- The Washington Times - Monday, February 12, 2007

A candidate walks into a bar …

Democratic presidential candidate Tom Vilsack may not be a frontrunner, but he’s racking up the late-night comedy appearances.

The former Iowa governor will be a guest on NBC’s Tonight Show with Jay Leno Thursday night. He’s already done the rounds on the Daily Show.

Check back here Friday to see how he did.

— Christina Bellantoni, Capitol Hill correspondent, The Washington Times

The GOP war room

House Republicans are setting up a “war room on the war,” as the Politico’s Mike Allen has called it.

House Republican Conference spokesman Ed Patru told me that a “small but savvy” group of Republican staffers will be doing “rapid response” communications tomorrow when all 435 House members will be given five minutes to speak on the war in Iraq.

The war room staff will be targeting press releases at TV, radio, and bloggers, as the debate rolls on, with the goal being to “hold Democrats accountable” for any inaccurate statements made.

But the Republicans will also be trying to drive a wedge between liberal bloggers and the Democratic leadership.

Most liberal blogs, the “netroots,” tilt farther to the left than most Democratic leaders, at least publicly. Most liberal blogs have made unequivocal calls for withdrawal from Iraq, and many have called for cutting off funding for troops, while most Democrat leaders have stopped short of committing to that drastic step.

Mr. Patru said HRC staff will be pointing that out to the netroots.

“We will be making sure that left wing blogs know that Nancy Pelosi doesn’t have the political will to cut off funding,” Mr. Patru said.

House Minority Leader John Boehner, however, said today that the resolution against sending more troops to Iraq is a “first step” to cutting off funding.

“After their Iraq resolution passes, Democrats will begin moving legislation to systematically cut off funding for America’s troops,” said a press release from the Ohio Republican’s office.

— Jon Ward, Capitol Hill correspondent, The Washington Times

Carville talks tough

Democratic guru James Carville today asked the party faithful to pressure Senate Republicans to stop blocking debate on President Bush’s plan to send more troops to Iraq.

“People who tuck tail and run from the most important debate in this country aren’t fit to be a United States senator,” Mr. Carville said in an e-mail letter sent by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

“The tricks that they are pulling in the Senate to avoid a real debate on Iraq are pure political cowardice,” he said. “Let’s tell them today to cut it with the political tricks and allow a real debate on Iraq.”

The message included a link to e-mail Republican senators condemning their vote to block debate on a non-binding resolution that would have voiced the chamber’s “disapproval” for Mr. Bush’s plan to send 21,500 reinforcements to Iraq.

“This country demands an honest debate on Iraq, and the Republicans are standing in the way,” he said. “We’ve got to fight them.”

Senate Republicans say they want the debate to include other resolutions, including one pledging continued funding of troops at the front.

— S.A. Miller, Capitol Hill correspondent, The Washington Times

On the Web

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney isn’t about to miss the cyber bandwagon of the early campaign season.

Live video of Mr. Romney, former Massachusetts governor, will stream on the Internet as he makes his official announcement tomorrow that he is seeking the presidency.

Mr. Romney will make the announcement at 9 a.m. in Michigan, where he was born, and simultaneously on the World Wide Web at mittromney.com.

— S.A. Miller, Capitol Hill correspondent, The Washington Times

The pause is filled

Not to say no work will be done today.

Members are expected to approve a bill naming a courthouse in Cape Girardeau, Mo. after Rush Limbaugh.

Ahem, not that one. That’s Limbaugh, Sr.

The famed Missouri attorney, who passed away a decade ago, was the radio host’s grandpa.

— Christina Bellantoni, Capitol Hill correspondent, The Washington Times

The pregnant pause

House members must be saving up all their breath for tomorrow’s four-day marathon of speeches on the war in Iraq.

At 12:30, the House convened for the inaccurately named “morning hour,” where lawmakers are allowed to give short speeches on the topic of their choice.

“Morning hours” are a regular occurrence, but this, um, afternoon, no lawmakers showed. We imagine them busy at work in their offices, fine-tuning their five-minute speeches on how we must withdraw, or how we must support the troops.

And in a preview of how desperately all in Washington and across the world are awaiting these words, one of the House gallery staff emerged from the “morning hour” crestfallen that no speeches had been given.

“That was the best morning hour ever,” the staffer said.

— Jon Ward, Capitol Hill correspondent, The Washington Times

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