Brawl on House Floor

Posted May 17, 2005 at 6:55pm

Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.) went haywire Monday night after finding out that some moderate GOP Members who favor embryonic stem-cell research did polling on the issue in his district without telling him.

Renzi, who opposes federal funding for stem-cell research, had some “choice words” for Rep. Mark Kirk (Ill.), the leader of moderate Republicans’ Tuesday Group, when he spotted Kirk on the House floor, according to sources. After a few moments of

tough talk, Renzi, who is a very big and strong man, got a wild look in his eye and appeared ready to shove or do other bodily harm to Kirk. Reps. J.D. Hayworth (R-Ariz.) and Mike Castle (R-Del.) intervened before Renzi had a chance to beat the daylights out of the more diminutive Kirk. Then somehow, sources say, Renzi got into it with Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-N.Y.). One source said they “looked like two bull seals going at each other.”

At first, sources reported to HOH that Renzi had “choked” Kirk. But both Renzi’s and Kirk’s offices denied that assertion. Joe Brenckle, a spokesman for Renzi, described the incident as “a heated exchange between two Members after which Kirk apologized and my boss accepted his apology.”

Matt Towson, a spokesman for Kirk, did not know anything about an apology. He described the argument as “a heated discussion.” When pressed further about whether Kirk felt assaulted, Towson said, “We’re abiding by Ronald Reagan’s Eleventh Commandment, ‘Thou shall not speak ill of a fellow Republican.’”

The floor tussle wasn’t the first sign that Renzi was riled up over the stem-cell polling being conducted behind his back by the moderate Republican Main Street Partnership. According to sources, Renzi had called Castle on the phone earlier to complain about the polling, ending the conversation with, “You are ignorant and you can stick your poll up your [expletive].”

Castle’s office did not return calls Tuesday seeking comment.

She’s Baaack. Poor Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio). The salacious tale of Jessica Cutler, the Senator’s former staff assistant who created a Web log describing her naughty trysts with various men around Washington, D.C., has resurfaced — thanks to a senior DeWine aide. He was one of Cutler’s boyfriends, not realizing he was part of a six-pack.

Robert Steinbuch, DeWine’s counsel on the Judiciary Committee, has filed a lawsuit against Cutler in U.S. District Court seeking unspecified damages for “invasion of privacy” and “emotional distress.”

“The widespread public dissemination of private facts have caused Plaintiff to suffer severe emotional distress, humiliation, embarrassment, and anguish,” the complaint reads.

The lawsuit, which contains tawdry descriptions of Steinbuch’s and Cutler’s sexcapades and pillow talk — and which is available for the whole world to download from the court’s Web site — is just as embarrassing.

The suit says Cutler, who was known as Washingtonienne on her now defunct blog, revealed very intimate facts about Steinbuch, including: “the number of times he ejaculated, has difficulty in maintaining an erection while wearing a particular condom provided by Cutler, spanking and hair pulling during their sexual activity (but conveniently leaving out Cutler’s request of both), his intimate personal conversations with Cutler during sexual activity and during the course of their relationship, physical descriptions of his naked body, the physical details of the sexual positions assumed by Cutler and Plaintiff during sexual activity, Plaintiff’s suggestion that he and Cutler be tested for sexually transmitted diseases so that they would not have to make use of a condom, statements made by Plaintiff regarding sexual positions.”

Steinbuch’s lawsuit also points out that as Cutler is describing her sexual relations with “RS” — as she referred to him on her blog — she also gives graphic details on the sex with her other five guys, some of whom she said paid her for the fun.

“Other private and personal facts were scandalized to attract more attention,” the lawsuit alleges. “For example, Plaintiff’s response to Cutler’s question ‘am I too lazy in bed’ of ‘I don’t mind passive’ was presented as ‘he told me he likes submissive women.’”

Cutler, who cashed in big time on her brief fame as a Capitol Hill hussy, first posing for Playboy.com and then taking a $300,000 advance to write a book, due out June 1 from Hyperion Press, did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment. Jonathan Rosen, a lawyer for Steinbuch, told HOH he realizes that it’s a “Catch-22” to file an invasion-of-privacy lawsuit with the very scandalous details that provoked the lawsuit, but said that’s what the court required.

“We’re not seeking any publicity in this case,” Rosen said. “The whole point is [Steinbuch] was harmed by publicity.”

Newsweek Fallout, Part Deux. The political furor over a now-retracted Newsweek report that U.S. military personnel desecrated the Quran while interrogating Islamic captives at Guantanomo Bay continued to roil Hill on Tuesday, with more fireworks expected today.

Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas) is planning to introduce a resolution in the House on Wednesday condemning Newsweek for “irresponsible and inaccurate journalism,” according to the Texas Republican’s office.

The Neugebauer resolution, which was still a work in progress Tuesday night, will note that a free and independent press is vital for the success of any democracy while at the same time cautioning U.S. media outlets that their now global reach requires greater accuracy and responsibility than has been demonstrated up until now.

House Republican Conference Chairwoman Deborah Pryce (Ohio), for her part, is urging all Congressional offices to cancel their subscriptions to Newsweek as a way of punishing the magazine.

“I urge the magazine and members of the media to return to the journalistic integrity that the public deserves, and I encourage every Congressional office to cancel their subscription to Newsweek until accountability is restored,” Pryce said Tuesday.

HOH notes that Newsweek, like Roll Call, is distributed free of cost to many offices on the Hill.

Meanwhile, the back-and-forth continues between Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) and Newsweek reporter Michael Isikoff, who wrote the original Quran item two weeks ago. (The Bush administration, although the Pentagon had reviewed the entire story, did not challenge the story until Friday.)

Ney went to the House floor Monday and bashed Isikoff, calling the star reporter a “yellow journalist.”

Some Hill insiders, including Republicans, questioned why Ney launched such a vitriolic attack on Isikoff. Several sources said Isikoff in recent weeks was pursuing a story about Ney’s overseas junkets and the Congressman’s ties to former Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who is the subject of both federal and Congressional investigations into his business ties with Native American tribes.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a liberal watchdog group, confirmed that members of that organization had spoken to Isikoff about Ney.

“It is ironic that Mr. Ney is publicly expressing outrage over Mr. Isikoff’s alleged ethical lapse at the same time that he himself is refusing to take responsibility for his own unethical conduct,” CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said.

Ney, through spokesman Brian Walsh, fired right back. “Let me be as clear as I can on this. Ney’s speech on the floor yesterday had absolutely NOTHING to do with any unrelated issues that Isikoff may or may not have been working on, and any suggestion otherwise is absolutely FALSE,” Walsh wrote in an e-mail to HOH.

Walsh pointed out that Ney is the co-chairman of the U.S Afghan Caucus along with Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), who also bashed Newsweek on the House floor on Monday, speaking right after Ney.

Walsh conceded that it probably would have been a smarter play for Ney politically to have avoided speaking out publicly on the Newsweek issue if he was worried that Isikoff was writing a story on him. He declined to respond to CREW’s charges, calling the group “discredited” and “irrelevant.”

John Bresnahan contributed to this report.

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