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Thursday, January 13, 2005

Is Heather A "Drama Queen" Or Is She Really In 'Trouble?' Exclusive Analysis From My Top D.C. And NM Sources, Plus: More From Capitol Hill 

Oh, the drama! Or is it really? The latest antics of ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson has the Alligators out and fishing for the real story on her relationship with the U.S. House GOP leadership. Heather was quick to point out recently that she was in the doghouse with the chair of the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee (upon which she sits) for making noise about the cost of the Bush Medicare drug proposal. She said she was threatened with removal from the committee. But the chair never issued a public statement and Heather ended up staying on the panel which is vital to New Mexico because it oversees money for Los Alamos and Sandia Labs.

Now Heather is saying she may be kicked off the House Armed Services Committee by conservative House ringleaders because she is too "independent." That committee is also vital to us because it authorizes money for the weapons portion of Sandia labs--about a billion bucks or so.

Heather needs a "waiver" from her Energy Committee chair to serve on Armed Services and is painting a pessimistic picture of her chances, even though she has asked top Republicans to help her. A decision will come later this month.

REALITY CHECK


Dems and Washington insiders critical of Heather are saying all of this commotion is about her getting attacked in last year's election for being a lapdog of House Majority Leader Delay and his conservative minions. Here's two quotes cobbled together from insider D’s with D.C. backgrounds:

"Heather won handily, but the attacks on her for being too conservative in an independent district like Albuquerque did hurt her. A lot of us (Dems) think she is trying to shed that image in time for the next campaign and may be getting help from the very leaders she claims to be disagreeing with. She’s acting like a drama queen."

Does that mean Heather will end up staying on Armed Services as she did Energy, or will she really be kicked off and shown to be the "independent" she claims to be?

My DC sources say in the long run what really matters is that the ABQ congressperson be tapped in to the dough that keeps the town ticking. When it comes to that no one cares who looks "independent." If Heather is tossed from a committee that gives our area power and money it will not be a feather in her cap. It could, however, be a thorn in her side come the next campaign.

AT PEARCE'S PLACE

And what about sophomore Congressman Steve Pearce from southern NM and that coveted spot on the House Appropriations Committee he talked of getting during his campaign against D Gary King? Well, it turns out that Steve is still loved by Delay and company, but because of several insider factors he failed to get named to the most powerful of the committees. Says a Washington insider: "His chances will go up once he serves four years. Getting on that one takes more time." Pearce remains on the Resources and Transportation committees.

I'M STILL IN D.C.


Still more from Capitol Hill: Insiders tell me the new chair of the all-powerful House Appropriations Committee knows about New Mexico. Our Gator in the know has this to say about Rep. Jerry Lewis of California. "He was a close friend of (the late NM Congressman) Joe Skeen and was the keynote speaker in 2002 at the dedication of the Joseph Skeen Library at New Mexico Tech in Socorro. Lewis has also appeared in Albuquerque to campaign and raise money on behalf of Heather Wilson."

And a final note from a top D.C. confidant who has seen and done it all. Commenting on Heather's real or imagined problems with the House leadership, he reminds us that back in the 70's former NM Congressman Harold "Mud" Runnels, a conservative from southern NM, lost his seat on the House Budget Committee whe he did not support a measure from House Speaker and top liberal Tip O'Neill. "Harold came out fine because he recognized Tip and the liberals were not supported down south."

Thanks to all my insiders for their help with today's report. You will get stuff like they give nowhere else so be sure to check back here often.

JOIN ME ON KNME-TV

Just what is Big Bill and his 112 friends known as the NM Legislature up to? Join me and other media gabbers with moderator Kate Nelson Friday night at 8:30 p.m. on KNME-TV, Channel 5 as we preview the long, (oh, so very long) 2005 Legislative session. See you then and, as always, thanks for stopping by.

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