Washington Prowler

Shifting Times

Democrats consolidate -- with White House help.

By 11.26.06

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MONEY MATTERS
Sen. Charles Schumer, who in every way but title -- he is vice-chair of the Senate Democrat caucus -- now ranks in the top tier of leaders in the Senate, isn't having anything to do with Sen. Joe Lieberman. This is particularly so as the Connecticut Democrat looks to push his Congressional ethics reform legislation in the coming months.

Schumer, who agreed to retain the chairmanship of the Democrat Senatorial Campaign Committee for another two-year stint, does not want any hardcore ethics legislation passed on his watch. That's what he has told Senate majority leader Harry Reid, according to Democrat leadership aides.

Last year, Lieberman co-sponsored legislation with Sen. Susan Collins that would have established an independent Office of Public Integrity. While the Senate ethics committee would have oversight, the office would have had the flexibility to investigate ethics complaints and vet filings and lobbyist activities in the Senate. A similar bill was introduced in the House.

Schumer was able to leverage his New York ties to the financial markets and big business to competitively raise money with the Republicans. According to a leadership source, he's not sure he'd be able to do that again under tightened lobbying guidelines.

WHO'S IN CHARGE?
The Bush Administration's favorite Democrat, Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, chose not to go on the campaign trail to spread the word about the strong Bush Administration economy, but that doesn't mean he wasn't traveling on the taxpayer dime.

Lately he's been to London and in December he intends to travel back to China, where he will participate in the first session of the Strategic Economic Dialogue.

This is a program he started, and which he had set up an all-Democrat, former Clinton Administration team to run it for him.

Some Republicans on Capitol Hill were upset by Paulson's refusal to campaign on behalf of the Administration, but the White House went out of its way to protect him from too much criticism.

PERMANENT VACANCY
One reason Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice isn't pushing hard for a Deputy Secretary of State is that she's happy working with former Clinton administration State spokesman Nicholas Burns, who serves in the number three slot at Foggy Bottom.

Much has been made that the position formerly held by Robert Zoellick remains unfilled, but the White House isn't pushing very hard to fill the slot, in part because Rice has said that she works well with Burns.

Now that Democrats control the Senate, it would be far easier to slip Burns through the nomination process.

Rumor has it that current National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley would like the job, but there are questions about confirmation there. Deputy Treasury Secretary Robert Kimmitt, who is said at one time to have wanted the Deputy Secretary of State slot, is now said to have his eye on the NSC slot should Hadley either move over to a new job or leave the administration.

WAXMAN BUILDUP
Rep. Henry Waxman apparently believes in political payback, at least when it comes to those who helped get him back into the chairmanship of the House oversight committee. He is working with Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the group that brought enabled and pushed the Rep. Mark Foley scandal, to hire some of the organization's outside legal counsel to work on his committee. The oversight committee is also looking to bring in some of the organization's researchers as paid committee staff.

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