WASHINGTON -- In a secret meeting Wednesday of the House Republican leadership, Minority Leader John Boehner ruled that Rep. Jerry Lewis of California will continue as the party's ranking member of the Appropriations Committee while under federal investigation on ethics charges.
That widened the gap between Boehner and reform-minded House Republicans, including members of the leadership. Under investigation for sponsoring questionable earmarks, Lewis remains a major Republican spokesman in Congress. He led the Republican debate Wednesday on Democratic procedures for handling President Bush's veto of the expanded State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).
Republican reformers complain that Boehner imposes a double standard that is harsher on rank-and-file members of Congress than on leaders. While Lewis keeps his leadership position on Appropriations, Rep. John Doolittle left the committee in April because he is a federal corruption target.
GEORGE ALLEN COMEBACK
George Allen, whose Republican presidential dreams were shattered by his upset defeat for re-election to the Senate in 2006, is considering a comeback by running for governor of Virginia in 2009.
Allen was governor in 1994-98 before election to the Senate in 2000. Democrats have won Virginia's last two governor's elections, in 2001 and 2005.
A footnote: Rep. Eric Cantor, chief deputy whip and a rising Republican star in the House, has not ruled out an uphill run for the Senate from Virginia next year. Democrat Mark Warner, who was governor in 2002-05, is heavily favored for the Senate seat of retiring Republican John Warner (no relation).
While 19 of 22 Republican governors once favored the Democratic bill expanding the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), only two signed a Tuesday letter to President Bush urging him to sign the measure.
Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt, a former governor of Utah, helped bring around his former colleagues. Even California's Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a presumed supporter of the SCHIP bill, joined his fellow Republicans. The only GOP governors signing the letter were Connecticut's Jodi Rell and Utah's Jon Huntsman (following the lead of his state's Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch).
With Republicans opposed, the letter to the president could not be a position of the National Governors Association (NGA) -- currently headed by Minnesota's Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty. The letter, signed by 26 of 28 Democratic governors, was on plain stationery instead of NGA letterhead.
BUCKS FOR BYRD