CONGRESS - His Troops Restless over the Budget, GOP Leader Michel Is on the Spot

Feb. 20, 1982, 7 a.m.

For House Minor­ity Lead­er Robert H. Michel of Illinois, this will be a test­ing year. His party, brim­ming with con­fid­ence and co­he­sion a few months ago is sud­denly com­ing un­glued and it some­times ap­pears that the 192 House Re­pub­lic­ans are of­fer­ing close to 192 al­tern­at­ives to Pres­id­ent Re­agan’s pro­posed budget.

Wheth­er Michel can im­pose dis­cip­line on his in­creas­ingly un­ruly charges may de­term­ine.the fate of the Re­agan Ad­min­is­tra­tion and its eco­nom­ic pro­gram and the out­come of Novem­ber’s elec­tions.

Like any con­gres­sion­al lead­er whose party con­trols the White House, Michel must per­form the del­ic­ate task of serving as both “the Pres­id­ent’s man” and “Con­gress’s man.” As a lead­ing strategist for Re­agan’s pro­gram, he must also make sure that the views of his con­gres­sion­al col­leagues are taken in­to ac­count at the White House.

Michel, who was elec­ted Minor­ity Lead­er a few weeks be­fore Re­agan took of­fice, played a crit­ic­al role last year in help­ing to steer the Pres­id­ent’s spend­ing and tax cut pack­ages to nar­row vic­tor­ies. The Demo­crat­ic-con­trolled House held life-or-death power over Re­agan’s budget -the Pres­id­ent eas­ily got his way in the Re­pub­lic­an Sen­ate -and prac­tic­ally every Re­pub­lic­an vote, along with those of some con­ser­vat­ive Demo­crats, was needed to carry the day. Even Michel would quickly ac­know­ledge, however, that Re­agan was his own best sales­man and that his prin­cip­al job as Minor­ity Lead­er was to re­solve re­l­at­ively nar­row, though of­ten thorny, con­tro­ver­sies.

From early in­dic­a­tions, 1982 will be a much dif­fer­ent story. Michel, a 25-year House vet­er­an whose gen­i­al­ity and plain­spoken­ness be­fit his roots in Pe­or­ia, Ill., may well emerge as the Mem­ber of Con­gress hold­ing the biggest guns in the con­tinu­ing budget battle. The Ad­min­is­tra­tion may be far more de­pend­ent this year on his judg­ment of what can and should pass in a Con­gress with di­vided party con­trol. Oth­er Mem­bers, in­clud­ing House Demo­crats and Sen­ate lead­ers, will prob­ably be seek­ing Michel’s sup­port.

“He’s the key guy for House Re­pub­lic­ans and Pres­id­ent Re­agan,” said Richard B. Cheney of Wyom­ing, chair­man of the House Re­pub­lic­an Policy Com­mit­tee. “His skills will help de­term­ine what we put to­geth­er for this year’s budget.”

High un­em­ploy­ment and in­terest rates and the frosty con­gres­sion­al re­ac­tion to Re­agan’s pro­posed fisc­al 1983 budget, with its $91.5 bil­lion de­fi­cit, have con­vinced Michel that Re­agan can­not re­peat his le­gis­lat­ive per­form­ance of last year.

“I’d like to say it will work out the same way, but I think many Re­pub­lic­ans won’t vote for the budget,” Michel said in a Feb. 9 in­ter­view. “There is no ques­tion we will have to be bi­par­tis­an in the House and do so openly and can­didly. Jim Jones has held out the pro­spect of achiev­ing a bi­par­tis­an budget, and I’m will­ing to do what I can.” James R. Jones, D-Okla., is chair­man of the House Budget Com­mit­tee.

Michel car­ried that mes­sage two days later to a meet­ing with Re­agan and about a half-dozen seni­or White House of­fi­cials at which Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Howard H. Baker Jr. of Ten­ness­ee and Sen. Paul Lax­alt, R-Nev., Re­agan’s long­time con­fid­ant, were also present. Be­fit­ting his role as Con­gress’s man, Michel told Re­agan that ‘-we three are his strong sup­port­ers on the Hill and want him to suc­ceed, but if we have to make ad­just­ments in the pro­gram, we’ll do that.”

“I’ll ex­plore al­most any­thing,” Michel said be­fore the White House meet­ing. “I want ac­tion now. We can’t wait five years for the eco­nomy to im­prove if Re­pub­lic­ans are flushed down the tube in the mean­time.” READ­ER AND LEAD­ER

This year’s Re­pub­lic­an tur­moil and eco­nom­ic un­cer­tainty are tail­or-made for the House Minor­ity Lead­er, who, ac­cord­ing to an aide, is fond of say­ing, “The best po­s­i­tion at the start of a de­bate is to have your feet firmly planted in mid-air.”

Michel is an ex­per­i­enced le­gis­lat­ive crafts­man who knows how to count votes and win a ma­jor­ity. As he demon­strated dur­ing count­less meet­ings on last spring’s pack­age of budget cuts, he has con­sid­er­able pa­tience in listen­ing to all view­points but, when the time is ripe for ac­tion, can be force­ful in mak­ing a de­cision and ur­ging sup­port for it. “By con­stantly mak­ing cer­tain you’re in the pro­cess, he cre­ates a mor­al or polit­ic­al ob­lig­a­tion to vote for the fi­nal product,” said Thomas J. Tauke of lowa, a lead­er of the mod­er­ate “gypsy moth” Re­pub­lic­ans with whom Michel met fre­quently to fash­ion a com­prom­ise on the spend­ing plan.$T”He is a fas­cin­at­ing read­er as well as a lead­er,” said a vet­er­an House GOP aide. “He’ll spend weeks just sens­ing the mood among Re­pub­lic­ans and will prob­ably have more one-on-ones than any­one to find out what Mem­bers need and want.”

Rep. Tom Loeffler of Texas, a Re­pub­lic­an deputy whip who has served as his li­ais­on to the “boll weevil” Demo­crats, said Michel has “an open door” for any­one who wants to talk to him. Once he has heard all the sug­ges­tions, “he as­sim­il­ates them, de­cides this is what we’re go­ing to do and then sells it,” Loeffler said. “He’s an ex­pert in the le­gis­lat­ive pro­cess, and his many years on the Ap­pro­pri­ations Com­mit­tee have giv­en him a good know­ledge of the budget. He’s hand­made for lead­er­ship.”

Un­like many of the young House Re­pub­lic­an firebrands, Michel also can “walk the aisles” to dis­cuss pro­spects with lead­ing Demo­crats. Al­though he can be a tough par­tis­an bat­tler, he is re­spec­ted for his fair­ness by, among oth­ers, Speak­er Thomas P. O’Neill Jr. of Mas­sachu­setts, an oc­ca­sion­al golf­ing part­ner.

The rap­id turnover of House seats and lead­er­ship po­s­i­tions has left Michel, 58, in a po­s­i­tion akin to that of a scout­mas­ter. With the re­tire­ment at the end of this year of John J. Rhodes of Ari­zona, whose de­cision last year to step aside as Minor­ity Lead­er paved the way for Michel, he and Wil­li­am S. Broom­field of Michigan will be­come the longest-serving Re­pub­lic­ans. Of the 192 GOP House Mem­bers, 90 were not in Con­gress be­fore 1979. The oth­er lead­ing mem­bers of Michel’s lead­er­ship team -GOP whip Trent Lott of Mis­sis­sippi, Con­fer­ence chair­man Jack F. Kemp of New York and Policy Com­mit­tee chair­man Cheney -are all re­l­at­ively young and were chosen for their po­s­i­tions at the same time Michel de­feated Guy Vander Jagt of Michigan to be­come party lead­er.

While the Demo­crat­ic lead­er­ship meets at least once daily, Michel’s team usu­ally meets just once a week. They gen­er­ally have worked well to­geth­er, al­though Kemp’s re­cent, highly pub­li­cized budget pro­pos­als and cri­ti­cisms of the Fed­er­al Re­serve Board have drawn in­creas­ing com­plaints from col­leagues who say that he is un­der­min­ing his in­flu­ence by re­fus­ing to be a team play­er. (For a re­port on Kemp, see this is­sue, p. 341.)

Michel makes good use of sev­er­al ex­per­i­enced aides: long­time chief of staff Ral­ph Vinovich, who pre­vi­ously was an aide to Sen­ate Minor­ity Lead­er Ever­ett McKin­ley Dirk­sen; le­gis­lat­ive coun­sel Hyde H. Mur­ray, a former aide on the House Ag­ri­cul­ture Com­mit­tee; and floor as­sist­ant Wil­li­am R. Pitts, an ex­pert in House pro­ced­ures.

In co­ordin­at­ing the ef­fort to piece to­geth­er a Re­pub­lic­an pack­age of spend­ing cuts in last year’s budget re­con­cili­ation bill, Michel and his staff worked pa­tiently for two weeks last June in a meet­ing room ad­ja­cent to his Cap­it­ol of­fice with Ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials, con­ser­vat­ive Demo­crats and Re­pub­lic­an mem­bers of House com­mit­tees hand­ling the sep­ar­ate parts of the pack­age. Al­though House Mem­bers made their im­print on the pack­age, the most in­flu­en­tial and ag­gress­ive act­or was Of­fice of Man­age­ment and Budget dir­ect­or Dave Stock­man. Ac­cord­ing to a House aide who is not on his staff, Michel took “per­son­al af­front” at Stock­man’s brash and un­com­prom­ising style but swal­lowed his pride in the in­terest of reach­ing agree­ment.

The Michel-Stock­man re­la­tion­ship broke down when, soon after the House passed the bill, Stock­man urged the Sen­ate to ac­cept the House pack­age be­cause he feared that a con­fer­ence com­mit­tee might fail to reach a com­prom­ise between the House and Sen­ate ver­sions. Michel took of­fense at Stock­man’s in­tru­sion in­to con­gres­sion­al prerog­at­ives and won Baker’s sup­port for a con­fer­ence com­mit­tee. Since then, Michel and Stock­man have been dis­tant, and the budget dir­ect­or has worked more closely with Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans, es­pe­cially Budget Com­mit­tee chair­man Pete V. Domen­ici, R-N.M., ac­cord­ing to an in­formed source.

In con­trast to their Sen­ate coun­ter­parts, many House Re­pub­lic­ans, in­clud­ing Michel, felt it was un­wise for Stock­man to con­tin­ue to press last fall for more spend­ing cuts and rev­en­ue in­creases so soon after Re­agan’s sum­mer vic­tor­ies. Their cool­ness to­ward the budget dir­ect­or, a former House col­league, was in­creased by the art­icle about him in last Decem­ber’s At­lantic Monthly. REST­LESS TROOPS

Once again this year, the budget is already dom­in­at­ing con­gres­sion­al at­ten­tion -and es­pe­cially Michel’s. The Minor­ity Lead­er pays scant at­ten­tion to non-budget is­sues and gen­er­ally al­lows Re­pub­lic­ans to go their own way on them.

Not so with the budget. Along with oth­er GOP con­gres­sion­al lead­ers, Michel met sev­er­al times with Re­agan be­fore he an­nounced his 1983 budget, ar­guing un­suc­cess­fully for smal­ler in­creases in de­fense spend­ing and lar­ger in­creases in fed­er­al rev­en­ues to re­duce the de­fi­cit.

To Michel, Re­agan’s de­cision is not ne­ces­sar­ily the last word. “If what you per­ceive as a good pro­gram has some flaws,” he said, “my in­clin­a­tion is to be will­ing to ad­mit you went too far and the res­ult needs cor­rect­ive sur­gery.”

So far, Re­agan has shown no signs of be­ing a will­ing pa­tient. While ex­press­ing his read­i­ness to listen to their sug­ges­tions, Re­agan told con­gres­sion­al Re­pub­lic­ans in a Feb. 13 let­ter, “This is no time for turn­ing back.”

But Michel is Con­gress’s man as well as the Pres­id­ent’s. “The de­fi­cit for many is mind bog­gling,” he said, “es­pe­cially for the young fresh­men who came here think­ing they could be in­stru­ment­al in elim­in­at­ing budget de­fi­cits. Their com­mand­er-in-chief presen­ted a de­fi­cit they nev­er con­tem­plated. A couple have already told me flat out not to ex­pect them to vote for any­thing of that mag­nitude.”

Wheth­er Michel can de­vise any budget strategy that can win ma­jor­ity sup­port is prob­lem­at­ic­al. If it was dif­fi­cult last year just to main­tain vir­tu­ally un­an­im­ous Re­pub­lic­an sup­port for the Pres­id­ent’s spend­ing and tax cut pack­ages, it will be doubly so this year, and any budget co­ali­tion may have to take on a more bi­par­tis­an hue.

Cheney, for one, be­lieves that once the shock of the pro­posed $91.5 bil­lion de­fi­cit wears off, Con­gress will get down to work and draw up a more prac­tic­al doc­u­ment. “There is a tend­ency,” he said, “to look at the broad out­lines and say, ‘We can’t pass it.’ After the Mem­bers have looked at the oth­er op­tions, which are not at­tract­ive, they will make some changes, but I as­sume we’ll pass a budget by May.”

Michel has not pub­licly offered his own al­tern­at­ives, but his com­ments su­g­it that he re­mains in­ter­ested in cut­ting Re­agan’s pro­posed de­fense budget. “I would not fore­close rev­en­ue en­hance­ments to nar­row the gap,” he ad­ded.

Any tax in­creases, he said, should come in “a couple of big chunks” and not “a bil­lion dol­lars here, a bil­lion dol­lars there,” as with the ex­cise tax in­creases that many Re­agan ad­visers re­com­men­ded but that Michel ob­jec­ted to be­cause of their ad­verse im­pact on the av­er­age beer drink­er and ci­gar­ette smoker. Pro­posed tax in­creases should be “achiev­able,” he said, and that rules out re­peal of last year’s in­di­vidu­al rate cuts and ac­cel­er­ated de­pre­ci­ation sched­ules for busi­nesses that were the core of Re­agan’s eco­nom­ic pro­gram.

As Michel listens to his GOP col­leagues, he will hear a wide vari­ety of al­tern­at­ives, per­haps the most in­ter­est­ing com­ing from con­ser­vat­ives who fa­vor a two-year freeze on spend­ing while pre­serving the tax cut en­acted last sum­mer.

Rep. Denny Smith of Ore­gon con­ceded his plan is “simplist­ic” be­cause it ig­nores such prob­lems as in­creases in mil­it­ary pro­cure­ment costs and the growth in the num­ber of eld­erly re­cip­i­ents of fed­er­al be­ne­fits, but he said the concept would be valu­able in help­ing Con­gress re­order pri­or­it­ies and face prob­lems such as so­cial se­cur­ity, which has been con­sidered too sens­it­ive to deal with this ses­sion. Asked how Re­pub­lic­ans who cam­paigned in 1980 against the Demo­crats for weak­en­ing the na­tion’s de­fense could sup­port such a plan when Re­agan has re­com­men­ded a $33 bil­lion in­crease in de­fense spend­ing, he said: “I know we need a strong de­fense, but without a strong eco­nomy it doesn’t make a dif­fer­ence. We’ve already in­creased the spend­ing and we can only af­ford to give so much at one time, es­pe­cially when no one is shoot­ing at the United States.”

Per­haps the most in­triguing part of the spend­ing freeze is that it would elim­in­ate the 1983 cost-of-liv­ing ad­just­ments for so­cial se­cur­ity and oth­er en­ti­tle­ment pro­grams. W. Eu­gene (Gene) John­ston, R-N.C., a House Budget Com­mit­tee mem­ber and co-spon­sor of Smith’s pro­pos­al, said he would push for that change when the pan­el con­siders the 1983 budget. “In­terest rates won’t come down un­til in­fla­tion­ary ex­pect­a­tions come down,” he said. “I’m not pro­pos­ing that we cut any­one,just that we hold the line.”

Rep. Wil­li­am E. Dan­nemey­er, RCal­if., pre­pared a de­tailed plan last year for bal­an­cing the budget in fisc­al 1982 and ex­pects to do the same this year. Rather than an across-the-board freeze, he has ad­voc­ated the elim­in­a­tion of scores of agen­cies and big re­duc­tions in many fed­er­al pro­grams, in­clud­ing $16 bil­lion in de­fense sav­ings primar­ily through im­proved man­age­ment and more com­pet­it­ive bid­ding in con­tract awards. Dan­nemey­er was un­able to se­cure a House vote on the pro­pos­al last year but said Michel and Lott have prom­ised to help him fight with Demo­crat­ic lead­ers for a vote in 1982.

Dan­nemey­er, who tried to stir up op­pos­i­tion last year to the spend­ing tar­gets that all Re­pub­lic­ans even­tu­ally sup­por­ted, ad­ded that even a $50 bil­lion de­fi­cit in fisc­al 1983 would be in­tol­er­able and un­sup­port­able un­less he was con­vinced that the na­tion was mov­ing to­ward a bal­anced budget in 1984. “I re­spect what Bob Michel and oth­ers are do­ing to try to con­trol spend­ing,” he said, “but I’ve been sent here by a con­stitu­ency who wants me to use whatever power I have to re­duce fed­er­al spend­ing, and I will be very care­ful about vot­ing for any­thing else.”

Rep. Hank Brown of Col­or­ado has filed a bill demon­strat­ing that some GOP fresh­men are will­ing to sup­port steps that could have an ad­verse loc­al im­pact. Brown, who said his dis­trict in­cludes 80 per cent of the na­tion’s com­mer­cially re­cov­er­able oil shale, wants to ab­ol­ish the Syn­thet­ic Fuels Corp. and the “cor­por­ate wel­fare” he said it dis­trib­utes.

“I’m con­vinced that we’re at a point of pre­cip­it­at­ing an eco­nom­ic crisis in this coun­try be­cause of our fisc­al policies,” Brown said. “We have to de­cide wheth­er we want money for so­cial se­cur­ity or a sub­sidy for the oil com­pan­ies. I strongly fa­vor syn­thet­ic fuel de­vel­op­ment, in­clud­ing in my dis­trict, but the two big plants there that already have been star­ted could con­tin­ue without the sub­sidy.” (For a re­port on the Syn­thet­ic Fuels Corp., see NJ, 2/6/82, p. 228.)

At the same time that the con­ser­vat­ives, most of them from the South and West, are seek­ing ma­jor spend­ingcuts, mod­er­ate Re­pub­lic­ans from the North­east and Mid­w­est are push­ing plans that ap­pear ir­re­con­cil­able. Tauke said the gypsy moth group, whose sup­port for the Ad­min­is­tra­tion has run as high as about 30 votes on some is­sues, is pre­par­ing a two-fold plan that would shift Re­agan’s spend­ing pri­or­it­ies by trans­fer­ring $10 bil­lion to $15 bil­lion from de­fense to do­mest­ic pro­grams and cut the de­fi­cit by in­creas­ing taxes -primar­ily cor­por­ate taxes -by $10 bil­lion to $20 bil­lion.

“If we can reach agree­ment, we will try to get ma­jor­ity sup­port in the Re­pub­lic­an Con­fer­ence,” Tauke said. “I think these ideas have strong sup­port there. Fol­low­ing that, we would go to the Demo­crats for their sup­port.” (For a re­port on the gypsy moths, see NJ, 10/31/81, p. 1946.)

But Re­pub­lic­an agree­ment may not be easy to achieve. Lead­ers of both the mod­er­ate and con­ser­vat­ive wings of the GOP have be­come less will­ing in re­cent months to ac­com­mod­ate each oth­er’s views. Mod­er­ates such as Tauke be­lieve a House ma­jor­ity can­not be at­tained without their par­ti­cip­a­tion but that a bi­par­tis­an con­sensus can be built without the con­ser­vat­ives. Con­ser­vat­ive John­ston said, “It may be that the Re­pub­lic­an Party will define it­self so that we’ll lose some of our mem­bers to the oth­er party, but I be­lieve the coun­try is bet­ter offwith two parties each rep­res­ent­ing an eco­nom­ic philo­sophy.”

The chal­lenge fa­cing Michel will be to fash­ion a com­prom­ise to which some sort of a bi­par­tis­an co­ali­tion can sub­scribe.

“I would nev­er want a bi­par­tis­an al­tern­at­ive to get too far afield from the thrust of the White House po­s­i­tion,” he said, but “1 have to let them know what we can do in or­der to get something through the House. I wouldn’t want to ob­struct that.” SEEK­ING A CO­ALI­TION

Michel’s de­cision to seek a budget com­prom­ise with House Demo­crats may make it im­possible for him to meet the de­mands of his own party’s con­ser­vat­ive mem­bers. Pur­su­ing the more mod­er­ate course, at least for the time be­ing, prob­ably in­creases the pro­spect of find­ing a ma­jor­ity, per­haps even one that most Re­pub­lic­ans will ul­ti­mately sup­port, but it car­ries great­er risks and un­cer­tain­ties for both parties.

Budget Com­mit­tee chair­man Jones hoped to build a broad bi­par­tis­an co­ali­tion last year but was dis­ap­poin­ted when no Re­pub­lic­ans showed in­terest in his plan. If a dif­fer­ent script is fol­lowed this year, a key par­ti­cipant could be Ral­ph S. Reg­ula of Ohio, one of the Budget Com­mit­tee’s GOP mod­er­ates.

“I think we can get a bi­par­tis­an budget,” said Reg­ula. “That’s my goal. The guy who is un­em­ployed doesn’t care wheth­er it’s a Re­pub­lic­an budget or Demo­crat­ic budget… . For this to hap­pen, Bob Michel and Tip O’Neill have to give ta­cit ap­prov­al for some Mem­bers to put to­geth­er a pack­age. We can’t do it if both parties play hard ball.”

Michel has been quietly mak­ing over­tures to the Demo­crats for months. Two seni­or Demo­crat­ic aides said that Pitts, Michel’s floor as­sist­ant, has in­form­ally urged them and their bosses to keep the bi­par­tis­an door open. A Re­pub­lic­an aide said Jones has done the same.

In ad­di­tion, Michel and Jones and their aides have been at­tempt­ing to re­solve pro­ced­ur­al dis­agree­ments. From this ef­fort emerged the bi­par­tis­an agree­ment not to chal­lenge three sup­ple­ment­al ap­pro­pri­ations bills passed by the House on Feb. 9. Some budget ex­perts con­tend that the bills tech­nic­ally vi­ol­ated the Con­gres­sion­al Budget Act be­cause they forced the 1982 de­fi­cit high­er than the one in the budget ad­op­ted by Con­gress last year.

But it is a long step from what Michel calls “in­sti­tu­tion­al bi­par­tis­an­ship” de­signed to ex­ped­ite the in­tern­al work­ings of the House to a bi­par­tis­an budget. Many prob­lems stand in the way.

For Michel, the most im­me­di­ate one may be the pub­lic em­brace giv­en Re­agan’s budget by Del­bert L. Latta, the seni­or Re­pub­lic­an on the Budget Com­mit­tee. Latta’s stance, which some Re­pub­lic­an Mem­bers view as in­transigence, could force the Minor­ity Lead­er in­to the awk­ward po­s­i­tion of work­ing around the Re­pub­lic­an Party’s top spokes­man on budget is­sues in the House.

GOP lead­ers re­solved a com­par­able prob­lem on a smal­ler scale last year when Latta res­isted ac­cept­ing Demo­crat Phil Gramm of Texas as a co-spon­sor of its budget al­tern­at­ive. If Latta does not im­pose ser­i­ous obstacles, Reg­ula and Bill Fren­zel of Min­nesota, an­oth­er mod­er­ate Budget Com­mit­tee Re­pub­lic­an, could provide a bridge between Jones and Michel.

As for the Demo­crats, a Budget Com­mit­tee aide said that Jones wants to pre­pare a budget that at­tracts as many House votes as pos­sible and that he does not need O’Neill’s ap­prov­al to seek Re­pub­lic­an sup­port. But oth­ers ques­tioned wheth­er Jones would be will­ing to in­cur the wrath of O’Neill and oth­er Demo­crats for help­ing the Re­pub­lic­ans out of their budget pre­dic­a­ment. SPEAK­ER SOME DAY?

While at­ten­tion has fo­cused on le­gis­lat­ive budget strategy, some Re­pub­lic­ans be­lieve Michel and oth­er GOP lead­ers should ad­dress the budget primar­ily from an elect­or­al per­spect­ive.

A year ago, many Re­pub­lic­ans felt they could win the 26 seats needed in 1982 to take con­trol of the House. But with the re­ces­sion and con­tin­ued high de­fi­cits, pess­im­ism has per­vaded GOP ranks, and few hold out much hope that they can avoid los­ing House seats in Novem­ber. At least one Re­pub­lic­an con­tends the party should re­vive its old spir­it of op­pos­i­tion.

“The best Re­pub­lic­an strategy is to re­cog­nize that the Demo­crats run the House and will do all they can to butcher the budget,” said Newt Gin­grich of Geor­gia. “We should point out their ob­struc­tion from now un­til Novem­ber and em­phas­ize the op­por­tun­it­ies of the Re­agan budget. Bob Michel should re­lax, con­cen­trate on the im­pot­ence of Tip O’Neill and re­fuse to take up the bur­den of be­ing Speak­er him­self.”

Michel dis­agrees. “I don’t per­ceive my role as tak­ing the budget is­sue to the voters,” he said. “I have to look at what’s achiev­able for the good of the coun­try. We have to deal with vari­ous bills or the gov­ern­ment comes to a halt.”

In the Re­pub­lic­an eu­phor­ia of a year ago, many House Mem­bers re­garded Michel as the de facto Speak­er, wait­ing only to take the form­al title. Pub­lic opin­ion polls show that a sig­ni­fic­ant por­tion of the pub­lic be­lieves the Re­pub­lic­ans already con­trol the House.

Michel would love the form­al title some day. But in the mean­time, he must deal on a daily basis with Demo­crat­ic con­trol of the le­gis­lat­ive pro­cess and is un­der no de­lu­sions that he is in charge now or will soon be­come Speak­er.

In­stead, he will have to be con­tent to use his po­s­i­tion as lead­er of a large but in­creas­ingly di­vided minor­ity to try to come up with a dose of budget­ary medi­cine that a ma­jor­ity of the House can swal­low.

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Mueller Reports
1 days ago

"The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has delivered a report on his inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election to Attorney General William P. Barr ... Barr told congressional leaders in a letter late Friday that he may brief them within days on the special counsel’s findings. 'I may be in a position to advise you of the special counsel’s principal conclusions as soon as this weekend,' he wrote in a letter to the leadership of the House and Senate Judiciary committees. It is up to Mr. Barr how much of the report to share with Congress and, by extension, the American public. The House voted unanimously in March on a nonbinding resolution to make public the report’s findings, an indication of the deep support within both parties to air whatever evidence prosecutors uncovered."

Cohen Back on the Hill for More Testimony
2 weeks ago
Pascrell Ready to Demand Trump Taxes
2 weeks ago

"House Democrats plan to formally demand President Donald Trump’s tax returns in about two weeks, a key lawmaker said Tuesday. They intend to seek a decade’s worth of his personal tax returns, though not his business filings, said Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee."

Cohen's Attorneys Discussed Pardon with Trump Lawyers
2 weeks ago

"An attorney for Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, raised the possibility of a pardon with attorneys for the president and his company after federal agents raided Mr. Cohen’s properties in April, according to people familiar with the discussions. Conversations among those parties are now being probed by congressional investigators."

Judge Rules GSA Must Turn Over Documents on FBI Relocation
2 weeks ago

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