No Jamming!

By the end of this week two more former members of the House GOP leadership are set to announce they are leaving the U.S. Congress after many, many years of service at the highest levels of influence. Republican Reps. Dennis Hastert of Illinois and Deborah Pryce of Ohio are reportedly retiring from their House seats — and after serving as Speaker and GOP conference chairwoman (respectively) before the 2006 midterms relegated them to disheartened members of the minority, how could this come as a surprise?

Is the Democratic takeover to blame? Of course the job these days is a huge drag, but keeping their jobs is also suddenly so much harder. Life for Hastert and Pryce in the House of Representatives is completely unrecognizable from what it was two years ago today, and their standing at home has also been altered profoundly. The GOP brand has suffered a blow and the Iraq war hangs around the neck of the Republican Party like an anchor. But Pryce barely made it back to Washington in 2006 and Hastert was tainted by the Mark Foley scandal, trying to feign ignorance only to be exposed by his colleagues who said he had been informed. It was a sad end to his speakership; he resigned and took to the back bench in the new minority.

Hastert is a former wrestling coach who led like one and often gave other leaders the credit and the spotlight. From the back bench this week he had words about the new Speaker when he talked with David Rogers of The Wall Street Journal. Like so many Republicans still smarting from what happened, Hastert doesn't remember the past quite clearly. "She's jammed a lot of stuff, that's become her style," Hastert said of Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). "I never did that. We never jammed." Rogers had to remind him — ahem, ask him again — if he ever jammed legislation in the House as Speaker. "Well, we never jammed in the sense that nobody knew what was in the bill."

But Hastert wants to work with Pelosi now, and is offering to share his roads into the Bush administration as well as his perspective on his former job to help pass energy legislation containing carbon dioxide controls and more emphasis on new energy production. "I really think there are good things we can have an opportunity to do," he said. "I would like to put my talents to work to try to do that."

Maybe I'm a sucker, but I'm going to take him at his word.

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