Is There a Doctor in the Congress?

Posted September 26, 2007 at 6:34pm

Yep, there are 13 of them, according to a new report. And, there’s also a butcher (well, a meat-cutter, at least), but, alas, no baker or candlestick maker. [IMGCAP(1)]

As if we needed any more evidence, the report by the Congressional Research Service shows that Members of Congress are an eclectic bunch: 271 Members of the 110th Congress followed a predictable career path to Capitol Hill as former state legislators, but many Members have had zanier jobs prior to holding elected office, such as mortician, paper-mill worker, talk-show host, waitress and taxicab driver.

The report, titled “Membership of the 110th Congress: A Profile,” notes that the occupations “are not necessarily the ones practiced by Members immediately prior to entering Congress.” And, sadly, it doesn’t attach names to the professions, so it doesn’t tell you which Member, for example, you should consult with about the finer points of river-boat captaincy or bellhopping.

And for all of you staffers out there with aspirations of holding office someday, take heart — 101 current lawmakers spent time in your ranks.

Traditional Values. There’s no explaining why some Senate traditions, like Seersucker Thursday, stubbornly refuse to go away while others fade out. Like the tradition that Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) described on Tuesday during the ceremony to unveil the official portrait of Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.).

Warner recalled that back when he was first elected to the Senate in 13 B.C. — OK, so it was only 1979 — Senators were assigned “big brothers” who were supposed to guide you through your first years and beyond in the chamber. Warner was assigned Byrd as a big brother, along with the late Sen. John Heinz (R-Pa.). Warner remembered one bit of advice that big-brother Byrd gave the fresh-faced young Virginian. If asked to speak publicly unexpectedly, “he told me, ‘seize the rostrum and start talking, and eventually you’ll think of something to say,’” Warner quipped to hearty laughs from the audience.

Senate staffers say the big-brother system is, much like Warner and Byrd, part of a bygone era. It’s apparently been replaced with a more formal freshman orientation week for incoming Members, although newbies might themselves seek out the informal mentorship of a more senior Senator. Also, Senate staffers note that, these days, they’d have to make the program for big sisters, too, given the increase in the number of women in the chamber.

Good thing there are some traditions — like the bean soup in the cafeteria — that you can always count on.

Byrd’s Rules of Order. Because HOH can’t seem to get enough of Sen. Robert Byrd lately, she was particularly amused by the West Virginia Democrat’s dismissal of some hecklers from anti-war group CODEPINK during a hearing the Senator was chairing Wednesday.

The CODEPINK-ers, who have become almost as ubiquitous a presence at well-attended Hill events as Hermes-tie-wearing lobbyists (although certainly more flamboyantly dressed), were shouting during a hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee in which Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was making the case for more money to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Byrd, who’s a big believer in order and decorum and parliamentary procedure, wasn’t having any of it. “I’ve been ending this war since before you were born,” the august 89-year-old proclaimed to one of the younger members of the group. About 30 protesters were removed from the room, a CODEPINK spokeswoman said.

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