Sunday, January 30, 2005

Republican Party Machine Ousts Veterans Committee Chair For Dancing To His Own Tune

The trendline is unmistakeable.

Republican leaders who stray from the party line, as determined by Speaker Dennis Hastert and Majority Leader Tom DeLay, are given a choice. Dance to our tune, or dance alone.

Back in November, Rep. Ernest Istook (R-Okla.), in appropriating money in the transportation section of the recent omnibus spending bill, punished 21 Northeastern moderate Republicans who wrote him a letter in support of $1.8 billion of spending for Amtrak. You can guess who Istook is friends with.

Then earlier this month, word spread that Rep. Joel Hefley (R-Colo.) would soon be booted from his post heading the House Ethics Committee ( apparently because he didn't fall in line when the GOP rallied behind House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. The word is he will be replaced shortly by Rep. Lamar S. Smith (R-Texas), a DeLay ally.

But folks, that's not all.

In a separate move earlier this month, House Republican leaders voted to out Rep. Christopher Smith (R-N.J.) from his post as chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, apparently because he disagreed with Hastert and DeLay on spending programs for veterans. Smith was replaced by Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Ind.), who plans to dance along with the party machine.

According to the Newark Star-Ledger, the change was quickly denounced by leaders of several veterans' groups, with leaders of eight veterans groups. including the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans and Vietnam Veterans of America, writing to Hastert to urge him to retain Smith.

"This is not only a slap at Chris Smith, but a shot over the bow at veterans organizations," Richard Fuller of the Paralyzed Veterans of America told the Star-Ledger. "The Republican leadership has made a statement that the country is making too much of a commitment to the men and women who have served in uniform."


"It all came down to the fact I wanted to spend too much on veterans," Smith told the Star-Ledger. In his four years as chairman, Smith authored 22 laws for veterans. "I am not a yes man."

New Jerseyans know that Smith is hardly a moderate Republican. He's a conservative, perhaps known best as a long-time fighter against abortion rights. A 13-term Congressman, he has agreed with his party 85% of the time, according to various surveys of his voting record. But he didn't see eye to eye with Hastert or DeLay, so out the door he went.

Buyer had lobbied the leadership for the post and has opposed Smith and veterans' groups on a number of issues in the past several years.

A Republican leadership aide, who asked not to be identified, told the Star-Ledger that veterans spending has been "going up and up well beyond the rest of the budget." He said the GOP leaders wanted someone like Buyer who could "tell the veterans groups, 'Enough is enough.'"

"Smith has not been much of a team player," the House aide told the Star-Ledger.

In other words, he didn't want to play on Hastert and DeLay's team.


I have no rooting interest here. I've never been much of a fan of Smith (I lived in his district for several years in the late 1980s). It just seems to me that the lust for total control by Hastert and DeLay is a gamble that will likely fail miserably. The Gingrich Revolution of 1994 led to a loss of seats in the 1996 election. Then, perhaps as now, power and control supplanted policy. The American people noticed.

Perhaps Hastert and DeLay should remember an original Republican, Abraham Lincoln, and his words that "a house divided cannot stand." Or maybe they would prefer to learn that lesson the hard way, in the 2006 election.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, once again the republicans are ripe for the taking.....IF the democratic party can get their act together.

Same was true in the presidential election and the dems failed by putting Kerry up as candidate and never issiung aclear vision.

While the Congressional seats are obviously more localized, the Dems just cannot miss the chance to take more seats. They cannot just rely on the self destruction of the republicans, even if it seems the republicans are doing just that. They need to get in the game.

Even on the presidential side, they need to do this. It has started. As much as I cannot stand her, Hilary Clinton must be taking politics class from her husband because everything she has done in recent days shows her movement away from far leftist views and more to the center, carefully trying not to alienate too may on the left, except for maybe the far far left. Hillary the centrist could be an interesting candidate I guess. If she can persuade the country she isnt full of it.

10:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Early signs are that the iraq vote went better than expected, whatever that means. At the least, it seems many want some form of new government and want to be a part of it. Fascinating developments over there. I hope the media reports evenly here and doesnt spin this fascinating event so far one way or the other simply for political purposes.

10:44 AM  

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