Thursday, February 02, 2006


Last month we wondered if Rep. Roy Blunt would be able to consolidate power and become Majority Leader of the House of Representatives. Thursday, we learned he could not.

Blunt lost his bid for the leader's office, 122-109, to Rep. John Boehner (BAY-ner), an Ohio congressman. Blunt's defeat was almost universally unexpected; his campaign's deep pockets have helped keep Republican members in office in more than 100 districts across the U.S., and Blunt naturally expected loyalty as payback.

What he got was the bitch. According to this Washington Post story:
[E]ven members who committed to Blunt began realizing this vote had far more significance than the usual leadership contests that are decided on personality, personal contacts and promises.

Still, with the support of most committee chairmen and the back-bench Republicans from safe districts, Blunt entered the spacious caucus room in the Cannon House Office Building today confident he would win a comfortable victory in the first round. But he was immediately thrown on the defensive. Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.), delivering a nomination speech for Shadegg, recited dismal polling numbers as he laid out just how politically perilous the Republicans' position was. Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), in seconding Shadegg's nomination, took a direct swipe at Blunt, saying it was not enough to vote for the candidate who asked for the members' support first or was nice to them.
Or who supported their asses when they needed help. But hey, that was then, when Tom DeLay still wielded his terrible sword and Blunt stood at his right hand. Things change.

When Blunt arrived in Congress in 1997, he could not have known that his party would, within a decade, grab hold of every lever of power in D.C. and in Missouri. He could not have known that he would hook up with a tobacco lobbyist, that his marriage would crumble, that his son Matt would become estranged and become Missouri's governor.

But he could -- he should -- have known that one-party rule always results in corruption and eventual leadership purges. Ask any powerful Democrat congressman, circa 1994.

Blunt should have known that hooking his political fortunes to DeLay was dangerous. The tiny Texan was already infamous for his sledgehammer approach to interpersonal congressional relationships, yet Blunt willingly picked up a whip and, on DeLay's command, started cracking it.

Most of all, Blunt should have known that once DeLay was indicted -- once the lid was pried off the barrel of questionable campaign-finance schemes that both men used -- there would be no more political upside for Roy Blunt.

He retains his job as Majority Whip, but only because he refused to give up that post to run for Majority Leader; otherwise he'd be a backbencher. Just another trick up the sleeve for the man from Greene County, who first pushed his way past DeLay's political corpse to grab the job of acting Leader -- but it's the last trick he'll pull for some time. The power he once had to force members to vote his way -- DeLay's way -- is gone. Now Roy Blunt's job is to count votes for John Boehner, the man who humbled him, while smiling and insisting that everything's just great.

No comments: