Not with Nancy

Robert Novak

4/7/2007 12:01:00 AM - Robert Novak

Three Republican congressmen, who visited Damascus three days before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived, were eager to disassociate themselves from the Democratic leader and make clear they did not even know she was going to Syria.

When President Bush assailed Pelosi for her Syrian mission, she noted that Republican Reps. Frank Wolf of Virginia, Joseph Pitts of Pennsylvania and Robert Aderholt of Alabama made the same journey. Some news reports gave the false impression that they all were on the same congressional delegation. While Wolf stressed that he and his two GOP colleagues support Bush's Iraq policy, their mission to Damascus violated the president's policy, as did Pelosi's.

A footnote: Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey, a senior Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was with Wolf, Pitts and Aderholt in Israel during the Easter recess and wanted to join them in Syria. He could not be added at the last minute.

THOMPSON'S CAMPAIGN

Fred Thompson's progress toward becoming a Republican presidential candidate will take a step with the return of Congress from its Easter break when he meets privately with a large group of Republican House members.

GOP House leaders had prepared last year to board George Allen's campaign wagon before his defeat in Virginia for re-election to the Senate eliminated him from presidential consideration. They had been moving toward support of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, led by former Speaker Dennis Hastert's endorsement. But many have stepped back from Romney and are looking hard at Thompson. One member of the GOP leadership who had been prepared to endorse Romney is holding his fire while he considers Thompson.

A footnote: Thompson will hit the campaign trail next month in advance of any formal announcement with a May 4 speech in Orange County, Calif. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani has led GOP presidential hopefuls in lining up California support.

EASTER EGG POLITICS

Parents taking toddlers to the White House Monday for the annual Easter Egg Roll are scheduled to be handed a brochure instructing them on how to enroll their children in government-funded child-care programs.

President Bush's staff requested that the Department of Health and Human Services supply 50,000 brochures for the traditional Monday event.

That might seem an unusual undertaking for an administration avowedly dedicated to limited government. The added irony is that many of the participants in the Easter Egg Roll are well-heeled supporters of the president unlikely to be interested in government child care.

PATENT POLITICS

Efforts to save a Massachusetts pharmaceutical company upwards of $1 billion for failing to file a drug patent extension on time resumed March 29 with the introduction of a bipartisan bill and a high-powered lobbying campaign.

Democratic Reps. Marty Meehan and Bill Delahunt of Massachusetts and Republican Rep. John Duncan of Tennessee dropped a measure to extend the lapsed deadline for The Medicines Co. The company's lawyers were a day late in 2001 filing the extension for the blood-thinning drug Angiomax. A last-minute relief bill quietly passed the House late in 2006 but was derailed by Senate objections.

The renewed effort is being run by the DLA Piper lobbying firm, which received $1.7 million from Medicines last year. Its lobbyists include former House Majority Leader Dick Armey.

DISAVOWING JEB BUSH

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, the only new Republican governor elected by a major state in 2006, is a major disappointment to party leaders in the state.

"Charlie has succeeded in just three months in getting rid of just about everything Jeb Bush [his two-term predecessor as governor] accomplished," a key Florida Republican told this column. He contended Crist has abandoned Bush's conservative reforms, particularly in education.

Crist, the former state attorney general, has been considered a possible candidate for vice president in 2008 in view of Florida's importance to Republican chances of retaining the White House.