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GOP Tells Chairmen to Run Special Orders

C-SPAN junkies may not notice the difference, but House Republicans in recent weeks have altered the way they fill out the lineup cards for their nightly special order speeches.

The offices of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and House Republican Conference Chairwoman Deborah Pryce (Ohio) have asked the staffs of the chamber’s committee chairmen to help round up speakers from their panel rosters.

Republicans hope the shift will accomplish two primary tasks. The first is to continue improving the party’s message coordination, by ensuring that each night’s speakers cover the same topic and deliver a cohesive message.

The second is to entice senior Members who might have begged off special order speeches in the past to cancel a few of their evening engagements and take some of the floor time previously filled by junior lawmakers.

“It lets our freshmen and sophomores who’ve been running on overdrive take a breather,” said a Republican leadership aide. “This is a way to sort of jump-start those [Members] where apathy might have set in.”

The genesis of the idea came from DeLay, an avid floor-watcher who is also the leadership’s point man for dealing with committees. The Majority Leader huddles with chairmen every Tuesday evening, and his aides also meet regularly with panel staff.

Armed Services Chairman Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) helped establish a basic template when he decided recently that his committee members would begin doing a block of special orders every other week on developments in Iraq.

Since then, other panels have been enlisted to book floor speakers, and the Conference — which has a staffer, Joel Roberson, who spends essentially all his time organizing special orders and one-minute speeches — has booked more than 80 percent of the calendar through the beginning of August.

This week, for example, the Education and the Workforce Committee has lined up Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.) to speak on Brown v. Board of Education. The Government Reform Committee has asked Rep. Doug Ose (R-Calif.) to discuss the Paperwork Reduction Act while the Intelligence Committee has engaged Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) to discuss Iraq.

Following the Memorial Day recess, the Energy and Commerce Committee is expected to take the lead in lining up panel members to discuss the federal government’s newly unveiled prescription drug cards.

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