Washington Prowler

Washer Dreier

House Republican disunity revealed. Also: John Conyers' CREW team.

By 6.30.08

DIRTY LAUNDRY
Rep. David Dreier (R-CA), successfully fought to strike the term "Communist China" from a House GOP policy paper because he felt it was too provocative and an outdated term from the Cold War era, according a House GOP leadership aide. His push to go soft on China took place in a private House GOP leadership meeting, and touched off what is rumored to be a heated argument between Dreier and fellow GOP leadership member Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI).

Word on Capitol Hill began spreading about the confrontation, which took place during the "Elected Leader Committee" meeting on June 24.

The Elected Leader Committee is made up of Reps. John Boehner, Roy Blunt, Adam Putnam, McCotter, John Carter, Kay Granger, Tom Cole, Eric Cantor and Dreier, and, according to a GOP leadership aide, develops public policy positions and talking points that are distributed to the Republican caucus, as well as produces materials for use on Boehner's leadership website, among other GOP resources. Many are public documents, which can be accessed at the leadership website. The ELC meetings are closed door and off the record.

"It must have been like being back in the Reagan era," says a House Republican member, who was not present at the meeting, but heard about the McCotter-Dreier argument from a colleague. "I think it was a microcosm of the challenges we're facing as a party, and that's why I think we need to air it out a bit."

Present at the meeting on that day were Reps. Boehner, Dreier, Blunt, McCotter, Putnam and Cole, though Blunt, according to knowledgeable sources, was not present during the discussion in question. On the table was a document entitled, "The House GOP Security Agenda," which included boiler plate language and bulleted position points on domestic and international security issues, and the ELC members were asked to provide feedback on the final draft.

According to knowledgeable sources, during the discussion Dreier, who is ranking member of the House Rules Committee, expressed concerns about a reference to "Communist China" in the report. "He said it was just jabbing at China and that it raised the specter of the Cold War," says the House leadership aide. "And he and Boehner tried to laugh it off as a term that [former House member] Chris Cox used to throw around all the time."

McCotter, who has been publicly critical of the Bush Administration's engagement position on Communist China, countered, according to the leadership aide, that using the term "Communist China" was wholly appropriate, particularly given China's horrific human rights record and recent provocative attempts to infiltrate the U.S. Defense Department's computer networks, as well as the computers of Members of Congress that had sensitive Chinese human rights data stored in them.

"Basically, McCotter was saying, 'Cold War behavior deserves a Cold War term,'" says the leadership aide.

In the end, any reference to China was stricken from the document, though other totalitarian regimes are mentioned, including Iran, Cuba and Hugo Chavez's Venezuela.

Another House leadership aide, who was in and out of the meeting with his boss, said that the discussion between the two men was "civil and frank." Neither Dreier's nor McCotter's staff would confirm the discussion took place, though several leadership aides with knowledge of what took place during the meeting confirmed the incident. A number of House members have also heard about the debate. "These kinds of rumors are what make this meeting off the record and confidential," said another leadership staffer. "You can't expect an honest discussion if every little disagreement gets aired in public."

"When the party of Reagan can't agree on whether or not China is communist, we've got a problem in my view," says the House member. "We're all about nuance and language. Words have meaning, and we shouldn't be afraid to stand up for what we believe in. That argument and the outcome is something I'd expect from a Barack Obama policy meeting, not the House Republican leadership. I'm disappointed, but not surprised. This is the kind of wordplay that has contributed to our current minority status."

CREW MEMBER
Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and his House Judiciary Committee majority staff sent a subpoena to Attorney General Michael Mukasey for materials involving the Joseph Wilson scandal, using as the basis for the subpoena a laundry list of materials the left-wing extremist group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) provided the committee.

Included in the list of demanded materials are transcripts and notes from FBI interview notes of Lewis "Scooter" Libby, former White House chief of staff Andrew Card, and senior Bush advisers Karl Rove and Dan Bartlett. The committee is also seeking confidential legal documents, analysis and memoranda going back to the fall of 2001 and post 9/11, and any and all documents the Department of Justice might possess related to other linger cases -- in the minds of Conyers and CREW. Included in the subpoena were demands for documents related to a host of unrelated cases, including the investigation of former Alabama Gov. Donald Seligman, the firing of a U.S. Attorney, and several other prosecutions of Democrats.

"CREW has its hands in almost every one of these cases, and basically, Conyers is doing its discovery work for them," says a House Republican Judiciary Committee staffer. "This has been an ongoing problem, and no one is calling them on it."

Conyers is using the appearance and testimony of former White House press secretary Scott McClellan as the impetus for the new request.

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