Boxer Rebellion

Posted August 1, 2003 at 5:58pm

Doing her best (or worst, in this case) impersonation of Rep. Bill Thomas (R-Calif.), Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) called the Sergeant-at-Arms’ office in an attempt to get several GOP aides evicted from the Senate floor Thursday.

For some inexplicable reason, Boxer grew angry that nearly a dozen aides to Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) were standing in the back of the chamber during Frist’s remarks about the emerging deal on the energy bill.

Eyewitnesses told HOH that Boxer began glaring at the staffers, even though they did not appear to be doing anything improper. “The whole thing was bizarre, mainly because I couldn’t understand what her problem was,” said one GOP aide.

Boxer eventually marched over to one of the veteran Doorkeepers and urged her to give the Frist staffers the boot. The Doorkeeper responded that there was no grounds to remove them.

This answer was not good enough for Boxer, who sent urgent word to Sergeant-at-Arms Bill Pickle that he was to report to the Senate floor at once to take care of an urgent problem.

One may recall that Democrats howled with protest for days after Thomas called the House Sergeant-at-Arms — and the Capitol Police — to get House Democrats thrown out of the Ways and Means Committee library.

Boxer was soon seen haranguing Pickle as she pointed to the Majority Leader’s staffers. The Frist-appointed Pickle then conferred with the Tennessean’s chief of staff, Lee Rawls, to try to smooth things over.

Rawls explained that the Frist staffers were observing all of the rules of decorum and merely wanted to be on the floor during their boss’s remarks, which is their right. The benches for staff were full, so the aides stood quietly in the back and were not blocking anyone’s path.

Pickle allowed them to stay, which vindicated the staffers and did not please Boxer. Her spokesman, David Sandretti, declined to comment on the matter.

“Since when does Barbara Boxer get to say who can be on the floor?” griped one GOP aide, noting that the staffers were all wearing the proper ID. “The leader’s staff gets to be on the floor.”

By George. Rep. George Nethercutt (R-Wash.) gets downright giddy when discussing President Bush’s support for his Senate campaign.

“The president was very encouraging and very enthusiastic,” Nethercutt gushed to The Associated Press last week. “He called me ‘Senator’ a lot.”

But wait a second. It turns out that Bush says that to all the guys — or gals — in the Washington delegation.

Back in February, Rep. Jennifer Dunn (R-Wash.) was mulling a challenge to Sen. Patty Murray (D). An article in the Seattle Times that month revealed that Bush “teasingly calls [Dunn] ‘Senator’ and prods her to challenge Democratic incumbent Patty Murray next year.”

Could this solidify the notion that Nethercutt is Bush’s second choice? “What’s the difference between George Nethercutt and Jennifer Dunn? George is more gullible,” cracked one Murray adviser.

Nethercutt’s spokeswoman, April Gentry, fired back: “Democrats should be careful about underestimating Congressman Nethercutt. Apparently they haven’t talked to Tom Foley lately.”


The News From Lake Woebegone. With uncertainty about their presidential nominee and little hope of taking back the majority, Senate Democrats have plenty of woes they’re hoping to be gone.

So it was only natural that Garrison Keillor, the baritoned legend of public radio, was the special guest at Thursday’s Senate Democratic Policy Committee luncheon as lawmakers prepared for the August recess.

“I only came on the basis that I’m not an expert on anything and I don’t have anything to sell,” Keillor said after the lunch. “I wanted them to feel better at the end of a bruising session. It was a lighthearted meeting.”

But Keillor also dispensed some political advice, which may be another bad sign for centrists in the Caucus worried about the party’s direction. He has described himself in the past as “a left-wing, tax-and-spend Northern liberal.”

Senate Democratic Policy Committee Chairman Byron Dorgan (N.D.) said Keillor lauded the progressive wing of the party and liberals’ battles on behalf of “old people having access to Medicare, women, Title IX and equal opportunities — a whole series of things.”

Walking down the Senate staircase to the first floor after his remarks in the LBJ Room, Keillor said he urged Democrats to “do the Lord’s work” on Capitol Hill.

“The lives of every little girl in this country is different from what her grandmother could have expected,” he said in criticizing the direction of the Bush administration.

“No amount of hollering, arm-waving and name-calling and hardball theatrics is going to change that basic fact.”

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) revealed that Keillor parroted advice that has come from other quarters. “He said we have to speak in more optimistic tones,” recalled Durbin, who added that Keillor also addressed the legacy of one of his friends from Minnesota, the late Sen. Paul Wellstone (D).

“Paul Wellstone was always passionate and Garrison Keillor would say, ‘I wish you would tone down a little bit, but I respect him for what he says,”’ Durbin recalled.

Dorgan said Keillor fondly remembered Wellstone “as somebody who was always jabbing his finger in the air. He was always jabbing upward.”

Keillor said he also told Senators to relax during August “and not read Roll Call for the whole month of August. Take a month off, go climb mountains, go listen to people talk in coffee shops.”

All wise counsel, except for the bit about the newspaper of Capitol Hill since 1955.


Hacks vs. Flacks. Despite the valiant efforts by some of the nation’s finest journalists Wednesday night, a softball team of scribes was just barely edged out by a squad of Hill press secretaries on the National Mall.

The score in this extremely close, nail-biting contest was 22-8.

OK, admittedly, it was a rout. And it was the second straight year that the Flacks somehow defied the odds and won. But it was a fluke. Again.

And HOH, who admittedly skipped the game with a lame excuse about a deadline, still has the power of the pen. So this account is being written through Hack-colored (but fair and balanced) glasses.

Bob Stevenson, Flack team captain and Frist spokesman, was just as smooth on the mound as he is in spinning the news. He scattered eight runs over six innings.

One of the stars for the Hacks, John Godfrey of Dow Jones, did admit: “Futures on the Hacks’ chance for winning next year are now trading at a dime on the dollar on the DARPA market.”

Added Roll Call’s Paul Kane: “If they hadn’t gotten the two grand slams, it would have been close.” (Other than that, how was the game, Mrs. Lincoln?)

Indeed, Sandretti and David DiMartino, spokesman for Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), each cracked home runs with the bases jammed. According to Godfrey, DiMartino’s towering blast was headed for the steps of the Smithsonian — but it slammed into a tree first.

Both sides ended up at a bar synonymous with suds and softball, My Brother’s Place, where the real competition took place.

David Perera contributed to this report.