From today's column...
The volume in the heated House duel between Democrat Tammy Duckworth and Republican Peter Roskam was cranked up Tuesday as Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) became a factor in the race.
Emanuel, the chief of the House Democratic political operation and one of Duckworth's prime sponsors, was targeted by Republicans Tuesday in the contest for the seat being vacated by Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.).
There may be an emerging GOP strategy to try to make Emanuel radioactive in this race as Democrats continue to demonize former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), who is facing state campaign money laundering charges in Texas.
Roskam, now a state senator from Wheaton, worked as a legislative aide for DeLay over a seven- or eight-month period in the 1980s and Democrats are making his association with DeLay an issue.
The National Republican Congressional Committee sent out a release with the taunting headline, "Tammy Duckworth-WWRD: What Would Rahm Do.''
The NRCC -- the GOP counterpart to Emanuel's Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (both organizations are based in Washington) -- is injecting Emanuel into the race as Duckworth is faced with the challenge of uniting Democrats in the wake of the divisive March 21 Illinois primary.
Duckworth, a wounded Iraq war vet from Hoffman Estates, won the 6th Congressional District Democratic primary with 44 percent of the vote to almost 41 percent for Christine Cegelis. Many of Cegelis' followers resented Emanuel encouraging Duckworth to get in the race and then using his considerable fund-raising ability to help her quickly bankroll her bid.
Emanuel's votes added
Curiously, Democrats following the 6th District primary who were Cegelis backers channeled far more anger toward Emanuel than Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who was as instrumental, if not more, than Emanuel in getting Duckworth to run and helping her to win.
But it was Emanuel who essentially pulled the rug out from Cegelis early on by shopping around for another candidate, so he wears the jacket.
The day after the primary, the NRCC sent out a release asking Duckworth where she stood on 10 bills the House had voted on in 2005, which Duckworth's team understandably ignored.
Tuesday, the NRCC sent out a revised version of the same release this time adding Emanuel's votes. "Until she answers these questions, voters can and should assume that Duckworth, who has been recruited and paid for by the National Democrats, will vote with her liberal leaders.''
Perhaps the NRCC is not aware that Emanuel does not always vote the same way as his other more liberal colleagues in leadership, for example, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
Just March 7, Emanuel and Pelosi divided over a key vote on reauthorizing additional amendments to the controversial USA Patriot Act. Emanuel was one of 66 Democrats to vote with 214 Republicans to pass the measure. Pelosi voted with 124 Democrats and 13 Republicans against passage.
The NRCC craftily asked Duckworth in its release where she would stand on roll call vote 648, a resolution sponsored by Hyde "expressing the commitment of the House of Representatives to achieving victory in Iraq'' that was voted on Dec. 16. The resolution said that setting an "artificial timetable'' for deploying troops out of Iraq is "inconsistent with achieving victory.''
Duckworth told me that day that she would have voted yes on the Hyde resolution.
Emanuel, hardly a profile in courage, but wanting to I suppose avoid controversy, voted "present,'' along with 32 Democrats and two Republicans. Pelosi was one of 108 Democratic nays. Some 59 Democrats joined 220 Republicans in voting yes on the resolution.
Medicare Part D
In time, I want to give you the Duckworth and Roskam positions on the 10 votes put out by the NRCC because they picked some interesting bills that could well serve as a threshold contrast for where the rivals stand.
Duckworth spokesman Billy Weinberg on Tuesday said he did not want to go through the votes at this time because (reasonably from a press agent point of view) he did not want to play into the NRCC "stunt.''
I believe it is absolutely fair to ask candidates how they would have voted on real bills and resolutions that real lawmakers have had to decide whether to vote aye or nay on.
Weinberg asked me to call Roskam's camp to see if Roskam was going to respond to a demand the Duckworth team made to disclose where he stood on Medicare Part D -- the new prescription drug benefit -- and to take a stand on congressional reform.
I obliged. Ryan McLaughlin, Roskam's campaign manager, told me they did not respond to a Duckworth fax because it came during the primary. Roskam had no opposition, so I could see why McLaughlin did not jump at Weinberg's, dare I say, stunt. Nonetheless, McLaughlin seemed accommodating.
"If they want to resend it to me, I'll take a look at it,'' McLaughlin said.
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