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Leaders Set To Hit Road

Following a marathon seven-week stretch in continuous session, House leaders from both sides of the aisle plan to augment their usual recess constituent service and town hall meetings by hopscotching the country to boost their own coffers and those of their fellow Members.

“It’s an important time to raise money,” said Brendan Daly, spokesman for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). “We did very well in the first quarter and want to continue that in the second quarter.”

At the same time, lawmakers plan to update their constituents on their work in Washington. And while voters will likely be anxious to query their Representatives about the situation in Iraq, Members of both parties also expect plenty of questions about the home front.

“The economy is the issue,” said House Republican Conference spokesman Greg Crist, pointing out that the April 15 tax deadline will present a particularly ripe time for discussing fiscal policy.

On the GOP side, Speaker Dennis Hastert (Ill.) will be looping through the South and Southwest, doing fundraising events in the districts of GOP Reps. Walter Jones Jr. (N.C.), Joe Wilson (S.C.), Charlie Norwood (Ga.) and Rick Renzi (Ariz.).

Hastert is also scheduled to deliver a speech at the George H.W. Bush presidential library at Texas A&M University in College Station.

Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) will spend April 13-15 in Key Largo, Fla., at a $1 million charity golf tournament for the DeLay Foundation for Kids.

A DeLay spokesman declined to discuss any additional fundraising plans but said the Majority Leader planned to spend the remainder of the recess in Texas and would be attending a variety of non-campaign-related district events.

Majority Whip Roy Blunt’s (R-Mo.) recess agenda includes three fundraising stops, all for freshman lawmakers. Two will be in Florida — Sarasota for Rep. Katherine Harris and Ft. Lauderdale for Rep. Tom Feeney — while the third will be in Savannah, Ga., for Rep. Max Burns.

Blunt also plans to attend DeLay’s golf tournament, and will spend the rest of the recess in Missouri attending town hall meetings.

Republican Conference Chairwoman Deborah Pryce (Ohio) does not have any fundraisers on the agenda. She will be meeting with constituents, business groups and local media in Ohio, and she is also planning a Hispanic outreach roundtable.

Across the aisle, Pelosi and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) are hitting the road hard to raise money for their party.

Pelosi will serve as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s point person on a whirlwind tour through California, Washington, Texas, Massachusetts and New York to raise money for Democrats.

Pelosi kicks off her travels during the first week in her home state with stops in Los Angeles, Silicon Valley and Orange County, and then heads to Seattle. The following week, the Minority Leader heads to Texas for two events in Houston and one in Dallas. She closes out her fundraising efforts with meetings in Boston and New York.

Pelosi will work on behalf of the party rather than specific candidates, meeting mostly with individual donors and in small groups, rather than headlining large events.

“Her night job is to take back the House, and part of that is raising money,” Daly said. “She’s very committed to doing that.”

While Pelosi works on behalf of the DCCC, Hoyer will be hitting the trail during the second week of the break to help three of his fellow Members in marginal districts. He’ll also meet with state Democratic leaders and potential House candidates and raise money for his leadership PAC, AMERIPAC.

Hoyer will host issue events and fundraisers for Reps. Baron Hill (Ind.), Mike Michaud (Maine) and Joe Hoeffel (Pa.). He will also meet with party leaders and engage in candidate recruitment in those states, as well as in Georgia.

“Mr. Hoyer will spend half of the recess in his district and the other half on the road helping threatened Democrats and Democratic efforts in targeted Republican districts,” said Hoyer spokeswoman Stacey Farnen.

On the message front, both sets of leadership are arming their lawmakers with packets of information to help them shape the message they convey to their constituents.

“Our leaders understand that when we return a heavy emphasis will be placed on the domestic agenda,” said Crist, the GOP Conference spokesman. He added that “House Republicans will have already laid the groundwork” for an aggressive post-recess schedule by accomplishing so much already.

House Democrats, of course, see the situation differently and will be focusing on the Republican budget and their charges that it shortchanges key priorities. Among the top issues will be GOP budget cutbacks to veterans’ benefits and education.

“We’ll be pointing out the serious budget cuts and how they are reckless and irresponsible,” Daly said.

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