What’s in a Name?

Posted April 29, 2003 at 6:23pm

The heat from conservatives over the botched tax-cut deal may be getting to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.

The Tennessee Republican twice referred to “Manuel Estrada” this week in discussing the judicial nomination of Miguel Estrada, leading to cackles from Democrats.

“If Manuel Estrada is the new nominee and would like to answer our questions

— and show members of the Senate Judiciary Committee the respect they deserve — we might be supportive of him, as we have of previous Bush nominees,” House Democratic Caucus Chairman Bob Menendez (N.J.) cracked to HOH.

Frist’s first slip-up came during a speech to the American Hospital Association on Monday. He repeated the faux pas on the Senate floor on Tuesday.

Senate Democratic aides charged that the misstep confirmed their view that the fight has been a shallow GOP attempt to make the opposition look anti-Hispanic. Democrats griped that the Majority Leader can’t seem to remember the nominee’s name.

“Maybe [Frist] could use a refresher look at those documents in the DOJ lockbox,” joked one Democratic aide.

Frist spokesman Bob Stevenson told HOH that the boss had been speaking to a staffer, Manuel Miranda, just before discussing Estrada yesterday — hence the miscue.

“This isn’t about a name,” he said. “It’s about a man’s qualifications. He’s clearly qualified.”

Stevenson added of Democrats, “This is a pretty thin reed upon which to hang their obstructionism.”

Phone Home. In yet another passing of an era on Capitol Hill, Verizon Communications is in the process of disconnecting most of the remaining pay telephones in the Capitol and the office buildings.

“The proliferation of wireless devices has provided pay telephone customers with alternative methods of communication, which has reduced the revenue generated by these phones,” according to a notice from the office of Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Bill Pickle.

Those blessed old-schoolers who still refuse to get a cellphone or a BlackBerry will be able to find pay phones in a few specific locations, including outside room S-139 in the Capitol.

In the Russell Senate Office Building, the phones near the southwest first-floor entrance and southeast second-floor entrance will stay in business. The Hart Senate Office Building will keep its phones in the northwest and southwest corners of the first floor.

Four phones will remain in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, including: the north basement corridor outside the cafeteria; the ground floor near room SD-G49; as well as the northwest and southwest corners of the first floor.

Judd Needs HELP. At this rate, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) isn’t going to get anything through his panel over the next 20 months.

There has been murmuring about Gregg’s allegedly frosty relationship with Frist. And now Gregg is taking aim at his ranking member, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), in a new fundraising letter.

In the letter to supporters, Gregg wrote that conservatives cannot rest on their laurels after winning the 2002 elections. He does, however, pat himself on the back for taking the gavels at HELP and a powerful Appropriations subcommittee.

“That’s the good news!” wrote Gregg. “The challenge comes from having Ted Kennedy and Hillary Clinton [D-N.Y.] as fellow committee members who will try to throw legislative roadblocks in front of much that we will try to accomplish.”

While Kennedy is a staple in conservative fundraising pitches, he was surprised to see Gregg take a swipe at him in light of their common interest to do some committee business together. So Kennedy has decided to turn it around on his colleague by holding the letter up at his own fundraisers to charge that the GOP leadership really doesn’t want to pass a Medicare prescription drug bill.

“That letter does double duty,” claimed a Kennedy adviser. “Senator Kennedy gains supporters off Gregg’s letter too.”

Gregg’s office downplayed speculation about a rift with Frist and suggested that Kennedy should calm down.

“I have always found Senator Kennedy to be a kind and generous person interested in helping those in need, and that is why I so appreciate his assistance in my meager efforts to raise funds to assist this worthy cause,” Gregg told HOH.

Moving off the Hill. Debra DeShong has left the office of Sen. Mark Dayton (D-Minn.) to become communications director at the Democratic National Committee.

Previously cutting her teeth as spokesman for then-Sen. Robert Torricelli (D-N.J.) certainly helped prepare her to do battle against the GOP. “My skills are finely tuned and I’m ready to put them to use for the Democratic Party,” she told HOH.

“It prepared me for anything and everything that could possibly happen,” she added of the experience with Torricelli, who was chased from the Senate by an ethics scandal.

Meanwhile, Eric Schmeltzer, longtime spokesman for Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), is heading up to New York full-time to handle press in the Empire State for the presidential campaign of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (D).

Here’s to You, Mrs. Robinson. Sharon Robinson, daughter of the man who broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball, will be on Capitol Hill today pushing for a Congressional Gold Medal to be posthumously awarded to her father.

Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) has rounded up about 50 co-sponsors in the House for the medal honoring the late, great Jackie Robinson. About 20 Senators have also signed on to the proposal.

Baby Ball. In honor of the 25th anniversary of Zero to Three, Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) will regale a Kennedy Center audience with his interpretation of Cinderella’s wicked stepmother at 7:30 p.m. today in the Terrace Theater as part of “The Magic of Everyday Moments” gala.

The event will raise money for the organization, which bills itself as the leading resource for the first three years of a child’s life.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.) will be recognized for their work on early education and health issues.

Tickets are $300, which includes a pre-show reception and dinner.

Bree Hocking contributed to this report.