What could possibly go wrong?
Despite the brave face, however, many Republicans said privately it is unlikely DeLay will return to his leadership position anytime soon, if ever. This would open the door for members such as Rep. John A. Boehner (Ohio), chairman of the House education committee, to run for a leadership position. Blunt, a teacher turned politician who first was elected to the House in 1996, is at least temporarily now the number two Republican in the House.
Many Republicans said they are more comfortable with Blunt, who as whip had been in the number three job. His conservative positions on issues are similar to DeLay’s. He also is considered an effective legislative operator, with strong ties to the Washington lobbying community. “He had an edge from the get-go,” said Rep. David Joseph Weldon (Fla.).
DeLay and Hastert handpicked Blunt in 1999 to become chief deputy whip, just a few years after he won his House seat. Blunt rose to the whip job in 2003, after DeLay became majority leader.
In Missouri, the Blunt organization is a family affair. Son Matt, 34, is governor, and son Andrew, 29, is a top state-government lobbyist whose client list is studded with major donors to his father.
As majority whip, Blunt, even more than DeLay before him, has created a formal alliance with K Street lobbyists, empowering corporate representatives and trade association executives to assist the House leadership in counting votes and negotiating amendments to bring holdouts into the fold.
Last year, when the House leadership faced apparently insurmountable odds in passing legislation eliminating a $50 billion export tax break, the lobbying community stepped in to add billions of new tax breaks for major corporations with facilities in nearly every district – General Electric, Boeing, Caterpillar, United Technologies, Honeywell and Emerson. The support built up majority backing for the measure.
Blunt’s best-known special-interest intervention was a 2003 late-night attempt – unsuccessful, as it turned out – to add an amendment sought by Philip Morris. Blunt’s son then was a lobbyist for Philip Morris in Missouri; Blunt himself was dating a Philip Morris lobbyist whom he later married, and he had received more than $150,000 in contributions from the company and subsidiaries.