Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) is intensifying his political schedule. Determined to build on the 229-205 GOP majority, he plans to barnstorm the country raising campaign cash for GOP incumbents he'll need in 2004. His decision comes on the heels of the announcement that the National Republican Congressional Committee-primarily through direct mail-raised a record $22.1 million between January and March. NRCC chief Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-N.Y.) credits 100,000 new GOP donors.
In April, Speaker Hastert will travel to help Rep. Scott Garrett in New Jersey, Rep. Steve LaTourette in Ohio, Rep. Walter Jones in North Carolina, Rep. Charlie Norwood in Georgia, and Rep. Joe Wilson in South Carolina, among others. In February, Mr. Hastert only took six fundraising trips; in March, he took 22. Depending on war progress, more trips are being developed. He's also considering a major foreign trip over the Easter break beginning in London to meet with Prime Minister Tony Blair.
At the same time, the Speaker is determined to keep Congress' legislative trains running on time. He wants to help bolster the confidence of shaky financial markets and the public at large that the federal government will continue to operate smoothly despite the country's attention to the war in Iraq and terrorist threats. The House quickly approved the president's $74.7 billion supplemental request for new military and homeland-security funds.
Despite a slim, 24-vote GOP edge, the White House is getting virtually every priority it wants: The Pentagon asked for $62.6 billion in the supplemental bill; it received $62.5 billion. The Homeland Security department asked for an extra $4.3 billion; the House OK'd $4.31 billion. The president asked for $7.8 billion to rebuild Iraq; the House approved that exact amount. Work on the entire federal budget should be completed before the two-week Easter break. The House might even vote on an energy bill before then.