The Note: Over the Line



Today's must-reads:

1. The Washington Post's Mike Allen graces A1 with reporting that the House ethics committee is stalled once again, over a staffing issue, and might not get around any time soon to making a decision on whether or not to investigate House Majority Leader Tom DeLay or other House members accused of ethics violations on lobbying and travel. Meanwhile, as reported, DeLay has retained another lawyer, former U.S. attorney and Virginia attorney general Richard Cullen of Richmond, to represent him before the ethics panel and possibly the Justice Department. LINK

"DeLay's emerging strategy . . . is to argue that the ethics panel should not focus on him alone, but should conduct a broad investigation of members' compliance with travel rules, including the many Democrats who did not file required disclosure forms."

Allen Notes that the panel hasn't met since May, and that the current dispute revolves around Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) wanting to name his chief of staff, Ed Cassidy, a co-director of the committee staff -- which ranking Democrat Alan Mollohan (D-WV) and his brethren oppose.

We wonder how many more times DNC Chairman/Dr./Gov. Dean will try to get mileage out of the whole "jail sentence" comment -- and how many Democrats will either cringe or write checks -- before the ethics committee makes a call on what it will do. Start the tally now . . .

2. Good news from the White House (or, at least, from the White House's perspective): "The White House, which hasn't had much good news since President Bush's second term began, is about to start spreading some: This year's deficit is coming in lower than anticipated, thanks to the economic recovery and higher-than-expected tax receipts," writes Jackie Calmes in the Wall Street Journal.

"While the administration and Congress won't officially revise their separate annual deficit projections until midsummer for fiscal 2005, which ends Sept. 30, government and private-sector analysts agree the shortfall is more likely to be about $350 billion, rather than the $427 billion the administration forecast in January. Treasury Secretary John Snow is expected to carry the tidings to London for this weekend's summit of finance ministers from the Group of Eight leading nations, who have harped on the growing American debt and foreign borrowing."

3. To the degree that one believes that Bob Novak has good sources in the Democratic Party, the following may be -- or may not be -- a must-read. " . . .. I checked with Democratic sources in California and found broad early resistance to (Hillary) Clinton. (Mark) Warner wowed listeners on a recent trip, though he was not as big a hit as (Evan) Bayh on his L.A. sojourn. The Hoosier senator may be a dull, moderate Midwesterner to the party cognoscenti who already have bestowed the nomination on Clinton, but he looked like a winner to the Hollywood crowd." LINK

4. Anything that comes up in your Google news search of "Howard Dean." (See below.)

And we wonder how much the White House will "clarify" the President's interview with Neil Cavuto that left open the possibility of closing Gitmo.

The Washington Post's Peter Baker says Bush "pointedly" didn't shoot down the idea of shutting it down. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, however, was quick to tell reporters traveling with him to Europe that he was unaware of anyone kicking around the idea. LINK

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