Leadership staffers for Senate majority leader Dr. Bill Frist are attempting to negotiate a meeting between their boss, along with Senate Republican whip Mitch McConnell, and House Speaker Dennis Hastert and majority leader Tom DeLay. The meeting will come on the heels of almost daily mea-culpas from Frist for his seeming inability to negotiate the complicated deal-making during the Senate debate over the Bush tax cuts earlier this month.
While it’s true that Republicans in the House and in the White House were upset at Frist’s mishandling of the deal, which limited the Bush tax cut to $350 billion, there is more annoyance that Frist has failed to build a strong, seasoned leadership team to help him through the early months of his tenure. “Trent Lott isn’t going to do this guy any favors, especially under the circumstances under which Lott was forced out,” says a Senate staffer working through the Easter recess. “Frist has had an opportunity to bring in some really experienced people, but he seems to have waffled on those decisions.”
There is an expectation out of the White House that Frist will seek to dump the $350 billion tax cut for the more Bush friendly $550 billion cut. As well, it’s expected that Frist will make a commitment to both his House and Senate colleagues to be better prepared for the sometimes byzantine procedures that Senate rules make possible.
As for Frist’s relationship with the House, veteran observers in both the House and Senate say that in the longterm this will be a minor flap. “Frist screwed up. It’s nothing more sinister than that,” says a House leadership staffer. “He’ll come to us. He’ll apologize, and then we’ll sit down and come up with a way to make this thing work. The White House is counting on our doing that.”
LAHOOD SLAMMED SHUT
As usual, what Karl Rove wants, Karl Rove gets. No sooner had Rep. Ray LaHood indicated early last week that he would be a strong candidate to replace retiring (i.e., quitting while the getting’s good) Sen. Peter Fitzgerald than he stepped aside. That’s because former Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar announced on Thursday that he would be open to running. This, after discussing the possible Senate run with National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman Sen. George Allen and Rove.
Edgar, should he fully commit, is expected to quickly clear the field of other competition for the 2004 race. He would at least initially be favored to hold the seat for Republicans in what is expected to be a tough race.
THE VISION THING
Those notions that Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is positioning himself for a 2008 presidential run can’t be too far off. A number of former Jeb Bush advisers, who aren’t already working in the George Bush administration, are already positioning themselves for jobs in the final 18 months of GWB’s term two.
“There are some good opportunities out there,” says a former Florida Bush aide now in private sector work. “And if it means we can be in Washington to help another Bush down the road, great.”