Robert Novak

WASHINGTON -- The acceptance of former Rep. Jim Nussle to be President Bush's budget director provides more evidence that Republican presidential front-runner Rudy Giuliani is downgrading his effort in Iowa caucuses leading off the GOP delegate selection process next January.

When Giuliani bowed out of this summer's Republican presidential straw poll at Ames, Iowa, the former New York City mayor's camp insisted he was not abandoning the caucuses. But Nussle, defeated for governor of Iowa last year, was the most prominent Iowan for Giuliani. The perception in Iowa is that Nussle would not become Office of Management and Budget (OMB) director if Giuliani were serious about the caucuses.

A footnote: Rob Portman's resignation as OMB director reflected his desire to mend his Ohio political fences. The former congressman is the leading prospect for governor in 2010 following the Democratic sweep there in 2006.


Sen. Chuck Grassley, ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, has undermined Republican schemes to capitalize on Democratic tax plans by joining Democratic Sen. Max Baucus, the Finance Committee chairman, in punitive tax plans against private equity partnerships.

Republican fund-raisers had been scolding the financial services industry for giving more than half of its contributions to Democrats in 2005 (according to Bloomberg News). In return, the GOP tells Wall Street, Democrats repay such generosity by increasing the tax burden for financiers.

That argument is undercut by Grassley, the Iowa farmer who continues his long-standing animosity against hedge funds by pushing higher tax rates for them and for private equity partnerships.


While increasing President Bush's overall request for the Labor-HHS appropriations bill by 8 percent, the House Democratic version cuts by 19.6 percent the Labor Department request for funds to enforce disclosure by labor unions of how they use membership dues.

Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao has tried, against opposition from organized labor, to enforce at long last union disclosures imposed by the 1959 Landrum-Griffin Labor Reform Act. The funding reductions in the House bill would force Chao to cut enforcement personnel and effectively undercut her efforts.

The Democratic bill was put together by Rep. David Obey of Wisconsin, who heads the Labor-HHS subcommittee as well as the full Appropriations Committee. It is one of eight money bills marked for a Bush veto. Rep. James Walsh of New York, the subcommittee's ranking Republican, indicates he will vote to override such a veto.


Robert Novak

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

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