There is a growing buzz among conservative Republican House members about giving Rep. John Shadegg a stated role on new Majority Leader John Boehner's team, not so much because Shadegg is a nice guy with conservative credentials, but because there is mounting evidence that current Majority Whip Roy Blunt, the fellow whom Boehner defeated to become leader, is not playing nice.
"We've done just about everything we can to create an environment that would allow Boehner and Blunt to work and co-exist," says a Republican House member. "Blunt knows we view him as important to the team, but if he isn't committed to this leader and his vision for reform, then we have to surround that leader with people who are committed."
The talk last week was of Shadegg being elevated to a position akin to Deputy Leader, a post the House Republican Conference does not currently list. One school of thought has the new post serving not only as a buffer between Boehner and Blunt, but also as a possible slot that would make Blunt's position such that he'd probably resign the post of Whip.
"If Boehner actually invested the position with stated duties, like overseeing the Whip's operation, then it's doubtful Blunt would stand by and take it," says a GOP staffer who has worked previously in leadership offices. "A lot of the tension that we're hearing about is about ego, and Blunt's can't take much more of a pounding, unless he's a glutton for punishment."
It didn't have to be this way, though it was probably inevitable. In the fight to permanently replace Rep. Tom DeLay, Boehner and Blunt campaigned in widely divergent manners. Boehner kept a comparatively low profile, and his surrogates did little trashing of Blunt to fellow members or the media. They assumed that Blunt's high-profile pursuit of the post, his constant release of endorsements during the first week of campaigning, and the media attention it garnered would force reporters to take a harder look at Blunt than at the competition. That strategy paid off.
Matching that with the addition of Shadegg to the equation, Boehner simply outflanked the man who claimed to be only second to DeLay in whipping votes in the Conference.
In the immediate aftermath of the election, Boehner made a point of visiting Blunt in his offices, of publicly stating his support for Blunt to remain in the Whip position, and claiming the overall Conference leadership would hold moving on in this election year.
But Blunt hasn't made life easy for Boehner. The private meetings are said by staff who heard about them after the fact to have been chilly and awkward.
Blunt has been perceived to be an unenthusiastic participant in leadership strategy sessions, say others who have attended those meetings, prompting some Republican members to approach Boehner about whether there shouldn't be a change made now before serious legislative battles take hold.
Boehner has been quiet on the subject, and has been seeking advice from some members about what his options are now that Congress is back in session. According to some leadership staff, he is hesitant to do anything that would create the appearance that the Republican Conference is again in disarray or engaged in infighting, particularly with mounting evidence that Democrats are in worse shape in that regard.
Conservatives are insisting that Shadegg deserves to be given some leading role in the coming months, particularly in an election year when it is more critical for the base to be energized and out voting.
Former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner got good marks for a recent appearance in New Hampshire, where he test drove a slightly revamped stump speech from the one he has been giving around the country for the past six months.
Not surprisingly, the speech's new touches reflect polling Warner's advisers have undertaken coming out of the President's State of the Union address, as well as strategy sessions with national Democratic political advisers.
Warner has also quietly been snapping up former staffers for Al Gore and Bill Clinton to fill jobs in his leadership PAC and his campaign for what is expected to be a presidential nomination bid.
Word that the Labor Department is finally getting detailed financial disclosure data from labor unions under requirements of the 1959 Landrum-Griffin labor reform act is making officials at the AFL-CIO and National Education Association (NEA) nervous. Over the weekend, columnist Robert Novak reported that initial disclosure documents from the AFL-CIO showed that the union spent $49 million, or 27 percent of its annual budget, on political and lobbying activities. That's about 50% more than it spent on its actual membership. NEA numbers are believed to be close to the AFL-CIO's on a percentage basis.
What some Republicans will be interested in tracking is how much of that almost-50 million dollar figure went to fund the shadow 527 organizations that attempted to help Democrats, particularly presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, during the 2000 election cycle.
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