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RealClearPolitics Politics Nation Blog

 

Blog Home Page --> December 2008

Brownback Announcing Retirement

As expected, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kans.) will announce tomorrow that he plans to retire from the Senate when his term ends in 2010, CNN reports. The second-term senator has been eyeing a run for governor for years now and will likely file official papers to do so next month.

Current Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, will be term-limited in 2010, and many Democrats hope she'll run for the vacant Senate seat. However, history is not on her side -- according to the Almanac of American Politics, Kansas has not elected a Democratic senator since 1932, which is the longest streak of any state.

Brownback becomes the second Republican senator to announce his retirement this month. Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.), in his first term, announced two weeks ago that he would not be running for re-election in 2010.

Republicans already had more seats up for election in 2010 than Democrats, so these openings could spell more trouble for the party. However, with President-elect Obama's pick of Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) for Interior Secretary, four Democrats will now leave the Senate for the executive branch. Of the four, Salazar's seat is likely the most vulnerable for Republican takeover in two years.

Strategy Memo: One More Senate Seat

Good Tuesday morning. Another Democratic Senate seat will open up later this week, though matching the excitement of the Illinois and New York seats will be tough...

The Transition
President-elect Obama is expected to announce his choice for Secretary of Education today -- Chicago schools chief Arne Duncan. Education reform leaders appear to approve of this choice so far. Obama will introduce Duncan at Dodge Renaissance Academy, an elementary school that is part of the Academy for Urban School Leadership, a specialized new-teacher preparation program that seeks to improve the quality of teachers in the city.

Obama is also expected to announce later this week his choice for Interior Secretary -- Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar. Salazar, elected to the Senate in 2004, hails from a western state -- as has become tradition in filling this post -- as well as a battleground state, which Obama turned blue for just the second time since 1964. Salazar's selection also adds another Latino to his cabinet. As the L.A. Times reports, Salazar criticized Interior earlier this year for opening his state's Roan Plateau for drilling, and his appointment "could put the brakes on several controversial energy development projects across the West."

The Senate
Salazar's selection also opens up a fourth Democratic Senate seat since the election. The other three include: Obama's Illinois seat (which is the most-watched and controversial), Secretary of State nominee Hillary Clinton's New York seat (the second most-watched seat with Caroline Kennedy in the mix), and Vice President-elect Joe Biden's Delaware seat (longtime Biden aide Edward Kaufman was appointed, and appears he'll serve as a placeholder until a 2008 special election for Biden's son Beau, the state attorney general).

Salazar would be up for election in 2010, but in the meantime, Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter will appoint someone to fill in for the next two years. Obvious frontrunners would include Salazar's older brother John Salazar (both were elected to Congress in 2004, Ken as a senator and John as the 3rd District representative), Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, and 1st District Rep. Diana DeGette, a member of House Democratic leadership. DeGette, who represents Denver, could be passed over due to her relatively liberal voting record, which may not translate statewide in 2010. The Fix has more thoughts on the Colorado seat, as well.

The Recount
Today marks yet another crucial juncture in the Minnesota Senate recount, as the state Canvassing Board meets today to rule on some 1,500 challenged ballots, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.

At the heart of the matter is voter intent and how the five-member board will determine it by examining each remaining challenged ballot: Is a partially filled oval sufficient to cast a vote? How about an 'X' written near a candidate's name?

Moran Resigns State House Seat

State Delegate Brian Moran (D) resigned his Northern Virginia-based seat today, freeing up his winter schedule to run for governor.

From the Washington Post:

By resigning the seat he has held since 1996, Moran will be able to raise money and travel the state this winter instead of being bogged down by the 45-day legislative session. Had he not stepped down, Moran would have been in Richmond in January and February while one of his chief rivals for the nomination, Terry McAuliffe, was free to campaign. Moran will also be able to avoid looming tough votes on budget cuts, as well as possible tax or fee increases, as Virginia grapples with a big budget shortfall.

Strategy Memo: Can The Bailout Be Bailed Out?

It's Friday Dec. 12, with less than two weeks of shopping days left until the holidays. Washington's local basketball team, the Wizards, are on life support. Boston's world-champion Celtics showed them last night just how bad they are. These are Washington's other stories...

The Big Three
Senate Republicans and Democrats failed to compromise on legislation last night to give an emergency $14 billion loan to the American auto industry. Democrats needed 60 votes to cut off debate on the bill, but were only able to garner 52, with 35 voting against and 12 not voting.

"The legislation would have provided emergency loans to General Motors and Chrysler, which have said they face imminent collapse without federal help," the Washington Post's Kane writes. "The high-stakes talks broke down over when the wages of union workers would be slashed to the same level as those paid to nonunion workers at U.S. plants of foreign automakers such as Toyota and Honda."

"The date certain was pivotal to a proposal by Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) to toughen the terms set in the underlying administration's bill, which had cleared the House Wednesday night," Politico's Rogers writes. "Corker demanded large concessions as well from bondholders to reduce the debt levels on GM. But the labor provisions were the most contentious, and much as the UAW gave ground on several fronts, it resisted the date certain demand as unfairly political."

Both Pres. Bush and President-elect Obama were in support of this bill; its failure was a "bruising defeat" for both of them, the New York Times' Herszenhorn writes. More importantly, "The failure to reach agreement on Capitol Hill raised a specter of financial collapse for General Motors and Chrysler, which say they may not be able to survive through this month."

The Tainted Senate Seat
Revelations continue to roll out of Chicago in connection with Gov. Rod Blagojevich's attempt to sell Obama's vacant Senate seat to the highest bidder. We learned earlier that Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) was in fact "Senate Candidate #5," as referred to in the 76-page criminal complaint against the governor. The Chicago Tribune reports that businessmen with ties to both the governor and Jackson discussed holding a fundraiser to raise $1 million for Blagojevich's campaign to encourage him to pick Jackson for the seat.

Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn has repeatedly called on the governor to resign. In an interview yesterday on NPR, Quinn said he and the governor had spoken no more than a sentence or two to each other in the past year, as the governor was extremely insulated and isolated. He also noted that he would support a special election in principle, but he feared the new senator would not be seated when the new Congress comes into session -- therefore he would like to succeed Blagojevich and choose Obama's successor.

The Recount
The Minnesota Canvassing Board meets this morning to decide the fate of possibly 1,000 improperly rejected absentee ballots. "The five-member board, headed by Democratic Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, still have two other issues ahead of it: thousands of ballot challenges the two campaigns have filed in the recount, and what to do about 133 missing ballots in a Minneapolis precinct," the Star Tribune reports.

Hastings, Others Named Committee Ranking Members

House Republican Steering Committee members today voted Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) into the ranking member slot on the Natural Resources Committee for the 111th Congress. The incumbent ranking member, Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), was ousted yesterday as ethics questions surround him.

The ranking members for the other committees were chosen yesterday:

Standing Committee.....Ranking Member
Agriculture.....Frank Lucas (OK)
Appropriations.....Jerry Lewis (CA)
Armed Services.....John McHugh (NY)
Budget.....Paul Ryan (WI)
Education & Labor.....Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (CA)
Energy & Commerce.....Joe Barton (TX)
Financial Services.....Spencer Bachus (AL)
Foreign Affairs.....Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL)
Homeland Security.....Peter T. King (NY)
Select Committee on Intelligence.....Pete Hoekstra (MI)
Judiciary.....Lamar S. Smith (TX)
Oversight & Government Reform.....Darrel Issa (CA)
Rules.....David Dreier (CA)
Science & Technology.....Ralph M. Hall (TX)
Small Business.....Sam Graves (MO)
Transportation & Infrastructure.....John L. Mica (FL)
Veterans' Affairs.....Steve Buyer (IN)
Ways & Means.....Dave Camp (MI)

Strategy Memo: To Bail Or Not To Bail

Good Thursday morning. 11 days until Hanukkah, 14 days until Christmas, 15 days until Kwanzaa. These are the stories a wet Washington is watching today...

The Congress
The House approved the Auto Industry Financing and Restructuring Act last night on a 237 to 170 vote, though the hurdles the bill faces in the Senate could spell its doom. The bill would provide a $14 billion loan within days to the Big Three automakers. The White House supports the measure and wants a Senate vote today if possible.

"Today, we are considering legislation not as life-support to sustain a dying industry, but a jump start for an industry that is essential to our country's economic health," Speaker Nancy Pelosi said from the House floor last night. "One in 10 American jobs is linked to the domestic auto industry, and it is a key pillar in an American manufacturing sector critical to our national security and economic competitiveness for decades to come."

The Transition
President-elect Obama will name former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle as Secretary of Health and Human Services today at his 10 a.m. CT press conference in Chicago. The new administration's energy and environmental team is also starting to take shape, with four names reported yesterday: Steven Chu, as Energy Secretary; Lisa Jackson, as EPA administrator; Carol Browner, as energy czar; and Nancy Sutley, to head the White House Council on Environmental Quality. These four will likely be officially announced in the coming weeks.

The Corruption
Obama, through a spokesman, yesterday called on Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to resign. He wasn't the only one, the New York Times's Saulny writes. Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn called on Blagojevich to resign, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid warned Blagojevich not to appoint anyone to Obama's vacant Senate seat.

Reid also distributed a letter among Senate Democrats calling on Blagojevich to step down, and every member of the Democratic Caucus signed it.

Strategy Memo: Cao Tipping

Good Tuesday morning. Washington gets a welcomed break from the blistering cold today and will be watching these stories...

The Transition
President-elect Obama and Vice President-elect Biden are scheduled to meet with former VP Al Gore today in Chicago "to discuss energy and climate change and how policies in this area can stimulate the economy and create jobs," according to the Transition team. Obama listed alternative energy as one of the core areas of job creation in his proposed economic recovery package. Gore is not interested in a cabinet position, though Obama has said previously that Gore's voice on energy and the environment would be welcomed in an Obama White House.

The Big Three
"Congressional Democrats and the White House yesterday settled on a plan to rush $15 billion in emergency loans to the cash-strapped Detroit automakers and were working into the night to resolve final disputes over the conditions the government should attach to the money," the Washington Post reports.

On "Meet the Press" on Sunday, Obama cautioned that the U.S. should not be interested in nationalizing the auto industry, the New York Times reports. "But what Mr. Obama went on to describe was a long-term bailout that would be conditioned on federal oversight. It could mean that the government would mandate, or at least heavily influence, what kind of cars companies make, what mileage and environmental standards they must meet and what large investments they are permitted to make -- to recreate an industry that Mr. Obama said 'actually works, that actually functions.'"

As the L.A. Times reports, a government-appointed "car czar" wouldn't have complete control of the industry. "Under the proposal, the monitor's authority would stop short of the near-complete operational control some critics wanted the new "car czar" to have. But the official, to be appointed by the president, would negotiate far-reaching plans for restructuring General Motors Corp. and Chrysler by March 31. Ford Motor Co., which is in better financial condition, apparently would not be part of the initial outlay."

The Elections
The man responsible for knocking indicted Congressman Bill Jefferson (D-La.) out of the House -- Anh "Joseph" Cao -- continues to receive extensive publicity, including a profile of the man in the Sunday edition of the New York Times, as well as a front-page story in the Washington Post today.

This hype was initiated by the GOP itself, with House Minority Leader John Boehner distributing a memo Sunday night titled, "The Future is Cao." Politico delves into this phenomenon in a story today.

Strategy Memo: '08 Elections Not Over

In less than two weeks, the first college football Bowl game of the year will be played at RFK Stadium, just 20 blocks down East Capitol Street from the U.S. Capitol. Wake Forest will take on local favorite Navy in the EagleBank Bowl at 11 a.m. on Dec. 20. We'll be far more interested in the last game -- Oklahoma vs. Florida, who do appear to be the two best teams in college football.

The House
There was plenty more election news over the weekend, with embattled Democrat William Jefferson of Louisiana losing his seat to a Republican in the delayed general election Saturday. Taking the indicted congressman's place representing the 2nd District is Joseph Cao, who becomes the first Vietnamese American ever to serve in Congress after defeating Jefferson by a 49.6%-46.8% margin. "Joseph Cao represents a new era in Louisiana - one in which voters continue to reject the politics of corruption," said NRCC Chairman Tom Cole.

While the GOP took a second seat in Louisiana from the Democrats, the Dems grabbed Ohio's 15th District. Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy, thanks to provisional ballots counted since Nov. 4, defeated Republican Steve Stivers to win the open Republican seat.

In Louisiana's 4th District, Republican John Fleming and Democrat Paul Carmouche are currently separated by just 356 votes, with Fleming clinging to a 48.07%-47.69% lead. Carmouche has yet to concede the race and is likely to call for a recount.

Other than LA-4, the lone remaining undecided seat is Virginia's 5th District, where Rep. Virgil Goode has requested a recount after Democrat Tom Perriello initially appeared to defeat him. Should LA-4 remain Republican and VA-5 flip to the Democrats, the Dems would come out of the 2008 elections with 21 more House seats than they had in the 110th Congress.

The Big Three
"Congressional Democrats are drafting legislation that would give the teetering Detroit automakers at least $15 billion in emergency loans early next week and grant the federal government broad authority to manage a massive restructuring of their operations," the Washington Post reports. On CBS's Face the Nation, Senate Banking Committee chairman Chris Dodd said the Big Three automakers should "consider new leadership" as part of a restructuring that would be part of the loan they receive.

The Senate
Caroline Kennedy is indeed interested in replacing Hillary Clinton in the Senate, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. told the Associated Press over the weekend. "She spent a lot of her life balancing public service with obligations to her family," RFK Jr. said. "Now her children are grown, and she is ready to move onto a bigger stage."

New York Gov. David Paterson, charged with choosing Clinton's replacement, told the New York Times that though he and Kennedy have talked, she "has not yet explicitly indicated to him that she wants" the job.

Brown Concedes Race

Democrat Charlie Brown, running in California's 4th District, conceded the race to Republican Tom McClintock yesterday. After weeks of ballots continuing to trickle in, Brown ultimately trailed McClintock by 1,576 votes out of more than 367,000 votes cast. Brown chose not to ask for a recount, ensuring McClintock's place in the 111th Congress.

This was Brown's second run at the district. In 2006, he came within 3 points of defeating Rep. John Doolittle, whose ties to lobbyist Jack Abramoff made him a vulnerable incumbent, even in this conservative, Northeastern California district. Doolittle's retirement in January was actually a detriment to Brown's chances at winning on his second try.

McClintock, a conservative state senator, took a 15-point victory in the June Republican primary over former Rep. Doug Ose, who represented California's 3rd District from 1998-2004. Through mid-October, McClintock had spent some $900,000 more than Brown, but by the end of the campaign he was low on cash and had no TV advertising for weeks.

Four House races now remain undecided: Ohio-15, Virginia-5, and Louisiana's 2nd and 4th districts. Louisiana's primaries were pushed back due to Hurricane Ike and the general elections were moved to this Saturday, Dec. 6.

Four VA Gov Contenders Meet

The four candidates vying for the governorship of Virginia met at the Richmond Times-Dispatch in downtown Richmond yesterday for the annual "Associated Press Day at the Capital." Atty. Gen. Bob McDonnell, the only Republican currently running, met with the three Democrats who will have to battle for the Dem nomination: State Delegate Brian Moran, State Sen. Creigh Deeds and former DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe.

From the T-D's write-up of the event:

McAuliffe, who plans to make an announcement on his candidacy early next month, contended that unlike confirmed candidates Deeds and Moran, he represents fresh blood with new ideas.

McAuliffe said that like fellow Democrats Mark R. Warner, who was elected governor in 2001; and Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, who won in 2005, he does not come from the legislature and isn't wedded to old alliances.

At one point in the nearly two-hour discussion, Deeds and McDonnell were bickering over a 2007 transportation plan that the Virginia Supreme Court deemed partly unconstitutional.

McAuliffe interjected: "If you're tired of all the quarreling, I'm your guy."

Strategy Memo: 59, The New Magic Number

Besides local fans blaming QB Jason Campbell for the Redskins' woes and the possibility that there will be no "last call" at bars during inauguration week, Washington is talking about these stories...

The Big Three
Detailed plans for how they would utilize billions of dollars in government assistance were due on Capitol Hill yesterday, while Ford, GM and Chrysler executives will follow for House and Senate committee hearings Thursday and Friday to defend the plans. At a press briefing yesterday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the GAO and Federal Reserve would review the plans first, and that she expects the federal government to intervene in some way, either through legislative action or an executive loan from the Bush administration.

The AP's Davis and Krisher write that the automakers' plans include pledges to "slash workers, car lines and executive pay in return for a federal lifeline."

General Motors said it wouldn't last until New Year's without an immediate $4 billion and could drag the entire industry down if it fails. It is seeking as much as $18 billion to keep afloat.

"There isn't a Plan B," said Fritz Henderson, GM's chief operating officer. "Absent support, frankly, the company just can't fund its operations."

The Transition
POTUS Obama and VPOTUS Biden met with the National Governors Association in Philadelphia yesterday, with some always-fun off-the-cuff remarks from Biden to Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, as well as some serious business.

The Washington Post's Montgomery and Shear write that Obama and the governors both stressed that the speed -- not haste -- with which an economic recovery stimulus package is spent on state and local construction projects is crucial.

"With President-elect Barack Obama vowing to plow hundreds of billions of dollars into the nation's infrastructure, some state officials are warning that public works projects will fail to effectively lift the country out of recession unless they are chosen carefully and implemented rapidly. In a private meeting yesterday in Philadelphia with 48 of the nation's governors, Obama stressed the importance of identifying projects that could put people to work quickly, participants said."

The Senate
The Georgia Senate runoff election was called at about 9:00 p.m. yesterday, with GOP Sen. Saxby Chambliss winning a second term in the upper chamber and Democrats' hopes of 60 Senate seats dead, for now. With 97% of precincts reporting as of this morning, Chambliss held a 57.4%-42.6% lead over Democratic challenger Jim Martin. It was common knowledge that turning out one's base was key to winning the runoff, and it appears Chambliss did a better job of it.

Chambliss received 650,000 less votes yesterday than he did on Nov. 4, while Martin received 850,000 less votes. In DeKalb County, a heavily-Democratic county, Martin received some 95,000 less votes than he did Nov. 4, while Chambliss lost only 18,000 votes. Martin won the county by 6 points less than he did on Nov. 4. In Gwinnett, another large Atlanta-area county, Chambliss won 64%-36% yesterday, after carrying the county by just 10 points (53%-43%) on Nov. 4.

One Republican senator, up for re-election in 2010, announced yesterday that he won't run for a second term. Florida Sen. Mel Martinez, with relatively low approval ratings and tight ties to the Bush administration, decided that, at 62 years old, he didn't want to spend another two years campaigning and another six years in Washington, the Orlando Sentinel reports. Martinez's retirement also sets off a maelstrom of political intrigue for potential candidates from both parties. The hottest name is Jeb Bush, who told Politico he's "considering" running.

Pelosi: Bankruptcy Not An Option

WASHINGTON -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said today that she expects the federal government to intervene in the domestic audo industry's request for cash, whether through legislation or an executive loan.

"I believe that intervention will happen," Pelosi said during an afternoon press briefing. "I think it's pretty clear that bankruptcy is not an option."

Pelosi hasn't yet looked at the auto industry's detailed plans -- due today -- for how they would use a proposed $25 billion in government assistance. She said the plans will be reviewed by the GAO and Federal Reserve before the auto executives of Ford, GM and Chrysler appear before House and Senate committees on Thursday and Friday.

"What we are looking for is to have an auto industry that is viable, that is forward-looking, and that would be worthy of the support of taxpayers," said Pelosi, who also noted that there is a "desire to accomodate" them.

Capitol Visitor Center Opens

Congress unveiled its newly-finished, $621million Capitol Visitor Center this morning with an hour-long ceremony. In what is called Emancipation Hall -- the main, large room of the underground structure -- congressional leaders Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell spoke about the historical significance and tradition of continuing to improve the Capitol, and invoked Thomas Jefferson's name on numerous occasions.

The CVC features a vast exhibit on the history of the grand building and our government, as well as restaurants, gift shops and theaters. James Billington, Librarian of Congress, called it a "splendidly-presented civics lesson" and "a far more expansive attempt to make the Capitol more accessible to its citizenry."

In Reid's remarks, he noted that if nothing else, the indoor facility will end the permeation of tourists' body odor, since they'll no longer need to wait outside in the muggy summer weather. "In the summer time, because of the high humidity and how hot it gets here, you could literally smell the tourists coming into the Capitol," Reid said. "Well, that's no longer going to be necessary."

Strategy Memo: It's Official

It's Tuesday Dec. 2, and we have another election upon us. Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss is fighting for his elected life against Democratic challenger Jim Martin in the Georgia Senate race. We'll find out today, perhaps, just how influential Atlanta-native rapper Ludacris (known for such classic songs as "Move B*tch") is on turning out voters. In the meantime, here are today's top stories...

The Transition
President-elect Obama ended any doubts yesterday when he officially nominated Sen. Hillary Clinton for the position of secretary of state. Their drawn out battle during the presidential primaries this year leaves some to wonder how well these two can work together. Obama made Clinton appear as the out-with-the-old candidate with less foreign policy experience than she claimed to have. Now Clinton joins the in-with-the-new administration.

Here is the Washington Post's Abramowitz and Kessler on the whether this can be a successful relationship: "Many of the most successful secretaries of state, though not all, enjoyed great influence with the presidents they served, giving them crucial leverage with foreign leaders and inside the national security establishment. But Obama and Clinton are only starting to develop the kind of rapport that could lead to that trust, and the ultimate success of the senator from New York in her new role may depend as much on Obama's willingness to admit her to his inner circle as her ability to master the intricacies of the Middle East peace process or North Korea's nuclear weapons program, according to senior foreign policy officials from past administrations."

The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder writes that the takeaway from Obama's press conference yesterday was the idea of "holism," as he introduced six cabinet positions at once: "Announcing, at once, an attorney general, the homeland security chief, Obama's defense chief, his chief diplomat, his chief negotiator and his chief adviser sends the message that Obama's conception of national security includes the need to defend against terror attacks at home and to devise a sensible mechanism to detain and punish those who attack us. More prosaically, Obama has chosen to render the foreign policy decision making mechanism as a table, over which people will disagree to the point of consensus."

The Big Three
The Big Three automakers' detailed plans for how they'll use $25 billion in government assistance are due on Capitol Hill today, while the CEOs of GM, Ford and Chrysler will appear in person later this week.

From the L.A. Times's Puzzanghera and Bensinger: "But skeptics still abound. And the companies' detailed reports to Congress, just like their executives' new travel plans, may be more about public relations than economics. Analysts say the expected promises to renegotiate labor contracts, cut benefit costs or reduce product lines may placate some in Congress but will be hard to achieve."

The Washington Post's Marr has a glimpse inside some of the three companies' plans: "In its second attempt to persuade Congress to grant the U.S. auto industry $25 billion in emergency loans, Chrysler plans to make the case that automakers can cut their costs and point to the future by forging an alliance to share fuel-efficient vehicle technologies. Ford will tell lawmakers that it intends to retool plants for smaller, more fuel-efficient cars as a part of its goal of becoming the fuel-efficiency leader in every vehicle category. General Motors will address its $43.3 billion debt burden and an upcoming multibillion-dollar payment to a union-run trust that will cover employee health-care costs."

The Media
It appears NBC is set to make its chief White House correspondent, David Gregory, the next moderator of "Meet the Press." While we were rooting for someone else, here's hoping Gregory can become the likeable -- yet tough -- interviewer Tim Russert was.

Rangel's Fate Still Unknown

Speaker Nancy Pelosi released a statement late Wednesday, on Thanksgiving eve, that she expects a House Ethics committee report on the questioned dealings of Ways and Means Committee chairman Charles Rangel to be completed by Jan. 3.

Pelosi's statement followed two days of renewed questions regarding Rangel, after a New York Times article reported he "was instrumental in preserving a lucrative tax loophole that benefited an oil-drilling company last year, while at the same time its chief executive was pledging $1 million" to help fund a new City College of New York school of public service that will be named in Rangel's honor.

This latest New York Times story was followed by an editorial the next day in the same paper, which called on Pelosi to ensure the ethics investigation was moving forward. "We hope that Speaker Nancy Pelosi is shocked into action. She should insist that the ethics investigation move forward -- and that Mr. Rangel relinquish his chairmanship during the inquiry. If Mr. Rangel continues to resist, the speaker should permanently reassign the gavel. In a deep economic crisis, the committee, and the country, cannot afford the distraction," the Times editorialized.

The Washington Post jumped into the fray as well, writing Saturday that Rangel "should step aside as chairman while the ethics committee expands its inquiry."

National Journal's Richard E. Cohen, one of the most knowledgeable and well-sourced House reporters, wrote in Congress Daily on Friday that Rangel "faces a potential double-barreled challenge when the new Congress convenes in January: House members could seek to force a vote on whether he should get another two years in his powerful post; at the same time the House Ethics Committee is scheduled to issue a report on its investigation of several news reports about his possible ethical violations."

What's ahead for Rangel remains unknown, but one thing is for sure: Pelosi will not be able to side-step this investigation, as all eyes are on the chairman of this powerful tax-writing committee.