Whodunit?

Posted February 26, 2003 at 6:36pm

Senate Democrats were chuckling Wednesday after a GOP aide apparently left a copy of Majority Leader Bill Frist’s (R-Tenn.) semi-secret plan for the floor schedule for the next six weeks lying near the chamber.

A Democratic floor aide scooped up the list, a commodity that many people in town have been thirsting for given the fact that the Senate agenda is so unclear in the wake of the Miguel Estrada dust-up.

The list obtained by HOH shows that GOP leaders may finally be planning a cloture vote on Estrada for next week. And legislation coming on the docket includes a ban on partial-birth abortion, medical malpractice reform, the Care Act and the budget resolution.

The list also shows that a reconciliation package, including President Bush’s economic package, is planned for just before the spring recess. There will also be more judicial nominations sprinkled in between the legislation.

While Democrats thought they had pulled off a coup, Frist spokesman Bob Stevenson jokingly suggested that the GOP was up to something.

“It worked,” he said. What worked?

“The plan,” he said with a conspiratorial tone. “We left it there on purpose.”

In all seriousness, he added that this document was probably one of “a number of working drafts” the leadership has been crafting for the schedule.

“I don’t think there are any surprises,” he said. “Those are all items we’ve discussed — in addition to others.”

Roasting Lott. As he tries to rebuild his public image, Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) is at least proving to be a good sport about his recent troubles.

The Senator is clearly feeling liberated these days, as witnessed by his recent decision to let the Mississippi Press Association roast him. Lott had agreed to participate in the event long before the controversy involving his comments at the 100th birthday party of then-Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.).

Friends, including lobbyist Haley Barbour, urged the Senator to pull out, noting that he would skewered by the media folks.

Holding forth in a Senate hallway on Monday night, a chuckling Lott told a cluster of reporters that there was nothing left for the media to do to him.

“Why not?” he recalled telling Barbour, a Republican candidate for governor of Mississippi. “You can’t roast toast.”

At the roast itself, meanwhile, Lott kicked off his own speech by joking that he had decided to chuck the remarks carefully prepared by his staff and instead just “speak off the cuff” to the audience.

After plenty of jokes about his hair spray-laden locks — and quips about whether it’s actually a toupee — a smiling Lott ran his fingers across his dome to prove it’s real.

One of the roasters, Tchula Mayor Yvonne Brown, is among the state’s most prominent black officials. She joked that Tricia Lott, the Senator’s wife, had called her hubby a “smooth operator” at one point.

“She said he was light on his feet and could really sing,” Brown cracked. “I found out what she was talking about on BET.”

Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You. Senate officials are urging staffers to ignore a strange fax they’ve been receiving from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The fax from the Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs Division of FEMA asks Senate aides to provide contact information, including home phone numbers.

The form claims that FEMA’s purpose is to “ensure that Congressional offices receive up-to-date information in a timely manner” in the event of a terrorist attack or some other emergency.

Besides needlessly freaking out already jittery Hill staffers, officials in the office of Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Alfonso Lenhardt contend that the fax is incorrect.

“This does not jive with the almost weekly discussions the Office of Homeland Security, FEMA and others have had with us since mid-October,” Sergeant-at-Arms official Pete Hull wrote to Senate offices this week. “The notification process should be through Capitol Police, not through FEMA contacting each Senator’s office individually. Capitol Police will then use our systems to send out emergency information.”

A FEMA spokeswoman did not return a call from HOH seeking comment.

You Say D’Amato. Now that former Sen. Bob Smith (R-N.H.) is out of the chamber, ex-Sen. Alfonse D’Amato (R-N.Y.) has finally gotten his courthouse.

A furious Smith blocked the courthouse last summer, after D’Amato attended a New York fundraiser for the New Hampshire Senator’s GOP primary rival, then-Rep. John Sununu.

At the time, Smith insisted that his opposition was based solely on the fact that D’Amato did not meet the age requirement for such matters. Never mind that this Senate custom did not stop Smith from actually co-sponsoring the resolution to name the courthouse after D’Amato before the fundraiser flap.

Sununu beat Smith in the primary and then won election to the Senate in November. The D’Amato resolution was attached to the omnibus spending bill signed into law last week, so the federal building at 100 Federal Plaza in Central Islip will now be known as the “Alfonse M. D’Amato United States Courthouse.”

There is, of course, some irony in the fact that D’Amato, who always seemed to be in some kind of hot water, has a courthouse named after him. Regardless of any chuckling going on behind his back, the former Senator is elated.

“I am tremendously honored that my former colleagues and so many of my fellow New Yorkers have paid tribute to me in this way,” he told Newsday. “I’m deeply touched by it.”

Yo, Allard. Hill staffers — including those in the office of Sen. Wayne Allard — have been chuckling this week about a fake story that The Onion published about the Colorado Republican.

With a doctored photo showing a befuddled-looking Allard sitting in a college dorm room, the satirical newspaper reported that the “sophomore Senator” had declared he was moving out of “Congressional housing” at once.

“I really need to get out of here,” he said. “I had to get up at 7 a.m. today for a fundraiser breakfast, and at, like, 3 o’clock in the morning, someone started blasting that ‘In Da Club’ song [by rapper 50 Cent]. And this is on a Monday night.”

Allard allegedly added that living in a Hill dorm was “way less fun” this year because two of his pals, Sens. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) and Mike DeWine (R-Ohio), had moved off-campus to their own apartments.

“Ever since Daniel and Mike left, Jefferson Hall hasn’t been the same,” he said. “I go hang out at their place on Wisconsin Avenue all the time, but it’s not like being able to just walk down the hall.”

He added that his situation is at least not as bad as that of Sen. Jon Corzine (D-N.J.). “He got stuck at one of the House halls,” he said. “Those guys are such tools.”

The funniest part may have been another doctored photo in which former Sen. Tim Hutchinson (R-Ark.) showed up, sharing a bag of Tostitos and a 2-liter bottle of Wild Cherry Pepsi with Allard.

Allard spokesman Dick Wadhams, who worked on the Senator’s re-election campaign last year, took it all in stride.

“The fact is if the people of Colorado had known the real Wayne Allard — as exposed in The Onion — a year ago, he would have been unopposed for re-election,” he joked.

Don’t Try This at Home. Is the opportunity to take a tour through a 40-foot-long, 4-foot-high replica of the human colon something that many people would look forward to?

Probably not. But it’s for a serious subject, and officials gearing up for National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month are planning to bring the giant display to Freedom Plaza on March 5.

The replica will undoubtedly succeed at catching plenty of attention as organizers gear up for what’s being dubbed “The Colossal Colon Tour” that will bring the object in question on a 20-city tour.

In addition to colon cancer survivors, the D.C. event will feature speeches from awareness advocates like former Washington Redskins star Darrell Green and Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson.

Today, meanwhile, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Rep. Ernie Fletcher (R-Ky.) will be among the lawmakers expected to turn out to room 1116 of the Longworth House Office Building at noon to help give away computers and encrypted e-mail software to enable seniors and homebound patients communicate with their doctors.

Paul Kane contributed to this report.