The Price for Pryce: Leader Not Reliable Conservative Vote; Republican Has Job of Uniting Party

Article excerpt

Byline: James G. Lakely, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

She ascended to the highest leadership position ever held by a woman in her party in the House of Representatives.

She falls into the philosophical minority of her party but is charged with keeping an often combative and fractious coalition together.

And she'll be closely watched by Capitol Hill insiders and the public.

Rep. Deborah Pryce, Ohio Republican and new chairman of the House Republican Conference, stands as a stark counterpart to House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California.

While the similar timing of their promotions to party leadership positions this year is coincidental, Republicans - still searching to make inroads to the so-called suburban "soccer mom" vote - must be pleased with the timing of their choice.

"I think it's a good thing, certainly," Ms. Pryce said. "Both parties need to reflect America, and you can't reflect that if you don't have both genders in leadership. It does balance [with the Democrats], and it's an important thing for people to see women in roles of significance in all aspects of our society."

Conservatives are more concerned with how she performs as House Republicans' No. 1 voice to the news media. Ms. Pryce is, by far, the least conservative member of the leadership team, headed by firebrand House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas.

"I was surprised at first by her ascension," said Danielle Doane, director of House Relations for the Heritage Foundation. "I thought [Republicans] would want someone a little more conservative, which has been the trend in leadership."

Miss Doane said conservatives outside Washington "don't understand what she brings to the table" - a career-long skill at solidifying relationships among the factions of the party.

"She's a coalition builder and has the ability to reach out to many different sectors," Miss Doane said.

Ms. Pryce is not exactly untested in the party's leadership, having served as top deputy in the House Republican Conference in the last Congress. But she hardly has been a reliable conservative vote, earning a lifetime rating of only 75 from the American Conservative Union and supporting two of five bills last year considered important to NARAL-Pro Choice America, which unconditionally supports abortion.

"Frankly, looking at Congress, it's good that they have someone with a more moderate view in there," Miss Doane said. "You have to have someone that the more moderate wing can turn to. …