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Tensions Running High

The exceedingly intense rivalry between Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Charles Schumer (N.Y.) embroiled just about everybody in the Senate Democratic leadership Tuesday, including Minority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and his spokeswoman.

Apparently, Clinton and her staff felt snubbed when party leaders organized a news conference in which they vowed to block efforts to give Members of Congress a pay raise until Congress approves an increase in the minimum wage. Clinton has introduced legislation along those lines, but she was not involved in planning the leadership’s news conference to trumpet the issue.

Although Clinton, a close adviser of Reid’s, was ultimately invited to attend the news conference, she was not told about the event until just hours before it began Tuesday.

While the noon event was hastily arranged — planning for it only began Monday night — a Clinton aide was apparently so furious that the Senator seemed to be left out of the loop that she bawled out (“reamed out” was how one source put it) a spokeswoman for Reid near the entrance to the Senate Radio-Television Gallery.

The Clinton aide, Laurie Rubiner, was overheard saying to Reid spokeswoman Rebecca Kirszner, “You suck” and “How could you do this?”

Sources say Clinton looked “visibly upset” at the news conference. (Paging Ken Mehlman; didn’t you label Clinton the “angry” candidate?) She did not stay for the duration of the question-and-answer session.

Whatever thoughts she or her staff may have expressed to Democratic leaders and their aides before the event, Reid did introduce Clinton and single her out as being “on top of this issue.”

“And I think it would have been really unfair not to have her here today,” Reid said, “as she has had the vision to look down the road on this issue before some of the others.”

One reporter who attended the news conference described Reid’s comments as “a little weird” and “out of context.”

The Democratic leaders — Reid, plus Schumer, who chairs the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Minority Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.) and Democratic Caucus Secretary Debbie Stabenow (Mich.) — met Monday night and decided to hold the news conference. First they scheduled it for 2:30 p.m. following the Tuesday Caucus lunches. Then they moved it up to noon.

Because the time switch threw off her schedule and she had other meetings to attend, Clinton had to leave early, her spokesman, Philippe Reines, told HOH.

He also jokingly denied that Rubiner had chewed out Kirszner, saying, “Laurie Rubiner did not say that to Rebecca. She said ‘Nice work.’ And she meant it.”

Of the Senator, he said, “She was just very disappointed, and continues to be, that the federal minimum wage isn’t higher.”

A Democratic leadership source told HOH that Rubiner later called Kirszner and apologized, and the apology was accepted. “All’s well that ends well,” the aide said.

Democratic sources also suggested that Clinton may be more irritated at Schumer than Reid.

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