Bipartisan Stimulation

Robert Novak

1/19/2008 12:01:00 AM - Robert Novak

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Republican Leader John Boehner are working behind the scenes to attempt rare bipartisan cooperation on an economic stimulus package.

Pelosi has urged Democratic House members not to load the bill with so much spending that it will attract intense Republican opposition. Boehner has advised Republicans not to criticize the Democratic proposals. The cooperation by Pelosi reflects desire to actually pass a bill in view of public opinion polls that show voter approval of Congress even lower than President George W. Bush's ratings. Pelosi has been out front on the issue, publicly scheduling meetings with Boehner and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

ROMNEY IN FLORIDA

Florida's top two Republicans, Gov. Charles Crist and Sen. Mel Martinez, have not endorsed anybody in the state's key Republican presidential primary Jan. 29 but are clearly negative about Mitt Romney.

Martinez, who co-sponsored President Bush's ill-fated immigration reform bill, resents Romney's hard line on illegal immigration. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's support for Romney does not help him with Crist, Bush's unfriendly successor.

The latest Rasmussen poll shows a virtual four-way tie in Florida between Romney, Sen. John McCain, Rudy Giuliani and Mike Huckabee, with Fred Thompson not far behind. Florida could give the winner a leg up in the Super Tuesday primaries on Feb. 5 a week later.

DOOLITTLE DID IT

Republican leaders were cheered that they probably saved at least one House seat from a Democratic deluge this year when scandal-scarred Rep. John Doolittle finally succumbed to their pleas that he not seek a 10th term from his Northern California district.

Doolittle, once a member of the party's leadership as secretary of the House Republican Conference, has been linked to imprisoned lobbyist Jack Abramoff. He nearly lost his seat in 2006 after easy re-elections for the previous decade. His political condition worsened last April, when the FBI raided his Northern Virginia home, and he and his staff have been brought in for questioning by federal subpoenas.

Doolittle's insistence on running again this year nearly guaranteed a Democratic takeover of the seat. Any other Republican would be favored to win there.

TOURING CONGRESSMEN

Both House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and House Minority Whip Roy Blunt, leading a bipartisan congressional delegation to Asia during the year-end recess, were favorably impressed by Kevin Rudd, the new Labor Party prime minister of Australia.

After defeating Liberal-National coalition Prime Minister John Howard in November, Rudd ended Australia's support for President Bush's positions on Iraq and global warming. However, Rudd stressed to the congressmen his desire to maintain a strong U.S.-Australian alliance.

A footnote: Hoyer and Blunt were surprised by the unlimited time given them in Hanoi by Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet, who scheduled them during his two-hour midday break.

TAX CUTTERS

Rudy Giuliani gets the highest rating from Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) of all Republican candidates, with a perfect score on his tax-cut intentions.

Sen. John McCain gets the worst marks of GOP candidates by refusing to take a no-tax-increase pledge, advocating a 15 percent estate tax rather than total repeal and failing to advocate an alternative system of taxation, new capital gains tax cuts and a cut in the corporate rate. Mitt Romney also fails on the alternative system and capital gains cuts, as well as not advocating total repeal of the alternative minimum tax (AMT). Mike Huckabee falls short on the AMT and capital gains and corporate rates.

A footnote: The three leading Democratic candidates -- Sen. Hillary Clinton, Sen. Barack Obama and John Edwards -- all get a goose egg from the ATR by failing on all its issues.

CORRECTION

Sen. Charles Schumer, chairman of the Joint Economic Committee, told me this column erred last week in saying he lost a race to Rep. John Spratt, House Budget Committee chairman, to get testimony from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. Schumer said he made no such effort and was satisfied with Bernanke's recent testimony before his committee.