Conference Calls With The Candidates For Majority Leader
All 3 Republican Candidates for the Majority Leader spot in the House decided to do teleconferences with bloggers today. Here’s a quick rundown of the calls:
10:30 EST: John Shadegg: My questions:
Question #1: Congressman, you’ve been endorsed by Human Events, National Review, Club for Growth and I have yet to see a blogger endorse anyone other than you, so there’s no question that you’re the people’s choice. But, does that make a difference or is this whole thing really going to be decided by who offers whom what behind the scenes?
Answer: Essentially he said he was a dark horse and conceded he would lose if the election were held today. But, he did feel he kept the other candidates from going over the top and he thinks he has a shot over the long term.
Question #2: You gave up your leadership to run, but Congressman Blunt has not. Do you think other Congressmen are worried he might use his leadership slot to retaliate if he wins?
Answer: Absolutely. They’re genuinely concerned about it and some of the people who are supporting him are keeping quiet for exactly that reason.
Congressman Shadegg also said, often in response to questions, that:
— He favors applying the Freedom of Information Act to Congress.
— Emphasized how tough he was on illegal immigration.
— Opposes any form of amnesty for illegals.
— Supports a guest worker program, but thinks illegals who are here should have to go home to apply.
— Doesn’t think all travel for Congressmen should be banned. He favors educational travel.
— Blount abused power to help Phillip Morris.
— Voted against the Medicare bill, would like to suspend it, and supports means testing for it.
— Is disappointed with Bush’s failure to restrain spending.
— Supported the Dept Of Homeland Security originally, but doesn’t now because he thinks it’s a big bureaucracy.
— He does support the President listening in on terrorists via the NSA and he believes it was legal.
Overall Grade: A. He hit all the right notes.
12:30 EST: John Boehner: My questions:
Question #1: You said you had a part in preparing the contract with America. Would you support term limits and a Balanced Budget amendment, two parts of the contract that were never implemented?
Answer: Yes on the Balanced Budget Amendment, no on Term Limits.
Question #2: Shadegg supports revising the Medicare bill to include means testing. Would you also favor doing that?
Question #3: Shadegg supports a guest worker program, but thinks illegals should have to go home first to participate. Do you agree?
Answer: Yes, he does.
Congressman Boehner also said, often in response to questions:
— That he voted against the border wall bill because there was an unfunded mandate that required employees to identify existing employers.
— That he voted for the Medicare prescription drug bill and still supports it.
— That he was a key player in creating the Contract with America.
— That it’s unclear whether the President had the legal authority to order Warrantless Surveillance through the NSA.
Overall Grade: D. Boehner was even less impressive than I thought he’d be. There were a lot of platitudes, he doesn’t come across as tough on illegal immigration, and anyone who supports the Medicare Prescription Drug Bill has no credibility in my book when he talks about the need to cut spending.
3:00 EST: Roy Blunt: My question:
Question #1: John Shadegg, who gave up his leadership position for this race, said this morning that some members are worried you might use your status as majority whip to retaliate against them if they come out against you publicly and you lose. Your reaction to that? Also, are you going to give up the Majority Whip position? If so, why not, especially since you say you have the race locked up?
Answer: It would set a bad precedent for him to quit his leadership position and of course everyone could work together afterwards. (Pretty unconvincing, if you ask me).
Congressman Blunt cames across very cocky and sure that he will win. He also tossed in what I perceived as a subtle threat to the bloggers there. I’m paraphrasing here, but he basically said that, “You shouldn’t do and I shouldn’t do anything to minimize our ability to work together after this call.”
The translation: Go light on me, buddy, or else I’ll cut you out of the loop when I’m Majority Leader!
Maybe it worked. On the whole, the questions were certainly less challenging than they were at either of the other two press conferences, although some people were complaining in emails afterwards that they weren’t allowed to ask questions despite being told they could do so beforehand.
Congressman Blunt also said, often in response to questions, that:
— I’m going to win because I know the congressmen really well.
— I know you guys are rooting for the other candidates.
— He emphasized that he has gotten things done since DeLay left — like border security and stopping lawsuit abuse.
— We need to reform 527’s and take a new look at how we do tribal contributions.
— Last year was one of the most successful years in memory in getting things to the President.
Two Quotes From Blunt (Added in at 10:30 PM EST)
“I think I understand the optics of some people thinking gee, we really need a visual change here. I also understand why the members don’t necessarily think that, because the members, unlike the people on this call, know that at the end of the day, we’ll also be judged for whether we get our work done or not.”
“…(I)t’s important that we don’t do anything, I don’t do anything, hopefully, you don’t do anything that minimizes our ability to work together when this leadership race is over.”
Overall Grade: F. I know, I’ll probably never get another conference call with Blunt again for saying this, but he really didn’t come across well at all. He struck me as a hubristic, status quo candidate who really isn’t very interested in reform because, for the most part, he likes things as they are and doesn’t think he needs to promise anything to win.
Final Thoughts: All 3 candidates are real conservatives, not RINOS, so it’s not as if we’re in danger of having a Susan Collins or an Arlen Specter takeover.
However, if you’re unhappy with the performance of the House — and most conservatives seem to be — there is a pretty clear pecking order here. Shadegg is the guy who wants to make big changes, Boehner is more of a middle-of-the road guy, and Blunt is the guy for people who want to give lip service to reform and leave things essentially the way they are.
Before these conference calls, my preference was Shadegg, Boehner, and then Blunt, way in the rear. Today’s calls just reinforced my perceptions.
Other blogger reactions:
La Shawn Barber
Outside the Beltway
The QandO Blog
Townhall’s Capitol Report
The Truth Laid Bear