Speaker's decision

Robert Novak
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Posted: Apr 30, 2005 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The decision by the House Republican leadership to go back to the old House Ethics Committee rules to govern the investigation of Majority Leader Tom DeLay was wholly the work of Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, who did not ask for a show of hands from his colleagues.

 The only dissent at Tuesday night's closed-door leadership meeting came from Rep. Deborah Pryce, fourth-ranking in the leadership as House Republican Conference chairman. She suggested that the former rules should be amended in two or three ways. Hastert argued that would mean House floor debates that Democrats would use to repeat accusations against DeLay, who did not comment during the meeting. Pryce in the end agreed to Hastert's course.

 A footnote: A long line of congressional staffers were queued up outside the door of the clerk of the House Tuesday, waiting to get financial records of trips abroad by their bosses. The accusations against DeLay led many other House members to check the records to observe their own financial relationships with lobbyists.

INVESTIGATING BOLTON

 Republican staffers on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee questioned 32 witnesses requested by Democrats in the expanded confirmation procedures for Under Secretary of State John Bolton's nomination as ambassador to the United Nations.

 About half of the witnesses were supposed to know something about Bolton's alleged mistreatment of Melody Townsel in 1994, when he was out of government. The other half was connected with Bolton's dispute with U.S. intelligence officers over Cuba's biological weaponry.

 According to sources close to the investigation, nothing of value was obtained from what they called a "rehash" of past accusations against Bolton.

ANTI-MEDIA GOP

 Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana could find only three other Republican senators willing to co-sponsor a shield law for reporters, thanks to anti-media hostility in GOP ranks. Many expressed a disinclination to do any favors for the press at this time.

 Lugar's bill protecting the news media from testifying before grand juries is co-sponsored by Democratic Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut. The additional Republicans recruited by Lugar were Sens. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, Pete Domenici of New Mexico and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

 Republican Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, introducing the House version, also found relatively few co-sponsors -- 11 Democrats and nine Republicans. House Majority Whip Roy Blunt was the only member of the Republican leadership from either house to back the shield law.

BUSH FUND RAISING

 Not included on George W. Bush's public schedule Wednesday was a high-grade fund-raiser for the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), whose cash position is running behind its Democratic counterpart this year. Republican donors were flown in from all parts of the country for an early evening event at the northwest Washington home of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. The price of admission to hear President Bush speak: $25,000 per person and $50,000 for a couple.

 During the first quarter, the NRSC raised $2.25 million and held $2.4 million in cash on hand. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, headed by phenomenal money-raiser Sen. Charles Schumer, raised an astounding $5.3 million during March, for a first-quarter total of $9.5 million. Democrats are holding $5.6 million in cash on hand.

CHAFEE'S POVERTY

 Sen. Lincoln Chafee, the maverick Republican facing strong primary and general election challenges in heavily Democratic Rhode Island next year, raised only $139,000 in the first quarter this year.

 That amounts to a virtually empty war chest for a challenged incumbent senator. Sens. Jim Talent of Missouri and Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, expecting strong Democratic challenges, raised $2 million and $1.3 million, respectively, in the first quarter.

 Republican National Chairman Ken Mehlman has attempted, unsuccessfully so far, to dissuade Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey from challenging Chafee in the Republican primary. Although the White House is supporting Chafee, there are no plans for President Bush to attend a major fund-raiser for the senator in June.