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Flash Traffic | Political Buzz from Washington

Issue: "Reaping the whirlwind," July 20, 2002

Who will replace Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.), the fourth-ranking Republican, when he retires at the end of this term? There are several complicated answers:

  1. Who will replace him as Oklahoma's 4th District congressman? There is an intense five-candidate Republican primary for Rep. Watts's seat. Among the Republicans vying for the nomination: political activist Marc Nuttle and Tom Cole, former top official with the Republican National Committee and now with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Mr. Cole has already secured Rep. Watts's endorsement for the Aug. 27 primary. The winner will likely face Democrat Ben Odom, an attorney who ran against Rep. Watts in 1998, and figures to mount a serious challenge this year. National Democrats want to pick up this seat; with the razor-thin GOP majority, every single seat is important.
  2. Who will replace him as chairman of the Republican Conference, the No. 4 leadership post among the House Republicans? An aggressive campaign for the coveted post is already underway among conservatives J.D. Hayworth (Arizona) and Jack Kingston (Georgia) and moderate Deborah Pryce (Ohio), now the conference vice chairman and considered by some the frontrunner.
  3. Who will replace him as the GOP's only African-American in Congress? There are several intriguing prospects running for the House this fall. Among them: Las Vegas City Councilwoman Lynette Boggs, New Jersey Secretary of State DeForest "Buster" Soaries (who is also a nationally known evangelical Christian speaker), and Colorado Lt. Gov. Joe Rogers.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle isn't creating a particularly positive impression in his home state. A majority of South Dakota voters (52 percent) say the Democrat has been "too negative" over President Bush's handling of the war on terrorism, according to a new survey commissioned by the United Seniors Association. Among South Dakota voters over 50, a slightly larger majority, 53 percent, considers the senator "too negative." Some 61 percent believe Sen. Daschle is obstructing the president's agenda on the economy, the judiciary, and homeland security.

Jordan's King Abdullah arrives in Washington in late July for a series of high-level meetings with President Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and top national-security officials. The hot topic: Jordan's potential role in a U.S.-led coalition to bring down Saddam Hussein's regime. The Pentagon is considering using up to 250,000 American troops, some of whom the United States would like to base out of Jordan.

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The problem is that Jordanian officials are anxious about an explosion of regional hostilities and about being caught in an Iraqi-Israeli crossfire, one that could involve missiles and weapons of mass destruction. The king's fifth meeting with TeamBush in the past two years follows a May 8 meeting with Vice President Cheney and recent talks in Amman with CENTCOM Gen. Tommy Franks.

Democrats in Congress increasingly seem to support military action against Iraq, mirroring public opinion. A June Gallup poll found 61 percent of all Americans "favor sending American ground troops back to the Persian Gulf in order to remove Hussein from power in Iraq." Nearly half of all Americans (47 percent)-including 45 percent of all Democrats-believe regime change in Iraq should be a "very important U.S. foreign policy goal." Still, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Joe Biden is skeptical. He's planning to grill Bush administration officials on Iraq strategy in congressional hearings next month.

A whopping 531 congressional staffers earn more than $100,000 a year, and that number is up a remarkable 62 percent since 1998, according to a new study by Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper. Dozens more staffers just barely miss the list but make $90,000 a year or more. In the Senate, the number of staffers earning six-figure salaries has jumped a stunning 83 percent, and "the most generous bosses included Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Joe Biden (D-Del.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Tim Hutchinson (R-Ark.), Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.)," according to The Hill, another D.C.-based newspaper. According to the 2000 census, the median household income in the United States is $42,000.

Joel C. Rosenberg
Joel C. Rosenberg

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