Robert Novak

WASHINGTON -- President Pervez Musharraf and opposition leader Benazir Bhutto each placed telephone calls from Pakistan to Democratic Sen. Joseph Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to discuss the country's crisis before either talked to President George W. Bush.

On Saturday, Bhutto stressed to Biden the need for parliamentary elections in January with Gen. Musharraf remaining as president but leaving the army. Musharraf called Biden Tuesday and asked that their conversation be kept confidential. Biden got the impression Musharraf could accept January elections although he had triggered the crisis by suspending the constitution.

Biden, seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, wants the Bush administration to get actively involved in resolving the situation. He wants development now of a post-election power-sharing agreement between Musharraf and Bhutto.


House Republicans were ready to go along with the Democratic leadership's plans Tuesday to kill without debate Rep. Dennis Kucinich's motion to impeach Vice President Dick Cheney when Rep. John Shadegg, a conservative Republican with no leadership role, pushed a better idea.

Shadegg talked the GOP leaders into voting to keep alive the Kucinich motion, in order to force a House debate on whether to impeach Cheney that would split Democrats. Republicans and left-wing Democrats combined to kill House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer's tabling motion.

Hoyer prevented a debate by moving to refer the impeachment motion to the House Judiciary Committee, a maneuver that was adopted along party lines. However, anti-Cheney activists now will pressure Judiciary Chairman John Conyers to act on Kucinich's proposal.


Sen. Charles Schumer had nothing to do with an effort to revive a $1 million earmark for the Woodstock festival museum in Bethel, N.Y., after it had been rejected by the full Senate. Appropriations Committee staffers on their own partially restored the proposal in the final version of a spending bill even though it had not been passed by either house.

The conference report on the bill removes the prohibition on funds for the "Hippie" museum passed by the Senate but does not actually authorize the $1 million. Thus, a phone call from Schumer to the Health and Human Services Department could restore the funding. But Republican Sen. Tom Coburn, who led the unexpectedly successful floor fight against the earmark, believes Schumer will not defy the will of the Senate.

Robert Novak

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

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