Robert Novak

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Harry Reid, leading the Senate's new Democratic majority, is framing next year's schedule in a way that will make it difficult, if not impossible, for President Bush to give recess appointments to nominees blocked for confirmation.

Reid's schedule limits Senate recesses to one week. Recess appointments usually are made only when Congress has been out of session for at least 10 days. That may kill any consideration of trying to seat federal appeals court judges whose nominations had been stalled even in the Republican-controlled Senate. The downside may be a rebellion by senators if their breaks are held to one week.

A footnote: Bush did not make his difficult course in the Senate any easier when he inexplicably failed to place a congratulatory phone call to Sen. Mitch McConnell on his election as Senate Republican leader. The president did call the new minority whip, Sen. Trent Lott. After McConnell revealed the presidential snub in an interview, Bush called him.


Democratic Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts is not content to become chairman of the House Financial Services Committee but is pushing for moderate Rep. Spencer Bachus of Alabama as its ranking Republican member.

The committee's Democratic staff is pressing for Bachus over the more senior conservative Rep. Richard Baker of Louisiana (with the selection made this coming week by the Republican Steering Committee) on grounds he would facilitate bipartisan cooperation with Frank. Baker's supporters claim Bachus would be Frank's "lapdog" on the important committee, which deals with corporate regulation.

According to the National Journal's ratings for the last Congress, Baker is the 17th most conservative House member while Bachus ranks 78th. Baker is more conservative than every member of the House GOP leadership (except for Rep. John Carter of Texas, the newly elected secretary of the Conference). Baker is also measured to the right of all leaders of the conservative Republican Study Committee.


Former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating, in a recent lunch with veteran Republican political consultant Ed Rollins, explored the prospects of his making a run for president. Rollins replied that he should run only if he could raise a sufficient war chest.

Keating, currently the chief Washington-based lobbyist for the life insurance industry, considered a 2000 race for president with Rollins as his manager. He has made no decision for 2008. Rollins managed President Reagan's landslide re-election in 1984.

Robert Novak

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

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