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Businessweek Archives

The Gop: Is The Day Of The Hothead Over?

Government: THE HOUSE


The Republican pols to watch as Gingrich moves to the center

House Speaker Newt Gingrich may have survived a July coup attempt. But the botched effort involving top lieutenants has left his hold on power shaky and sent him seeking solace in the arms of fellow party pragmatists. On Aug. 25 in New Hampshire, he chided "people who would rather sit out there on the right flank and say `Don't do anything, don't agree to anything."' Behind the scenes, a powerful new second string of GOP operatives is emerging--and that signals a shift toward more mainstream Republican policies. These Gingrich loyalists will be moderating forces on the GOP agenda, tempering the right-wing hotheads on everything from environmental regulations to Medicare reform. Here are some of the pols who'll be playing key roles this fall.By Amy Borrus in WashingtonReturn to top


Representative Jennifer B. Dunn of Washington State knows firsthand the travails of working women. Divorced when she was in her mid-thirties, Dunn raised two sons while working full-time in Bellevue, a Seattle suburb. She vividly recalls "that aching feeling in the pit of my stomach" when she slunk into work late after dropping her kids off at school.

Now Dunn, only in her third term, is drawing on that experience to become a self-styled "translator to women" of the Republican message. In July, Dunn, 56, succeeded former New York Representative Susan Molinari as the House's top-ranking GOP woman. She vows to use her post as vice-chair of the GOP conference to try to close her party's gender gap. "I will put the softer edge on the conservative message," she says. In speeches to women's groups, Dunn lauds capital-gains-tax relief as a boon for women, who often rely on their savings to launch businesses.

Dunn, a pro-choice conservative, also brings management mettle to the fractious House GOP conference. She chaired the Washington State Republican Party for 11 years and was the head of all state party chairs during the Bush Administration. Her people skills shone at a July 23 meeting of House Republicans during which top Gingrich lieutenants confessed their part in an aborted coup against the Speaker. The session could have been explosive. But Dunn, who ran it, set ground rules--such as giving everyone a chance to speak--that helped defuse tensions. "She's someone who can bring people together," says Christopher W. Hansen, a Boeing Co. vice-president who has worked with Dunn on trade issues.

Look for Dunn to muster support this fall for renewal of Presidential "fast track" authority to cut trade pacts without congressional meddling. Now, if she can rally women to the GOP...By Amy Borrus in WashingtonReturn to top


As a deputy House whip, Representative Deborah Pryce of Ohio saw too many bills pass by razor-thin margins because of GOP infighting. So when the job of GOP conference secretary--the No.3 position in the conference--opened up this summer, Pryce went for it. "We needed a person in our leadership that solid Republicans in America who don't breathe fire could identify with," says the 46-year-old former municipal court judge, now in her third term.

Years of mediating disputes in court, plus seats on the House Banking Committee and the Rules Committee, have forged her credentials for a top job. "I bring to the table the ability to bridge gaps between factions," says Pryce. Conservative on economic issues, she backs abortion rights and voted against repeal of the ban on assault weapons. Pryce, whose 7-year-old daughter is adopted, is best known for her efforts to reform the law that governs out-of-tribe adoptions of Native American children. Pryce's interest was sparked by the plight of a Columbus couple, whose adoption of twins was later challenged by the biological father because the children were part Indian. Some in the party think she could be a savvy spokesperson for the GOP.By Amy Borrus in WashingtonReturn to top

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