The Note: Still Believe in a Place Called Kennebunkport/Chappaqua

The Washington Post's Mike Allen reports that House Republicans are bagging the plan to loosen ethics rules, which would have made censuring a House member for unethical behavior more difficult and allow House members under indictment to continue to hold leadership posts. They are, however, going forth with another proposal requiring at least one Republican vote before an ethics committee inquiry can begin. LINK

"Those attending the Republican meeting, which was held on the day before the opening of the 109th Congress on Tuesday, said Republicans unanimously agreed to restore the old rule after Mr. DeLay told them that the move would clear the air and deny Democrats a potent political issue," the New York Times' Carl Hulse reports. LINK

Adds the Wall Street Journal's David Rogers, "Republicans last night did agree to a rules change making it easier for one party to block an ethics investigation demanded by the other, and Mr. Hastert shows little appetite still for extending the tenure of Committee on Standards of Official Conduct Chairman Joel Hefley (R., Colo.), who has won praise for his independence. But the decision to preserve both the old indictment rule and code of conduct show a clear recognition by Republican leaders of the political problem they face as a result of the accumulated ethics problems for the party after 10 years in power."

The Boston Globe's Rick Klein offers more detail. LINK

As does the Los Angeles Times' Richard Simon. LINK


Jeanne Cummings has a great sketch of the coming SCOTUS nomination debates in today's Wall Street Journal.

The Washington Post's Chuck Lane yesterday looked at the contingencies set up around Chief Justice Rehnquist's health. LINK

Dems regroup:

The Boston Globe's Rick Klein takes a look at Sen. John Kerry's 13-day trip through the Middle East that began yesterday with his arrival in Amman, Jordan, as a way for Kerry to maintain his foreign policy credentials and keep his seat warm at the table. He's stopping in Iraq, Kuwait, Syria, Egypt, Israel, and the West Bank, and will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Jordan's King Abdullah, Syria's President Bashar Assad, Iraqi interim prime minister Iyad Allawi, military commanders and troops from Massachusetts. We'll be on the lookout for the media availabilities. LINK

Elsewhere in the Democratic circle . . .

Messieurs Ickes, Dean and Roemer have yet to officially decide whether to run. Someone who spoke recently with Mr. Ickes reports that the famously, often profanely (LINK), indecisive strategist was more pro-go than not.

Hopes abound in some circles (causing worries in others) that Rep. Martin Frost and former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk will join forces.

On Thursday, as the Hotline reported first, Simon Rosenberg throws his beanie into the ring. On Sunday, the Los Angeles Times' Ron Brownstein turned in a shot across the bow at the uneasy peace among Democrats, looking at the fissures underlying the mostly calm post-election hand-wringing that are now threatening to break open. LINK

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