Harris lands key House role
It's political payback time of course for her major assistance in helping appoint George W President:
Bradenton, Florda, Herald - Fri, Dec. 06, 2002
She's been elected to Congress for just more than a month, but already Katherine Harris has landed a leadership role in the U.S. House.
The chamber's third-ranking Republican on Thursday tapped Harris, R-Sarasota, as an assistant majority whip.
The job is to help the controlling GOP push through key legislation by rounding up votes in the party. In the past Congress, 40 to 50 members belonged to the Republican whip organization.
Still, Harris now enjoys far more clout than many freshmen, according to Larry Dodd, a professor of political science at the University of Florida.
During Harris' freshman orientation Thursday in Washington, House Majority Whip-Elect Roy Blunt, R-Mo., announced the selection.
Harris could not be reached for an interview. In a press release, she said: "Being appointed assistant majority whip will give the citizens in southwest Florida a much more active role in Congress."
In the same release, Blunt said Harris "will be an excellent addition to our whip organization, and I am pleased that she has agreed to do this very important job."
Exactly how important remains unclear.
Blunt's office never discloses the number or names of all assistant majority whips, according to spokeswoman Burson Taylor.
But she said Harris is "one of very few first-term members of Congress who will be included in the whip teams." Taylor characterized "very few" as no more than 10 to 12.
Taylor said her boss named Harris for several reasons: "He was impressed with the campaign that she conducted, with the leadership she has indicated in the past, and her willingness to participate on tough projects as a member of Congress."
In the party structure, Harris also will work with Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., appointed as chief deputy majority whip.
Unlike higher leadership offices, Harris did not have to be elected by the party conference to her role, and it is not an official House post.
Still, she now belongs to the inner circle of leadership, Dodd said.
"She will be party both to the vote-gathering process and also to the leadership discussions of the strategies of passing legislation," he said. "That's an important role for a freshman."
Harris gained instant national stature in the GOP for her decisions as Florida secretary of state during the 2000 presidential election dispute.
She quickly jumped into the race to replace Rep. Dan Miller, R-Bradenton, in District 13, when he announced his retirement. In November, Harris won the seat, which covers most of Manatee County and surrounding areas.
Dodd said he doesn't think Harris' partisan popularity alone accounts for her quick ascent into leadership, saying she "showed a fair amount of political savvy" during the election crisis.
"If she were just a celebrity but showed no political acumen," he said, "I don't think this would be happening."
Generally, assistant majority whips stick to vote-gathering among party members from their states or regions, Dodd said.
The term "whip" is a legislative title derived from the concept of "whipping" fellow party members into shape by persuading them on key votes.
"It gives you a feel for what the leadership is all about," Dodd said. "For a freshman, it will be a fast education."