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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.

One aide said that Schumer “had to have known that Hillary had a bill” on the minimum wage-pay raise issue during that planning meeting Monday night, yet he “didn’t say a word” and didn’t include her.

Phil Singer, Schumer’s spokesman at the DSCC, rejected that notion out of hand, saying, “This issue starkly highlights the wrong priorities of Congressional Republicans, and we’re all grateful for Sen. Clinton’s leadership in bringing this issue to the forefront.”

Rush Job. Rumors were swirling around Capitol Hill and beyond Tuesday that Rush Limbaugh is dating actress Mary Lynn Rajskub, who plays Chloe O’Brian on the Fox series “24.” Though that still doesn’t explain the unauthorized bottle of little blue pills (shhh, Viagra!) that customs agents found in Limbaugh’s luggage at Palm Beach International Airport on Monday.

The conservative radio talk show host hinted on his show Tuesday that he went on a boys-only trip with the cast of “24.” Chloe is no boy. If you saw the papers over the weekend, including The Washington Post, there were photos of Limbaugh planting a big kiss right on Rajskub’s lips during a dog-and-pony event at the Heritage Foundation.

No one at Heritage seemed to know whether Limbaugh and Rajskub were more than photo-op kissing buddies. A spokeswoman for Heritage who asked not to be named told HOH, “Nobody knows. Several people have been asking today. I have no idea.”

Our guess is, probably not. Though why would Rush take Viagra on a boys-only trip?

He joked about the incident on-air Tuesday, on 630 WMAL, after getting caught having apparently traded in the hard stuff for the stuff that makes one hard. (Last month Limbaugh reached a deal with prosecutors on charges involving prescription painkillers.)

Limbaugh asked, “How did Bob Dole’s luggage get on my plane?” And he said, “I told my doctor I needed help with the ELECTION.”

We called Julie Talbott, a spokeswoman for Premiere Radio Network, and asked her whether Rush was dating “Chloe.” Shockingly she told us, “No comment.”

At least Limbaugh’s ex-girlfriend, CNN anchor Daryn Kagan, didn’t have to break the Viagra news on air. Tuesday morning’s live coverage began, “I’m Tony Harris. Daryn Kagan has the day off.”

Whew!!

Here She Comes. Usually David All is earnestly flacking for his boss, House GOP Conference Vice Chairman Jack Kingston (Ga.). But lately, the ambitious young press secretary has been flacking for his No. 1 gal, Branda Napper, who this weekend — drum roll please — will compete for the title of Miss District of Columbia.

Napper, an aide in the public affairs office at the Department of Homeland Security, is slated to be one of 11 finalists vying for the Miss D.C. crown this Saturday at the University of the District of Columbia on Connecticut Avenue Northwest.

All has been rallying his friends far and wide to get out and support the lovely 24-year-old Ms. Napper this weekend. But as he told HOH, “Branda doesn’t need my help to win. She could charm the likes of Simon Cowell and can dance better than Shakira. I’m most useful standing behind her and supporting her through it all.”

It’s a rigorous challenge, but somebody’s gotta do it. As her issue, Napper is focusing on heart disease. She’ll wear a two-piece in the swim suit competition and an evening gown that her beau has already seen.

Napper noted that last year’s Miss D.C. had “80 friends and family in her cheering section; with that kind of support it is not surprise that she won the title and went on to place fifth at Miss America.”

So, get on out there, folks! “Bran-da! Bran-da! Bran-da!”

Please send your hot tips, juicy gossip or comments to hoh@rollcall.com.

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