Reid drops Senate history class

Add Senate Historian Richard Baker to the list of those adversely affected by the defeat of Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.).
Add Senate Historian Richard Baker to the list of those adversely affected by the defeat of Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.).
patrick g. ryan
Sen. Reid, above, maintains that Senate Democrats have no time for Richard Baker’s historical minute.

Baker, whom Daschle recruited after he was elected minority leader in 1995 to give a brief talk about the history of the Senate at the weekly meetings of the Democratic caucus, was informed last week that the caucus won’t have time for him when Harry Reid (D-Nev.) succeeds Daschle in January.

“I was told that Senator Reid wanted to tighten up the schedule, so I will no longer be doing the Senate historical minute for the Democratic caucus,” said Baker, whose three-minute presentations are popular with most senators and with readers of The Hill, where they appear each Wednesday under his byline.

Baker said he can no longer justify taking the time to research and write the historical minutes now that he is no longer preparing them for the Senate caucus.

Too bad for Senate history buffs, who learned from Baker last week that the Senate set a record that will never be broken when 28-year-old John Henry Eaton was sworn in as a senator from Tennessee in 1818, thereby violating the minimum age of 30 set by the Constitution. “Apparently, no one asked John Eaton how old he was,” Baker wrote.

Baker also noted that three other senators were elected before their 30th birthday, two in the early 1800s and the third in 1935 when the father of Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) was elected just before his 30th birthday.

According to Baker, that gives Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.), the distinction of being the fifth-youngest person sworn in as a senator. Biden took the oath of office a month and a half past his 30th birthday.


Coleman can’t overcome the ties that bind

It happens almost every time a leadership spot opens up in the Senate, and the losing candidate discovers that he can’t rely on what his colleagues told him, or what he thought they told him.

The latest example is Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota, who lost his bid to become chairman of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee to Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina last week by a single vote.

Coleman told Minnesota reporters in a conference call last week that the biggest reason he lost was the long relationship that Dole, and her husband, former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.), had with many senators.

“Many of my colleagues were coming to me and saying, ‘Norm, I’d support you except I have ties or obligations that go back a long time,” Coleman said.

Coleman has said privately that there were three senators whose votes he was counting on that he didn’t get: Alaska’s Ted Stevens and Lisa Murkowski and newly elected Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.

Either Coleman wasn’t listening carefully enough or heard only what he wanted to hear when he asked the trio for their support.


Recognizing Sox: Ed Markey, poet laureate of ‘The Nation’

Eight members from the Boston area took to the House floor last week to support a resolution recognizing the Boston Red Sox for winning the World Series.

Their comments ranged from breathless to bittersweet, but the prize surely goes to Rep. Edward Markey (D), who penned a lengthy verse on the last moments of Boston’s exorcism of the Bambino’s curse.

A sample:

What deus ex machina would fall down from the sky?
What Bucky Dent/Bill Buckner ghost might steer things all awry?
Keith Foulke climbed up upon the mound, ball burning in his hand.
The Curse stepped up to face him, to make a final stand.
There was ease in the Curse’s manner as he stepped into his place.
There was pride in Bambino’s bearing, a smile on the Curse’s face.

So did Markey pen the poem himself? “These things are always a group effort,” said his spokesman, Israel Klein, but yes, the work was largely Markey’s own.

Rep. John Olver (D) conceded that he’s “not a poet and cannot really compete with” Markey, but he and the rest gamely offered up their thoughts as well.

Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) rose to remember the late Reps. Silvio Conte (D-Mass.) and Joe Moakley (D-Mass.), both fanatical Sox fans. “I think Silvio Conte would have the full Red Sox uniform on tonight making his remarks if he were here,” said Lynch.

Only one non-New Englander joined the praise for the Red Sox. Rep. John Duncan (R-Tenn.) congratulated his “longtime friend” Johnny Pesky, the legendary Sox player, coach and broadcaster. “I had the privilege as an 11- and 12-year-old boy of serving as his batboy for the Knoxville Smokies minor league baseball team and got to know him in 1959,” said Duncan.

Rep. Marty Meehan (D-Mass.) took a jab at the Sox’ hated rivals when he pointed out that the New York Yankees, “a team that has suffered without a championship since the year 2000 … will be “watching the Sox try on their rings.”

Members of the New York City delegation were not present to offer their rebuttal.


Hollings spills it, sort of: Just who were the drunks in 1966?

When retiring Sen. Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.) marked the end of his 38 years in the Senate on Nov. 16, he paid lavish tribute to his current colleagues but raised some doubts about the first group of senators he served with, in 1966.

“I don’t leave with the idea that the Senate is not what it used to be in the sense of personnel,” he said in his farewell speech. “We have a way better group of senators. We had five drunks or six drunks when I came here. There is nobody drunk in the United States Senate [today].”

Hollings’s remarks caused former senators and Senate aides and journalists who covered the Senate at the time to speculate on just whom he was referring to.

“There were two or three places senators could go to get a free drink, including the secretary of the Senate’s office,” recalled former Sen. Eugene McCarthy (D-Minn.).

McCarthy, who came to the Senate from the House in 1959, identified Russell Long (D-La.), Thurston Morton (R-Ky.), Warren Magnuson (D-Wash.), James Eastland (D-Miss.), Harrison Williams (D-N.J.) and Everett Dirksen (R-Ill.) as among those Hollings might have had in mind.

He said Long and Morton, who acquired the nickname “Thirsty,” often drank together, while Magnuson “sometimes came on the floor and was kind of vague as to where he was, and somebody said, ‘He walks from memory.’”

Robert Barrie, a retired lobbyist who was a Senate aide at the time, said it was not unusual to see a senator on the floor who was drunk, including at least one who had to be escorted off the floor. But most of the hard-drinking senators, including Long and Williams, later gave up drinking.

He added that Sen. Herman Talmadge (D-Ga.) “used to get an early start, and if you wanted to do any business with him, you had to see him in the morning.”


Bill Thomas: A committee of one?

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) wields such control over his committee that many wonder what say the other members of the panel have.

In fact, if Thomas had his way there might not be other members. Asked last week whether he would like to see the size of the committee trimmed in the next Congress, which he has tried to do in the past, Thomas quipped, “Yeah, I’d like to see it reduced to one.”

Josephine Hearn contributed to this page.