Robert Novak

WASHINGTON -- Prominent congressional Republicans are urging a reluctant White House to make sure President Bush's anticipated veto of the supplemental appropriations bill does not just protest the measure's deadlines for removing troops from Iraq but also assails its domestic spending provisions. House Minority Leader John Boehner shares this view. The congressional concern is that after Congress fails to override the veto, a new supplemental money bill may remove mandatory Iraq withdrawal language but retain the pork if the president's veto message does not address spending.

The White House response is that the wording of the veto message has not been determined. Bush aides argue that the president's stand against interfering with support for troops in the field should not be diluted.

NO VIRGINIA TECH FALLOUT

Despite calls for tighter gun controls because of the Virginia Tech massacre, House Democratic leaders would not risk a vote on the issue Thursday that would carry severe political ramifications.

The party's leadership on March 22 pulled off the House floor a bill to give voting rights to the delegate from the District of Columbia when Republicans amended it with a proposal to end the ban on gun ownership in Washington, D.C. Democratic House members from marginal rural districts did not want to be recorded on a measure monitored by the National Rifle Association (NRA).

When the D.C. vote bill was rescheduled in the House Thursday, there was speculation that the horrors at Virginia Tech made it possible to defeat the gun measure. Actually, Democratic leaders still did not dare endanger their members. Instead, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer employed parliamentary tactics to prevent a gun vote.

FRED THOMPSON'S MONEY

Starting far behind in the money chase for the Republican presidential nomination, Fred Thompson is considering following the 2004 pattern of Democrat Howard Dean by raising campaign money via the Internet.

At a closed-door meeting with House Republicans Wednesday, former Sen. Thompson assured them he could raise the funds needed to run. However, his close associates are just starting to seek out experts in electronic fund-raising.

A footnote: Thompson showed up at the annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington April 13 after Christian conservative James Dobson on March 28 said of Thompson: "I don't think he's a Christian." Thompson is a member of the Church of Christ.

GOODBYE, TOBACCO

House Majority Whip James Clyburn, whose rural lowland district in South Carolina is full of tobacco farmers and who has been a beneficiary of contributions from the tobacco industry, indicated Tuesday he no longer is an obstacle to raising taxes on cigarettes.

In an April 17 federal tax day interview with Congress Daily, Clyburn said Congress should consider increasing the tobacco tax because of "paygo" requirements to compensate for higher spending. Since tobacco farmers have received a $10.1 billion federal buyout, Clyburn said, "all we're talking about is people who choose to smoke cigarettes."

In his virtually unopposed re-election to an eighth term in Congress, tobacco interests gave Clyburn $14,000. That was more than all but 34 of 435 House members received from the industry.

TIM JOHNSON'S SEAT

National Democratic Party strategists believe that Sen. Tim Johnson, out of sight since suffering a brain hemorrhage last Dec. 13, will be able to run for re-election in South Dakota next year. But if he cannot, they fear Democrats will lose the seat in the heavily Republican state.

These strategists doubt Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, the probable Democratic nominee if Johnson does not run, can win a Senate race. The strongest Republican candidate would be Gov. Mike Rounds. Other possibilities are Lt. Gov. Steve Kirby and State Senate Majority Leader Dave Knudson.

South Dakota Republican insiders say they doubt Johnson will be able to be a candidate. His office has said he may return to the Senate as early as this summer, with the help of a wheelchair.


Robert Novak

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

 
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