Capitol Hill (CNSNews.com) - House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt's announcement that he will not seek the post again has opened the door to two competing views for the future of Democrats in the House, one moderate and one liberal. The question on everyone's mind in Washington is, which direction will the party take?
Gephardt said Thursday that he would step down as the leader of Democrats in the House, amid speculation that he is preparing for another presidential bid in 2004.
"In fairness to my friends and colleagues in the House, they need a leader for the next two years who can devote his or her undivided attention to putting our party back in the majority," Gephardt said in a prepared statement.
"I'm looking forward to the freedom to speak for myself and to talk about my vision for America's future. Staying on in this post requires me to represent my caucus and the wide diversity it represents," he added.
The two primary contenders for Gephardt's job are the ultra-liberal House Minority Whip Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the slightly more moderate House Democratic Caucus Chair Martin Frost (D-Texas).
Frost came out swinging in a Thursday morning press conference, calling Pelosi "too liberal" to lead the party into the majority in 2004, and saying his approach would work better.
"The country, Tuesday, moved somewhat to the right. I believe our party must occupy the center if we are to be successful, if we're to come back in the majority and not move farther to the left," he said. "It's a clear choice."
Deputy Republican Whip Mark Foley (R-Fla.) believes Democrats learned little from Tuesday's elections.
"Not only did the American people put their overwhelming confidence in the Republican Party and President Bush, they rejected the old, tired, extremist factions of the Democrat Party," he observed. "So what does the [Democratic] party do? Go back to the extreme left to guide them down another losing path."
The candidate ratings of many conservative organizations seem to support Foley's contention that both Pelosi and Frost are ultra-liberal. The American Conservative Union (ACU) rated Pelosi a zero out of 100 possible points for 2001 with a lifetime rating of two. Frost got 25 points for 2000 and has a lifetime rating of 16.
Frost and Pelosi both voted against the National Right to Life Committee's position in all 16 of the votes scored by that organization for the 107th Congress. Similarly, both representatives received grades of "F" from the National Taxpayer's Union and the National Rifle Association's Political Victory Fund.
Foley seemed genuinely surprised that two candidates, so similar in their liberal ideology, have emerged as the leading contenders to replace Gephardt.
"It's absolutely jaw-dropping that after this election the Democrats would revert back to the extreme left of their party," he said. "Martin Frost and Nancy Pelosi are so liberal they make Larry Flynt look like Charlton Heston. What's next, Barbara Streisand as [Democratic National Committee] Chairman?"
The election to replace Gephardt will be held Thursday, Nov. 14.
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