A couple of things for folks to be thinking of as Congress retreats to the hills:
First, spending time on the House side with Republicans, there is a growing sense that regardless of where the courts come down on Rep. Tom DeLay, his days as a Majority Leader are probably toast. In speaking with one loyalist in the Republican Caucus earlier this week, the message was loud and clear: "We can't go into this election year with Tom running the show. He will become part of every story, good or bad, but the press will always portray him badly. Like it or not, Tom is a reflection on us, and we just can't have that."
The apparent deal-cutting that is going on related to the Jack Abramoff investigation down in Miami will further complicate matters when the House returns in late January. Ultimately, look for the members of the House Republican Study Committee to lead the petition drive to get the election of new Republican leadership off the ground. Rep. Mike Pence and his crew have been the only Republicans to get positive, Reagan-esque policies in play on Capitol Hill in the past six months, and they are expected to be at the center of what unfolds in the coming months.
President Bush has been in good form in pushing back hard on his Iraq and domestic security issues over the past month. It's nice to see the scrapper back in fighting trim. Wish the same could be said for this White House in general.
Its poor performance early on in pushing back against the New York Times story on NSA tracking terrorist conversations (despite the fact the President actually met with the NYT in an effort to dissuade them from running it, thus allowing the White House communications crew to know what was coming, the White House appeared flat-footed in its immediate response), its lack of ability to put Republican Senators in their place related to crucial votes -- not to mention its approach to spending and Senate-confirmable nominations below Supreme Court justice -- reflects a team in desperate need of a spine transplant, and maybe toss in a new heart or two.
All of these things will not disappear like the wreaths and trees that come down after January 10th or so. These are the issues that will linger long after.
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