Gold Medal

Posted February 7, 2003 at 5:27pm

More than 50 years after Jackie Robinson donned a Brooklyn Dodgers uniform and broke baseball’s color barrier, a group of Senators is calling on Congress to award the Cairo, Ga., native the Congressional Gold Medal.

The group introduced a bill Feb. 4 that would authorize President Bush to present the medal posthumously to Robinson’s family in honor of his efforts to help bridge the country’s racial gap. [IMGCAP(1)]

The legislation also calls for a national day to recognize the accomplishments of Robinson, who was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. But Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), Thomas Daschle (D-S.D.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Zell Miller (D-Ga.) and Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) said his accomplishments extend well beyond the baseball diamond.

“Although the achievements of Jackie Robinson began with athletics, they widened to have a profound influence on civil and human rights in America,” the bill states.

HELP Arrives. The Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, chaired by Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), is bringing on board some top Republican staffers. Gregg has hired Sharon Soderstrom, former deputy chief of staff and floor assistant to then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), as the new staff director for the HELP Committee. Townsend McNitt, the current staff director, will become deputy staff director, allowing her to spend more time with her baby daughter.

Soderstrom will now oversee two ex-aides to former Rep. John Thune (R-S.D.), who lost his Senate bid in November. Dave Fisher will work on health issues for the committee, while Christine Iverson will take over communications.

Gregg has also hired John Mashburn, formerly Lott’s general counsel, as deputy administrative assistant in his personal office. Mashburn worked for then-Sen. Paul Coverdell (R-Ga.) and Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) before signing on with Lott.

Downey’s Day. Kyle Downey, one-time press secretary for former House GOP Conference Chairman J.C. Watts (R-Okla.), has signed on with House Budget Chairman Jim Nussle (R-Iowa) to be press secretary for that panel. Downey is also a veteran of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s (R) 2002 re-election campaign.

Lincoln Lives.The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission presents a performance of “Lincoln Seen & Heard” at 7 p.m in the Library of Congress’ Jefferson Building Coolidge Auditorium. The show, which stars Sam Waterston of NBC’s “Law and Order,” is free and open to the public. For reservations, call (202) 414-0801.

— Mark Preston, John Bresnahan and Bree Hocking