The Note: Congressional Intrigue

Nov 5, 2010 9:21am


LEADERSHIP STRUGGLES. After the Democrats’ “shellacking” on Tuesday that upended their control of the U.S. House of Representatives, speculation has focused on the reshuffling of the deck chairs among Congressional leaders in both parties. Within the Republican ranks, there are committee chairmanships up for grabs. While some of them seem to be done deals, others, like the race for House Republican Conference chair appear to be far from over. That particular fight, between Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Tex., and Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., is something of a microcosm of the struggles the Republican Party faced during the primary season between establishment candidates (in this case, Hensarling) and their Tea Party-backed insurgents (Bachmann). Politico’s Glenn Thrush has more on the jockeying between Hensarling and Bachmann.  

But the spotlight is also on outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who Capitol Hill odds-makers expected not to seek a Democratic leadership position and perhaps leave Congress entirely. Not so fast, ABC’s Jonathan Karl reports: “Some of Pelosi's closest allies are encouraging her to stay and to lead the Democratic effort to win back their majority. Those encouraging her are arguing, in part, that she can unify the progressives in the caucus, and more importantly, that nobody in the House can raise money for the next campaign better than Pelosi. Rep. Heath Shuler (D-NC), a member of the conservative Democratic Blue Dog coalition, is urging Pelosi not to run and threatening to challenge her if she does. Another member of the Blue Dog coalition, Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT), told Politico that Pelosi should not stay on. … A more serious threat to Pelosi would come from Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), currently the number two Democrat in the House. But Hoyer has previously assured Pelosi — publicly and privately — that he will not run against her.”

THE SPEAKER-IN-WAITING. In an exclusive interview yesterday with ABC’s Diane Sawyer presumptive House Speaker John Boehner said President Obama was in “denial” about the results of Tuesday election. "There seems to be some denial on the part of the president and other Democratic leaders of the message that was sent by the American people," Boehner said told Sawyer. "When you have the most historic election in over 60, 70 years, you would think the other party would understand that the American people have clearly repudiated the policies they've put forward in the last two years." More from the interview, from ABC’s Devin Dwyer: “[The] future speaker said he does not agree with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said today Republicans' number one priority should be making Obama a one-term president. ‘That's Senator McConnell's statement and his opinion,’ Boehner said. ‘I think the American people want us to focus on their message during the election: stop the spending, get rid of the uncertainty. Let's get around to creating jobs again and staying focused on what the American people want us to focus on is my number one priority.’”

NOTED: Boehner penned an Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal today laying out in more detail how he plans to approach the Speakership. “The American people deserve a majority in Congress that listens to the people, focuses on their priorities and honors their demands for smaller, more accountable government. Accountability starts at the top, in the office of the speaker.” Boehner promises: “No earmarks. … Let Americans read bills before they are brought to a vote. … No more "comprehensive" bills. … No more bills written behind closed doors in the speaker's office.”

MEA CULPA TOUR. In an interview set to air this Sunday on CBS News’“60 Minutes,” President Obama says he takes “personal responsibility” for failing – at times – to remember that “leadership isn’t just legislation.” An excerpt of the sit-down with CBS correspondent Steve Croft aired this morning on the “Early Show.” Steve Kroft: “There is this feeling, Particularly among people who are among your most ardent supporters, who feel a little disappointed that they think that you’ve lost your mojo. That you’ve lost your ability, that touch you had during the campaign, to inspire and lead. Everybody in Washington writes about a sort of aloofness that you have. How do you respond to that?"

President Obama: "You know, I think that over the course of two years we were so busy and so focused on getting a bunch of stuff done that we stopped paying attention to the fact that leadership isn’t just legislation. That it's a matter of persuading people. And giving them confidence and bringing them together. And setting a tone. And making an argument that people can understand. And I think that we haven’t always been successful at that," Obama replied. "And I take personal responsibility for that. And it's something that I've got to examine carefully as I go forward. You know, now I will say that when it comes to some of my supporters, some of my Democratic supporters who express some frustration," the president added.

NOTED: Too little, too late for Obama. Per ABC’s News Business unit: “A government report shows that the nation’s employers increased their payrolls by 151,000 during October, significantly better than the +60K economists were expecting. This marks the first month since May where the nation has seen headline jobs gain. When one takes out the jobs loss that came from the government sector (the Federal, state and local government’s laid off 8K workers), one sees private sector companies adding 159K workers during October. Expectations were that the private sector would add 60K.  The nation’s unemployment rate — the result of a separate but simultaneously released survey of households — was steady at 9.6%.”

The president and first lady embark on a 10-day long trip to Asia today, and false rumors about how much the trip will cost are flying — spread, in part, by members of Congress. ABC’s Jake Tapper has more from his “Good Morning America” report.  

CONSERVATIVES STRATEGIZE. A group of conservative leaders who helped steer their movement away from a painful defeat in 2008 and toward an electoral comeback in 2010, plan to meet privately today to map out their strategy for the next two years. Led by Brent Bozell, president of the Media Research Center, a conservative media watchdog group, and the nephew of the late conservative icon William F. Buckley, Jr., the gathering will include a who’s who of right-leaning activists. Joining Bozell at his mountain retreat in Stanley, Va. will be Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council; Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity, one of the most active conservative groups of 2010 election cycle; former Indiana Republican Rep. Dave McIntosh; Becky Norton Dunlop, vice president at the Heritage Foundation; Frank Gaffney, founder and president of the Center for Security Policy; Al Regnery, publisher of the American Spectator magazine; and Leonard Leo, executive vice president of The Federalist Society. The group includes many of the same individuals who, in the words of one conservative activist, helped define President Barack Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as “far leftists” who were tipping the country “toward socialism” — an idea that energized the conservative base this year.


ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE”: ABC’s Jonathan Rick Klein and Jonathan Karl talk to retiring U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota, about the results of this week’s election and where the Democrats go from here. They also sit down with Susan Davis of the National journal. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern.

SUNDAY ON “THIS WEEK”:  Kentucky GOP Senator-elect Rand Paul joins ABC News’ Christiane Amanpour for an exclusive interview. The outgoing House Republican Conference Chairman Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., and former Reagan Budget Director David Stockman also sit down with Amanpour for a debate over tax cuts. On this week’s roundtable: outgoing Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh joins John Podesta of the Center for American Progress, former Bush political strategist Matthew Dowd, ABC News’ Political Director Amy Walter, and ABC News’ George Will.  



COMPLEXION OF CONGRESS. ABC’s Huma Khan and Devin Dwyer take a look at diversity in the new Congress. “By numbers alone, the Congress that will meet in 2011 will be slightly more racially and ethnically mixed than the current one, according to an ABC News analysis of the election results. But the vast majority of representatives in Washington will continue to be white, straight men. Several African-American, Hispanic and Asian-American candidates succeeded in their bids for House and Senate seats, while women candidates faced mixed results, leaving their overall representation in Congress flat or declining based on the outcome of several undecided races. A record eight Latino Republicans were elected to Congress Tuesday, bringing total Latino representation on Capitol Hill to a near-record 27, according to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. The number of Asian-American members of Congress will remain at 13, while the number of African-Americans will be 41, one less than the current makeup.”

REMEMBER THE LOSERS. The National Journal’s Matthew Dowd notes that after Tuesday’s results the “winners get to write history,” but he writes, “the more interesting story is what happens to the losers. Because, in the end, most of us learn more from our setbacks than our successes.” Dowd counsels that it may be more important to learn from those who lost than those who won: “People who win usually assume they did everything right. They don’t really question decisions made along the way, and many times they end up drawing the wrong conclusions from their experience. They view decisions through the prism of the end result of victory, and it’s human nature to think that those decisions were instrumental in the win. Interestingly, most misinterpretation comes from victories.”

PALIN PUSH-BACK. Yesterday, several reporters noted that Sarah Palin apparently used Twitter to list as a “favorite” of hers a tweet from conservative commentator Ann Coulter showing a photo of a sign labeling President Barack Obama a “Taliban Muslim,” ABC News’ Jake Tapper reports. Asked for comment, Palin wrote to ABC News: “Jake, I've never purposefully ‘favorited’ any Tweet. I had to go back to my BlackBerry to even see if such a function was possible. I was traveling to Alaska that day…it was an obvious accidental ‘favoriting,’ but no one can mistake that Ann Coulter was obviously being tongue in cheek with that Tweet. Shall I correct this with whichever wonderful media outlet ran with this (an obviously bored reporter…since there must be nothing going on in the world today, like, um, ramifications of a shake up of power in the U.S. House of Representatives?).”



@scottwongDC: Keith Olbermann contributed to three Democrats – Simmi Aujla

@gretawire:  Trouble already?: Does the incoming Republican Leadership already face some heat from within? Apparently…

@HotlineJosh: My Against the Grain column: How Harry Reid could seize the mantle of hope and change

@jonward11: House GOP walking fine line with Tea Party in effort to keep Bachmann and her ‘antics’ out of leadership

@fivethirtyeight: The evidence that Dems were hurt at the district level for TARP & health care votes is pretty decent. Less so for stimulus, cap 'n trade.


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