruning.

SENSENBRENNER'S "WIN"

 House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner has received private assurances from the Republican leadership that tighter immigration restrictions that he failed to include in the intelligence reform bill definitely will be passed next year.

 While Sensenbrenner lost out in seeking driver's license control for aliens and other proposals, House GOP insiders feel the fight was a major political benefit for him. For the first time in his 13 terms in Congress, the 61-year-old lawyer from Menomonee Falls, Wis. commanded a national audience on immigration issues.

 A footnote: Passage of the reform bill marked a major victory for House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who had been privately criticized for bringing up the measure in the brief lame-duck session. He not only got the bill passed, but refused to rubber-stamp the Senate version.

MAJORITY RULES

 Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has enraged the Democratic minority by pressing for two-thirds of the Senate's internal budget to pay staffers, though the Republicans control only 55 percent of the Senate.

 When Republicans had only 51 out of 100 members following the 2002 election, they were given 51 percent of most of the budget. If Frist gets his two-thirds share, Democrats claim they would lose 80 staffers. The move is regarded as part of Frist's intent to take tougher positions as majority leader after gaining four Republican senators in the 2004 elections.

 A footnote: Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, an unexpectedly easy winner this year in Alaska, on Nov. 19 announced she was firing her entire staff (with the option of hiring back some aides). Murkowski felt that several members of her staff, confident she would lose, viewed a trip back to Alaska to work on the campaign as an opportunity to vacation.