It has all the makings of a great story: Two of the Senate’s most powerful Democrats involved in a behind-the-scenes fight with their party’s 2004 presidential nominee over a $130,000-a-year federal appointment.
Better yet, it pits Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) against Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), and all 10 Democratic members of the Massachusetts House delegation, who has a different candidate for the job.
But it’s not quite what it seems, according to the central figure in the story, Kathryn Higgins, whom Reid and Kennedy have urged President Bush to appoint to the five-member National Transportation Board.
Higgins, who goes by Kitty, told The Hill on Monday that the Democratic infighting over her nomination is “just sort of a sideline” to the real story, which is White House inaction and opposition to her nomination by the Air Line Pilots Association.
“Senator Reid sent my name to the White House at the end of January” for one of two Democratic seats on the board that has been vacant since Jan. 1, Higgins said in a telephone interview from Albert Lea, Minn. She was en route to visiting her mother in Yankton, S.D.
Higgins, a former Kennedy staffer and Clinton White House aide and a longtime friend of former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), said Kerry and the Massachusetts House members want the job to go to Paul McCarthy of Marblehead, Mass. McCarthy, who is also backed by 32 House Republicans, is a former Navy and Delta Air Lines pilot and safety instructor for the Air Line Pilots Association.
“The House has no role in this at all,” Higgins said. “It’s a prerogative of the Senate. But the pilots association won’t get over it. They’re happier with a board that doesn’t have an obstreperous Democrat on it.”
However, Higgins said she is confident that she will have Kerry’s support in the end.
A source close to the situation said yesterday, “Reid isn’t backing down, and the White House wants the Democrats to work this out on their own. They don’t want to get involved in the Democratic intrigue.”
A Kerry spokesperson said yesterday, “There has not been any progress on her nomination at this point.”
Sen. Cornyn counters Reid with ‘Name that Speaker’
After weeks of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) distributing daily “history lessons” to highlight supposed Republican hypocrisy on filibustering judicial nominees, Sen. John CornynJohn CornynThis week: GOP picks up the pieces after healthcare defeat GOP senators pitch alternatives after House pulls ObamaCare repeal bill Rand Paul takes victory lap on GOP health bill MORE (R-Texas) is responding with a “Name that Speaker” feature.
The daily e-mail, Web and fax feature unearths a past quote from Democratic senators, usually while they were trying to confirm President Clinton’s judicial nominees.
Yesterday’s edition goes like this: “Wednesday’s Edition of Name That Speaker comes as the nomination of Justice Priscilla Owen has now reached the four years and two days mark. Your hint: this speaker was in the Senate during the Clinton administration. Remember, the rules are simple: Read the following quote and try to identify who said it. The answer appears below, but don’t cheat, make your guess before clicking for the answer.
“’If fewer women get confirmed, there are fewer lower court judges to elevate to the nation’s appellate courts. And if the judiciary remains a male bastion, as far as we’ve come in this country in recognizing equal rights for women, we risk creating the perception that gender biases will continue to plague our judicial system well into the 21st century.’ …
“If you guessed that the speaker was U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), you win!”
The idea is the brainchild of Cornyn spokesman Don Stewart, who started it about two weeks ago.
“I started with a list of quotes, [then] I got the context of them,” Stewart said. “There’s a wealth of quotes that show support for an up-or-down vote.”
So how long can he keep it up on a daily basis? “I can go forever,” Stewart said.
Asbestos bill is a boon to line standers
The markup of the asbestos trust-fund bill by the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday was quite the hot ticket.
One lobbyist with a dog in the fight said they had a line stander waited outside the committee room in the Dirksen Building for two days. Other organizations had line standers claiming places as far back as Friday. The going rate for their services was about $40 an hour.
Line standers have become big business on the Hill, $35-and-hour-and-up placeholders who wait. And wait and wait, so a lobbyist who needs to attend a packed hearing doesn’t have to. In other words, they sit on the sidewalk all night and the floor of the corridor all morning so that a lobbyist can get a seat.
Line standers routinely wait for 12 hours, 24 hours or more.
No word on whether thoe who waited five days at Dirksen stuck it out themselves the entire time or took shifts.
A scam roils Scarborough Country
Former Rep. Joe Scarborough (R-Fla.), who now makes his living as host of the MSNBC talk show “Scarborough Country,” was victimized by a fellow talk-show host last week when he commented on a fictitious newspaper story about California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R).
Citing the London Evening Standard, Scarborough said Schwarzenegger recently went on shock jock Howard Stern’s show and “offered this theory for how to prevent premenstrual syndrome, saying, ‘If we get rid of the moon, women, whose menstrual cycles are governed by the moon, will not get PMS. They will stop bitching and whining.’”
Scarborough raked Schwarzenegger over the coals for his comment, saying, “Hey Governor, the way to make 50 percent of California’s voting population turn frigid toward you. … Let me tell you something, friend, jokes about such subjects are not a laughing matter to women in America.”
But this week, a red-faced Scarborough told his listeners that he was the victim of a hoax. “Nice punch line, right,” he said. “Wrong, the governor never made such a statement.”
Scarborough offered a profuse apology to the Governator and to his listeners “for my terrible mistake” and blamed himself for not checking out the report.
He added, “When I was in Congress, I had a lot of false statements made or written about myself, and I learned that even after a newspaper or television show offered an apology, there were way too many people out there who wanted to believe the worst about public officials. They remember the story, but they overlook the correction.”
‘Frist filibuster’ protest comes to the Hill
About 100 college students from Princeton University and local universities took to the Reflecting Pool yesterday to continue Princeton’s “Frist filibuster” on the Senate majority leader’s home turf.
The protest against Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist’s (R-Tenn.) threatened “nuclear option” on judicial nominations began at Princeton on April 26 and has continued unabated for some 360 hours, as students have read from the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, textbooks and phonebooks. Their locale was the Frist Center, a $25 million building on campus paid for by Frist’s family.
About 50 Princetonians bused down to Washington in the early-morning hours yesterday, said Juan Melli-Huber, one of the organizers. Arriving at about 9 a.m., they set up shop at the Reflecting Pool with students from Georgetown, American, Trinity, Howard and George Washington universities and continued the “filibuster” in half-hour shifts.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) joined them later in the day. When the protest ends today at 11 a.m., organizers will hold a press conference. Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.), who represents Princeton, and Sen. Jon Corzine (D-N.J.) are expected to attend.
“This student-powered filibuster shows that political activism on college campuses is strong and building. It also demonstrates the overwhelming support for the 200-year-old institution of the Senate filibuster,” said Asheesh Siddique, editor of the Princeton Progressive Review, a magazine supported by the Center for American Progress in Washington and one of the filibuster’s sponsors.