Washington Prowler

Leading Murtha On

She loves him, she loves him not: Nancy at work and play. Also: Gates meets approval.

By 11.13.06

Potential incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has thus far declined to make phone calls on behalf of Rep. John Murtha's run for Democrat leader, a decision that has some Murtha supporters angry. "She's already publicly supported him, but when it comes to actually twisting some arms for some votes, she's sitting on her hands," says a House Ways and Means Committee staffer, whose boss is supporting Murtha for his anti-Iraqi war position.

That position is the only reason Pelosi released the surprise letter on Sunday supporting Murtha, and it was after she has spoken with Democrat advisers who assured her that it appeared current whip Rep. Steny Hoyer had locked in a majority of the caucus for his own candidacy.

Hoyer's people informed the advisers that Hoyer had commitments from 20 or 21 of the 41 incoming Democrat members, as well as the majority of the caucus, seemingly locking up the leader job. "They [Hoyer's people] seemed to think it was strong enough majority for it not to shift too much because of the letter either way," says a Democrat leadership aide. "Hoyer's people were taking this in stride, that this was something Pelosi had to do to help herself with the MoveOn and Cindy Sheehan types, not because she really wants Murtha in that chair."

According to Capitol Hill sources, Democrat leadership in the Senate indicated to the President that they had no objections to the nomination of Robert Gates to replace Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Look for a vote by the full Senate to take place perhaps as early as the second week of December. Hearings on Gates are slated to begin the first week of December.

"I wouldn't say it's a done deal, but it's pretty close," says a Democrat leadership staffer. "There seems to be consensus to move the nomination through the process and get it done."

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