Congressional Democrats privately say they’re distressed they won’t have Newt Gingrich, the Republican speaker, to kick around anymore. Perhaps they should blame their own leader, Dick Gephardt, who essentially pushed the speaker out last Friday by capturing defector votes.
Insiders say Mr. Gephardt had seven Republicans committed to vote for him for speaker. It all got down to numbers. Mr. Gingrich didn’t have the votes and got out before he was voted out. Speaker-to-be Bob Livingston is a man to be reckoned with by members on both sides of the aisle. Although Mr. Livingston has taken a firm stand against President Clinton’s behaviour, he’s told colleagues privately that he wants to distance himself from the impeachment probe. Don’t count Newt out yet! By resigning as House speaker, he’s a team player and by supporting Bob Livingston for the job, Mr. Gingrich will have chits to call in. Be certain Newt will keep a close tally on those IOUs while he’s counting the mega-bucks from lecture fees. He’ll start building an organizational and financial base to run for office after the turn of the century. A teaching position will provide him with prestige. And he’ll satisfy his spirit and passion for history and dinosaurs — he always dreamed of being a paleontologist — now that he has time to dig for dinosaur bones. If all else fails, he can pop out of a suitcase for a motel chain as did one of his colourful predecessors, Tip O’Neill. Newt is one guy who can count on the press to keep him alive. And the pressies can count on him for good copy.
The race for House Republican leader is heating up as well. I’ll put my money on record-setting pass receiver and 1988 NFL Man of the Year Steve Largent when Republicans vote for the new leadership next Wednesday. But Washington state Congresswoman Jennifer Dunn is running an aggressive race to replace Dick Armey and go down in history as the first woman in the job. In Washington, there is an award for every cause. Sexy Vince Vaughan, who plays the 28-year-old Norman Bates in the Psycho remake, said he got himself elected high school senior-class president “so they had to graduate me”. He was in DC this week to pick up an award for “learning disabled achievers.” Previous recipients include Cher, Harry Belafonte, and former footballer Dexter Manley.