Landrieu Locks Horns

Posted March 26, 2004 at 6:18pm

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) got into a shouting match with the mother and stepfather of Laci Peterson in a nasty, closed-door meeting on the eve of Thursday’s Senate passage of the Unborn Victims of Violence Act.

“Mary Landrieu just berated them,” claimed one person in the room, who noted that Sharon Rocha and Ron Grantski were yelling back during the tense 20-minute showdown. “It got so loud that you could hear [the shouting] in the next room.”

Landrieu confirmed that the meeting got “contentious,” but stressed that she was not lambasting anyone.

“It was a heated exchange,” said Landrieu, a possible vice presidential contender. “I wasn’t berating them. It was just a polite, mildly heated exchange.”

Rocha and Grantski were going door-to-door on Capitol Hill to lobby on behalf of the legislation that would make it a crime to harm a fetus during an attack on a pregnant woman. The legislation is informally known as Laci and Conner’s Law after the unborn grandchild that was killed along with the couple’s daughter in December 2002.

Landrieu was a key swing vote on the matter and indicated to Rocha and Grantski in the meeting that she would support the bill. But then the Senator decided to do a bit of logrolling, telling the family that she in turn needed them to help build support for an amendment by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) that would have boosted funding for domestic violence prevention.

Grantski said that the family wanted a “clean” bill free of amendments to match the House-passed version, which would mean speedier passage to the White House for President Bush’s signature.

Landrieu sparked the couple’s fury by claiming they could not be “serious” about the issue if they didn’t also support the domestic violence money. The Petersons, as well as other victims’ families in the room who had seen relatives murdered in recent years, did not take kindly to that charge.

The Senator insisted that she only wanted to make the point that a majority of the women who are killed along with unborn children suffer from domestic abuse and she wants to try to prevent these murders in the first place. Landrieu added that her comment in the meeting was misconstrued by the Peterson family. “Unfortunately her stepfather evidently misunderstood what I said,” she said.

The Murray amendment failed, but the underlying legislation passed with the support of Landrieu, who vows to keep fighting for a boost in domestic violence funding. “I’m interested in stopping the murder,” she said. “The [National] Right to Life Committee has been focused on conception to birth and they have such little focus on after-birth” prevention of murder.

Hooping and Hollering. At Thursday’s Democratic Whip meeting, Rep. Ron Kind (Wis.) was ebullient over the fact that the minority party had finally scored a victory the previous night in the traditionally GOP-dominated Gallaudet Congressional Basketball Classic.

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) sank a clutch 15-footer with seven seconds left in regulation to give Democrats their first win in the 11th annual contest.

“We were afraid that they’d keep the clock open for another three hours,” quipped Kind.

In the Driver’s Seat. Racing star Jeff Gordon was originally skeptical of pundits focusing so much time on the impact of NASCAR dads, but now he thinks they may be pivotal in this year’s election.

“It’s a real thing I guess,” the four-time NASCAR Nextel champ told HOH. “I kind of laughed it off. But NASCAR fans are people who are workers … and they vote.”

Gordon was on Capitol Hill last week to push the Senate to support a five-year reauthorization of the a National Marrow Donor Program. He has been a big supporter of the registry since 1992, when his crew captain’s son was diagnosed with leukemia.

“That’s usually where the awareness comes,” he said. “It was like family for me.”

Gordon’s flight to Washington on Thursday was delayed, which caused him to be a few minutes late for a press conference with Sens. John Ensign (R-Nev.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.). Dr. Jeffrey Chell, head of the national bone marrow donor program, finally noted that a sedan would have Gordon at the event in just a couple of minutes.

“Maybe we should put him behind the wheel,” joked Chell.

Gavin, Meet George. Tongues were wagging after House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) introduced President Bush to a certain mayor from San Francisco at the VIP reception leading up to last Wednesday’s 60th annual dinner for the Radio & Television Correspondents’ Association.

Bush has been shadow-boxing with Gavin Newsom ever since the new mayor deciding to let his city open the door to gay marriage, which prompted the president to come out strong for a Constitutional amendment banning the practice.

But Pelosi insisted the next day that there were no fireworks. “The president was, as always, his gracious, friendly self,” she said. “And again, he was very gracious to the mayor of San Francisco and congratulated him on his election.”

Everyone must have been in a forgiving mood. Pelosi sat just five seats over from House GOP aide John Feehery, who recently called the Minority Leader an “appeaser” for Saddam Hussein, at the head table — but no verbal shots were fired over dinner.

Pelosi recently fired off a letter demanding an apology from Feehery, who is spokesman for Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), and is still waiting for a reply.

Medi-scare Poll Backfires. Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.) got a little more than she bargained for after posting a somewhat-skewed poll question on her official House Web site this week.

“How do you feel about turning over Medicare to private plans?” Brown asked on the site.

While the Democrat was obviously expecting her constituents to reject the GOP push toward privatization, 70 percent of the respondents voted in favor of it. Only 16 percent voted no, and 14 percent were undecided.

“Given how the Congresswoman voted on the new law, she better hope her next poll question doesn’t ask how the district’s seniors feel about her,” cracked one House GOP leadership aide. “She might not want to see the answer.”

Brown told HOH that Republicans had obviously gamed the system by repeatedly voting “yes” on the Web. “One of my staffers just voted 10 times,” she said to point out the deficiencies of an unscientific poll (which obviously raises questions, however, about the value of using such surveys in the first place).

But the Congresswoman said she’s not laughing off the GOP hijinks. “They’re having a little fun, but it’s not fun for seniors,” she said. “They’re trying to do away with the New Deal.”