The Three Amigos of the House -- a powerful Democratic trio whose names are hardly household words -- will run domestic policy in America this year.
Forget Ronald Reagan. The lame-duck president is concentrating on leaving his mark on foreign issues. And forget the Senate. Senators are quite distracted with the presidential and Senate elections.
In Washington, where no power vacuum lasts for long, the gap will be filled by House Speaker Jim Wright (D-Tex.), Majority Leader Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash.) and Majority Whip Tony Coelho (D-Calif.).
After years of Eastern domination in the House, these three Westerners have surprised the Capitol with their ability to be a tight, cohesive trio with a minimum of ego bruising among them.
Their one-for-all, all-for-one musketeerism has made them difficult to beat in a year when both parties will suffer turmoil and splits over presidential candidates.
Our sources say their big push this year will be for passage of major bills involving catastrophic health insurance, education, trade, welfare reform and clean air. They will try to clean up this year's budget by April, the biggest chunk of appropriations bills before the Democratic convention in July and the rest of the agenda before the Republican convention in August.
Coelho conceded that it is rare for a trio of representatives to hum along so well.
Coelho's role is as No. 3 in the political pecking order. The 45-year-old majority whip is the implementer. He works on strategy with Wright and Foley and then garners the votes in Congress to make the strategy work.
Foley, the No. 2 man, acts as the counselor and spokesman for the leadership. An attorney, Foley, 58, questions everything the Three Amigos discuss. He looks at issues from a dozen different ways and then publicly speaks for the policies.
Evidence of the high regard for Foley on Capitol Hill was his recent ranking in a poll of 317 senior aides. Foley was rated the "most effective" leader in Congress. Second place went to Senate Minority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) and third place went to Wright. Foley, Dole and Wright also ranked first, second and third in the "most respected" category.
Wright's actions suggests he is making headway as the speaker and shedding some of the good-old-boy stigma. We have criticized Wright in the past for his dictatorial leadership and his heavy-handed protection of failing Texas thrift institutions, among other issues.
But friends say Wright, 65, is going through a makeover this year, trying to evolve from an old-style, Sam Rayburnesque leader into a slicker '80s man. More persuasion, less dictum.
That has meant a softening of relations with the press. Wright hired an aide to correct what he saw as misconceptions in the press about himself. When the aide stepped out of bounds, berating reporters in shrill letters, the new Jim Wright tactfully apologized. We ourselves received a gracious apology after Wright's aide made a questionable reference to our religious affiliations.