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Hill Leaders Push Roemer for DNC

The top two Democrats on Capitol Hill, incoming Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), are urging former Rep. Tim Roemer (D-Ind.) to get into the race to become next chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Roemer said he has made no decision whether to get into the race.

“I have been approached very recently by several prominent Democrats inquiring about my interest in seeking the post of DNC Chair,” Roemer said in a statement. “While I am flattered by their confidence in me, I have made no formal decision to seek the post. I am, however, consulting with my family, friends and Democrats around the country to assess this potential opportunity, and expect to make a decision very soon.”

Reid and Pelosi are looking “to jump-start” the debate over the next head of the DNC by pushing Roemer, a 9/11 commission member, to join the race, said Democratic insiders. A number of other candidates, including former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, are openly campaigning for the job, but Reid and Pelosi think Roemer is a better choice for the post.

“[Roemer] is a skilled communicator, a formidable fundraiser and a government reformer on everything from a balanced budget to national security,” said Susan McCue, Reid’s chief of staff.

Pelosi “thinks Tim Roemer is one of many talented Democrats who could head the DNC,” Brendan Daly, director of communications for the House Minority Leader, said Tuesday.

While stopping short of a formal endorsement of Roemer for party chairman, Reid and Pelosi spoke to him this morning, according to several sources familiar with the discussions.

The 48-year old Roemer, a one-time aide to former Sen. Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.) and the son-in-law of former Sen. J. Bennett Johnston (D-La.), was first elected to Congress in 1990 and served six terms. Roemer left Congress in 2002, saying he wanted to spend more time with his wife and four children. In October 2003, he was named president of the Center for National Policy, a non-profit think tank in Washington.

Roemer also maintained a high public profile as a member of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, better known as the 9/11 commission. Roemer and the rest of the commissioners played a pivotal role in the passage for the recent intelligence reform bill.

Roemer, a centrist, often went his own way while serving in the House. Although he voted against the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Roemer supported military action against Iraq in 1998 when allegations surfaced that Iraqi intelligence agents were behind an assassination attempt against former President Bush.

Roemer voted against the North American Free Trade Agreement and granting “fast track” authority to White House for trade deals, but supported a free-trade agreement with China. Roemer was also opposed to the impeachment for then-President Bill Clinton, but backed censure.

Roemer also voted in favor of the 1996 welfare reform bill, and supported GOP efforts to eliminate the so-called “marriage penalty” and reduce estate taxes. He also was in favor of using federal funds for charter schools, which angered teachers’ unions.

On abortion, Roemer diverges from the traditional Democratic line. A Catholic who did his graduate and Ph.D. studies at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., Roemer was strongly supportive of banning late-terms abortions. Roemer called the procedure “a moral blind spot that this nation can no longer allow” and voted with most Republicans when Clinton vetoed the so-called “partial birth abortion” bill in 1998.

But Roemer’s acknowledged political skills helped him survive for more than a decade in a conservative Indiana district that he since gone Republican. Roemer was a prolific fundraiser and has good communication skills, qualities that will be critical for whoever takes over the DNC in the wake of the Democrats’ losses at the polls in November.

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