Sharp Elbows

Posted April 4, 2003 at 6:18pm

Republican tongues were wagging Friday over a screaming match that Senate GOP Conference Chairman Rick Santorum (Pa.) and Budget Chairman Don Nickles (Okla.) had near the Senate floor late Thursday night.

Described as very heated and animated, insiders said the discussion centered on a major dispute over President Bush’s tax cut, and sources said the dispute between the two men who may one day face each other in a Senate leadership race became quite personal.

With tensions running high over a House-Senate

conference on the budget resolution that will decide the size of Bush’s tax-relief plan, Nickles was insisting that House GOP leaders could accept a figure closer to the $350 billion tax cut that GOP moderates forced into the Senate version of the budget.

Santorum hotly disputed that notion, insisting that House leaders would have a hard time convincing conservative Members to accept a figure so much lower than the $726 billion cut included in the original House version of the budget.

Santorum’s camp confirmed “it was an animated discussion” as the Senate wrapped up work on the supplemental appropriations bill to fund the war in Iraq.

Nickles spokeswoman Gayle Osterberg told HOH, “Senator Nickles is in total agreement with Senator Santorum that we want a budget and we want the highest growth package number possible.”

Berry Big Problem. Rep. Katherine Harris (R-Fla.) may regret the day she decided her colleagues should be able to reach her at any time of the day.

To facilitate this, a staffer to the former Florida secretary of state decided to send an important note to a group of Republican chiefs of staff on Thursday. Much like the 2000 presidential election, however, this episode ended in controversy.

“Congresswoman Harris asked me to make sure that your bosses have the e-mail through which they can communicate with her on her Blackberry,” wrote Harris spokesman David Host, who proceeded to list the private address of the Congresswoman.

The only problem is that some mischievous Hill staffers decided to forward Harris’ private e-mail address to all of their friends. Democrats were all too willing to share the BlackBerry address of the person they made the villain in the last presidential election.

One recipient of the note passed it on to HOH, adding that he felt the episode showed arrogance on the part of Harris. “I’m so important all the Members will want to e-mail with me,” cracked the recipient.

Alas, Harris did not respond to an e-mail sent to her BlackBerry. But Host said, apparently with a straight face, that the boss “enjoyed a successful working relationship” with members of both parties on the state level.

He added that Harris shared her e-mail address because “she wants to be as accessible as possible.”

They Report, Pelosi Unloads. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is developing a feisty little rivalry with correspondents and producers at Fox News Channel.

One week after unloading on Fox producer Jim Mills for making a crack about the alcohol problems of Rep. Karen McCarthy (D-Mo.), Pelosi hammered Fox’s Carl Cameron at last Thursday’s dugout with reporters.

Pelosi had just slammed Bush’s domestic priorities as so off-kilter that she understands why the GOP would want to debate the budget amid “the fog” of war.

A couple of moments later, Cameron decided to ask: “Are you saying that this administration is using the war to shield this agenda?”

“No, I’m not saying that at all, and you know it,” said Pelosi, who apparently felt the reporter was trying to put words in her mouth.

Cameron told HOH that it appeared that Pelosi didn’t quite understand his question. He was not trying to hassle and thinks they were just talking past one another.

“But you did say,” Cameron told Pelosi, “the fog of war —”

“No, no, no, I said the exact opposite,” shot back Pelosi. “I said I understand why they would want to debate the budget while people are distracted by the war. That doesn’t mean we are going to war so we don’t have to” see what’s in the budget.

“You know that isn’t so,” added Pelosi, “That’s beneath you.”

“I’m sorry ma’am,” said Cameron.

“That’s beneath you,” Pelosi reiterated.

HOH can hardly wait for her next appearance on “Fox News Sunday.”

Cantwell in Motion. Singer Carole King will be headlining a Georgetown fundraiser for Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) on Wednesday night.

“All I can say is there no truth to the rumor that Maria and Carole will sign a duet of ‘The Loco-Motion,’” said Cantwell spokeswoman Jennifer Crider.

As for the question of whether Cantwell will be donning a toga for the bash — the wardrobe sported by the Senator at a party she attended with rocker Courtney Love early in her term — Crider just laughed.

You Talking to Me? Rep. Vito Fossella (R) took it all in stride upon learning that the New York Press, an alternative newspaper, had named him one of the “50 Most Loathsome New Yorkers” in a new survey.

“Frankly we were surprised that he didn’t rank higher,” Fossella spokesman Craig Donner told HOH of the boss coming in at 45.

“His wife had him at number seven on her own list,” he quipped. “His parents had him at number three.”

The newspaper, which is upset that the Congressman was one of the biggest New York backers of George W. Bush in the 2000 campaign, declared that Fossella “has the kind of face that you last saw trying to sell you a ’97 Altima. When he’s not busy at his day job of being a chirping yes-man for the administration, he tackles such important issues as stoplight timing and parking-ticket immunity for U.N. diplomats.”

Ex-Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.), who is under fire from liberals for supporting the war despite his position as president of the New School University in New York, ranked 17 on the loathsome list.

But Donner said readers should take what’s written by the free newspaper with a grain of salt. “I guess it’s worth the price that they charge for it,” he cracked.

Some Crow to Eat With That Lollipop? Four out of five dentists were none too pleased with HOH poking fun at the fact that two of their own, Reps. John Linder (R-Ga.) and Charlie Norwood (R-Ga.), might serve as first responders in the event of an attack on the Capitol.

And based on the reaction of Norwood spokeswoman Duke Hipp, HOH is hoping not to have a toothache in the next few months.

“Congressman Norwood earned two Bronze Stars and the Combat Medical Badge during his service with the U.S. Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vietnam,” said Hipp. “He served at Quin Yon, An Khe, and LZ English at Bon Son, where he provided trauma care with the Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals (M.A.S.H. units) in addition to his duties as a dentist. Congressman Norwood has plenty of experience in triage and trauma response, and he is quite capable of providing emergency medical care.”

And then there was HOH’s suggestion that Norwood and Linder could at least give out some lollipops.

“In defense of all the medical professionals who served our nation during wartime, I’m glad to tell the same writer who would have Congressman Norwood ‘hand out some lollipops’ — take those same lollipops and, as they say in northeast Georgia, stick them where the sun don’t shine,” said Hipp.

HRC vs. KBH. Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) were finalizing their Final Four bets at press time on Friday in anticipation of the weekend matchup between Syracuse University and the University of Texas.

“When the Orangemen win, both Senators and staffs will feast from Pappas BBQ,” Clinton spokesman Philippe Reines said of the upstate New York restaurant.

“Philippe is just a tad bit overconfident,” shot back Hutchison aide Dustee Tucker. “I have no doubt that he will be eating his words and his [Texas-based] Dinosaur BBQ on Tuesday.”

McCain’s Jab. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) couldn’t resist a poke at the armchair generals who have filled the airwaves with second-guessing about the war in Iraq.

Appearing at an event for the Juvenile Diabetes Relief Fund, McCain made some positive comments about the pundits. But then he wondered how these guys came crawling out of the woodwork, according to a report in Navy Times.

“Is there some retirement home out there where they go down and blow a bugle when the war starts?” cracked McCain. “What happens to all these guys when the war stops?”

McCain added that some of the many other cable networks should follow the lead of CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC and hire their own specialists.

He said that the Family Channel could tap Cap’n Crunch, while the Animal Channel could drag Captain Kangaroo out of retirement. MTV should look up Captain and Tennille, he added, and The History Channel could tap Col. Klink of “Hogan’s Heroes” fame.

Unfortunately, Klink’s real-life counterpart, actor Werner Klemperer, has passed on.

French Twist. Sen. John Breaux (D), whose state is gearing up for the 200th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase from France, finds himself in a real political pickle.

Appearing at the national legislative conference of the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America, Breaux noted that he now has a “problem” because the state long ago invited French President Jacques Chirac (who’s obviously now reviled in some quarters of the country) to appear at the celebration.

“We actually invited Chirac and President Bush to come to Louisiana to re-enact the signing of the Louisiana Purchase, and I don’t think that’s going to happen,” Breaux said to laughter from the crowd.

Daschle Threatened. A Wyoming man pleaded innocent last week to charges that he threatened to kill Senate Minority Leader Thomas Daschle (D-S.D.) last month.

Raymond Howard, 58, was indicted last month in South Dakota for threatening a constitutional officer (a felony) and making a threatening or harassing telephone call (a misdemeanor), according to The Associated Press.

The indictment stems from an incident on March 8 in which police officers in Spearfish, S.D., received an anonymous 911 call in which a person threatened Daschle’s life.

Daschle was in Spearfish that day. Investigators traced the call to a pay phone and found footprints in the snow leading to a car owned by Howard.

Howard is out on a $5,000 bond with a trial scheduled for May 28.

Emily Pierce contributed to this report.