Byrds of a Feather

Posted January 7, 2003 at 6:38pm

Sens. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), two men who have gotten into hot water for race-related remarks in the past couple of years, have something else in common: They’re both likely to get fancy titles that will enable them to keep their taxpayer-funded cars and chauffeurs.

While insiders tell HOH that Lott may get the title of “Majority Leader Emeritus” to help cushion the blow of his fall from grace, Byrd has had some difficulty of his own relinquishing the President Pro Tem and Appropriations Committee

chairman posts — and all of the perks that came with those jobs.

Insiders described Byrd as being practically holed up in his Capitol office space over the holiday break, refusing to give up his rooms to Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) without a remarkable array of handouts. Stevens has taken both the Appropriations chairmanship and the PPT job.

“He’s made all sorts of ambitious office-space demands, title demands, staffing demands,” one insider said of Byrd.

“Byrd is the Member who keeps on taking,” added an Appropriations aide.

Republicans have been locked in delicate negotiations with Byrd, who handles these types of discussions personally, to meet some of his demands. He gets the title of “President Pro-Tem Emeritus” along with new Capitol office space and his car and driver. The wily, 85-year-old lawmaker is also pushing hard for an allotment of funds for extra committee staff.

Byrd spokesman Tom Gavin said the Senator was merely trying to work the kinks out since he and other chairmen were being asked to vacate their space without any sense of where they would wind up. “Certainly Senator Byrd and the other members of the Democratic Caucus were seeking some sort of space parity during the break,” he said. “It took a little longer than expected to be resolved, but it has been resolved amicably.”

While Republicans are brokering a compromise with Byrd, Democrats are privately saying they will not oppose Lott’s move to keep his official vehicle. Both lawmakers will be taken care of as part of the organizing resolution that the chamber is expected to pass later this week, though insiders say there was no formal deal between Byrd and Lott to scratch each other’s back.

Never mind that Lott’s D.C. home is about five blocks from the Capitol. “You would be surprised how much they like the creature comforts,” noted one staffer. Lott will at least be in a position to make sure he gets a convenient parking spot since he’s also been given the chairmanship of the Rules and Administration Committee as part of his soft landing.

Senate aides note that there is some precedent for the maneuvering based on the fact that former Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) had the President Pro Tempore Emeritus title. The late Hubert Humphrey (D-Minn.) got the Deputy President Pro Tem title, along with a car and driver and extra staff, when he returned to the Senate in the 1970s after serving as vice president. Ex-Veep Walter Mondale (D) was going to get the same title, as well as the perks, if he had won last year’s Minnesota Senate race.

The Good Doctor. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) has continued his transition into the top leadership post with some help from Eric Ueland, former chief of staff to Sen. Don Nickles (R-Okla.). While Nickles had his own designs on the top job, he eventually helped engineer Frist’s rise to power.

Ueland has been helping top Frist aide Mitch Bainwol with the transition and has been asked to help out for at least the next couple of months because he’s steeped in the workings of the institution. Ueland had been slated to serve as staff director on the Senate Rules and Administration Committee under Chairman Rick Santorum (R-Pa.). But when Santorum handed the chairmanship to Lott, it became clear that the staffer would not be staying there.

In the understatement of the year, at least so far, one GOP insider joked that Ueland “was not Senator Lott’s first choice for the job,” given the longtime rivalry between Nickles and Lott.

Frist has also brought on Marty Gold to serve as his top floor aide, as first reported by RollCall.com on Tuesday afternoon. Gold is a veteran insider who served as a top aide to then-Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker (R-Tenn.).

Over in the House, meanwhile, new Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) has brought on Sam Geduldig to serve as director of coalitions. Geduldig previously served as an aide to House Financial Services Chairman Mike Oxley (R-Ohio).

Geduldig will be working with Mildred Webber, a longtime GOP operative who is now Blunt’s deputy chief of staff and director of administration, Member services and coalitions.

Mayor Turncoat. The crowd spilling out of the House Judiciary Committee hearing room Tuesday was growing restless. New Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) had been sworn in two hours earlier but still hadn’t appeared at the reception in his honor.

Several Maryland dignitaries served as warm-up acts. Then three beefy plain-clothes security guards cleared a path in the impossibly crowded space, and D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams (D) took to the mike. There was a noticeable murmuring in the committee room and in the hallway, as dozens of people — simultaneously — recalled that Williams in 2002 had hosted a fundraiser for the woman Van Hollen defeated, former Republican Rep. Connie Morella.

“That’s hard to forget,” one person told HOH.

Williams said a few words, left to less-than-overwhelming applause, and had a path cleared for him again.

The Book on Daschle. While he’s now out of the presidential race, Senate Minority Leader Thomas Daschle (D-S.D.) is still plowing ahead with plans to write his memoirs.

Daschle has finally come up with a title, “Like No Other Time,” for the book that will start with his take on the contested presidential election of 2000 and take readers through everything from the anthrax attack to the party switch of Sen. Jim Jeffords (I-Vt.).

While the book was supposed to end with the disastrous midterm elections, Daschle told the Rapid City Journal that the book will now include his thoughts on the Louisiana runoff and the recent Lott controversy.

“It’s going great,” Daschle told the paper. “I keep adding new chapters.”

Alas, there will not be any chapters about Daschle’s “western White House” in South Dakota, which he was giddily telling the Rapid City Journal about this past weekend.

“This would be my western White House, the Black Hills,” Daschle said when he was still leaning toward a presidential bid. “This would be where I would come. This would be where Tony Blair would come. This would be where the leaders of the world would come. This would be the most consequential thing to happen to our state in its history.”

Josh Kurtz contributed to this report.