- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 10, 2006

A three-term conservative maverick and a six-term leader of centrist Republicans have formed an unlikely alliance to try to convince fellow members they must embrace fundamental changes in the way House Republicans do business.

Reps. Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican, and Charles Bass, New Hampshire Republican, took the lead in calling for new elections last week. This week, they urged colleagues not to settle on a replacement for former Majority Leader Tom DeLay until candidates agree to a list of reforms that include changes in the way votes shape up on the House floor and changes in the way spending bills are written and passed.

“Charlie and I have been singing from the same hymnal on this for awhile, and it’s that we need a course correction,” Mr. Flake said.

They are calling on the candidates to commit to limited times that House votes can be held open, making sure bills are available for review before taking a vote, curbing earmarked pork spending and allowing more legislative challenges when spending bills break budget rules.

Mr. Bass, a 54-year-old New England Episcopalian, is co-chairman of the Tuesday Group, a caucus of more liberal Republicans. Mr. Flake, a 43-year-old Southwestern Mormon, is a member of the Republican Study Committee, the conservative caucus in the House.

But both men see Republicans’ majority at stake in what the party now does.

Mr. Bass was elected as part of the 1994 Republican congressional landslide. He said he managed to unseat respected incumbent Democrat Dick Swett that year because Mr. Swett, while an “articulate, attractive moderate Democrat,” couldn’t bring himself to break with Democratic leaders and expose problems in his party’s leadership.

“I’m not going to suggest we’re there today, but we could be, and it’s time for our leadership to reflect reform,” he said.

Some members said Mr. DeLay was on his way out as leader anyway, even without the letter, but Mr. Flake said their petition was a factor. As of Friday afternoon, when the petition became public, the Texas Republican’s aides were saying he had no intention of stepping down, but by Saturday morning that had changed.

“Did we force his hand? No doubt,” Mr. Flake said.

He said the petition also helped the push for a full-blown leadership election.

“There was some fear we would have a coronation — be told what the new leadership would be — without a genuine contest,” he said.

The men readily admit their differences — Mr. Bass said he’s not a fan of Mr. Flake’s immigration bill, which would legalize all illegal aliens and siphon 400,000 more foreign workers a year into a worker program, while Mr. Flake said they disagree on funding and spending levels.

“Where we all find common cause with the moderates is budget-process reforms,” Mr. Flake said. “I think they generally want to spend more, we want to spend less, but we both want an honest process.”

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