From: Rebecca Cooper and John King/CNN
Subject: Disaffected Republicans Still Want To Oust Gingrich
Disaffected House Republicans are mounting new efforts behind closed doors to replace House Speaker Newt Gingrich, CNN has learned.
Conservative two-term member Steve Largent, a Republican from Oklahoma, is asking Republicans and conservative Democrats to support a vote on the House floor "to declare the speakership open," according to sources who spoke to CNN today. Largent's office declined to comment on the report.
One House Republican who has close ties to conservative Democrats, Billy Tauzin of Louisiana, was contacted after he left the Capitol Tuesday night about the Gingrich overthrow effort, according to sources familiar with the call. Tauzin switched parties last year.
Largent has frequently clashed with Gingrich. Last year Gingrich canceled appearances at fund-raisers for House freshmen members who defied Gingrich on a floor vote. Largent, a former NFL football star and major party fund-raiser, angrily stepped in to replace Gingrich. This year, when Gingrich held a closed-door meeting with Republicans to criticize conservatives who voted against funding for the campaign finance investigation committee, Largent fought back.
A Republican who attended the meeting said Largent told Gingrich, "I've never been afraid of a 300-pound linebacker and I am definitely not afraid of you."
House Republican leaders are denying a report in today's Capitol Hill newspaper The Hill that claims Gingrich's deputies met last week to mount an overthrow effort. The Hill's front-page story claims that House Majority Leader Richard Armey (R-Texas), House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas), Conference Chairman John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Rep. Bill Paxon (R-N.Y.) met secretively last week to discuss replacing Gingrich.
Armey issued an adamant denial today, and sources familiar with Paxon's thinking said he was not involved in any anti-Gingrich effort. The leadership, according to sources, got wind last Thursday of the dissidents plan to call for a vote to vacate the speaker's chair and sent DeLay to meet with them. DeLay, Paxon, Boehner and Armey then met with Gingrich and told him "there was a new challenge brewing" involving approximately 20 disaffected House Republicans.
Armey spoke to many of the dissidents Friday and he and other Gingrich deputies made clear they were standing with Gingrich, according to sources.
Several dissidents suggest they were encouraged by leadership members -- several mentioned DeLay -- but aides to all four Gingrich deputies deny any such encouragement took place.
Several leadership sources said they believed the latest uprising had lost steam after Armey made it clear that top House leaders would not join in.
Gingrich has mounted an impressive organizational campaign to keep his job. From leadership to rank-and-file members, he is actively coordinating a strategy to deal with the malcontents. A moderate Democrat in the House tells CNN that even he was approached by two of the speaker's emissaries last week for advice on how the speaker could keep his job.
"I told them this was a family fight and I didn't want to get involved," the Democrat said. "But I assured them that Democrats definitely have an interest in letting Newt stay on as speaker. Both moderate and liberal Democrats like having Newt as the contrast to us."
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