Thursday, February 17, 2005

Hastert's 'partisanship' blast at Emanuel signals rift in delegation

Hastert's 'partisanship' blast at Emanuel signals rift in delegation


WASHINGTON -- Republican House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert is taking aim at Rep. Rahm Emanuel, the new chairman of the Democratic House political arm, accusing his fellow Illinoisan of undue partisanship while highlighting the millions of dollars he made with a Wall Street firm before coming to Congress.

For Emanuel, "politics is everything," said Hastert.

Replied Emanuel, "I don't know why he trying to make it personal."

Hastert's comments, in a Chicago Sun-Times interview last Wednesday, signal a breach in the usual bipartisan harmony within the Illinois delegation and come as Emanuel raises his profile by taking over the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and landing a seat on the Ways and Means Committee.

'I'm doing what he's done'

Both assignments put Emanuel on a potential collision course with Hastert. The goal of the DCCC is to win a Democratic majority, which would end Hastert's reign as speaker. And the debate over the future of Social Security -- where Hastert and Emanuel are at odds over the merits of privatization -- will center in the Ways and Means Committee.

When House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) appointed Emanuel, a former senior adviser in the Clinton White House, to the party post last month, he said, "I come from the Vince Lombardi school. Winning is everything."

Emanuel's paraphrase of the famous quote by the Green Bay Packers coach was on Hastert's mind at the interview Wednesday.

Asked about the impact of Emanuel's new roles, Hastert said, "I think Rahm has injected partisanship'' within the Illinois delegation. "I think what he said is that he is going to try to overthrow and he has the Vince Lombardi philosophy; I think he used that as his quote, 'Winning is everything.' I don't think I have taken that approach.''

Hastert has traveled to hundreds of congressional districts since becoming speaker to raise money to make sure Republicans keep their House majority.

"I'm doing what he's done,'' Emanuel said Sunday.

With the creation of private Social Security investment accounts being a priority on President Bush's agenda, Hastert said he would value Emanuel's experience as a successful Wall Street investment firm partner in helping to reform the program.

"I'd love to have his wisdom on how to do it, 'cause he has made a lot of money on those types of things, millions of dollars,'' the speaker said.

After Emanuel left the White House in 1999, he earned about $10 million in three years. Most of his income in 2001 came from his $6,491,000 salary as managing director of the investment banking firm of Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein. The year before, the firm paid him $1,006,510.

'Let's work together'

Though Emanuel made a fortune as an investment banker, he is against Wall Street getting into the Social Security business.

"The last thing you want to do is take a foundation of one's retirement and play on Wall Street,'' Emanuel said. Bush's plan takes away a guaranteed benefit while creating a "guaranteed fee'' for Wall Street, Emanuel said.

Hastert said Emanuel's experience could be useful "if we worked on a bipartisan basis and [Emanuel] was willing to do that, instead of saying, 'My way or the highway, which is what he is saying right now. We are looking for good information and good input.''

When told that his statements, which on the surface are seemingly just a challenge to work together, could be taken as a sarcastic dig at Emanuel, Hastert said, "No, I would never do that. Let me be perfectly clear.... Here is somebody with knowledge of what the real world of finance is about and what the potential is. And to deny every other young person that ability to have that same opportunity; I say, let's work together.''

Emanuel said he has worked with Republicans on importing prescription drugs from Canada and other countries -- legislation opposed by Hastert -- and on creation of a Great Lakes restoration fund.

originally posted February 7, 2005