Byrd’s Back

Posted March 14, 2008 at 6:20pm

It’s no surprise that when 90-year-old West Virginia Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd went into the hospital earlier this month for what ended up to be an extended visit, rumors began to fly.

[IMGCAP(1)]One lobbyist, Anne Canfield, went so far as to send a blast e-mail Wednesday to clients with supposed intel that Byrd was stepping down and predictions regarding the jockeying likely to follow for the Senator’s coveted chairman spot on the Appropriations Committee.

“We have heard that Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) is resigning as Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee due to health conditions,” Canfield wrote, before describing the cherry-picking of committee seats likely to ensue.

Byrd’s staff caught wind of Canfield’s missive and quickly moved to quash the rumors. Byrd spokesman Jesse Jacobs sent Canfield an e-mail informing her that “there are no plans whatsoever” for Byrd to step down. Hours later, a humbled Canfield sent out a follow-up apologizing for the error.

“I’d like to extend my sincere apologies to Sen. Byrd,” said Canfield, who told HOH that she had gotten the information from someone with whom she regularly works. “I look forward to Sen. Byrd’s continued leadership as Chairman of the Appropriations Committee.”

True to form, Byrd, the longest-serving Member of Congress, was back on the Senate floor Thursday.

Carson’s Jeffersonian Moment. Newly elected Indiana Democratic Rep. André Carson wanted to use the U.S. Constitution for his swearing-in ceremony, but he didn’t pick just any copy of the Constitution. He picked one with a famous politician on its binding: Thomas Jefferson.

Carson, who is the second Muslim to be elected to Congress, is taking over for his late grandmother Rep. Julia Carson (D-Ind.). On Thursday, he decided to use the House Rules Manual for the ceremonial photo op in the Speaker’s lobby.

Carson’s campaign manager, Alex Zwerdling, says the Jefferson connection wasn’t planned.

“He was sworn in on the U.S. Constitution, which is the very document that he swore to uphold and protect,” Zwerdling told HOH of the decision.

While the move may have been inadvertent, Carson did follow Minnesota Democrat and fellow Muslim Rep. Keith Ellison’s lead.

Ellison, who was sworn in last January, used Jefferson’s copy of the Quran.

But even that wasn’t good enough for one GOPer. At the time, Virginia Rep. Virgil Goode lambasted Ellison for using the Quran instead of the Bible. So far, Goode has remained mum on whether Carson’s use of the Rules Manual is more kosher. Goode’s office didn’t return HOH’s calls.

Meek Draws the Line at Cuban. On Wednesday, HOH reported that Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.) was spotted passing the time on a flight from Vegas to Dulles with an unlit stogie, and now we hear that cigars are a real passion of the Congressman’s.

So much so, in fact, that he’s profiled in the latest issue of Cigar Aficionado, the bible of fine-smoke lovers. The article in the glossy lifestyle magazine, whose tagline is “The Good Life Magazine for Men,” recounts some of Meek’s favorite cigar moments: “I personally like to smoke on the western balcony of the Capitol, the one that looks out at the Washington Monument,” the article quotes Meek as saying. “Sometimes you have to go on a walkabout and think about policy.” His favorite recent smoke encounter was a “Padrón 1926 Serie 80 Years,” he reveals.

According to the mag, Meek likes to present boxes of Padrón cigars to dignitaries he meets on his Congressional travels.

And while Meek clearly appreciates a pedigreed smoke, he’s not about to light up a contraband Cuban. “I just won’t smoke Cubans,” the Floridian declares.

Knopp’s Saving Grace. Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole might fancy himself as a knight in shining armor trying to save the National Republican Congressional Committee’s finances, but he also got to show off his chivalrous side at the end of the annual NRCC dinner Wednesday.

Cole came to the rescue of NRCC Finance Director Janice Knopp, who was struggling to climb into a parked sport utility vehicle at the end of the night, according to an HOH tipster. As Knopp made her way out of the Washington Hilton, she struggled to get into the vehicle before falling flat on her back, the tipster says.

But Knopp had nothing to fear. Mere seconds later, none other than Cole jumped out of the front seat of the parked SUV and helped Knopp into the car.

“Chairman Cole is always willing to help a damsel in distress, especially when she just raised him $8.6 million,” NRCC spokeswoman Julie Shutley said of the incident.

There’s an ‘F’ in DeFazio. You’re running late, and you’re in an elevator. Someone sticks their hand in the door, and the doors open wide. Repeat the process three times, and you might have a better idea of why Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) dropped an unmistakable f-bomb in a crowded elevator last Wednesday.

DeFazio unleashed the Big F when the doors opened for the third time in a ride, at the hands of an unsuspecting young staffer who popped into the elevator. The shamed staffer, according to an HOH spy, promptly apologized. A DeFazio spokeswoman says her boss only meant the expletive as a “general expression of frustration” and didn’t intend to direct it to any particular person.

And, she says, her boss has found a better way to blow off steam: “Next time, he says he’ll take the stairs.”

Clinton’s Super-Hug. Those uncommitted superdelegates no doubt feel like the most popular folks in town, since they might, you know, end up choosing the next Democratic presidential nominee. So when Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) encountered a real, live one right under her nose, she unsurprisingly turned on the charm, big-time.

Thursday morning, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) was approaching a bank of elevators in the Senate-side basement of the Capitol when he spied Clinton near the elevators, too. “Well,” he said as he approached her, according to an HOH spy, “you never know who you might run into around here.”

Catching sight of Harkin, Clinton’s eyes lit up and a huge smile swept across her face. “Tom Harkin!” she exclaimed, and gave him a big hug. Harkin hasn’t endorsed Clinton or her rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.), although Harkin’s wife, Ruth, has said she’s in Clinton’s camp.

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