Insurer balks at Rep. Wasserman Schultz's political travel to Israel

Much to her surprise, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) was denied life-insurance coverage earlier this year simply because she might travel to Israel in the future — and today she’s going to do something about it. To reflect her higher salary after making the jump from the Florida Legislature to Congress last year, as well the birth of her third child in 2003, Wasserman Schultz applied for a larger insurance policy through AIG than the one she already had through another company.

Much to her surprise, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) was denied life-insurance coverage earlier this year simply because she might travel to Israel in the future — and today she’s going to do something about it.

To reflect her higher salary after making the jump from the Florida Legislature to Congress last year, as well the birth of her third child in 2003, Wasserman Schultz applied for a larger insurance policy through AIG than the one she already had through another company.

When the company asked her husband, Steve, whether they might travel to Israel, he replied yes. She explained to The Hill that, although she had been to Israel three times previously, she had no specific plans to do so.

Nevertheless, she said, “They rejected me specifically for that reason.”

A letter from the company to her said: “We will be able to reconsider this decision once you have returned from Israel and there are no future plans to travel to any countries of concern.”

That designation is one the congresswoman vigorously disputes. She noted that the state department does not list Israel as a terrorist state, and that the intentional death rate there is only 11/100,000 per year. In the United States, the rate is 17/100,000 per year.

“Our life reinsurers impose the policy,” said AIG spokesman Joe Norton. Reinsurers are companies that write huge policies for insurance companies to protect them against catastrophic loss. “There is a list of countries imposed by the reinsurer,” Wilson said, which includes Vietnam, Iraq and several African countries.

“We’re fully aware of a problem, and we’re continuing to look for solutions,” he said.
But Wasserman Schultz may do it for them if she has her way. Her Life Insurance Fairness for Travelers Act, to be introduced today as an amendment to the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, would prohibit companies from discriminating “based upon the intent of [a] person to engage in lawful foreign travel.”

Alexander and Oberstar in wilderness

When Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) takes his family on a canoe trip to northern Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area next month, as he’s done for the past 25 years, he might think of checking in with Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.).

Oberstar, whose district includes the million-acre wilderness area on the Minnesota-Canada border, might even want to tag along, as he was instrumental in helping his former boss, then-Rep. John Blatnik (D-Minn.), pass the legislation creating the area.

Alexander revealed his fondness for paddling — and portaging — his 37-foot Kevlar canoe through the Minnesota lake country last week as he took to the Senate floor to speak on behalf of legislation to allow the Boy Scouts to camp out on federal property.

He called the area “one of the Boy Scouts’ most important adverture outdoor programs. Whether they are there in the winter, when it is 20 [degrees] below, or in July, when there are a lot of mosquitos, these young men learn to take care of themselves.”

He and his wife, Honey, and two sons and two daughters have been going to the area since Tennessee businessman and friend John Parish touted it to them.

We hope Alexander wears the famous red plaid shirt he wore while campaigning for governor, president and the Senate. It might be helpful in scaring off the bears and mosquitos.

PETA sends mice care package to DeLay’s office

So thankful is People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) for the kid-glove treatment with which Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s (R-Texas) staff has handled two mice in his office, the animal-rights organization Tuesday night sent a package to thank Chief of Staff Tim Berry — and help him continue to protect the little critters.

 According to a release, PETA sent Berry, who gave the hands-off order regarding the mice, a thank-you note as well as “some state-of-the-art humane mousetraps that he can use to catch the mice and release them safely outside, despite the Hill’s abundance of ‘hawks.’”

DeLay spokesman Kevin Madden could not confirm whether Berry had received the package, citing the sometimes-slow pace of the mail on the Hill.

PETA’s wildlife biologist, Stephanie Boyles, said, “Berry’s defense of the mice is not only humane, it’s fiscally sound.” She explained that without removing the “unsealed food and overflowing trashcans” that attract the mice, an “endless trap-and-kill cycle” ensues.

DeLay, a former exterminator himself, ought to know.

But the problem has been going on for some time. As first reported in this space, reporters attending a question-and-answer session in DeLay’s conference room in March were surprised to see a pest-control trap in the corner.

Reporter: Cheney’s not presidential material

If Vice President Cheney is indeed a “serious darkhorse” candidate for president in 2008, as Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward recently suggested, he probably won’t want to enlist legendary White House reporter Helen Thomas to help with his press relations, even though she has proposed a campaign strategy he could run on.

Thomas, a syndicated columnist for Hearst Newspapers who has covered the White House since the Kennedy administration, wrote in May that Cheney “certainly could campaign on the theme that he has had experience in running the White House.”

Thomas made the suggestion in a column she wrote about President Bush’s not being notified about a terror scare caused by an off-course Cessna airplane until after it was over, according to Editor & Publisher magazine.

Declaring that the incident “again raises the question of who’s running the show,” Thomas also noted Cheney’s central role on Sept. 11 and the widely held view that he is “probably the most powerful vice president in recent times, perhaps in U.S. history.”

But asked this week if she is promoting a Cheney candidacy, Thomas made it clear she isn’t.

“The day I say Dick Cheney is going to run for president, I’ll kill myself,” she told The Hill. “All we need is one more liar.”

Thomas added, “I think he’d like to run, but it would be a sad day for the country if he does.”

Activist lands in the hot seat

Politicians aren’t the only ones who often find themselves hoisted on their own petards when they say something they wish they hadn’t.

Case in point: Elouise Cobell, an Indian-rights leader from Montana’s Blackfeet tribe who is the lead plaintiff in a 9-year-old lawsuit over the federal government’s mismanagement of Native American Trust Fund accounts, found herself in an awkward position when she appeared before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee on Tuesday.

Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) pointedly reminded her that he wasn’t pleased with her comment in a Montana newspaper in which she said McCain’s bill aimed at resolving the lawsuit “reminded me of the Baker Massacre at Blackfeet, when they gave Heavy Runner this piece of paper. They said, ‘Hold it up. It will keep you safe.’”

Noting that she made the comment “before anyone had time to read and fully understand the bill,” an obviously irked McCain said he could understand why some Indian leaders are disappointed with his bill because “no one gets everything they want.” But, he added, “It cannot credibly be compared to a massacre, even in a figure of speech.”

Sen. Clinton’s cookies are raising cash

A group of supporters is using one of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s (D-N.Y.) finest domestic moments to raise some cash for her as-yet-undeclared presidential candidacy.

In 1996, Clinton won a would-be first-lady bake-off against North Carolina Republican Elizabeth Dole, who also happens to be a senator herself now.

The folks at www.hillarynow. com are hawking chocolate chip cookies using that recipe. Baked by Anna Lia Notardonato-Hicks of Nashville, Tenn., the cookies are going for $18 for a package of 10, plus $7 shipping and handling. That’s $2.50 per cookie, a bit steep, but they are rather big — 4.5 inches in diameter.