Issue Date: February 6-12, 2006, Posted On: 2/6/2006
Rove counting heads on the Senate Judiciary Committee
The White House has been twisting arms to ensure that no Republican member votes against President Bush in the Senate Judiciary Committee’s investigation of the administration’s unauthorized wiretapping.
Congressional sources said Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove has threatened to blacklist any Republican who votes against the president. The sources said the blacklist would mean a halt in any White House political or financial support of senators running for re-election in November.
“It’s hardball all the way,” a senior GOP congressional aide said.
The sources said the administration has been alarmed over the damage that could result from the Senate hearings, which began on Monday, Feb. 6. They said the defection of even a handful of Republican committee members could result in a determination that the president violated the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Such a determination could lead to impeachment proceedings.
Over the last few weeks, Mr. Rove has been calling in virtually every Republican on the Senate committee as well as the leadership in Congress. The sources said Mr. Rove’s message has been that a vote against Mr. Bush would destroy GOP prospects in congressional elections.
“He’s [Rove] lining them up one by one,” another congressional source said.
Mr. Rove is leading the White House campaign to help the GOP in November’s congressional elections. The sources said the White House has offered to help loyalists with money and free publicity, such as appearances and photo-ops with the president.
Those deemed disloyal to Mr. Rove would appear on his blacklist. The sources said dozens of GOP members in the House and Senate are on that list.
So far, only a handful of GOP senators have questioned Mr. Rove’s tactics.
Some have raised doubts about Mr. Rove’s strategy of painting the Democrats, who have opposed unwarranted surveillance, as being dismissive of the threat posed by al Qaeda terrorists.
“Well, I didn’t like what Mr. Rove said, because it frames terrorism and the issue of terrorism and everything that goes with it, whether it’s the renewal of the Patriot Act or the NSA wiretapping, in a political context,” said Sen. Chuck Hagel, Nebraska Republican.