Open-Door Policy?

Posted March 17, 2004 at 6:38pm

Tensions between House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Democratic Caucus Chairman Bob Menendez (N.J.) bubbled over this week behind — and about — closed doors.

Insiders tell HOH that Pelosi became mighty frustrated at Wednesday’s Caucus meeting with lawmakers

who were continually walking in and out of the room during her all-important strategy speech on the GOP’s Iraq resolution, an issue that’s been splitting House Democrats.

“Can we close the door — yeah, thanks!” a smiling but stern Pelosi said as Democratic lawmakers breezed in and out of the meeting.

Then the double doors to the room swung open dramatically, and Pelosi lost it, exclaiming: “I just don’t understand what the problem with the door is!”

It turned out that Rep. James Langevin (D-R.I.), who uses a wheelchair, was being assisted into the room. “Staffers were later seen trying to pry the leader’s stiletto heels out of her mouth,” cracked one Democrat.

Menendez apparently couldn’t allow himself to let Pelosi off the hook. “The problem is Members are coming in and out of the Caucus and you need to open and close the door for Members to come in and out of the Caucus,” he said in a tone that would have made Al Gore proud and brought laughter from several lawmakers — but not Pelosi.

But Menendez spokesman Andrew Kauders sought to make light of the exchange: “The chairman understood the leader’s question as a very serious one, so he answered with much forthrightness and careful analysis that the laws of physics even applied to Members of Congress, who have no other option, but to open and close a door if they choose to attend — or enter — a Caucus meeting.”

Pelosi spokeswoman Jennifer Crider also said there was no real tension and the boss was just trying to make sure that some of those crafty reporters in the hallway were not listening in on the speech. “To the chagrin of the reporters at the stakeout, leader Pelosi’s open-door policy is not in effect when the Caucus is discussing strategy.”

Capitol Hill Peace Process Redux. In the wake of Democratic criticism and some needling from HOH, Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) decided to take the high road and extend a last-minute invite to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) for Wednesday’s St. Patrick’s Day luncheon.

But Clinton said no thanks and stuck with her own one-on-one with Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern.

“We were happy to invite her and we’re sorry she couldn’t make it,” Hastert spokesman John Feehery said.

Clinton spokesman Philippe Reines responded, “Senator Clinton very much appreciated the Speaker’s gracious invitation, but as luck of the Irish would have it, her schedule by then — including a private meeting with the Taoiseach — did not allow for her attendance.”

So much for “bringing the parties together” on St. Pat’s.

Toasting Moynihan. One of the giants who was missed at Wednesday’s luncheon — besides the late Speaker Tip O’Neill (D-Mass.), of course — was the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.).

But Moynihan fans can celebrate a new exhibit opening March 30 that will honor the Senator’s 50-year public career at the Museum of the City of New York.

The museum will kick off the exhibit March 29 with a symposium moderated by Tim Russert, the former Moynihan staffer who’s now NBC’s Washington bureau chief and host of “Meet the Press.”

Other panelists include Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Congressional scholar Stephen Hess. There will also be a keynote address from Moynihan friend and columnist George Will.

Highlights of “New York’s Moynihan” will include a large batch of his private correspondence with world leaders.

French Kiss? Commerce Secretary Don Evans, one of President Bush’s closest friends, took a St. Patrick’s Day swipe at Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.).

Speaking to the annual Friendly Sons of St. Patrick Dinner in Scranton, Pa., Evans joked, “The closest thing I am to Irish is a lapel pin I wear that says, ‘Kiss Me … I’m from Texas.’”

Evans went on to say that he’s proud of the Irish heritage of many in the administration: “President George O’Bush …Vice President Dick McCheney … Secretary of State Killian Powell …” and others.

Then the Commerce secretary added in reference to the Democratic presidential nominee: “Some of you may have even heard from that fellow of a different political stripe who looks French but claims to be an Irishman.”

Interesting. Up until now, that “Kerry looks French” insult had only come from an anonymous GOP strategist in The New York Times.

Rose So Sweet. Calling all Irish ladies on Capitol Hill, age 18 to 25, who may still be recovering this morning from tossing back a few pints.

Organizers of the Washington, D.C., Rose of Tralee competition are once again looking for young women to participate in their annual contest, with the winner getting an all-expenses-paid trip to Ireland this summer.

Past winners include Gretchen Learman, now a legislative assistant for Rep. John Linder (R-Ga.), who was the “D.C. Rose” and represented the city at the International Rose of Tralee Festival — which is basically one of the world’s classiest beauty pageants.

Applications, which can be found at washingtonrose.com, are due May 1. The competition will culminate in the crowning of the 2004 Rose on June 12 at Kellys’ The Irish Times — where everyone can once again raise a few pints.

On the Mend. Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.) will spend the next 10 days recuperating at Johns Hopkins University hospital in Baltimore after undergoing surgery Wednesday to treat intestinal cancer.

Tauzin spokesman Ken Johnson said doctors removed a “silver-dollar-sized tumor” from the lawmaker’s upper small intestine but that the cancer “appeared to be contained.”

“We are optimistic for a full recovery,” Johnson said, adding that Tauzin will have a couple more weeks of bed rest after he leaves the hospital.

Following previous hospitalizations for what were thought to be bleeding ulcers, Tauzin was diagnosed with cancer earlier this month.

Those Tax Thing-a-majigs. If you want to know why Republicans are having a hard time selling the economy and other issues these days, take a look at how Hastert responded to a question last week about what agenda items the GOP leadership can get done this year.

After talking about attempts to improve the economy and health care costs, Hastert mentioned “the cost of litigation” and other matters, according to the official transcript:

“The tax things. You know, when we have income taxes, it is this whole jobs bill that we have before us, or FICA taxes or not FICA. The FSC tax that we have before us, issue, you know, the fact is when we have to pass our income taxes on to our international products that we sell overseas, the corporate — foreign corporations can drop their taxes off at the border, yet we have an imputed cost of 15, 20, 23 percent of those products, taxes into our products that we have to sell overseas. Start adding it up and you have — not to add in the regulatory costs that we have tied into our costs into our products that foreign products don’t have coming into this country. When you start adding it up, whether German products or French products or Japanese products or Chinese products, those costs that we don’t have — they don’t have that we have, you know, that we can change in a program of legislation in this Congress, that we can start to change our ability to compete overseas, bring jobs back here, bring capital back here.”

Feehery translated to HOH: “His point is that our tax structure kills jobs.”

Sounds like a more succinct explanation? “He’s much more of a detail guy,” said Feehery. “He’s much smarter than I am. He just gets into the nitty-gritty.”

Wing and a Prayer. Senate Chaplain Barry Black raised a few eyebrows when he recently kicked off a three-part Bible study luncheon series titled, “Getting to Know God through Christian Growth.”

Since the Chaplain is supposed to be non-sectarian, one miffed Senate Democratic aide mused: “Looks like the Senate majority is using taxpayer dollars to promote Christian growth. What about Hindu growth or Muslim growth or Jewish growth?”

Black’s chief of staff, Alan Keiran, said the Chaplain would be happy to follow through on programs involving any other religions.

“If people are interested, we will facilitate that for them,” said Keiran. “We would be glad to arrange that.”

Keiran added that Black put together the three-parter on “Christian Growth” because the voluntary Bible study group is predominantly Christian. “That’s the audience,” he said.

Ben Pershing contributed to this report.