Wednesday, November 10, 2010

CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing

CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing

Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2010

 Today In Washington

Cooling-Off Period Required. House Democrats may delay their leadership elections until after Thanksgiving. The balloting was supposed to be next week — same as in the Senate and with the House GOP — but Pelosi’s surprise decision to try to stick around in the top ranks has made her caucus intensely anxious and annoyed. Instead of licking their collective wounds from the election, they’re trying to prevent a wave of internal back-biting and factional strife.

Blue Dog conservatives may have seen their ranks wither last week, but they’re still showing some fight. While they have no candidate to oppose Pelosi for minority leader (whatever happened to Heath Shuler?), they’re talking about causing all manner of trouble for her and other liberals in the leadership. One possibility would be to side with Republicans to hand Pelosi a symbolic defeat on a floor vote or two during the lame duck.

Liberals, meanwhile, are furious at being forced to take sides in the Hoyer vs. Clyburn contest for whip — which of course wouldn’t be happening if the House’s No. 1 liberal had volunteered to get out of the leadership. Pelosi seems to understand this and is trying to broker a deal between her top lieutenants — so far with no sign of success. Hoyer is diligently lining up the votes he needs to win (he’s got about half of them) while Clyburn has gone home to South Carolina after signaling he’s not interested in either the caucus chairmanship or a senior seat on Appropriations as a consolation prize.

Right vs. Righter. House Republicans have their own schisms to contend with — mainly between establishment figures who are solidly conservatives and relative newcomers who portray themselves as ideologically pure. The marquee race on this front is between Jeb Hensarling of Texas and Michele Bachmann of Minnesota for the chairmanship of the GOP Conference, the No, 4 leadership post. It’s already split the leadership of the Republican Study Committee, which represents the most conservative incumbents. The other high-profile fight will be over the chairmanship of Energy and Commerce, where frontrunner Fred Upton of Michigan is viewed on the right as far too squishy.

In the Senate, the first big ideological fight among Republicans will be next week,  when the caucus will debate just how far to go to appear pure on earmarks. That this debate has split Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma and Jim DeMint of South Carolina is a sign the tea party revolutionary fervor has not swept the Capitol quite yet.

Budgeting for Change. The top Democratic seat on the Budget Committee will be Chris Van Hollen’s consolation prize for racking up a 1-1 record running his party’s campaign organization these past four years. The Maryland lawmaker’s decision effectively boxes out two who wanted to succeed the defeated John Spratt in that job: Allyson Schwartz of Pennsylvania and Bobby Scott of Virginia.

Kent Conrad of North Dakota probably will be Van Hollen’s partner in leading the party’s congressional cover for Obama’s fiscal policies, and maybe working on an overhaul of the broken federal budget process. Conrad is likely to keep the top Democratic seat on Senate Budget — which he’s had for a decade — rather than claim the ranking spot on Agriculture. His reasoning: He was able to drive the Senate version of the last farm bill from his Budget seat and can easily do so again. (The next farm bill is supposed to be done in 2012.)

Down-Shifting. The three lawmakers next in seniority behind Jim Oberstar, one of last week’s biggest upset losers, all want to become the new top Democrat on House Transportation. The smart bet is that Nick Rahall of West Virginia will get the gig instead if either Peter DeFazio of Oregon or Jerry Costello of Illinois. If that happens, then Ed Markey of Massachusetts would fill a void left by Rahall, easing into the ranking spot on Natural Resources.

McConnell, Esq. He didn’t have much luck in 2003, when the Supreme Court rejected his arguments and upheld the main provisions of the campaign finance overhaul in a case called McConnell v. FEC. But he’s back for another litigious turn this week, looking to get as many other GOP senators (and senators-elect) to sign on as possible before filing a friend-of-the-court brief on the side of the states that want the health care overhaul declared unconstitutional. McConnell argues that Congress doesn’t have the power to force citizens to buy something — as in a health insurance policy. He says that if the courts disagree by ruling the coverage mandate is constitutional, then there won’t be any real limits to congressional power over peoples’ lives.

Get Well Card. Jim McGovern, who transitioned 14 years ago from being an accomplished aide to legendary Hill liberals (George McGovern, Joe Moakley) to a leading lawmaker on the left in his own right, is out of the hospital after getting a cancerous thyroid gland removed. The 50-year-old Democrat from Worcester, Mass., won his eighth term last week with 57 percent.

Correction. Yesterday we got part of GOP House freshman Tim Scott’s resume wrong. He chaired the Charleston (S.C.) County Council, not the city council.

— David Hawkings, editor

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David Hawkings
dailybriefing@cqrollcall.com

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