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House Republican Moderates Hire Staffer

Aide Will Help Group Maintain Cohesion

With an eye toward improving their leverage within the House Republican Conference, a leading group of GOP centrist lawmakers has for the first time hired a staffer solely dedicated to advancing their causes.

The Tuesday Group, a coalition of moderate Republicans co-chaired by Reps. Mike Castle (Del.), Nancy Johnson (Conn.) and Fred Upton (Mich.), brought in staffer Kate Dickens last month to work full-time on developing policy ideas.

“It’s a function of growth,” Castle said. “Each year we’ve grown a little bit. … [Dickens] will be solely dedicated to the purpose of advancing the agenda of the Tuesday Group.”

Dickens’ most recent position before this was as a senior legislative assistant to Rep. Connie Morella (R-Md.), a leading moderate who was defeated for re-election in November. The aide works out of Castle’s office, but her salary is being covered by contributions from all Tuesday Group members.

The addition of one staffer may not seem particularly significant, but it could help the group maintain cohesiveness. Many other House caucuses, such as the conservative Republican Study Committee, already have full-time aides on the payroll who can do work that would otherwise be done by other staffers in their spare time.

Presenting a unified front is the Tuesday Group’s chief concern, given that House GOP moderates are often unable to leverage their votes effectively.

Before the fiscal 2004 budget vote last month, for example, 11 centrist lawmakers wrote a letter to Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) saying they could not support the resolution. Republican leaders made some concessions but also embarked on a deliberate strategy of negotiating with the moderates one by one rather than as a group. In the end, six of the 11 voted for passage.

“You’re measured by the number of votes you have,” Castle said. “Unfortunately, it’s the very nature of moderates to often take different positions from one another.”

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