By MICHAEL FALCONE and AMY WALTER
FIGHT FOR NO. 2. It’s war between Democratic Congressional leaders Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and James Clyburn, D-S.C., who spent the weekend trying to shore up support to become the next House Minority Whip. Both sides have been working the phones, getting commitments of support from members. But with more endorsements in the bag, Hoyer appears to be winning the fight. Clyburn acknowledged as much in a television interview this morning. “I probably am the underdog in this race,” Clyburn said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe." “I've been here 18 years. Steny's been here 30 years. He has his friends. I have mine.” On Sunday afternoon, Team Hoyer released a letter of support signed by 30 House Democrats, including Reps. Linda Sanchez of California, Jim Moran of Virginia, Jason Altmire of Pennsylvania, John Dingell of Michigan, Jerrold Nadler of New York and others. Despite all of the posturing, Clyburn predicted that the two senior Democrats would still be “friends” once the leadership fracas is over.
THE MORE THINGS CHANGE… The more they stay the same. Republicans are facing their own leadership struggles with Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, a Tea Party favorite, challenging Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling for the job of House Republican Conference Chairman. The expectation is that Bachmann will fall short, but will the GOP leadership find a place — even a symbolic one — for the Tea Party? And, if they don't, will the roughly half of the 84 new GOP members of Congress who consider themselves Tea Partiers rebel?
ABC’s Rick Klein looks ahead to the unfolding drama within the party: “Republicans will face an early test of party unity in the spring, with a looming vote to raise the debt limit — something many tea partiers oppose, even though a failure to pass such a measure would cause certain chaos in global markets and grind government functions to a halt. Other areas that could come up even sooner — such as possible compromises on extending the Bush-era tax cuts and proposals to ban earmarks — could pit tea partiers against veteran members who are more inclined to take more pragmatic stands in an era of divided governance. Republican leaders rightly point out that the new crop of members aren't strangers to them, personally or politically. Top members of the GOP leadership campaigned for many of them and encouraged some of them to run; they have reached out to all of them in the days since Election Day. The presumptive House speaker, John Boehner, is signaling that the new crop will feel welcome in Washington.” http://bit.ly/bz5gXE
DEMINT DEBATE. South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint is in the midst of the Tea Party vs. GOP establishment debate. McClatchy’s James Rosen notes that DeMint “faces criticism that the millions he spent on hard-right candidates cost Republicans control of the U.S. Senate” and some Republican elected officials and pundits have already sent warning shots DeMint’s way. http://bit.ly/bUNFQP
Conservative Republicans are having none of it, however, and they are instead sticking close by DeMint. “The big winners of 2010 are Jim DeMint and Sarah Palin and liberal and moderate Republicans can’t stand it,” conservative leader Brent Bozell said in an interview with ABC News. “The Republican Party owes Jim DeMint a massive debt of gratitude and a standing ovation for what he did.” Bozell fired back at prominent Republicans, including DeMint’s South Carolina colleague, Sen. Lindsey Graham, and former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, who have suggested that endorsing insurgent candidates was a mistake. “If the moderates in the Republican Party want war, they’re going to lose,” Bozell said, holding up Graham as an example. “I guarantee you we will see their political carcasses when they come up for re-election.” Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity, one of the most active conservative groups of the 2010 election cycle, called DeMint one of the “shining lights” of the Senate. “Our movement is better off without having Mike Castle as the 51st vote,” said Phillips, who also participated in Friday’s meeting. http://bit.ly/9U2o3N
SESSIONS SCOOP. ABC News’s John R. Parkinson breaks the news that Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Tex., will not challenge Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., for majority whip and will instead run for reelection as chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. From Parkinson’s exclusive report: “Additionally, the next presumptive Speaker of the House, John Boehner, confirmed in a statement that he has asked Sessions to lead new member development for the class of at least 84 incoming Republican freshmen lawmakers who propelled the GOP into the House majority in last week's congressional midterm elections. … So far, Sessions is running unopposed for the NRCC post, which is the fifth-ranking leadership position among House Republicans. … ‘Despite record victories as NRCC Chairman, my vision and work is not done,’ he said. ‘I strongly believe in selling the fight, and I will be asking my colleagues to support me as NRCC chairman next Congress to strengthen our gains and advance an agenda for American prosperity.’” http://bit.ly/cpDYkI
OBAMA ABROAD. President Barack Obama has left the political struggles back in Washington far behind on day three of his Asia trip. However, in an interview Obama taped last week for CBS News’ “60 Minutes” he reflects on the some on his own missteps in the first two years of his presidency. “We were so busy and so focused on getting a bunch of stuff done that we stopped paying attention to the fact that, yeah, 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,” Obama said in the interview. “We haven’t always been successful at that, and I take personal responsibility for that. And it’s something that I have to examine carefully as I go forward.” More from Obama’s conversation with CBS’ Steve Croft: “Part of my promise to the American people when I was elected was to maintain the kind of tone that says we can disagree without being disagreeable,” he said. “And I think over the course of two years, there have been times where I’ve slipped on that commitment.” http://bit.ly/95Y7S6
NOTED: In New Delhi today the president and Indian Prime Minister Manmoham Singh held a joint press conference and Obama delivered remarks to the Indian parliament. Tonight, the president and first lady attend a meet with Indian President Pratibha Patil and attend a state dinner. Tomorrow the Obamas will travel from New Delhi to Jakarta, Indonesia. http://bit.ly/b8UmBa
ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE”: ABC’s Rick Klein and Jonathan Karl interview former New York Gov. George Pataki about the state of the Republican Party after last Tuesday’s elections as well as Pataki’s future political plans. Also on the program, New York Times political reporter Jeff Zeleny. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern. http://bit.ly/ABCTopLine
NEWT 2012? Is a new book co-authored by Newt Gingrich an early sign that he may be preparing to throw his hat into the 2012 presidential ring? CNN’s Alexander Mooney looks at the clues: ‘The book, titled ‘Valley Forge,’ focuses on one of the most desperate moments in America's struggle for independence: The winter of 1777, when George Washington, commander of the Continental Army, hunkered down in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania to survive a brutally cold and challenging winter. The book, co-written with Bill Forstchen, appears to also be a pitch to the powerful conservative Tea Party movement. ‘Tuesday's historic elections are a reminder that power in America belongs to 'We the People'. As we prepare for change going forward, it is inspiring to reflect back on the first American heroes who helped fight for that power,’ said Gingrich late last week, in an e-mail to supporters.” http://bit.ly/cS1o7I
BIDEN, ISSA TO MEET. Vice President Joe Biden and California GOP Congressman Darrell Issa, the incoming chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell, plan to meet, Politico’s Jonathan Allen reports. “Issa, who has accused the White House of engaging in an over-the-top propaganda campaign to promote the $800 billion stimulus law, wants to create penalties for those that don't comply with the law's reporting requirements. More important — and more broadly — he wants inspectors general at federal agencies to have subpoena power so that they have more leverage in investigating allegations of abuse in the expenditure of government money.” The meeting was supposed to take place today, but it has been postponed, according to Allen. http://politi.co/db2qGZ
NOTED: Issa appeared on "Good Morning America" this morning and reflected on his past statement that President Obama is “one of the most corrupt Presidents in modern times." ABC's George Stephanopoulos reports: Today, he took it back. When I pressed Issa on "GMA," the Congressman said that he “tried never to make it a personal statement about the president…I am not saying that the President is personally corrupt. But his administration has to change direction particularly after tax payer money.” http://bit.ly/cvqGfe
DGA CLAIMS VICTORY. Democratic Governors Association Executive Director Nathan Daschle is out with a memo this morning that highlights the Democrats’ efforts across the country in 2010. From Daschle’s memo: “despite a historically unfavorable environment and being outspent 2-to-1 by the RGA, the DGA successfully flipped five governorships from Republican to Democratic and kept the GOP’s net gain well below the historic average. When the final results are tallied – with Mark Dayton projected to win Minnesota – the RGA will have a net gain of five governorships. In fact, at the end of the day, in the 22 races in which both committees spent heavily (more than $500K), the DGA won 11 races, the RGA won 10, and an independent won one. (For the list of targeted races, see below.)”
@edhenrycnn: Obama (2/2): "That is why I can say today … I look forward to a reformed U.N. Security Council that includes India as a permanent member"
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