Moderate Democrats in the House say that majority leader Rep. Steny Hoyer's decision to cut back the House work week by a day in 2008 is an indication that his influence is growing among Democrats to the diminishment of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
"She's all about image, and she fought this change to the death," says a moderate House member. "To our way of thinking, there was nothing for us to do on Friday, she had us wasting time when we could be home doing something, like campaigning and raising money. She didn't seem to understand that if we can't do either, she isn't going to have a majority next time."
Hoyer announced last week that he'd cut the Friday from the work week, which would allow members to leave town as early as Thursday afternoon for their home districts if they chose to do so.
Hoyer, who has long been considered a more powerful House member than Pelosi based on his fundraising prowess and Capitol Hill connections, has been hearing it from mostly moderate and conservative members, and even a few of Pelosi's supporters of late. "They feel like we're stuck in the mud and playing the Republicans' game," says a House leadership aide with ties to Hoyer. "Last week was a bad week for the House Speaker and she didn't seem to even know it."
Last week the House held its one-thousandth roll call vote this year, the first time Congress had reached that level since the ratification of the Constitution. Pelosi's office demanded that Democrats mark the event as a victory for the party, against the advice of Hoyer and other party leaders.
"It only served to highlight just how little we've actually achieved compared to what we promised," says the House aide. "Out of those thousand votes, about ten percent were bills that became law and half of those were namings of federal buildings and such. Fifty bills in a year doesn't compare to what we promised, and she wanted to put a spotlight on it. She just doesn't get it sometime."
Pelosi has promised Rep. Barney Frank that he will get a House vote on legislation to prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. He thought he was going to get the vote last week, but instead saw it pulled from the agenda after a Democrat-sponsored amendment extended the same right to individuals who chose to change their sex.
Another reason: "Republicans wanted an exemption for religious groups, and that's the thing that killed it for us," says a House leadership aide. "The folks pushing this bill want the religious groups to have to deal with this issue, they aren't going to get out from under it if we have our way."
That may not happen, and it may scuttle the bill in its current form, something Republicans would like to see happen.
Critics of Pelosi's leadership say this bill is another sign of her occasional tone-deafness on political issues. "There is no way in hell we should be debating this issue in a time when we're losing the messaging war with Republicans," says another Democrat House staffer.
MITT'S BIG BOPPER
"I think being pro-life is more than saying you'll appoint strict constructionist judges," is what former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney told reporters last week. He was talking about former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, but he could just as well be talking about himself.
Romney, who for more than 35 years claimed to be avowedly pro-choice, and ran as such for the U.S. Senate and for the Bay State governorship, has been using his and his family's money to create a "pro-life" record.
Earlier this year, his wife, Ann, was given an award by a Massachusetts pro-life organization after Romney made what a source inside the group called a "sizable" donation. Ann Romney, like her husband, has been pro-choice most of her life.
Romney also has hired political consultants with pro-life records, the best example being James Bopp, a prominent conservative lawyer, who serves as a legal counsel for National Right to Life.
Bopp has carried Romney's pro-life message for months, and was front and center for the candidate during the Family Research Council's Value Voters Summit.
But Bopp is now facing the same kind questions that were raised by conservatives when respected conservatives like Federalist Society leader Leonard Leo supported the nomination of former White House Counsel Harriet Miers to a seat on the Supreme Court, when most conservatives were opposing the nomination.
Bopp is now in the eye of a storm after criticizing Sen. Sam Brownback for meeting with Giuliani, a meeting, sources say, that Giuliani asked for. Romney and Brownback had a scheduled meeting for this week, but it was abruptly canceled after Bopp's public criticism of Brownback, who ended his presidential run last week.
"Bopp is losing a great deal of credibility by attacking Brownback," says a longtime Washington-based pro-life conservative activist. "We know that Romney is at the very least a squish on abortion. But Bopp seems to ignore years of on-the-record statements and expects us to believe him and Romney's 'conversion' because he says we should believe a man who has done nothing for the [right to life] movement. Nothing."
Interestingly, Bopp made his shot across Brownback's bow via leftwing blog TalkingPointsMemo:
"There's obviously something more going on here than fidelity to the pro-life cause," said Bopp, a legendary pro-life activist and lawyer who is an important voice for Romney because he vouches for his conservatism. "Brownback is angling for some personal political benefit by cozying up to Giuliani."
Brownback is expected to endorse another Republican candidate in the coming weeks, but it almost certainly won't be Romney, whose campaign spent hundreds of thousands of dollars attacking Brownback in Iowa through third parties. Brownback, in turn, regularly reminded Iowa voters of Romney's less than impressive record on life issues.
Romney's liberal social agenda has come back to haunt him now several times in the past week, most recently when a prominent South Carolina evangelical leader pulled back from a public endorsement for the former Massachusetts governor.
Republicans around Washington are trying to figure out who is pressing conservative legal outcast and former anti-Clinton attack dog Larry Klayman in his trademark infringement suit against the conservative network, Freedom's Watch. Klayman is claiming he filed a trademark for a similar name in 2004. Now he's suing, and is preparing to depose five leaders from Freedom's Watch, all of whom have ties to the current Bush Administration, as well as to current Republican presidential candidates.
Freedom's Watch spent millions in a campaign to build support last summer for the Iraq War, and was seen as a critical aide to winning public support for the surge policy. It also was seen as potentially influential group for the 2008 election cycle.
"The concern is that this is another Klayman fishing expedition that might be more helpful to Democrats and the left netroots like MoveOn than helpful to him," says a former Bush White House official.
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