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January 14, 2007

Disciplining Stray Republicans

Republican leadership from the state to the national level are working to maintain discipline.  It's a hard job in the face of an appealing Democratic agenda, the lack of any substantial Republican ideas and the invitations of Democrats to join in with the winning side.    

But they got to Washington State House Representative Maureen Walsh this week and reined her back in.  Walsh had accepted the Democratic offer to be vice chairman of the House Committee on Early Learning and Children's Services after the Republicans replaced her on the Children and Family Services Committee where she had been ranking member.  The Olympian has a quote from Walsh:

"Maybe it was naive of me to not think it would cause any problems," said Walsh, who also cited family concerns as part of her decision. Her husband died in April, and she has a 14-year-old son attending school in Olympia during session.

"When it boiled right down to it, the fact that I had some folks in my caucus who would view me a little different or not see me as a team player ... I don't need that. I don't need that at all," she told The Associated Press.

Clearly the discipline isn't holding across the board.  The Washington Post gives us the rather substantial numbers of Republicans who voted with Democrats this last week in the U.S. House as part of the "First 100 Hours" legislation: 

Freed from the pressures of being the majority and from the heavy hand of former leaders including retired representative Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), many back-bench Republicans are showing themselves to be more moderate than their conservative leadership and increasingly mindful of shifting voter sentiment. The closest vote last week -- Friday's push to require the federal government to negotiate lower drug prices for Medicare -- pulled 24 Republicans. The Democrats' homeland security bill attracted 68 Republicans, the minimum wage increase 82.

For example:

Last year, Rep. Deborah Pryce (Ohio) was a powerful member of the Republican leadership, responsible for uniting her fractious colleagues behind a single message. After narrowly escaping defeat in November, the swing-district Republican bolted from her party's leadership last year. Last week, she virtually bolted from the party.

There are still prices to be paid, especially in regard to opposing the Bush Administration on Iraq.  Representative Walter Jones Jr. (R-N.C.), who was behind the House dining hall name change from "french fries" to "freedom fries" in early 2003 changed his mind in the course of a few months about the occupation in Iraq.  In May 2003, Jones publicly criticized the war; he posted the "faces of the fallen" on the hallway outside his door; and he is now as active in opposing the war as any Democrat. 

The Republican leadership has hit back. House Armed Services ranking member Duncan Hunter (R-CA) denied Jones a minority leadership position on the powerful defense committee.

Hunter, a loyal supporter of President Bush and an outspoken hawk on the Iraq war, recently told Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., that he would be passed over for the Readiness Subcommittee ranking member slot because of his stance on the war, Jones said in an interview Thursday.

(Hat tip to The Carpetbagger for that pointer.)

Of course, these moderate Republicans could always come all the way over and become Democrats.  They seem to be doing that a lot in Kansas these days. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on January 14, 2007 at 10:27 AM in Inside Baseball, National and International Politics | Permalink

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