Robert Novak

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Facing the real prospect of losing control of the Senate in this year's elections, Majority Leader Bill Frist called together 10 other Republican senators for a Tuesday night strategy session on "saving the majority."

Frist, who is not seeking re-election in 2006, took copious notes about the ideas put forth. But no consensus was reached on how to deal with possible loss of GOP Senate seats in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Missouri, Montana and Rhode Island, with mediocre compensating prospects for defeat of Democratic incumbents.

The need for Republicans to cure their addiction to costly earmarks was raised at the meeting, but hardly any of the senators present showed interest in the subject.


House Majority Leader John Boehner is credited with cooling off opposition by Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis sufficiently to save the administration-backed line-item veto in the House June 22.

Lewis had been giving a run-around to Republican Rep. Paul Ryan, sponsor of the bill providing presidential authority to veto parts of a spending bill (subject to approval by both houses of Congress). Boehner reminded Lewis that President Bush and the congressional Republican leadership supported the Ryan bill. Consequently, the majority leader urged the chairman not to mobilize the 36 Republican Appropriations Committee members against the line-item veto.

As a result, Lewis e-mailed his committee members that he would vote against Ryan's bill but was not calling on his fellow appropriators to follow him. That ended the danger that monolithic opposition by the Appropriations Committee would turn enough other Republicans to kill the measure. The bill passed, 247 to 172, with Republican appropriators supporting it, 27 to nine.


The Rasika restaurant in downtown Washington was jammed at 6 p.m. last Wednesday for a fund-raising reception benefiting Sen. John McCain's political action committee.

Republicans were willing to pay $5,000 each to hear McCain speak. They wanted to be on record as present to help the prospective front-runner for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination.

Included among those attending were some of Washington's top GOP lobbyists: Charlie Black, Wayne Berman, Scott Reid and Rick Hohlt. Also present was Sen. John Warner, whose fellow Virginia senator -- George Allen -- is McCain's potential opponent for the presidential nomination.


Robert Novak

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

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