Saturday, June 10, 2006

"Smart Dust?" Are You Kidding?

Sometimes I feel I'm the only person in Washington, D.C., without a security clearance. Perhaps someone who has one - or who has served in Iraq - can tell me if this is an elaborate April Fool's Day joke: smart dust?

I suppose that's mostly a rhetorical question, as there are numerous sites for it on the Internet. It looks like the guys at Cal are working on it (In Your FACE, Stanford!).

A quick perusal of the source material suggests that it's some wild kind of... nanotechnology. And you know what that means! "Blah, blah, blah... nanotechnology, blah, blah, blah Army of Davids, blah, blah, blah... buy my book."

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Lewis Aide Clears His Chest

It appears that a senior aide to Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis has decided to come clean about his finances, before reporters start picking through his garbage can:

Rep. Lewis aide got buyout from lobby firm
By ERICA WERNER, Associated Press Writer
Fri Jun 9, 11:05 PM ET

A top aide to House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis received $1.96 million in severance payments from a lobbying firm with ties to Lewis, according to documents released Friday.

The connection between Lewis, a California Republican, and the Washington-based firm, Copeland, Lowery, Jacquez, Denton, & White, is under federal investigation.

The payment to Jeff Shockey, who left Copeland Lowery early last year to become deputy staff director of the Appropriations Committee, was contained in his 2005 financial disclosure form. Congressional lawmakers and top staff must file such forms each year.

Attorneys for Shockey and his wife, Alexandra, a lobbyist, released the form Friday and discussed it with reporters on a conference call on condition they not be identified.

Shockey's 2004 financial disclosure form reported he had received at least $600,000 when he left the lobbying firm. But he was paid full sum last year.

...The payments were based in part on revenue that Shockey would have brought in had he stayed with the firm. Based on the figures in the disclosure form, his revenue estimate jumped from about $1.7 million in 2004 to about $3 million in 2005 as he added new clients, his attorneys said.

That period coincided with speculation that Lewis, then chairman of the Appropriations defense subcommittee, would take over the gavel of the full committee. That happened in January 2005.

Attorneys for the Shockeys said the separation payment was a buyout of his ownership stake in the lobbying firm and that he was legally obligated to divest all interest in the firm to avoid any conflict of interest when he returned to Capitol Hill.

It had earlier been reported that Shockey received a substantial 'severance package' from his firm when he returned to Lewis' staff. The explanation contained here - that he was liquidating his stake in the firm - casts the story in a somewhat better light. Still - nice line of work if you can get it.

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Don't Get Excited About Murtha

John Murtha has declared that if House Democrats retake the majority, he intends to seek the Majority Leader spot. The timing of this annoucement is surprising, and it can only tend to split House Democrats. But while Captain Ed does a good job of laying out the possibilities, I think that he and others are overstating the case.

If they retake the majority, Democrats will probably face fights in several key races - Majority Leader, Majority Whip, and in the lesser ranks of leadership. Every Member of the House Democratic Conference knows that. There can't be any real serious campaigning for these posts however, until after election day, because few Democratic Represenatives will commit to a candidate until it becomes clearer that there will actually be such a race.

More importantly, a Hoyer-Murtha race would represent a moderate-moderate fight - at least as far as Democrats are concerned. Because for all his criticism of the Iraq effort, most Democrats still see John Murtha as an old-fashioned pro-defense Democrat. And for such a high-level leadership position, there WILL be a liberal in the race. Also, the Campaign Committee Chairs of both parties have benefitted in leadership races from successful elections. Thus Rahm Emanuel - a rising liberal star - will clearly be a contender for a leadership spot if Democrats retake the House this year, during his term as Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Majority Leader will certainly be a likely spot for him to look at.

If Rahm Emanuel were to do what Murtha has just done - declare his intention to seek the Majority Leader spot - it would give the race the liberal that everyone knows it needs, and it will potentially open a liberal-moderate fight within the Democratic caucus. Then Captain Ed's assessment will be spot-on.

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President's Polling Looking Up?

The Hotline notes a bump in the ratings for the economy, along with an improvement in the President's poll numbers:

The Big Number: 36
Every day, we'll highlight one poll number that we think teaches us something new about the political landscape. Today's big number is 36 -- the percentage of Americans who rate economic conditions in the U.S. as excellent or good, according to a Gallup poll out today. That's not huge, but it is up 7% since the last time the question was asked, in mid-May.

Could it be that Americans are getting used to higher gas prices? While 22% of Americans called energy costs the most important problem facing the U.S. in the May poll, just half that number said the same thing in today's survey. Is it possible that the U.S., already mocked in Europe for whining about $3/gallon gas when they're paying $6 or $7, is getting used to the high price of oil?

But that's just one possible answer. Another: Could we be suffering from summer optimism? Pres. Bush's approval ratings are up modestly, and just about every indicator that goes something like "Is ___ getting better?" is up as well. If it were still cold and snowy, would these numbers be changing? [REID WILSON]

With regard to the question of whether Americans are getting used to higher gas prices, I've noted in the past that they're not really all that high. Plus, gas prices don't seem to have had much effect on elections in the past.

I'll also note that if the President's numbers continue to rebound, he will reach a point - perhaps at 40% approval or so - where the MSM's herd mentality leads to a raft of stories about how the President is doing better, and wondering whether it's because of the improved situation in Iraq, the improvements in the economy, or his handling of the immigration question. I say this because the MSM is very predictable. They may LIKE the story that the President's numbers are plummeting, but if they're rising, they still must find SOMETHING to write. And if the numbers are rising, then they have to find SOMETHING to ascribe it to. That might lead to a series of stories about how things aren't really so bad on the economy and Iraq.

We'll see.

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Lieberman Headed for Party Switch?

The Hotline notes that the most recent Quinnipiac poll shows Joe Lieberman with a surprisingly-narrow lead over his primary opponent, Ned Lamont. While Lieberman previously led by 45 percentage points, he now leads by 15:

The Big Number: 15
Every day, we'll highlight one poll number that we think teaches us something new about the political landscape. We forgot yesterday's, so here's a make-up from yesterday's Hotline. Today's big number is 15. Better put, it's 15 and possibly closing.

CT Sen. Joe Lieberman (D) leads his primary challenger, cable executive Ned Lamont (D), by a margin of just 15 points, 55%-40% in the latest Quinnipiac Univ. poll, after boasting a more than 45% lead in a Q-poll last month. What's worse, the margin is that tight even though only 17% of Dems know enough about Lamont to have formed an opinion (his fav/unfav rating among Dems stands at 11%-6%).

What could be better news for Lieberman, on the other hand, is that those who think he deserves re-election -- a full 61% of respondents -- cite a wide variety of reasons for voting for him. Those who think he doesn't mostly cite his views on Iraq, his conservatism and his closeness with Pres. Bush. Oh, and if Lamont does end up beating Lieberman in the primary and the senator decides to run as an indie, the Q-poll shows him rolling Lamont and GOPer Alan Schlesinger, 56%-18%-8%.

So, concerning to the incumbent on one hand, but intriguing cause for optimism on the other. [REID WILSON]

This primary poll is probably more worrisome for Lieberman than the Hotline conveys: Lieberman's 15-point lead is among all Democrats. It must be lower among the more liberal crowd that votes in primaries. Lieberman might well trail among that core group. Plus, once Lamont begins advertising, his numbers ought to improve.

On the other hand, if Lieberman loses his primary and chooses to run as an Independent, then look for the GOP to go very easy on him - in the hopes of bringing him into their Senate caucus as an Independent, should he win re-election.

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Friday, June 09, 2006

House GOP Right to be Optimistic

Yesterday I linked to Stu Rothenberg's analysis of the results of Tuesday's election. National Journal's Hotline takes a crack at it as well, and notes an important fact: if Democrats want to retake the House, they will have to win districts more reliably Republican than the one they lost Tuesday:

June 07, 2006
Ruby Red Tuesday
Much of the Dem post-primary spin has centered on the fact that Francine Busby performed capably given the Republican nature of CA 50.

But if Democrats plan on winning back the House, they’re going to have to win races in even redder territory. In fact, almost half of the Dems’ top pickup opportunities are in districts that Bush carried with over 55% in 2004. Here’s a list of Bush’s vote share in these vulnerable incumbents’ GOP districts:

Rep. Geoff Davis (R-KY 04): 63%
Rep. John Hostettler (R-IN 08): 62%
Rep. Don Sherwood (R-PA 10) 60%
Rep. Mike Sodrel (R-IN 09): 59%
Rep. Thelma Drake (R-VA 02) 58%
Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH 18) 57%
Rep. Charles Taylor (R-NC 11) 57%

Add the MN 06 (57%) and TX 22 (64%) open seats, and you’ve got 9 top-tier Dem races in heavily GOP districts, districts that make CA 50 (55%) look less than “ruby red.” [JOSH KRAUSHAAR]

The race won by Bilbray did not represent the Democrats' 'dream scenario,' but they had every shot to win. Given the nature of the Congressional vacancy, this district was ground-zero for the 'ethics issue' to make a difference. Bilbray was a lobbyist, which provided valuable fodder, and turnout was set to favor Democrats given the Democratic gubernatorial primary the same day. Nevertheless, Francine Busby did not even improve her performance from the primary to the special election.

Democrats will need to do much better in November than they did on Tuesday. They will need to win races in more hostile districts, and they will need to do it in a number of places at once - not just in a 'one-off' race like the one they just lost.

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New Wrinkle in Lewis Investigation

Captain's Quarters covers a new wrinkle in the investigation into the ethics of House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis. A big beneficiary of earmarks sponsored by Lewis started a Political Action Committee that paid Lewis' stepdaughter rather high fees - at least in comparison to the donations made by the PAC.

Once again, this brings us to a new slogan for Porkbusters: "Earmarks: Look What They're Doing for Jerry Lewis!"

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Dems Show Hypocrisy on DeLay

Texas Democrats are trying to keep Tom DeLay's name on the ballot for re-election in November. This would be a huge victory for them, because it would keep the DeLay controversy in the news at election time, while also giving them a big edge over an almost unelectable incumbent in a district where they would otherwise have no chance:

Democrats want DeLay's name on ballot
Fri Jun 9, 12:15 AM ET

The Texas Democratic Party won a temporary restraining order Thursday blocking the process that would name a replacement for Republican U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay on the November ballot.

State District Judge Darlene Byrne ordered Texas GOP Chairwoman Tina Benkiser not to convene party officials to decide on DeLay's replacement until after a June 22 court hearing.

Democrats are trying to keep DeLay's name on the ballot, which would also keep his legal problems in front of voters. DeLay leaves Congress on Friday.

State Democratic Party Chairman Boyd Richie said Democrats are trying to keep the GOP from creating a "sham vacancy" for the Republican nomination for the 22nd Congressional District.

Richie said DeLay intentionally waited until after the primary to get out of the race, announcing he would abandon his re-election campaign and move to the Washington suburbs. He said the GOP then declared DeLay ineligible, assuming he would move from the state, and started a replacement nomination process while he was still in Congress and eligible for the ballot.

Does this scenario ring a bell? Think New Jersey, Torricelli, Forrester.

In 2002, Bob Torricelli quit his re-election bid when it became clear that even New Jersey wasn't going to return a crook like him to the Senate. Although he quit the race after the legal deadline for removing his name from the ballot, the courts allowed Democrats to replace his name with that of Frank Lautenberg, who subsequently won the election. Democrats argued that to prevent the move would be 'denying the people a choice' in the election.

Let's see how many Democrats take the same position in the DeLay case.

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Suspicious Timing...

The House of Representatives will next week debate the US role in Iraq. It has been known for a while that the House would hold this debate at some time this Summer, but the date was set relatively recently.

Obviously, I'm suspicious about the timing. Al-Zarqawi was betrayed and martyred just days before the debate was set to begin - awfully convenient, huh? Bush and Rove are clearly manipulating events to their political advantage.

I think we need to watch the events of the next few days very closely. And I'll make a bold prediction: Bush will end all violence in Iraq on Monday. I mean, we all know that this is about oil, and that Bush is pulling strings to boost his political ratings. Having pulled Zarqawi's body out of the freezer and arranged the new Iraqi government this week, he's clearly going to end all violence next week - just as a partisan thing to embarrass Democrats.

I'll give you a bonus, too: Iraq's oil production will conveniently return to pre-war levels on Monday as well, leading to a pump price of $1.09/gallon late next week - just in time for the heavy Summer driving season. Since that would be awfully convenient as well, Bush will make it happen.

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Dems to Dump Jefferson from Committee

Roll Call (subscription required) reports that the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee has recommended that Congressman Bill Jefferson be dumped from his post on the Ways and Means Committee. The decision is likely to be ratified by the full Democratic caucus next Thursday, but it apparently will cause a fight with the Congressional Black Caucus:

Vote Sets Stage for Jefferson Ways and Means Expulsion
Thursday, June 8; 8:10 pm
By Steve Kornacki,
Roll Call Staff

Members of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee voted to toss Rep. William Jefferson (La.) from the Ways and Means Committee on Thursday evening, a recommendation that is expected to be ratified next Thursday by the full Democratic Caucus -- unless the Congressman steps down on his own before then.
Democratic leaders had attempted to push the embattled Louisianan's expulsion through Thursday night, hastily scheduling a full Caucus meeting less than two hours after the Steering and Policy session broke up. But when Rep. Rosa DeLauro (Conn.), the co-chairwoman of Steering and Policy, offered her panel's recommendation to the Caucus for consideration, Rep. Mel Watt (N.C.), the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, rose to object, arguing that Caucus meetings require advance notice of five legislative days.

A discussion ensued, after which Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.), the Democratic Caucus chairman, ruled that consideration of the Jefferson matter would be postponed until next Thursday.

Tonight's developments are expected to bring to the surface the tensions between the CBC and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), who set this chain of events in motion by calling for Jefferson to give up his seat on the influential committee two weeks ago, "in the interest of upholding the high ethical standard of the Democratic Caucus."

Watt had warned Pelosi that any formal sanctions against Jefferson, who is the subject of a federal bribery probe, before an indictment would be met with a loud public outcry from the CBC. A CBC source has estimated that about two-thirds of the group's 43 members share Watt's view that, guilty or not, Jefferson is being treated differently than past House Members who have been suspected of, but not charged with, any wrongdoing.

...If the Democratic Caucus does vote to unseat Jefferson from Ways and Means, the issue would then go to the full House. Typically, when a change in a committee assignment reaches the floor, the opposite party approves it without objection, but some Democrats are suspicious that Republicans might look for a way to play tricks with a floor debate on Jefferson in an effort to score political points.

This could provide an opportunity for the House GOP to score political points, but I suspect that they will tread lightly. After all, they could find several of their Members held to similar standards before the year is out.
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Mullah Omar Helps the West

Mullah Omar apparently released a statement in response to the fantastic news about al-Zarqawi. While Iraqis seem to have a clear response to Zarqawi's death - jubilation - Mullah Omar seems torn. His statement shows why pluralism and western values will ultimately win the day:

Purported statement from Taliban leader Mullah Omar mourns al-Zarqawi death

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) - A written statement purportedly from supreme Taliban leader Mullah Omar on Friday mourned the death of the al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and vowed to keep fighting in Afghanistan.

Omar was "deeply sad over the martyrdom of Abu Masab al-Zarqawi" but his death would not weaken the resistance in Iraq, "as it is the people's resistance and every youth can become al-Zarqawi," the Pashto-language statement said. "I want to assure the Muslims across the world that we will not stop our struggle against crusaders in Afghanistan," Omar was quoted as saying.

So Mullah Omar is 'deeply saddened' about Zarqawi's death, but promises that 'every youth can become al-Zarqawi.' How can a philosophy whose great promise is a sad, violent, youthful death, ultimately emerge victorious? It cannot.

That great philosopher Sting [sarcasm watch] once said 'I hope the Russians love their children, too.' Apart from the banal, vapid, silliness of it, it does hold an important truth. People do love their kids. There's a limit to the number of parents who'll tell their kids that martyrdom is a good career choice.

Ultimately, there's a reason that there aren't too many Shakers left. You have to be able to beget the next generation of followers.

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Thursday, June 08, 2006

Looking for (Bill) Clinton Democrats

Sorry it took me a little while to learn about this and post it. Very funny.

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Rothenberg: Mixed News for Congressional GOP

Roll Call's Stu Rothenberg (subscription required) writes that Republicans can take some solace in the results of Tuesday's voting in Califonia, but should be concerned in Montana.

He notes that Francine Busby - the Democratic candidate who lost in the race to replace Duke Cunningham - showed no improvement from normal Democratic numbers in the district. This ought to raise questions about the salience of Democratic attacks. In particular, since the vacancy was created by the resignation of a corrupt Republican headed to jail, you would think that she would have gained on the ethics issue alone, but did not:

California Blues: A Bit of a Downer for the Democrats
June 8, 2006
By Stuart Rothenberg,
Roll Call Contributing Writer

That sigh you heard Wednesday morning coming from national Democrats wasn’t the roar of approval and satisfaction that they hoped for. The results are in from California, and the news was surprisingly good for Republicans.

Former and future Rep. Brian Bilbray drew just under 50 percent of the vote in the special election in the 50th district, holding the open seat for the GOP. Democrat Francine Busby’s 45 percent showing was right in line with past Democratic efforts in the district — and therefore was disappointing.

Given the national political environment, the “lobbyist” line of attack that Democrats used against Bilbray and the nature of the vacancy — GOP ex-Rep. Duke Cunningham took bribes and went to jail — Democrats had every reason to believe that Busby could increase her percentage of the vote by at least a couple of points. But she didn’t.

Don’t get me wrong: Republicans shouldn’t misinterpret the results as evidence that everything is fine and dandy as they head into the November elections. In fact, Bilbray polled under the normal Republican vote on Election Day. A similar 5-point drop-off in the GOP vote in other districts would cost them plenty of seats and possibly control of the House itself.

Moreover, Busby was a mediocre candidate, and the National Republican Congressional Committee had to open its checkbook to save the seat. So it was a win, but a very costly one, for the Republicans.

Even so, Busby’s inability to expand her vote — and Republican voters’ apparent unwillingness to vote Democratic — does raise questions about the prospects for Democratic challengers and open-seat candidates in Republican-leaning, but now seemingly competitive, districts such as Minnesota’s 6th, Wisconsin’s 8th and Nevada’s 2nd.

Rothenberg also notes that the win of a Democrat from Kos-istan, in the primary race to oppose Congressman Richard Pombo, likely removes that seat from the list of potential Democratic targets. It also gives the Democrats a tough test: will they waste money on a losing candidate who happens to be a darling of the netroots:

In the 11th district, Democrats nominated Jerry McNerney over the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s preferred candidate, airline pilot Steve Filson.

McNerney is a nice man, and he deserves a lot of credit for defeating Filson, who had the backing of powerful state and national Democratic insiders. But Rep. Richard Pombo (R) pummeled McNerney 61.2 percent to 38.8 percent in 2004, and there is absolutely no reason to believe Pombo won’t win again this year.

Pombo’s 62 percent showing in his own primary certainly was nothing to write home about. Any incumbent who loses more than one-third of the vote in a primary has problems in his own party and has reason to be concerned about his political future.

But McNerney is simply too far to the left to knock off Pombo in this district, and he doesn’t project the kind of persona that a challenger needs to win against an incumbent. That’s the very reason why Democratic insiders lined up behind Filson, who seemed more polished and formidable.

The big question for the DCCC is whether it will throw its firepower behind McNerney, a favorite of liberals and the netroots.

If DCCC Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) decides to take a pass on the race, liberal Web loggers within his party will scream. If he invests significantly in McNerney, he will take resources away from other races that offer the DCCC much better opportunities for victory.

Rothenberg points out a bright spot for Democrats, and a reason for Republicans to worry, in Montana:

Despite polls showing a neck-and-neck race, state Senate President Jon Tester routed state Auditor John Morrison for the Democratic Senate nomination and the right to take on Sen. Conrad Burns (R) in the fall.

Tester has Burns’ homey appeal and lacks Morrison’s personal baggage. And while Republicans surely will attack the Democratic nominee as a liberal, Democrats have to like their chances of picking up this Senate seat with Tester as their nominee.

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It's a Beautiful Morning...

All news outlets covering the story that Abu Musab al Zarqawi has been killed by US and coalition forces in Iraq. After hitting the safe house where he was holed up, the US pounced on 17 other target sites that they had been watching to learn more about his movements.

This sounds like a significant victory - both in public relations and on the ground. I'm curious as to how big a win it is, inasmuch as it has seemed for a little while that Zarqawi's effectiveness was suffering, and he was becoming an embarrassment to AQ worldwide. Still, I don't see how this can be seen as anything other than a big win. I would imagine we're likely to see an increase in violence in the next week or two, as Zarqawi's followers try to show that they remain strong. The test will come afterwards.

Second point - this comes a little while after Zarqawi was embarrassed by the video released by the US of him being unable to fire a Squad Automatic Weapon. Did that 'black eye' lead to him being 'ratted out?'

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Mugabe gets around to liquidating the rest of the Kulaks

There's nothing funny in this. Just another worsening African tragedy. I'm all for a charitable approach to foreign aid and debt forgiveness, but when will some luminary make this his cause celebre. Mugabe's old-school Soviet economics do more damage in a week than charity can compensate for in a year.

Is it a conspiracy when everyone is in on it?

Most of the "War on Terror" scandals have had a pretty short half-life. The European "secret prison" conspiracy can now join the NSA data mining projects and warrantless eavesdropping in the great scandal graveyard. Some Council of Europe watchdog just issued his findings that 14 European nations were involved to some degree or another in collaborating with the United States on secret prison and clandestine rendition of prisoners. That's 14. 11 of the 14 are EU members. And the EU only has 25 members. No offense to anybody, but the only major EU player not included on the list is France. Otherwise, the only ones not getting in on the conspiracy are the Low Countries, the Balts, and some of the central/eastern Europeans. Meanwhile, the "guilty" include the UK, Germany, Spain, Italy, Greece, Sweden, Poland, Rumania, Ireland, Portugal, and Cyprus. Plus three non-EU members, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, and Turkey. It is nice to see something that Turkey, Greece, and Cyprus can all get together on. If anything, this was a conspiracy by actual heads of state against EU bureaucrats.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

House Dems Preparing to Dump Jefferson?

According to Roll Call (subscription required), the House Democrat Steering and Policy Committee - which determines Committee assignments for House Democrats - will meet as early as today to decide whether to strip Congressman Bill Jefferson of his assignment to the Ways and Means Committee:

Democrats to Discuss Jefferson
June 6, 2006
By Steve Kornacki,
Roll Call Staff

Rep. William Jefferson’s (La.) tenuous standing as a member of the Ways and Means Committee will be discussed when the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee convenes a members-only session, tentatively set for late Tuesday afternoon.
The committee does not hold regularly scheduled meetings, but on Monday, members were told to be present Tuesday for what was billed as an important event: a discussion of the party’s message and agenda.

But the timing — it was only a few session days ago that Jefferson ignored a demand from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) that he leave Ways and Means immediately — promptly ignited specualtion that Pelosi is planning to ask the Steering and Policy Committee to recommend to the full Democratic Caucus that Jefferson be stripped of his assignment on the exclusive panel.

“If that’s what they’re going to do, they probably won’t say it until everyone’s there,” a Democratic aide noted.

A senior Democratic aide, however, said that Pelosi is expected to broach the Jefferson subject but said that she is likely to tread carefully, perhaps only sampling opinion instead of calling for specific actions.

...Other aides also expressed doubt that Pelosi would ask for an actual vote on Jefferson’s status at the meeting, but in showing a desire to press ahead on the matter, she is testing, at least potentially, her relationship with the Congressional Black Caucus.

...There are two avenues available to Pelosi to pry Jefferson from the committee. She could simply invoke her status as Minority Leader and bring a privileged resolution to the House floor, a death knell for Jefferson unless Republicans for some reason rallied to his defense. But such a move could stir broad resentment among House Democrats, who might interpret it as a precedent for future heavy-handedness.

Pelosi’s other option involves building consensus within the Democratic Caucus, first by winning a recommendation from the 50-member Steering and Policy Committee and then by making her case to the full Caucus.

As the Minority Leader, Pelosi has packed Steering and Policy with some of her closest allies, including Reps. George Miller (Calif.) and Rosa DeLauro (Conn.), who serve as the body’s co-chairs. The primary function of Steering and Policy is to make recommendations on committee appointments — recommendations that typically, and not coincidentally, jibe with Pelosi’s own preferences.

...If Steering and Policy were to endorse Jefferson’s removal, the matter would be taken up by the full Caucus, which will next hold a weekly meeting on Wednesday morning. Those close to Pelosi say she did her homework before calling for Jefferson’s head and have expressed confidence she would prevail in a vote of all 203 Democrats — even if the CBC’s opposition ensures the maneuver wouldn’t be entirely tidy.

...The latest hint that Jefferson’s days on Ways and Means might be drawing to a close is only fueling speculation about his successor.

The most popular theory has Pelosi tapping Rep. Artur Davis (Ala.) to fill a slot that many believe is unofficially earmarked for a CBC member from a Southern state. Given the current tension, Pelosi might find particular urgency in trying to assuage the CBC with a Jefferson replacement pick.

But there also are suggestions that some CBC veterans, who recall that Davis ousted Earl Hilliard, a longtime CBC member, in 2002, might prefer that the spot go to someone else — Elijah Cummings (Md.), for instance, who already has expressed a desire to replace Rep. Benjamin Cardin on Ways and Means when his fellow Marylander leaves the House at the end of the year.

If the Democratic Caucus does strip Jefferson of this Committee assignment, it will raise the stakes for other Democratic members with ethics troubles, who serve on important committees (we're looking at you, Alan Mollohan). Should Mollohan (or another Member in a similar situation) look like he or she will be indicted, there will be pressure from the Congressional Black Caucus to punish that Member as well.

And of course, the media will not forget the actions of the Democratic caucus, and press House Republicans to treat one of their own in the same way. Eventually, this could cause trouble for Jerry Lewis, for example.

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The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

Sorry blogging has been non-existent the last few days; I was overcoming technical difficulties.

But why not kick off the day with a salute to what the media - always desparate for a story - seems to be calling the date of the end of the world - 6/6/06.

Now I'm no biblical expert, but isn't 6-6-6 the 'Mark of the Beast,' the number of the Antichrist? I think there would have been even MORE news coverage if it were named in Revelation as the date of the end of the world. I mean if I was told that, I would have run up my credit card bill.

Anyway, to set you up for the end of the world, here is a site where you can get 10-1 odds that the world ends today. If you put some money down and the world ends, you'll really clean up.

And here's something to put you in an 'end of the world' mood. Safe for work.

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