WASHINGTON -- Talk is increasing among House Democrats that if they fail to regain control after 12 years of a Republican majority, Rep. Nancy Pelosi should be replaced as the party's leader in the House.
If Democrats recapture the House, Pelosi surely will be the first female speaker in the nation's history. But Republican strategists are posing that possibility as a reason for voting Republican, and she will be widely blamed as a San Francisco liberal if there is a Democratic failure in November. Pelosi's colleagues complain about her public performances, especially on NBC's "Meet the Press" May 7.
The highly regarded Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, second-ranking in the House hierarchy as Democratic whip, ordinarily would be in line to succeed Pelosi. However, tension between Pelosi and Hoyer has been so great that many Democrats would prefer somebody not identified as her antagonist. Consequently, there is speculation about Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, a second-termer who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, as Pelosi's logical replacement.
JUSTICE VS. CONGRESS
House Republicans are blaming their former staffer, Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, for the constitutional crisis triggered by the FBI's raid on Rep. William Jefferson's Capitol Hill office.
While there is a difference of opinion on the constitutionality of the raid, Capitol Hill is united in opposition to the Justice Department's tactics. House Republicans were outraged by leaks suggesting, without apparent justification, that Speaker Dennis Hastert, a critic of the raid, is under investigation in the Jack Abramoff scandal. It also was leaked that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and McNulty threatened to resign if President Bush returned documents seized in the Jefferson raid.
These tactics reminded House Republican staffers of McNulty, as a longtime House Judiciary Committee staffer and more recently as a U.S. Attorney in Virginia.
GREEN AT TREASURY
Conservative critics of Treasury Secretary-designate Henry Paulson have no real hope of blocking his confirmation but would like to rough him up enough to prevent him from pressing hard for excessive environmentalist causes once he takes office.
Paulson, chairman of the Goldman Sachs investment bankers, heads the Nature Conservancy land conservation organization. While a George W. Bush "Pioneer" who raised $100,000 for the president's re-election campaign, Paulson has been a heavy contributor to environmentalist causes (including the Kyoto global warming treaty) opposed by the administration.
In naming Paulson, Bush ignored an April 11 letter from a coalition of free market-based policy groups arguing against his nomination.
Paid conservative lobbyists have helped grease the way for passage in the Senate this week of the long-pending bill, opposed by the Bush administration, that would give Native Hawaiians the same status as mainland Indian tribes.
A report boosting the bill was written by two Bush administration alumni: former Assistant Attorney General Viet Dinh and former White House aide H. Christopher Bartolomucci. Also lobbying for the measure have been Chuck Cooper, an assistant attorney general in the Reagan administration, and Ben Ginsberg, a longtime lawyer representing the Republican Party. All have been hired by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, a quasi-government entity.
The bill is expected to glide through the Senate, with foes unable to collect the 41 votes needed for a filibuster. But prospects in the House are uncertain.
Former Sen. George McGovern, the liberal 1972 nominee for president who was avoided by South Dakota Democrats running for Congress in 2004, returns to center stage in a Washington fund-raiser for the state party this week.
Sen. Tim Johnson and Rep. Stephanie Herseth have sent an invitation to Washington lobbyists asking them to contribute up to $5,000 apiece "to attend a reception to honor" McGovern. The event will be held Tuesday at Democratic National Committee headquarters on Capitol Hill.
Johnson was narrowly re-elected in 2002 with just over 50 percent in heavily Republican South Dakota. Herseth won in 2004 with 53 percent.