WASHINGTON -- Sen. Harry Reid, leading the Senate's new Democratic majority, is framing next year's schedule in a way that will make it difficult, if not impossible, for President Bush to give recess appointments to nominees blocked for confirmation.
Reid's schedule limits Senate recesses to one week. Recess appointments usually are made only when Congress has been out of session for at least 10 days. That may kill any consideration of trying to seat federal appeals court judges whose nominations had been stalled even in the Republican-controlled Senate. The downside may be a rebellion by senators if their breaks are held to one week.
A footnote: Bush did not make his difficult course in the Senate any easier when he inexplicably failed to place a congratulatory phone call to Sen. Mitch McConnell on his election as Senate Republican leader. The president did call the new minority whip, Sen. Trent Lott. After McConnell revealed the presidential snub in an interview, Bush called him.
Democratic Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts is not content to become chairman of the House Financial Services Committee but is pushing for moderate Rep. Spencer Bachus of Alabama as its ranking Republican member.
The committee's Democratic staff is pressing for Bachus over the more senior conservative Rep. Richard Baker of Louisiana (with the selection made this coming week by the Republican Steering Committee) on grounds he would facilitate bipartisan cooperation with Frank. Baker's supporters claim Bachus would be Frank's "lapdog" on the important committee, which deals with corporate regulation.
According to the National Journal's ratings for the last Congress, Baker is the 17th most conservative House member while Bachus ranks 78th. Baker is more conservative than every member of the House GOP leadership (except for Rep. John Carter of Texas, the newly elected secretary of the Conference). Baker is also measured to the right of all leaders of the conservative Republican Study Committee.
KEATING FOR PRESIDENT?
Former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating, in a recent lunch with veteran Republican political consultant Ed Rollins, explored the prospects of his making a run for president. Rollins replied that he should run only if he could raise a sufficient war chest.
Keating, currently the chief Washington-based lobbyist for the life insurance industry, considered a 2000 race for president with Rollins as his manager. He has made no decision for 2008. Rollins managed President Reagan's landslide re-election in 1984.
The rationale for Keating's presidential ambitions is the absence of a clear and viable right-of-center presidential candidate now that Sen. George Allen has been eliminated by his defeat for re-election in Virginia. Keating is a conservative and a prominent Catholic layman who at one time was a prospect to be George W. Bush's running mate in 2000.
In an election marked by widespread Republican defeats, the group that supports female Democratic candidates who are pro-choice on abortion picked up just two of 19 Republican House seats it had targeted for defeat.
In those 19 districts, EMILY's List spent $1.5 million in independent expenditures and made $921,000 in direct contributions. It funneled a total of $241,357 to Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth in Illinois and $159,000 to State Atty. Gen Patricia Madrid in New Mexico. Duckworth and Madrid, both narrow losers, were among the highest profile Democratic challengers this year.
In Democratic House primaries, EMILY's List lost four out of six competitive races.
While the conservative Republican Study Committee (RSC) will have an increased percentage in the GOP's depleted House ranks, it is being divided in a battle for its leadership between reformers and appropriators.
Third-term Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas, a reformer opposing earmarks, was in line to be the next RSC chairman. But he is being challenged by Rep. Todd Tiahrt of Kansas, a sixth-termer who sits on the Appropriations Committee.
Tiahrt's candidacy riles reformers who want to make the RSC the base for controlling spending and the growth of government. In the wake of the election, the RSC's share of all House Republicans has climbed from 43 percent to as high as 54 percent. Hensarling's backers complain that Tiahrt'sush challenge dilutes the impact of conservatives.