Robert Novak

WASHINGTON -- In a closed-door meeting Tuesday of the top House Republican leadership, the consensus was that President Bush had gotten himself in deep trouble on the Dubai ports management deal and he was on his own to try to save it.

Rep. Tom Reynolds was particularly adamant in separating House Republicans from presidential wreckage on the ports affair. As the current chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, Reynolds is responsible for election of enough Republican candidates to retain control of the House.

A footnote: Treasury Secretary John Snow was on the phone last week asking for advice on how to solve the Dubai problem from senior Republican members of Congress who had not come out publicly against the ports deal.


House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, usually identified as a San Francisco liberal, has moved to the right of President Bush and the Republicans in proposing to relieve the Sarbanes-Oxley regulatory legislation's financial drag on corporations.

Bush and Pelosi are each pushing a "competitiveness agenda," but only the Democrat's plan addresses Sarbanes-Oxley, the hurriedly drafted 2002 act intended to weed out corporate corruption. Pelosi is proposing "specifically tailored guidelines" to make sure that Sarbanes-Oxley requirements are "not overly burdensome" on small companies.

Bush's "competitiveness agenda" does not mention Sarbanes-Oxley, reflecting the administration's negative response to pleas from business for regulatory relief. Rep. Michael Oxley, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee who retires from Congress at the end of this year, has opposed any change in the statute that bears his name.


The pro-abortion rights Republican Majority for Choice (RMC), running ads in Pennsylvania newspapers seeking a Republican primary candidate against anti-abortion Sen. Rick Santorum, includes the state's other GOP senator, Arlen Specter, on its advisory panel.

The ad does not mention Santorum by name, but there is no question of the target when it attacks "candidates who claim to be Republicans but instead use the party to further their own personal or religious agenda." In requesting "real Republican" Senate candidates, the RMC attacks the GOP's "drift toward extremism." The deadline for a candidate to file is Tuesday, March 7.

Robert Novak

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

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