Capital Briefs January 12, 2009

JEB, CHRIS NO GOES IN ’08: Two political superstars, one from each major party, ended weeks of speculation by announcing they would not run for U.S. Senate seats in 2010. Days after George H.W. Bush told a national television audience he wanted to see son Jeb run for the Senate from Florida and someday run for President, the former Florida governor announced last week he would not seek the seat of retiring Sen. Mel Martinez (R.-Fla) after all. Jeb Bush said it was too soon after leaving the governorship for him to re-enter the political arena. Bush’s announcement came on the heels of a similar decision last week by MSNBC news personality Chris Matthews that he would not seek the Democratic nomination to oppose Sen. Arlen Specter (R.-Pa.). The host of MSNBC’s “Hardball” had long floated rumors hinting he would return to his home state of Pennsylvania to challenge Specter next year.  
BYE-BYE, BOND: After 40 years in politics, 22 of them in the U.S. Senate, Missouri Republican Sen. Kit Bond announced last week he would not seek re-election in 2010. Bond used the occasion of an address to a joint session of the Missouri legislature to make his announcement, recalling how he became Missouri’s youngest governor in 1972 and that “I do not aspire to become Missouri’s oldest senator.” (Bond will turn 70 in March). Within minutes of Bond’s announcement, state and national Democrats made it clear they will launch an all-out effort to pick up his seat. Their most oft-mentioned candidate is Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, whose father and mother served as governor and U.S. senator respectively. Conservative Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, the only Republican in statewide office to survive the Democrat tide in the Show-Me State last year, is being urged by Republicans throughout Missouri to run for Bond’s seat.  

CONGRESS OPENS WAY DOWN: As the 111th Congress convened last week and new members were being sworn in, a just-completed Gallup Poll showed that only 20% of American voters approve of the way their senators and House members are handling their job. That figure is only slightly above the 19% approval rating that Congress averaged throughout ’08.  

NEW HOUSE LEADERS ON RIGHT: Conservatives were cheered last week by the news that Georgia Rep. Tom Price will be the new chairman of the House Republican Study Committee. Price, who succeeds Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling, won high marks on the right this summer as one of the leaders of the GOP lawmakers who stayed and called for greater oil exploration after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tried to adjourn without permitting closing one-minute remarks. The House Conservative Fund (HCF), which is dedicated to electing conservative House members, will now be chaired by Rep. Patrick McHenry (R.-N.C.), another conservative stalwart.  

IS SUPREME COURT NEXT? In tapping Elena Kagan to be the first-ever woman solicitor general, President-elect Obama also refueled speculation that the Harvard Law School dean (and onetime law school classmate of Obama) would eventually become his choice for the next vacancy on the Supreme Court. Once Bill Clinton’s Associate White House Counsel, Kagan was named by Clinton in 1999 to succeed James L. Buckley as a judge on the D.C. Court of Appeals. However, conservatives launched a campaign to stop Kagan and then-Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R.-Utah) refused to hold hearings on her nomination.  

WHITE HOUSE ON RNC BAILOUT RESOLUTION: One day after five of the six candidates for chairman of the Republican National Committee said they would support a resolution condemning Bush-backed bailouts of the financial industry and the automakers, the White House politely but firmly disagreed with the statement the President’s party is likely to make at the RNC winter meeting January 28-31. “I think it’s probably a popular thing for them to do,” Press Secretary Dana Perino told  HUMAN EVENTS’ Political Editor John Gizzi during the daily press briefing at the White House last week. “I don’t think that if they would have been responsible, as the President of the United States was, for the future of our financial system, that they would necessarily be signing on to this resolution, because it was put very plainly to the President that our entire system faced collapse if he didn’t act. And so that’s why he took the action that he did, and it was the appropriate action to take.” Although incumbent RNC Chairman Mike Duncan, who was named chairman by Bush, was the sole chairman hopeful not to embrace the anti-bailout resolution, the White House is still not taking sides in the race for the party helm. “The President is just going to let the RNC fight that out,” Perino told Gizzi. “That’s the appropriate thing for them to do. And they can have a good, robust debate, and we encourage them to do so."