The AP doesn't mention Rep. Mike Pence, chairman of the Republican Study Committee, in its House elections tea-leaf-reading. But if House Republicans really want fresh, bold, principled leadership -- which Blunt and Boehner are not -- they should look no further than Pence. Though some members are sore that Pence was vocal about spending this year (the "grandstanding" charge just doesn't wash for this humble man from what his staff says privately), he stands for conservatism in all the important fights.
The Spectacle Blog
So Stephen R. Dujack, the final witness that Sen. Patrick Leahy thought would create the kind of negative buzz against Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito, has been pulled.
According to Republican and Democratic Judiciary Committee staffers, the Democrats were aware of Dujack's dubious background as a witness appropriate to a Supreme Court nomination, but felt that resurrecting the Concerned Alumni of Princeton story had enough upside to slide him in. According to one Democratic Committee source, some staffers advised against it, but were overruled by both Sens. Leahy and Kennedy.
"Dujack was Leahy's guy. He wanted him. We got him and vetted him and advised against it," says the Democratic staffer. "We were over-ruled." This source says that there is a consensus among the committee staff -- both parties -- that Alito should be confirmed.
So Dujack is dust, though now Sen. Leahy's staff is offering him to all of the news channels for interviews on Monday. That said, there are sure to be fireworks aplenty as the hearings open.
Drudge has a "Dems Plan to Destroy Alito" head up on his site right now.
We've been hearing that the organization Drudge refers to his in tease is Concerned Alumni of Princeton (see earlier posts). Before everyone gets hot and bothered by this, understand that the Senate staffs of Pat Leahy, Dick Durbin and Ted Kennedy have been pushing this CAP story for more than a month to little effect. In that time, we've heard that the Washington Post and the New York Times were working on stories. Now, they may be sitting on them, but it appeared -- as of earlier this week -- that there simply wasn't anything to the CAP rumors the Dems were peddling.
We won't put it past the MSM to concoct something in time for the Sunday morning talk shows or for the opening of hearings next week, but know this: everyone who has tracked the Alito nomination closely has been aware of CAP and Alito's membership. This all has the whiff of desperation about it.
It has been learned on good authority (remember that one?) that the Washington Redskins are not among the several Indian Tribes to receive refunds from the Abramoff kitty.
Word off the Hill on the Senate side is that Democrats are divided on how to approach a delay on the vote of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito. According the Senate sources, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid was none too happy with the leak late yesterday by some of his aides about the planned one-week delay in a Judiciary Committee vote. But just what Democrats will do remains unclear. It appears now that the Democrats seem content to talk a tough good game, but wait to see how the hearings play out before they show their true hand.
While much of the media spotlight of late has focused on Sens. Patrick Leahy and Chuck Schumer, the man to watch next week -- as with the Robert Bork nomination -- is Sen. Ted Kennedy. He is the one spearheading much of the agitation on the Democratic side, and there is talk that if he had his way, the Alito vote would be put off into February.
I seem to recall some rather indignant reactions when I dared to suggest back in September that it was time to cut DeLay loose. National Review, calling for DeLay to step aside in light of developments in the Abramoff scandal, sticks by the line that to dump DeLay then "would have rewarded a Democratic political power play."
Come on: Democrats haven't stopped hating DeLay, and lots of them will be feeling "rewarded" by his downfall, and will cheer it. They'll be wrong to cheer, since they'll be weaker against a different Majority Leader. The Abramoff plea deal makes this only slightly more true now than it was in the fall. And don't kid yourself: Since the moment DeLay took his "temporary" leave, and certainly since Roy Blunt beat out David Dreier for acting leader, the leadership on the Hill has just been waiting for the right moment to push him out for good. I'm glad they've found it.
Interesting watching the "dog chasing its own tail" on other blog sites as the MSM has created the buzz and excitement of an impending election that was a foregone conclusion a month ago to readers of sites like AmSpec and RedState.
For us, the only question was the timing and how late into January the Republican caucus and its leadership felt they could hold on.
It may be that Rep. Roy Blunt has built up enough goodwill in the past two months to have the "interim" removed from his leadership title. But as we have pointed out before, one reason Blunt's star was tarnished to begin with was damage inflicted by then-Leader Tom DeLay. There has been no reconciliation. DeLay is still influential in the caucus and will do everything he can to ensure Blunt is not given what DeLay feels his colleague should not have to begin with.
I'll be subbing for Hugh again today (6-9 pm EST on the Salem Radio Network). We'll be talking about the Dems' maneuvers to delay Alito, DeLay's altercations with the House leadership (viz. the Prowler) and just how far should the conservatives go in attacking the left on its feckless positions on the war. Pat Robertson goes too far. But most of us don't go far enough. See ya on the radio.
Hotline is now reporting two dozen House Republicans have stepped up to sign on to an election petition, and fingers Rep. Jeff Flake as one of the ringleaders. There are at least two or three others lobbying conservatives and moderates to sign on.
The names in play for new leadership continue to be Blunt and Boehner. Fiscal conservatives are pushing Rep. Mike Pence, while others are pushing Rep. Zach Wamp.
We think, based on conversations we've had in the past few days that the names to watch - and what they say and do over the next few days - are Reps. Debra Pryce, Eric Cantor and Pence.
Pryce is being overlooked, and shouldn't be underestimated. Cantor is increasingly getting attention, and while he may not have built up the operation to pull off an election to Leader, he almost certainly will leap frog others to a senior leadership post.
The other wild card: Speaker Dennis Hastert. He has been strangely quiet about all of this, and while that has allowed others to fill the vacuum and move ahead with an election drive, there are some wondering just how long he intends to put up with a growing mess of a situation.
We're hearing that the House Republican Caucus may have at least partial closure to the Tom DeLay drama by Monday morning, perhaps sooner depending on how hot the phone lines get over the next 36 hours.
By then, Republicans will have have pulled together the requisite 50 members formally requesting an election for leadership posts.
The petition drive is not being driven by senior members of the caucus who might also be candidates for leadership positions, we are told. Rather, it is the tier of Republicans just below them that is driving this train. At least two regional whips are said to be involved in the lobbying to pull together the "Gang of 50."
As we reported before Christmas, GOP House leaders meeting on St. Michael's Island after Thanksgiving anticipated such a petition would be forwarded to the caucus after the holidays, particularly if the Texas courts didn't clarify Leader DeLay's legal predicament any further.