Iowa, N.H. oppose primary legislation

Members of the Iowa and New Hampshire congressional delegations sent a letter Thursday to House leaders saying that Congress would be "overstepping its boundaries" if legislation establishing a presidential primary system were approved.

The letter, signed by all seven House members from the two states, also underlines the lawmakers' "strong support" for keeping the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary first in the nation in the presidential nominating process.

"This system has allowed presidential candidates to focus grassroots campaigning in our states and helps ensure that the nominees are able to relate to Americans on a personal level and not solely through costly 30-second television commercials," the letter says.

"Additionally, the opportunity to focus on grassroots campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire provides an equal starting point for all presidential candidates," they wrote.

Traditionally decisions on timing of caucuses and primaries have been left to states and the two political parties and that's where it should stay, the members of Congress say. They pointed out that constitutional questions would be raised if Congress tried to tell states and political parties how to run their nominating elections.

Bills have been introduced in both the House and the Senate that would set up regional primary systems. Two of the bills would keep Iowa and New Hampshire first while the other two would not.

The Senate Rules and Administration Committee recently held a hearing on whether Congress should take up legislation establishing a rotating regional system of primaries. Members of the Senate expressed strong dismay with what they said has become a front-loaded and chaotic race for the presidential nomination in 2008.

The Democratic National Committee recently voted to strip Florida of its convention delegates because the state's primary has been moved up to Jan.

29 in violation of party rules.

On Thursday, two members of Congress from Florida announced they would sue the DNC, contending the party violated the Constitution and federal voting laws.

Iowa's caucus date, originally planned for Jan. 14, remains up in the air pending decisions by other states.

Congressional aides say that there has been no indication that leaders in the House support intervention in the nominating process, and no leaders have signed on as co-sponsors to the regional primary bills.

"We just want to make it crystal clear to leadership what our position is," said Jeff Giertz, press secretary to Rep. Bruce Braley, a Waterloo Democrat who organized the letter.

It was signed by Rep. Leonard Boswell, a Des Moines Democrat; Rep. Steve King, a Kiron Republican; Rep. Tom Latham, an Ames Republican; and Rep. Dave Loebsack, a Mount Vernon Democrat.

Rep. Paul Hodes and Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, both New Hampshire Democrats, also were signers.