House Republicans Want Hyde in Prime Time

More than half the Republicans in the U.S. House have sent a letter to President Bush asking that Rep. Henry Hyde (R.-Ill.) be given a prime-time speaking slot at the Republican National Convention.

The signers–127 of 227 House Republicans–were motivated by the dearth of socially conservative Republicans among the announced prime-time speakers.

The letter was delivered to the White House July 20. The same day, convention organizers announced an additional list of convention speakers that included socially conservative Senators Sam Brownback (Kan.) and Rick Santorum (Pa.) and also Erika Harold, who was Miss America 2003. Hyde, however, was not named.

A convention spokeswoman said on July 22 that the speaking times for the additional speakers were not yet determined. However, the convention’s website advertised the same day that more prime-time speakers would be announced in the future.

Earlier, the Republican National Committee had announced the roster of prime-time speakers for the convention that convenes the last week in August. It included many prominent socially liberal Republicans.

“There is no question but that Henry Hyde is one of the most respected statesmen in the modern Congress,” Rep. Mike Pence (R.-Ind.), coordinator of the letter to the President, told HUMAN EVENTS. “We did this so that we would have a prominent pro-life voice at the convention. When they see Henry Hyde step to the podium during prime-time, Americans from coast to coast would see that we are not ashamed to be the pro-life party.” Pence added that he did not oppose having pro-abortion Republicans speak at the convention.

“Few people in public life have the ability to present the values of the Republican Party with the eloquence of Henry Hyde and fewer still have had as much impact on the policy direction of our nation in the past quarter-century,” says the letter. “He fought long and hard to ensure that America remained unwavering in the long struggle against Communism. . . . And few people have been as strong an advocate for the rights of the unborn as this thoughtful, courageous and decent man.” Pence said it took him only two days to get 127 colleagues to sign it.

“The muscle of the Republican Party is not in the governor’s office in California,” said Pence, “but in the pro-family grassroots.”

Pence said that he would also like to see younger, up-and-coming social conservatives given prominent speaking slots at the convention in addition to Hyde, but noted that Hyde, now chairman of the House International Relations Committee, “is virtually synonymous with the pro-life movement of the last 30 years.” He mentioned congressmen Pat Toomey (Pa.), Jim DeMint (S.C.), Sue Myrick (N.C.), and Melissa Hart (Pa.) as additional possibilities.

Rep. Ernest Istook (R-Okla.), a letter signer, declined to suggest any younger conservative stars as convention speakers. “We’ve got to set up something that doesn’t create more friction,” he said. “If you pick an up-and-coming conservative, whom do you pick? That can create problems you don’t have with a senior statesman.”

“We have many people who would be wonderful speakers, but it would be so nice for Henry to be able to do this,” said California Rep. Chris Cox, who also signed the letter. “…I don’t want [to suggest more people] because I don’t want to make it seem that we are trying to micro-manage the convention.”