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House Republicans Measure Support for Goss

With retiring Rep. Porter Goss (R-Fla.) on the short list of potential nominees to replace recently departed CIA Director George Tenet, Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) quietly reached out to House Democratic leaders to gauge the level of support for, or opposition to, the Florida Republican.

Hastert tapped Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) as his emissary to the Democrats. Rogers met recently with Minority Whip Steny Hoyer in the Maryland Democrat’s leadership office to discuss the situation.

Hoyer hadn’t consulted with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on a potential Goss nomination to the CIA at that time, according to Democratic insiders, and declined to give Rogers a definitive answer on the question of whether the Democratic leadership would openly oppose Goss.

While both Pelosi and Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) had already publicly questioned the wisdom of selecting Goss in the weeks leading up to Tenet’s July 11 departure, Hastert was not sure just how solid the Democratic aversion to Goss really was. It is also unclear if Hastert was acting at the request of the White House, which had openly floated Goss’ name as a potential replacement for Tenet.

Hoyer’s tepid response, and subsequent statements by Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and other Democrats, however, apparently derailed the effort to quickly anoint Goss as CIA director.

The incident sheds light on the poor relationship between the two top party leaders in the House and how little communication they and their staffs actually have, and reinforces the hyper-partisan mood reigning in Washington, D.C., as the presidential and Congressional campaigns swing into high gear.

Hastert’s choice of Rogers for the Goss mission is noteworthy as well, according to GOP sources. The two-term lawmaker, a former FBI agent, is not particularly close to Hoyer and is not a member of the GOP leadership team.

Hastert has also selected Rogers to head up the GOP Conference drive to convince Members to donate millions in hard-dollar contributions from their re-election campaigns to the National Republican Congressional Committee, a position that has paid rewards for other Republicans like Reps. Roy Blunt (Mo.) and Tom Reynolds (N.Y.) in the past.

No one involved in the Hoyer-Rogers meeting would comment for the record on their discussions, although sources close to all three Members confirm the meeting took place.

Hastert “really wanted to know if Democrats would be supportive of Goss,” said a Congressional source close to the issue. “Hoyer didn’t say anything either way.”

Hastert’s office did not return several calls seeking comment.

John McLaughlin, the CIA’s deputy director and a 30-year veteran of intelligence work, is currently serving as acting director until a replacement is named. White House officials have said privately that President Bush may wait until after the election to name Tenet’s successor, although the release of the 9/11 commission report last week, and the subsequent decision by Hastert and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) to quickly schedule hearings on the recommendations made by the panel, may alter that schedule.

There is also widespread discussion in the wake of the 9/11 report to restructure the U.S. intelligence community to create the post of “intelligence czar,” who would oversee all military and civilian intelligence programs and report directly to the president. While there is some support in both parties for this proposal, the White House has not endorsed it, and the CIA is strongly opposed.

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