Breaking the Rules?

Chairman to Work Against Ranking Member

Posted February 13, 2004 at 5:58pm

GOP Reps. David Dreier (Calif.) and Pete Sessions (Texas) are longtime friends, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that the Rules chairman plans to help his fellow panel member campaign for re-election.

What is unusual, however, is that Sessions’ opponent is Rules ranking member Martin Frost (D).

Of all the matchups created by Texas’ recent round of Republican-imposed redistricting, perhaps none is odder than the race between Sessions and Frost in the new Dallas-area 32nd district. While remaps have set veteran lawmakers against each other before, no committee chairman in recent memory has actively worked to unseat his own ranking member.

Sessions said that his race was “very highly unusual” in that it pitted two Members of the same committee against each other, and that he expected Dreier to be of great assistance between now and November.

“The chairman and I are very good friends and the chairman will be in full support of my campaign,” said Sessions. “Every cycle David has helped my re-election.”

Dreier will begin chipping in to his colleague’s coffers next week. The Californian is one of about two dozen lawmakers already slated to attend a Sessions fundraiser scheduled for Feb. 25 at the ESPN Zone in downtown Washington, D.C. Dreier will bring to the “Game On” reception a $5,000 donation from his leadership committee, the American Success PAC.

(Sessions also wrangled some Washington dollars last week at a Capital Grille luncheon fundraiser.)

American Success has been a perennial donor to Sessions since he was elected to the House in 1996, giving the Texan $1,000 in the 2002 cycle, $5,000 in 2000 and $1,000 in 1998.

Frost’s campaign was critical of Dreier’s efforts to help Sessions.

“It would be extraordinary for a chairman to campaign against a ranking member,” said a Frost aide. “At a time when the president is trying to change the tone in Washington, this is a step in the wrong direction.”

Dreier’s office did not return a call seeking comment for this story.

Since joining the Rules Committee in 1999, Sessions has helped Dreier whip votes on the floor and has done his share of filing late-night rules. Sessions said the two men are “damn good friends.”

At this point, no joint appearances or events with Dreier have been scheduled, but the Sessions campaign expects the Californian — one of the premier fundraisers in Congress — will help in any way possible.

“Obviously Chairman Dreier has expressed great interest in doing what he can to support Pete,” said Chris Homan, Sessions’ campaign manager.

Sessions recently reported raising $116,000 in the last quarter of 2003, ending the year with $728,000 in the bank. Frost, meanwhile, took in $511,000 for the quarter and reported having $692,000 on hand.

Just as Dreier and other Republicans are pitching in for Sessions, Frost recently asked his fellow Democratic lawmakers to aid his campaign.

“He wrote a letter to his colleagues and has been gratified by the number of Members who have stepped up to help him,” said the Frost aide, who did not provide a specific number of lawmakers who have contributed to the Texas Democrat.