BLAME PELOSI FOR TAX HIKES: Less than a week after the House voted to adjourn by one vote following a rancorous debate, Republicans talk of the decision to leave rather than vote on extending tax cuts (which are set to expire January 1) as a key reason for the increased likelihood of a GOP takeover of the House in November. “We had the votes to extend the tax cuts—no question about it,” moderate Rep. Fred Upton (R.-Mich.) told Human Events days after the 210-to-209 vote for adjournment October 1, on which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi cast the tie-breaking vote. Upton then proceeded to read aloud the names of the 39 Democrats who joined with 170 Republicans to oppose adjournment and noted that “just about every one of them is in a very tight race.” The list also included three Democrats who are running for the Senate: Representatives Charlie Melancon (La.), Joe Sestak (Pa.), and Brad Ellsworth (Ind.). In an impassioned speech on the House floor prior to the vote, House Republican Leader John Boehner (Ohio) warned that lawmakers who voted to adjourn were “putting their election above the needs of your constituents” and a vote to adjourn was “a vote to raise taxes.”
BLUE DOGS MOVING CLOSER TO EXTINCT?: According to a survey by the Washington Times last week, most of the 54 “Blue Dog” Democrats in the House, the remaining centrist Democratic members, “find themselves squarely in the crosshairs.” Lawmakers such as Representatives Gene Taylor (Miss.) and Heath Shuler (N.C.)—both of whom opposed “Obamacare” earlier this year—are moving farther away from the President and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as they face unusually strong Republican challengers. The Times concluded that the Louisiana district relinquished by Blue Dog Democratic Rep. Charlie Melancon is already “safe Republican” (See “Politics,” Page 21.) and that of retiring Rep. Dennis Moore in Kansas is “likely Republican.” The Times puts four other districts now in “Blue Dog” hands in the “Leans Republican” category and races in 13 other districts are rated “Tossups.”
GOP FINALLY LEADS IN INDEPENDENT EXPENDITURES: After three election cycles in which so-called “527” committees that supported Democrats outspent their Republican counterparts by wide margins, it appears as though Republicans have finally gotten the hang of it. So far this year, various non-party independent groups backing Republican candidates have spent $34.5 million on television and radio spot ads in Senate races, compared to only $4.2 million by pro-Democratic groups. As much as Democrats from President Obama on down denounce the influence of big corporate dollars in campaigns and call for tougher restrictions on spending in races, Democrats have long had the edge in independent campaigning fueled by “soft” money. In 2004, for example, such Democratic committees as America Coming Together and the Media Fund together raised nearly $200 million.
WHAT’S THAT AGAIN, MR. CAMERON?: Since he took office earlier this year, British Prime Minister David Cameron has generally been admired by American conservatives because of his calls for rolling back spending and reducing the role of government itself to deal with his country’s record deficit. But last week, the Conservative prime minister caused a few heads on the American right to turn when he voiced criticism of conservatives in this country. “How shall I put this?” Cameron told the Financial Times when asked about differences between conservatives in the U.S. and Britain. “We seem to have drifted apart.… There is an element of American conservatism that is headed in a very culture war direction, which is just different. There are differences with the American right.”
WATCH THE TURNOUT: For all the polls released last week showing Democrats beginning to gain ground in the midterm elections, the father of The Almanac of American Politics interprets the numbers differently. Noting that the latest Gallup Poll measuring which party’s members are most likely to vote shows Republicans leading Democrats by 46% to 43%, Michael Barone points out that this is “about as good a score as Republicans have ever had—and about as bad a score as Democrats have ever had—since Gallup started asking the question in 1942.” Barone also pointed to the little-reported result in Gallup’s survey showing that, in the “high-turnout model,” Republicans lead 53% to 40% and in the “low-turnout model,” Republicans lead 56% to 38%. When these figures are translated into popular votes in the 435 House districts, Barone concluded, “[they] suggest huge gains for Republicans and a Republican House majority the likes of which we have not seen since the election cycles of 1946 or even 1928.”
DON’T LOOK FOR ‘CHAIRMAN LEWIS’ AGAIN: That’s what one senior Republican House member told HUMAN EVENTS last week, following reports that Rep. Jerry Lewis (R.-Calif.) has applied for a waiver of the six-year term limit for committee chairmen and ranking members of committees. If the waiver were granted, Lewis—known as a champion of pork and earmarks when he chaired the House Appropriations Committee from 2000-06—would get another stint wielding the gavel at Appropriations if Republicans win the House next month. “But the Republican Steering Committee [which decides committee chairmen and whether waivers can be given] is well aware of the public’s mood about entrenched congressmen,” the senior GOP lawmaker told us. “John Boehner [who has five weighted votes on the Steering Committee] just won’t let Jerry get it.” Although Lewis has two years of seniority over the next Republican in line on Appropriations, more conservative Rep. Hal Rogers (Ky.) is considered the runaway favorite to chair the spending panel in a Republican-run House.
WHAT WILL PENCE DO NEXT?: That’s the question now beginning to circulate among Republican House members about the current GOP Conference chairman. Should Republicans win the House, there is no question Indiana Rep. Mike Pence could keep his leadership post. But if he decides to run either for President or governor of Indiana in 2012 (when a fellow Republican, current Gov. Mitch Daniels is termed out), then it is likely Pence would relinquish the Conference chairmanship. With Pence gone, the most oft-mentioned successor to the job is fellow conservative and National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (Tex.). And should Sessions move up or move out from the NRCC chair, the leading contender to replace him would most likely be Rep. Greg Walden (Ore.), also a conservative.