- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 16, 2003

She ascended to the highest leadership position ever held by a woman in her party in the House of Representatives.
She falls into the philosophical minority of her party but is charged with keeping an often combative and fractious coalition together.
And she'll be closely watched by Capitol Hill insiders and the public.
Rep. Deborah Pryce, Ohio Republican and new chairman of the House Republican Conference, stands as a stark counterpart to House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California.
While the similar timing of their promotions to party leadership positions this year is coincidental, Republicans still searching to make inroads to the so-called suburban "soccer mom" vote must be pleased with the timing of their choice.
"I think it's a good thing, certainly," Ms. Pryce said. "Both parties need to reflect America, and you can't reflect that if you don't have both genders in leadership. It does balance [with the Democrats], and it's an important thing for people to see women in roles of significance in all aspects of our society."
Conservatives are more concerned with how she performs as House Republicans' No. 1 voice to the news media. Ms. Pryce is, by far, the least conservative member of the leadership team, headed by firebrand House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas.
"I was surprised at first by her ascension," said Danielle Doane, director of House Relations for the Heritage Foundation. "I thought [Republicans] would want someone a little more conservative, which has been the trend in leadership."
Miss Doane said conservatives outside Washington "don't understand what she brings to the table" a career-long skill at solidifying relationships among the factions of the party.
"She's a coalition builder and has the ability to reach out to many different sectors," Miss Doane said.
Ms. Pryce is not exactly untested in the party's leadership, having served as top deputy in the House Republican Conference in the last Congress. But she hardly has been a reliable conservative vote, earning a lifetime rating of only 75 from the American Conservative Union and supporting two of five bills last year considered important to NARAL-Pro Choice America, which unconditionally supports abortion.
"Frankly, looking at Congress, it's good that they have someone with a more moderate view in there," Miss Doane said. "You have to have someone that the more moderate wing can turn to."
More conservative members of the House will be ready to pounce on their new conference chairman, if only behind the scenes, should the agenda stray too far from their ideological preference.
"I expect it," Ms. Pryce said. "It's just a way of life in politics. One hundred percent of people aren't going to agree with you all the time. Even DeLay gets flak from the conservatives sometimes. But I'll be a spokesman for all the party."
Keeping the Republican caucus together has not been easy. Ms. Pryce chalked that up to a lack of communication that leads politicians to feel out of the loop. Keeping that from happening in this important legislative year will be among the most challenging aspects of her job.
"If people know what's going on and understand the reasons behind things, there's a lot less grumbling," Ms. Pryce said. "And a lot of times, that level of communication is lacking. You'd be surprised how many [legislators] are surprised" by the legislative calendar.
"It's easier to get to the bottom of concerns if everybody knows as much as they possibly can as early as they can," she said.
To help facilitate that understanding, Ms. Pryce has helped organize a Republican retreat in February at the Greenbriar resort in West Virginia with House and Senate leaders to unify the party's message and agenda.
"We're going to do more than just socialize together," Ms. Pryce said. "We are going to have corresponding committees meet together and have the Senate and House members try to find ways to learn about the difficulties in each body and understand where the sticking points are for each other so we can get strategies that work better."
First on the agenda will be passing President Bush's tax cut to stimulate the economy, and working on medical liability reform the two agenda items, besides Iraq, that Mr. Bush has emphasized on recent road stump speeches.
Democrats on Capitol Hill have been aggressive since the year started, holding nearly daily news conferences to counter the Bush agenda before it's even formally presented. But Ms. Pryce said she is not worried about her party's being put on the perpetual defensive.
"I think that we will be very forthcoming with the press when we have something to say," Ms. Pryce said "Right now, things are in a planning mode. President Bush has the megaphone, and you will see an aggressive and diligent House Republican Conference when it comes to getting our agenda passed in a timely fashion."

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