Tax-Cutter McCain

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is giving Sen. John McCain, his potential rival for the Republican presidential nomination, an opportunity to show his new openness to tax reduction by scheduling repeal or reduction of the estate tax for consideration the week of May 4.

McCain was prepared to vote for cloture on repeal of the estate tax shortly after Labor Day last year, but consideration was postponed indefinitely after Hurricane Katrina. Backers of McCain for president have promised he will support at least reduction of the estate tax, going along with his recent vote for reduced dividend and capital gains taxes.

A footnote: McCain disturbed supply-siders during the recent budget debate by being one of five Republicans supporting a Democratic proposal mandating, in effect, tax increases to compensate for higher spending. It failed on a 50 to 50 vote.

Senior officials at the Treasury report that Secretary John Snow is vowing he will not resign his post if it means he would be replaced even temporarily by Deputy Secretary Robert Kimmit.

Kimmit, a protege of former Secretary James Baker, antagonized Snow and other Treasury colleagues when he testified to Congress that he was not responsible for the now discarded Dubai Ports deal. Kimmit was supposed to be in charge of such arrangements.

Snow’s replacement in the Cabinet long has been rumored, but no successor has been selected. The latest speculation has centered around Rob Portman, who after the 2004 elections resigned his congressional seat from Ohio to become U.S. trade representative.

In a role reversal, Rep. Hal Rogers of Kentucky is hosting a "special re-election fund-raising dinner" (top ticket: $5,000) for former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay April 4 at the Phoenix Park Hotel on Capitol Hill.

DeLay’s rise to power in House Republican ranks had been built on his raising campaign money for colleagues. Now, those colleagues are helping finance his difficult re-election campaign for his Houston area district.

Rogers is a "Cardinal" on the House Appropriations Committee, where he heads the Homeland Security Subcommittee. If DeLay is re-elected and is acquitted of criminal charges, he is expected to get an Appropriations subcommittee chairmanship (possibly on the way to being committee chairman).

Former Rep. Pete McCloskey, the liberal Republican attempting a comeback congressional campaign in California, faces charges of association with an organization accused of Holocaust denial.

At a 2000 conference of the Institute for Historical Review (IHR), McCloskey was quoted in a transcript of his speech to the group as referring to "the so-called Holocaust." Mark Weber, the Institute’s director, told this column that McCloskey was granted a request to remove from the IHR’s website an expression of "esteem" for the organization’s "mission." The website offers for sale books questioning the Holocaust, and the IHR has hosted Holocaust deniers as speakers.

McCloskey ran against President Richard M. Nixon’s renomination in 1972 as an anti-Vietnam candidate. McCloskey this year is challenging conservative Rep. Richard Pombo.

Tammy Duckworth, the legless Iraq war veteran slated by Democratic leaders to replace retiring Republican Rep. Henry Hyde in his suburban Chicago district, at this writing has not been endorsed by her Democratic primary foe.

In her March 22 concession speech after losing to Duckworth by less than 1,000 votes, Christine Cegelis said: "I spoke with Tammy this morning and wished her luck. She’s going to need it." Cegelis, who came within 9 percentage points of Hyde in 2003, complained about the party’s support for Duckworth. The Hill newspaper has reported that Cegelis did not attend the Democratic unity dinner intended to support Duckworth.

Rep. Rahm Emanuel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, assured this column that after the primary, Cegelis would endorse Duckworth. "It doesn’t always happen right away," said Emanuel aide Bill Burton. Duckworth was supported in the primary by Emanuel, Illinois’ two U.S. senators (Dick Durbin and Barack Obama) and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.