With Sen. Harry Reid coming under increasing criticism from inside his own caucus for failing to bring direction to this term of the Senate, and after several embarrassing missteps that have seemingly given the Bush Administration a bit of momentum, the majority leader is looking to play tough with the White House.
So he has set a Senate session schedule that would essentially bar President Bush from using the usual weeklong Thanksgiving holiday recess for recess appointments. The White House had intended to use the period to put in place James Holsinger as U.S. surgeon general.
Reid now will put the Senate in "pro forma" session during the recess: Senate employees will show up for work every other day or so and do what's necessary to make it an official session. Reid's decision to play hardball came after the White House refused to bend to Reid's demands to negotiate what amounted to a parliamentary truce similar to the one they agreed to earlier this year for the August recess, whereby the White House wouldn't make recess appointments and the majority agreed to move some nominations through the process.
Playing into Reid's decision is growing concern among his advisers that his leadership ability is being questioned by some within his own caucus, not the least of whom is his deputy leader, Dick Durbin, a man who has made no bones about his desire one day to take the leadership post.
Reid, who chose to stick with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's plan to continue opposition to the Iraq War, has seen support for that position crumbling over the past three months as better news and military reports indicate the surge and other military tactics that Reid and his caucus largely opposed appear to be working.
"Everyone in the Senate knows that it is extremely hard to remove a majority leader," says a Democrat leadership aide. "It's just plain tough to do. Reid knows this, and he's doing what he can to show he hears the criticism and will adjust accordingly."
CNN'S CENTRAL COMMITTEE
At last week's Democrat presidential debate, CNN used the Nevada state Democrat party, the DNC press office, and contacts with communications directors at U.S. Senate offices to identify and vet those in attendance who would ask the candidates questions.
"We didn't go to the campaigns, we used the party infrastructure to get some people they recommended," says a CNN employee, who works in production. "It's a common practice. We want people who have some media training or who won't freeze up on camera on live TV."
But CNN had identified the questioners as "undecided" voters, not party apparatchiks, which is what just about all of them were. For example, LaShannon Spencer, served as the political director of the Democratic Party of Arkansas. Doug Ross has the full breakdown on at least six of the questioners' ties to the Democrat party.
According to the CNN source, recruiting for the questions began about two weeks before the event, and seating and coordination were put in place days before the debate took place. "The only requirement was that they not be paid or volunteer staff to a presidential campaign," says the source.
BYZANTINE U.S. VATICAN POLITICS
While there are several Republican Senators, and many more Democrats, prepared to roll the hold on Harvard Law Professor and Romney supporter Mary Ann Glendon, the initial hold on her nomination as ambassador to the Vatican, as some would have reporters believe, was not Sen. Sam Brownback, whose presidential campaign routinely crossed swords with that of Gov. Mitt Romney's during Brownback's time in the race.
To be sure, Glendon's involvement with Romney, up until about two years ago a pro-abortion Republican in some areas of policy, has created some discomfort for Republicans.
"I, frankly, cannot understand how a person who has staked so much on the pro-life issue could go with someone so unsteady on the issue," says a Republican staffer for a Southern Senator.
GOP Senate staff say they cannot recall a time when the nomination fight spilled over into current Senate and White House politics the way the Glendon nomination has, but say that it remains doubtful her nomination will move any time soon, if at all.