Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' stock on Capitol Hill dropped even lower among Republicans last week when he tried to make his second in command the fall guy for firing U.S. attorneys on the day that Paul McNulty announced his resignation as deputy attorney general.
In a Tuesday morning appearance at the National Press Club, Gonzales for the first time stressed that the evaluation of federal prosecutors and the decision to fire them had been in McNulty's hands. McNulty, a former senior House Republican staffer, is a popular figure on the Hill.
A footnote: Speculation in Washington legal circles is that President Bush has been reluctant to get rid of Gonzales for fear that Senate Democrats would not confirm his successor without a commitment to name a special prosecutor in the U.S. attorneys case.
A HIDDEN EARMARK
Democratic Rep. Nita Lowey has pulled down from her Website a press release boasting about an earmark attached to the supplemental appropriations bill that Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey claimed was free of all earmarks.
Lowey on May 9 announced an $8,665,000 appropriation for "flood mitigation projects" in parts of New York hit by the recent northeaster. The press release boasted of the 10-term congresswoman's efforts in securing the money.
Rep. Jeff Flake, a Republican earmark watchdog, on the House floor May 10 noted it "seems an awful lot like an earmark to me if a member actually does a victory lap afterwards and says that member actually inserted (it) in the bill." When Flake asked Obey to explain, the Appropriations chairman responded, "I claim no responsibility for any statement made by any member." Shortly thereafter, Lowey pulled down the press release.
An unhappy Rep. Phil English of Pennsylvania feels he was omitted for unexplained reasons from what became a highly publicized meeting at the White House for the moderate Republican Tuesday Group to discuss Iraq war policy with President Bush.
English did not complain to the White House, but he believes he was removed from the invitation list by presidential aides. A moderate conservative, English has sometimes clashed with the Bush administration on trade policy and the minimum wage. He also voted for anti-Iraq surge legislation.
White House aides contend English's name was not on the list given them by the Tuesday Group.
At a recent internal debate by the conservative House Republican Study Committee, Rep. Bob Inglis of South Carolina warned that the GOP ran the risk of looking like the racist National Party of South Africa on the immigration issue.
Inglis' comment was made at a closed-door "retreat" of the Study Committee held at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. The bitter debate reflected the split over immigration in conservative ranks.
Supporters of President Bush's proposed moderate immigration reforms blamed last year's defeat of Republican Reps. J.D. Hayworth in Arizona and John Hostettler in Indiana on their immigration hard line. But at the retreat, the response from the majority was that Hayworth and Hostettler were not hard enough.
With 80-year-old Republican Sen. John Warner not disclosing until late this year whether he will seek a fifth term in 2008, Rep. Tom Davis is building strong statewide support for the GOP nomination if Warner does not run.
Conservative activists are not happy with the prospective nomination of Davis, who has a lifetime 70 percent American Conservative Union voting record compared to Warner's 81 percent. Davis, who represents a Washington suburban district, would be a strong candidate in populous Northern Virginia (carried by Democrats in their recent statewide victories). Former Gov. Jim Gilmore is a more conservative possibility if he gives up his current campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.
A footnote: Former Gov. Mark Warner would be the strongest Democratic candidate for the Senate, but insiders believe he may forego that race to keep himself available as Sen. Hillary Clinton's vice presidential running mate.