WASHINGTON – Less than a month into a new, two-year Congress, the line is forming among House members considering their next career moves.
Republican Rep. C.L. (Butch) Otter (search) of Idaho is all but officially running for governor of his state, and GOP Reps. Jim Nussle of Iowa (search) and Jim Gibbons of Nevada (search) both seem headed in the same direction in theirs.
All three have filed paperwork signaling interest in running.
"We will run a vigorous campaign," said one former Idaho governor, Phil Batt, leaving no doubt about Otter's intentions.
Nussle and Gibbons say they expect to make announcements in the next few months about their plans.
Nussle, elected to Congress in 1990 at the age of 30, said in a recent statement that he is "humbled that so many Iowans believe my leadership will help make Iowa a better place to live, work, raise a family and retire in dignity."
Gibbons' interest in running for governor was evident two years ago, when he rebuffed party recruiters seeking a challenger for Democratic Sen. Harry Reid in 2004. Additionally, Gibbons' wife is talking about a possible run to replace her husband in the House. If both run and win, she would wind up with twin public roles — first lady of Nevada and member of Congress.
Nussle's district in northeastern Iowa probably would offer Democrats the most tempting target of the three in 2006. He won re-election with 55 percent of the vote last year. Gibbons won a fifth term in November with 67 percent support. Otter topped that in conservative Idaho, gaining close to 70 percent.
Nussle, chairman of the (search) House Budget Committee, has had by far the highest national profile of the three would-be governors. Democrats had a majority when he was elected to Congress, and he quickly joined forces with other GOP self-styled reformers to create the Gang of Seven.
Their most memorable moment came when they placed paper bags over their heads on the House floor to draw attention to Democratic refusals to disclose lawmaker overdrafts at the House bank.
Other Republican House members are potential candidates for statewide office.
Rep. Ray LaHood (search) of Illinois has been canvassing support for a possible gubernatorial run, and Rep. Mark Green (search) has expressed interest in Wisconsin. Rep. Katherine Harris (search) of Florida is another possibility. She flirted with a senatorial campaign in 2004 before running for re-election to the House. Rep. Mark Kennedy (search) of Minnesota is a potential candidate for the Senate, as well.
Some Democrats are considering their career options, too.
The party's Senate recruiters are interested in Rep. Jim Langevin of Rhode Island as they look for a challenger for a GOP-held seat. Rep. Ted Strickland is a potential contender for statewide office in Ohio, and Rep. Harold Ford may run in Tennessee.
It's a Senate tradition for the two political parties to advertise their priorities by revealing their top 10 pieces of legislation with a flourish at the beginning of a new Congress.
Two years ago, Republicans made a Medicare prescription drug bill tops on their list. This time, they are expected to make President Bush's call for overhauling Social Security Bill Number 1.
Tax reform, energy, limitations on lawsuits and measures relating to the war against terror also are on the list, according to several officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Democrats intend to make an increase in the size of the armed forces their top bill, according to several officials who spoke on condition of anonymity. More prescription drug coverage under the new Medicare law is also on the list, as is education legislation.
Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry campaigned for a 30,000-member increase in the size of the military last year. Senate Democrats have been thinking about raising that to 40,000.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because public announcements are scheduled for Monday.
Senate Republicans rolled out one priority on Friday — legislation to give tax-free $100,000 death benefits (search) to survivors of active-duty personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The current benefit is $12,400.
"Twelve thousand dollars is a paltry and miserly amount. In fact, it's insulting," Sen. George Allen, R-Va., said at a news conference Friday with several other Senate Republicans, including Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn. Allen said $100,000 is on par with death benefits that families of police and firefighters killed in the line of duty receive from local governments.
The legislation would be retroactive to Oct. 1, 2001, when military action began in Afghanistan, less than a month after terrorists struck the United States.
Also under the proposal, the children of a serviceman or servicewoman killed in Iraq or Afghanistan would receive free health insurance until the age of 18, or 22 if enrolled in school. Currently, dependents receive medical benefits for three years at no cost.