Millender-McDonald Reveals Few Details

Posted April 18, 2007 at 6:41pm

After feeling ill earlier this month, House Administration Chairwoman Juanita Millender-McDonald (D) visited at least one doctor in Washington, D.C., and returned home to California prior to the April recess for several more sessions with physicians before informing House Democratic leaders Friday that she is suffering from cancer.

According to Millender-McDonald’s chief of staff, Bandele McQueen, the Congresswoman, who has closely guarded information regarding her health over the years, has not even told her Capitol Hill staff what type of cancer she is suffering from or how aggressive it might be.

“We appreciate the concerns folks have for the Congresswoman, but at this point we don’t have any more information on the type of cancer or the type of treatment,” McQueen said.

Millender-McDonald’s official leave of absence, granted by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), extends through May 25.

“She’s not going into the office this week or anything, but by being in the district she will have the ability, whether it’s working from home or going into the office, to continue to conduct the business of the 37th,” said McQueen. “But right now the main focus is making sure that she’s well. Hence she’s asked for this leave of absence. … She is hoping to return as soon as possible.”

However, McQueen added, “I would be lying to you if my concern is her return to Congress. My concern is her return to good health.”

He added that Millender-McDonald has medical staff attending to her at home on an hourly basis, but he dismissed rumors that it was any kind of hospice situation.

On Wednesday, Millender-McDonald was elected, in absentia, to serve as vice chairwoman of the Joint Committee on the Library at the panel’s organizational hearing.

During that session, several Members on both sides of the aisle expressed their sympathy and wishes for a speedy recovery, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the newly elected chairwoman of the Library of Congress panel.

Immediately afterward, the Joint Committee on Printing held its organizational hearing, in which House Administration Vice Chairman Robert Brady (D-Calif.) was elected chairman of the joint panel (Feinstein will serve as his vice chairwoman). While the Printing gavel has in the past fallen to the chairman of the House Administration Committee, the decision that Brady would run the committee in the 110th Congress was made with input from the Democratic leadership well before Millender-McDonald announced her illness, according to Brady’s chief of staff.

Meanwhile Brady will be leading the House Administration Committee during Millender-McDonald’s absence, although he stressed on Wednesday that “I’m just keeping things warm until the lady comes back.”

But while giving his remarks at the joint committee’s meeting, House Administration ranking member Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.) — who also is serving on both joint panels and led the Library committee in the 109th Congress — jokingly referred to Brady as “Mr. Mayor” in reference to his ongoing campaign for mayor of Philadelphia.

The primary for that election will be held more than a week before Millender-McDonald is due to return from her leave of absence.

When asked about the joke after the hearing, Ehlers simply noted that Brady will have “a very busy life” chairing the committee while seeking another office.

“But,” he added, “it’s Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) appointment and he’s going to have to decide if he wants to do it” while he’s actively campaigning.

But even prior to this week’s news about Millender-McDonald’s illness, Republican committee staff have raised concerns about the panel’s inaction in certain areas of jurisdiction including the Capitol Visitor Center project and Smithsonian Institution. Meanwhile, other House and Senate committees have been holding hearings on those subjects.

Earlier this month, Ehlers wrote a letter to Millender-McDonald criticizing Democratic leaders for not yet appointing Members to serve on the Franking Commission, which oversees House lawmakers’ official mail. Ehlers pointed to a rise in unsolicited e-mail as “evidence of the toll that a lack of oversight has taken.”