Time’s Up!

Posted April 13, 2005 at 6:53pm

That Bob Menendez sure does make the trains run on time.

For a while now, the House Democratic Caucus chairman has been using a little timer to control “windy” Members during Caucus meetings. When a Member approaches the microphone, a staffer for the New Jersey lawmaker places the timer in front of the speaker and — no joke — a bell rings after two minutes.

But one long-winded and very powerful lawmaker is fed up with Menendez’s little gadget.

Rep. Steny Hoyer (Md.), only the No. 2 Democrat in the House, went up to the microphone during Wednesday’s Caucus meeting and was about to start speaking when a young Menendez staffer with an awful lot of gumption walked up, as instructed, and placed the dreaded timer in front of him.

Hoyer, the Minority Whip, grabbed the timer, handed it back to the staffer and said, “With all due respect.” (HOH initially heard that Hoyer threw the timer across the room, but that turned out to be only a rumor.)

In defense of Menendez’s two-minute rule, one Democratic leadership aide said of Hoyer, “He is known to drone on.”

Still, another leadership aide said, “While it appears that Hoyer wants to respect Mr. Menendez’s desire to keep on schedule, it seemed clear that sending a young staffer up to the No. 2 Democratic leader in the House was not the smartest approach.”

A Menendez spokesman said the timer approach — what some might consider the Democratic Caucus’ version of an internal nuclear option — assures each Member “an allotted time to address” the Caucus but “unfortunately, the staffer was unaware that our distinguished Whip … is the embodiment of discipline himself and is exceedingly concise in his weekly Whip updates.”

Stacey Bernards, a spokeswoman for Hoyer, said her boss was talking about tax policy, and he “knew that trying to sum up four years of Republican tax code complications in two minutes was an impossibility.”

Calling Charlton Heston. Reps. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) and Steve King (R-Iowa) want the Ten Commandments displayed in the House chamber if the Supreme Court rules against allowing the Hebrew tenets to be posted in other government buildings. Whether or not Chabot and King are successful, HOH has a suggestion.

How about a “Ten Commandments for Members of Congress”? They could even be posted next to the real ones. With all due respect to those of faith, and keeping in mind that HOH does her humble best each day to honor the Commandments, here is our proposal:

1) Honor thy Chairman and thy Majority Leader.

2) What happens at the Capitol Lounge stays at the Capital Lounge.

3) If Karl Rove calls, take it; if Jack Abramoff calls, hang up and call your lawyer.

4) Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s donkey.

5) Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s elephant.

6) Thou shalt only give memos exploiting tragedy for political gain to members of the same party.

7) Thou shalt not take the Lord’s name in vain, unless you are Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.) and cannot help it.

8) Thou shalt not steal issues from the other party (unless you’re a moderate running for president in 2008).

9) Thy Republican Party will go nuclear on thy ass if thou filibusters judicial nominees.

10) Thou shalt not lie or perjure, unless thou can buy more time to discredit thine accusers.

Freshman’s First 100 Days. Presidents do it. Governors do it. Congressional leaderships do it. We don’t recall a freshman Member of Congress doing it — until now.

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) marked his “first 100 days” in office yesterday with a press release touting his accomplishments, a media availability and an appearance on “Fox and Friends.”

Some of Thune’s Democratic detractors in the Senate were quick to notice the rarity of a freshman Senator making so much hay over his early record.

Thune’s spokesman, Alex Conant, couldn’t understand the criticism. He pointed to last Sunday’s big front-page story about Thune in the Rapid City Journal, the one with a headline blaring “First 100 Days.” And he said it was all the newspaper’s idea.

But one saucy Senate Democratic aide said Thune’s press secretary is guilty of “political malpractice for flacking Thune’s presidential ambitions 100 days into his first term.” The aide said Thune must “have an ego bigger than the Badlands to think that co-sponsoring 30 bills and taking a junket (visiting Alaska) is something that worth noting.”

Or maybe Thune is just happy that after losing to Sen. Tim Johnson (D) by 546 votes in 2002, he rebounded to defeat then-Sen. Tom Daschle (D) with just less than 3,000 votes.

Conant said no, Thune just wanted “to deliver some good news now, before the Democrats shut down the place in the next 100 days.”

Rock Star Parking. Thune, during that appearance on “Fox and Friends,” was asked what the coolest part of being a Senator is. “I think being able to park wherever you want, maybe,” Thune said.

The Man Thune Beat. On the flip side of 100 days, Daschle is joining Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute. He’ll be a visiting professor beginning next fall.

Daschle made a nostalgic trip to the Senate on Tuesday afternoon, shaking hands with reporters who used to harass him and giving out hugs and kisses to the Sergeant-at-Arms staffers who had known the Democratic leader for 10 years.

A tanned and rested Daschle wore a sharp (and possibly new) suit and was all smiles. He came back to attend the retirement party for Jeri Thomson, the former Secretary of the Senate and a longtime Daschle adviser.

Erin P. Billings, John Bresnahan and Paul Kane contributed to this report.

Please send your hot tips, juicy gossip or comments to hoh@rollcall.com.