Hastert also met personally with the House's No. 3 Republican, Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), and with Representative Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Blunt's deputy whip, in the weeks leading up to the indictment to prep for what might happen if DeLay was forced to step down. Initially, says one source, Hastert leaned toward selecting Dreier to replace DeLay -- which would have bypassed Blunt, but sources insist no formal job offer was made. Still, in the first minutes after the indictment hit the newswires, Dreier's name was floated in the press as the likely anointed successor.David Dreier - that crazy lefty from crazy lefty CMC! Dreier still has his very powerful post as Rules Committee Chair - and that's the reason his office released as guiding his desire to stay put. Rules Committee is no consolation prize.
But when a rump group of conservative members saw the reports, they banded together to block Drier, who one aide grumbled "is not a true conservative." Among Dreier's faults, in the eyes of this group: The Californian's pro-trade stance and his votes going against conservative "litmus-test issues." He supports stem-cell research, and he opposes a Constitutional amendment against gay marriage.
UP THE BACK STAIRWAY. At a meeting in the Capitol basement, about 30 members of the conservative Republican Study Committee gathered to digest the fallout from DeLay's indictment. Led by Representative Mike Pence (R-Ind.), the group had defied their own leaders in denouncing the GOP's free-spending response to Hurricane Katrina just last week and were in no mood to take orders from the Speaker.
In the closed-door meeting at 1:30 that even key staffers were banned from attending, RSC members decided that they could not tolerate Dreier ascending to such a crucial slot, say inside sources. And even as DeLay was telling the media in a conference room overflowing with journalists that this had been "one of the weakest, most baseless indictments in American history," RSC leaders including Pence, Representative Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.), and Representative Tom Feeney (R-Fla.) were marching unnoticed up a back hallway to give their thoughts to Hastert.
By then, however, Dreier's ascension may have already been doomed. All across Washington, reps from conservative groups were flooding the Speaker's office with e-mail and phone calls opposing the Californian.
But one wonders which Republicans secretly think their party is nuts for not using Dreier's surplus of charm, ability, and smarts to its advantage. The hushed reasons are many, but goofy.