Hastert Can Be Booed but Not Ousted

In 2004, President Bush strolled through a Florida neighborhood hit  by Hurricane Charley with FEMA Director Michael Brown, left, and  Rep. Mark Foley. Two of the above men no longer have their titles.
In 2004, President Bush strolled through a Florida neighborhood hit by Hurricane Charley with FEMA Director Michael Brown, left, and Rep. Mark Foley. Two of the above men no longer have their titles. (By Stephen Hayford -- Associated Press)
By Al Kamen
Friday, October 6, 2006

The controversy over whether embattled House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) should remain in office has divided hard-line anti-pedophiles such as conservatives Richard Viguerie , David Bossie and the Washington Times, who demanded Hastert's head, from moderate anti-pedophiles such as President Bush and Vice President Cheney and some talk-show types, who can better appreciate the larger implications of this matter.

One problem for the hard-liners is that there is no mechanism to force Hastert to quit, to give him the standard option of resigning or being fired. The House is not in session, so there's no way to have a vote until lawmakers return Nov. 9, after the election. (Bush could call them back in a true emergency, as he did in the Terri Schiavo case, but that doesn't appear likely.) What's more, House experts say there's no historical guide -- there has not been a vote to kick out a speaker in at least a century, maybe ever. (There is a provision that if the speaker doesn't show up for three days, the chair can be deemed vacant and a motion would be in order for the election of a new speaker.) Were the House around, presumably someone who voted for Hastert last time could call for a new vote.

One reason this situation may be unprecedented, a House official said, could be that a speaker, who technically doesn't have to be a member of the House, is only chosen for one Congress, or two years. Usually it would take someone a year or so to really mess up, and then their term would be almost up anyway. In the past, the House could "usually wait them out," he said.

The Spread: Four-Fifths of a Representative

Foleygate complicates things for Republican efforts on Nov. 7. Will this enable the Dems to take over the House? A National Journal poll of insiders released yesterday found that 71 GOP insiders estimated the fallout would cost an average of 2.6 seats while 73 Democrats predicted they'd capture an additional 3.4 seats.

What do you think? Time to get your entry in to the In the Loop Congressional Election Contest! Send your prediction of the number of R's and D's in the Senate and the House to intheloop@washpost.com . Include your phone number (home, work or cell). Entries must be submitted by midnight Oct. 10. The 10 participants closest to the results will receive a mention in the column and highly coveted "In the Loop" T-shirts.

Grateful in Four Languages

Cultural sensitivity award of the week. The winner is the National Republican Senatorial Committee for its snappy new "¡Muchas Gracias Debbie!" Web site, featuring Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) in a Mexican sombrero. The site ( http://www.muchasgraciasdebbie.com ) thanks her for doing things such as "preventing English as our national language" and allowing illegal immigrants voting privileges and Social Security benefits.

It's in Spanish and English and tastefully includes background music -- the "Mexican Hat Dance." There's also a "Merci Debbie" message, in French and English, with her wearing a black beret. This one attacks her votes favoring Canadians -- "O Canada" is the background music.

National Council of La Raza President Janet Murguía wrote Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman on Wednesday demanding that the site "be removed immediately." The ad "badly represents" the issues, she said.

Murguía had complained in August about an earlier GOP ad on immigration and a Democratic ad that featured photos of terrorists and Osama bin Laden along with shots of people sneaking across the border. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee removed its ad. The GOP didn't respond to complaints.

As of Thursday night, there was no response to Murguía's newest complaint. And Thursday afternoon the NRSC put up a "Xie Xie Debbie" feature in Chinese to focus on her vote for normal trade status for China. ("Xie xie" means "thank you.") No music on this one. No ethnic hat either.

Venezuelan Oil Protection Agency

Former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Christine Todd Whitman is "repping" Hovensa LLC, the oil-refining operation owned by Amerada Hess Corp. and Petróleos de Venezuela SA, President Hugo Chavez 's national oil company. Whitman Strategy Group is handling "emissions issues" for the refinery, according to the authoritative Jack O'Dwyer's Newsletter on the PR world.

The Grand Old Party Days

The photo distributed by Democrats this week to the blogosphere is sure to appear in TV ads before too long. It shows President Bush walking with then-Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) and then-FEMA chief Michael Brown , in happier times as they strolled though a Punta Gorda, Fla., neighborhood after Hurricane Charley hit in August 2004.

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