RNC Chairman Steele Makes His Move

BY David Chalian  December 13, 2010 at 8:15 AM EST

sRepublican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele

RNC Chairman Michael Steele is set to announce his plans. Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele has invited committee members to a 7:30 p.m. EST conference call Monday evening in which he plans to make his intentions clear about seeking another term or bowing out once it comes to an end in January.

“[K]ey supporters expect him to drop out of the hotly contested race, top Republicans tell POLITICO,” report Mike Allen and Jonathan Martin.

The contest to replace Steele as party chief has been taking shape for weeks. Prior to the conference call planned for Monday, five candidates have already formally announced their bids for chairman.

Of the five candidates, Wisconsin Republican Party chairman Reince Priebus was an early Steele supporter and Gentry Collins served as Steele’s RNC political director until his resignation a few weeks ago, which was accompanied by a memo/campaign manifesto detailing what he saw as total mismanagement of the committee.

The 168 members of the RNC will gather in Washington, D.C., in January to elect their next chairman.

SENATE HURDLE

At 3 p.m. EST Monday the Senate is expected to hold a procedural vote on the $858 billion tax cut deal struck by President Obama and congressional Republicans.

The proposal would, among other things, preserve all the Bush-era income taxes for two years, extend jobless benefits for 13 months, cut Social Security payroll taxes by 2 percent for one year and set a top rate of 35 percent on a new estate tax.

If lawmakers do not act before the end of the year, nearly all Americans will see their income taxes increase on Jan. 1.

Majority Whip Dick Durbin said Sunday that a “good cross-section” of Senate Democrats were prepared to back the plan.

“Most of us believe, as painful as some of the provisions are, this is absolutely essential so that our economy doesn’t slump and that we provide the kind of benefits that unemployed people and the middle-class-income folks need across America,” Durbin said.

The way forward in the House appears murkier, as Democrats have threatened to block the bill over objections to tax breaks for high-wage earners and for what they contend is an overly-generous estate tax rate.

But Maryland Democrat Chris Van Hollen said Sunday, “We’re not going to hold this thing up at the end of the day.”

Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan said Van Hollen’s statement was “noteworthy because as of just a day or two ago we were thinking they were going to do a take-it-or-leave-it thing and scuttle this entire agreement.”

Durbin spoke on CNN. Van Hollen and Ryan appeared on Fox News Sunday.

MOVING TO THE MINORITY

Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., the outgoing House Majority Leader and incoming House Minority Whip, begins his pivot to minority status with a plea for Congress to tackle the country’s long-term debt in a speech he is expected to deliver at the National Press Club at 9:30 a.m. EST Monday. The speech is intended to serve as a bit of a curtain raiser for the Democratic minority in the 112th Congress.

In excerpts released by his office to The Morning Line, Hoyer plans to say:

“In two years, there will always be another election–and there are always easier ways to win than taking on the long-term, structural problems that defy quick answers. It’s easier to borrow and leave someone else with the bill; it’s easier to rail against spending without cutting anything of substance; it’s easier to stir up culture war and cultural resentment. All of those tactics are tried and true–and poisonous to our future. What a republic needs is leaders who are willing to look further, even if it costs them….”

“America isn’t convinced that either party has all the answers. And on November 2nd, I believe that the voters called us to find common ground on real solutions to real problems — unemployment, economic growth, and debt.”

Republicans probably don’t interpret the message voters sent on Nov. 2 in precisely the same way. Calling for a commitment to bipartisan, common ground solutions is an oft-used rallying cry for a minority party seeking to have its voice heard.

In addition to his appeal to move beyond the short-term political demands of the two-year cycle, Hoyer also plans to show that House Democrats still have some fight in them by laying down some markers on how they plan to preserve health care and energy legislation.

IN THE MIDDLE

Centrist Republicans, Democrats and independents are gathering in New York Monday for the launch of “No Labels,” a non-profit group aimed at finding the middle ground in American politics.

The event will be live-streamed from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. EST on the No Labels website.

Among the high-profile participants scheduled to speak: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, Sens. Joe Lieberman, Evan Bayh and Joe Manchin, and Reps. Mike Castle and Bob Inglis.

“We are united by a commitment to encourage our leaders to work together and develop practical solutions to our nation’s problems,” reads a statement posted Monday on the organization’s blog.

The group is headed by Democratic fund-raiser Nancy Jacobson and Republican strategist Mark McKinnon.

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