Thomas keeps his cool despite chaos

The House did its best to mimic the British House of Commons on Thursday, as repeated gavels by the presiding officer could not stem the boos, catcalls and insults that rained down upon various speakers.

The House did its best to mimic the British House of Commons on Thursday, as repeated gavels by the presiding officer could not stem the boos, catcalls and insults that rained down upon various speakers.

After Rep. Charlie Rangel’s (D-N.Y.) substitute amendment to the tax reconciliation package failed, Rangel made a motion to recommit.

As the sides began to debate the motion, several members lingered on the floor from the previous vote, and well, they got to talking.

Repeated calls for order from Democrats and gavels from the chair weren’t enough to silence them as Rangel and Rep. Richard Neal (D) spoke.

When it was Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas’s (R-Calif.) turn to speak, Rangel waited about one sentence before blurting out, “House is not in order.”

Thomas, who must have been anticipating it, quickly retorted, “That doesn’t disrupt my rhythm, notwithstanding the gentleman’s attempt.”

Pausing to absorb the laughs and cheers from his side, Thomas added, “I assure you it’s not out of kindness.”

Rangel figured in an earlier exchange as well. “Don’t get rattled,” Rangel chided Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as they debated the tax measure.

“Not at all,” replied Ryan.

Less than a minute later, Rangel’s rhetoric took a patronizing turn. “So I need some help on this, young man,” he said of Ryan, who is 40 years his junior. “If I can’t get answers from you, I will get someone that can give answers.”

Ryan said through a spokeswoman that he didn’t take it personally.

Neither exchange was printed in full in the Congressional Record. But both, in fact, paled in comparison to the scene that ensued later, when Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) offered a privileged resolution denouncing the “culture of corruption” and calling on the Speaker “to take such steps as necessary to prevent any further abuse.”

The reading clerk was forced to suspend her reading at least a dozen times on account of GOP catcalling and general noisiness.


Rahm vs. Tom: The cold war that wasn’t?

Have campaign-committee rivals Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) and Tom Reynolds (R-N.Y.) let bygones be bygones?

It sure seems so, at least to hear Emanuel tell it. In an interview with reporters from The Hill last week, Emanuel said, “We have a good friendship. When I got the appointment to this job, who was the first phone call? Tom Reynolds. We talk all the time. We always see each other; we’re always joking. He’s a good guy.”

To prove it, he even showed a gift that Reynolds just gave him: a fire-hydrant-shaped stress reliever from his upstate New York fire station.

“They gave it to him, and he said, ‘I got one other guy that needs this in Congress,’” Emanuel said.

But perhaps Reynolds was just returning the favor of a stress-management tip.

In September, Emanuel told The Hill, “I feel for Tom. … He’s under a lot of pressure. I have nothing but empathy for him. My recommendation: work out. It helps you deal with stress.”

This came after Reynolds called Emanuel “Mr. Righteous.”

So the cold war has thawed? That’s not quite accurate, said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokeswoman Sarah Feinberg.

“There was never bad blood. That has always been something that has been overstated,” she said. “They have had a lot of fun together this cycle already in green rooms around town.”


Former chiefs of staff make good

A reception in HC-8 tomorrow night honors those former Hill chiefs of staff who now, as members of Congress, have their own chiefs of staff.

Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) are former senior aides, along with 16 members of the House.

The House Administrative Assistants Alumni Association hosts the annual event, attended by current and former chiefs.

According to one of the organizers, the event has been held for “six or seven” years, but this is the first time it’s honored former chiefs who are now members.


Christmas tree cam delights holiday voyeurs

So it turns out that Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) can take credit for the annual Capitol Christmas Web cam.

The camera is positioned in the Senate chaplain’s office, overlooking the stately 80-foot Engelmann spruce from the Santa Fe National Forest. The image refreshes every 60 seconds to give viewers a new, updated look.

The chaplain’s office could only confirm that, yes, the camera was positioned in their window, so they sent us upstairs to Reid’s office for more info. As it happens,  that the website is a duty assumed by the Democratic leader’s office.

Former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) started the tree cam in 1997, when the tree hailed from his home state, and it has continued ever since. 

The website, at demcenter. senate.gov/treecam, is, quite surprisingly, the most visited Senate website when it is operational, said Reid spokeswoman Tessa Hafen. 


Alito nomination: From bad to verse

’Twas one month before the hearings, and all through the city

Not many Democrats were waiting, not even some on the committee

The hard left was already distorting his rulings

Why wait for the hearings if you oppose all the president’s doings?

Some senators asked for privileged documents, no exception

So much for the “so-called” right to privacy protection

From strip searches to abortion, “he’s an extremist!” they wailed

But we’ve heard it before — against Judge Roberts, it failed

Of course the attacks will not turn the public

“Confirm him,” they say. “We want independent courts in our republic!”

From Don Stewart, communications director to Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas)


Specter and Leahy: Science guys

Scientific American magazine has included Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and ranking member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) among its Scientific American 50 for 2005.

The pair is honored as “Policy Leaders” for introducing the Personal Data Privacy and Security Act, which would “give Americans greater control over information that businesses and government agencies collect on them.”

They join a world-renowned researcher who cloned stem cells from adults and also created the first cloned dog; the creators of a skin patch that may eventually deliver flu vaccine; and a developer of synthetic DNA.


Dingell marks half a century

Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) began his tenure in Congress exactly 50 years ago today.

He’ll celebrate the milestone with President Bush at a White House luncheon today, although the major celebration has already been taken care of: a tribute to Dingell with Vice President Cheney and former President Clinton was held at the National Building Museum in late October.

The 79-year-old lawmaker is already the third-longest-serving House member in history. He was sworn in on Dec. 13, 1955, after winning a special election to serve out the remainder of his late father’s term.

Since then, he has served in Washington with 10 different presidents. Dingell has said he plans on staying long enough to overtake former Rep. Jamie Whitten (D-Miss.) in 2009 as the longest-serving member in history.

Together, Dingell and his father already hold the father-and-son congressional-longevity record of more than 73 years.

“I made some fine, dumb-ass blunders,” he told USA Today last week. “I’m smart enough to admit I made the mistakes. I’m not dumb enough to tell you what they are.”


Chertoff takes in ‘Syriana’

Hill spies say Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff was in the audience for a showing of “Syriana” at the Loews Georgetown theaters Sunday night.

The controversial flick, which stars George Clooney, concerns intelligence gathering in the Middle East, the psychology of suicide bombers and the fallacy of U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

Last week, after a VIP screening at the same theater, writer Stephen Gaghan told The Hill, “When the stakes are so high for the globe, the more engaged the public is the better.” He’ll undoubtedly be pleased to know that Chertoff is among the engaged.