WHY CAN'T WE BE FRIENDS?
Despite denials by his staff, Vermont Sen. Jim Jeffords did approach several colleagues in the Republican Senate Caucus about returning to the fold. According to several Republican Senate leadership sources, Jeffords himself floated the idea to Rhode Island Sen. Lincoln Chafee and to Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe in the aftermath of the Republicans' regaining control of the Senate.
"It wasn't a half-joking conversation," says a Senate leadership staffer. "The senators thought it serious enough to go to their caucus leaders and raise the issue. At that point it became a joke."
Soon to be Majority Leader Trent Lott found the possibility of a Jeffords return humorous, according the sources. "In fact as soon as we won Missouri and it was obvious we'd regain control, one of the first things we thought of was when Jeffords was going to come around looking to cut a deal for his committee chairmanship," says another Senate leadership aide, referring to Jeffords' role as head of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee
The promise of that plum chairmanship was what sent Jeffords over to the dark side to begin with. And keeping it is ostensibly why Jeffords wants to come back. A few years ago, Republicans might have been willing to listen, but with hardliners like Mitch McConnell, Larry Craig and Rick Santorum gaining greater influence over the Republican caucus, it's doubtful many of his former fellow Republicans would be willing to forgive and forget the spectacle Jeffords created when he abandoned the GOP to vote with the Democrats last year.
When Rahm Emanuel showed up in Washington as a special assistant to President Bill Clinton, he put off many of Clinton's own staffers because of his brash and overconfident manner. "He was an a--hole, but a competent a--hole," says a Clinton staffer.
Emanuel is apparently proving no different his the second time around now that he's been elected to the House. The Chicago native was swept into office to hold the seat formerly held by convicted felon Dan Rostenkowski. In fact he was one of the few Democratic candidates who had Bill Clinton campaign for him and didn't end up losing (which would have taken some doing in his thoroughly Democratic district). And on the basis of that victory and his experience in the White House and on Capitol Hill, Emanuel is looking for a leadership slot in the upcoming congressional session.
According to several Democratic staffers, Emanuel has told incoming minority leader Nancy Pelosi that he'd like to be considered to lead the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the position that helps recruit prospective candidate, fundraises for them and helps the campaigns shape policy and message.
"Only a guy like Emanuel would have the chutzpah to pull something like this," says a Democratic House member. "And you know what? It might not be a bad idea. Who else have we got? If he can bring us a fresh set of recruits who will help us win, I'll learn to deal with his personality."
New York Rep. Nita Lowey served as DCCC head last time around and was by all accounts a disaster. Rep. Martin Frost previously held the position and he's looking for something to do now that he's out of leadership. Rep. Ed Markey is said to be a finalist for the job now, along with Rep. Bill Jefferson. As reported here yesterday, both are ultra-liberal -- no less so than Rahm Emanuel.
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