Two miracles for John Paul II

Now that large numbers of Catholic clergy and laity are clamoring for sainthood to be bestowed on the late Pope John Paul II, the church will need to start verifying miracles he’s performed. Two of them involving members of Congress who attended the pope’s funeral can now be verified.

Now that large numbers of Catholic clergy and laity are clamoring for sainthood to be bestowed on the late Pope John Paul II, the church will need to start verifying miracles he’s performed.

Two of them involving members of Congress who attended the pope’s funeral can now be verified.

First, the late pontiff can take credit for bringing together two of the most bitter antagonists in Congress, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Not only did the pair issue a joint statement while leading a delegation of House members to the pope’s funeral last week, praising the pontiff as “a saint, a hero and a friend of the American people,” but Pelosi actually presented DeLay with a cake for his 58th birthday on the plane on the way home. Fourteen senators also attended the funeral.

DeLay and Pelosi were pressed into service to lead the delegation after Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) was hospitalized for kidney stones. That caused the 23 other members on the trip to wonder if “this could be prove to be an early test of John Paul’s miraculous powers,” Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), wrote in the Sunday New York Post.

The fact that the two got along so well made the delegation realize “we were part of something that dwarfed us all,” wrote King, who was relegated, along with his colleagues, to a Holiday Inn 25 miles from Vatican City. 

King was also involved in the other “miracle,” when he and Reps. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) and Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) appeared on MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews,” which was filmed at the Vatican immediately after the pope’s funeral.

“Even the usually hyperkinetic Matthews was subdued,” King said.

If the pope can bring bridge the differences between arch foes DeLay and Pelosi and keep Matthews from shouting, he really is ready for sainthood.

Lott: Working to fix Social Security

Why wait for President Bush to send a Social Security plan to the Hill? Maybe President Clinton will oblige.

Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) said that he recently called Clinton, whom Lott worked with when Clinton was in the White House and he was Senate majority leader, and that they ended up talking about Social Security reform. He said Clinton confirmed his memory of the outlines of a deal the two had sketched out during Clinton’s second term.

“If we had done then what he and I agreed to, we wouldn’t have had a problem with Social Security,” Lott said. “It would’ve been fixed.”

Lott phoned Clinton after the former president came to the Capitol to attend the funeral of Rep. Robert Matsui (R-Calif.). “He didn’t look good,” Lott said. “I called and said, ‘How ‘ya doin?’”

Lott and Clinton, who both have experienced political highs and lows, seem to share a bond — even though Lott voted to convict Clinton in the impeachment proceedings.

Feinstein to officiate wedding of constituent

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) soon will be performing a special favor for one of her constituents when she officiates at the June wedding of longtime bachelor Jerry Brown.

Brown, 67, the mayor of Oakland and former governor of California who is preparing to run for attorney general of the Golden State, will wed Anne Gust, with whom he’s lived for several years.

Gust, 47, is chief counsel of Gap Inc. and, like Brown, has never been married.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Brown popped the question after cooking Gust a birthday dinner of chicken, vegetables and salad March 15 in the loft they share in downtown Oakland. 

The pair met with Feinstein and her husband, Dick Blum, last month to start planning details for what Brown says will be a “simple, modest and elegant” civil ceremony.

As for the guest list, Brown said it will include his old girlfriend rock star Linda Ronstadt.

“Well, of course Linda will be invited,” he told the San Jose Mercury News. “She knows both of us.”

IRS head: Taxes as a book boost

Former Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner Charles Rossotti is hoping that the April 15 tax-filing deadline will give his new book about the IRS a big boost.

Rossotti’s book, Many Unhappy Returns: One Man’s Quest to Turn Around the Most Unpopular Organization in America, currently ranks 8,535th on Amazon.com.

“The book is really about why taxpayers got mad at the IRS and what should be done to fix it,” Rossotti, now a senior adviser for the Carlyle Group, told The Hill last month.

Rossotti, who headed the IRS from 1997 to 2002, is credited with transforming the agency’s outdated bureaucracy and technology to make it run more like a 21st-century business. But he said major reforms are still needed.

“There are a number of things wrong, but the enormous tax being imposed on every taxpayer and the large number of people and businesses who are not paying what they owe are the biggest problems,” he said.

The nonpayments and underpayments amount to more than $300 billion a year, Rossotti said, and the IRS collects only about 12 percent of that amount.

“There has to be some improvement to the tax code in the form of simplification and closing of loopholes, and the agency simply needs more resources,” he said.

As for the book’s catchy title, Rossotti said his daughter came up with it.

Sen. Johnson top gourmand at charity gala

Sen. Tim Johnson and his wife, Barbara, bested a field of about 50 other gastronomically inclined pols and Washington VIPs last week at the 23rd annual March of Dimes Gala.

Before the dinner at the National Building Museum, the Johnsons and their competitors participated in an appetizer cook-off. The Johnsons’ “Home on the Range Buffalo Chili” took the coveted Best in Show award. In addition to the buffalo sirloin, the secret recipe includes beef broth, a can of green chilies, chickpeas and pepper-jack cheese.

The Best Presentation Award went to Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt and his wife, Jackie, for their spanakopitas. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and his wife, Cheryl, took the Health & Happiness Award for their Fresh Start, a tomato-and-fruit salsa.

The American Regional Cuisine Award went to Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and his wife, Honey, for Fried Green Tomatoes. Finally, Rep. John Tanner (D-Tenn.) and his wife, Betty, won the Easiest Presentation Award for their shrimp ceviche.

Yushchenko: Gonna fly now, thanks to Weldon

Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.) had the honor last week of escorting Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko to his address before the joint session of Congress tomorrow.

A co-founder of the Ukrainian Caucus and co-chairman of the Congress-Rada Parliamentary Exchange Group, Weldon asked Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) to invite Yushchenko to address Congress. “The president showed strong and courageous leadership during his election and I think it is imperative that Congress express our gratitude at the commendable example he showed to the people of Ukraine,” Weldon said.

At a banquet following Yushchenko’s address, Weldon presented him with a personalized Philadelphia Flyers jersey. The jersey’s colors, Weldon said, not only reflect the “Orange Revolution” that occurred during the presidential elections but also are representative of the more than 50,000 Ukrainian-Americans who live in Pennsylvania.

One thing doesn’t sit right, however. The Orange Revolution in Ukraine was much less violent than the average Flyers hockey team.

Frist, Obama make magazine’s Time 100 list

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) are the only members of Congress to make Time magazine’s Time 100 list this year of the “world’s most influential people.”

Time praises Frist for passing class-action and bankruptcy reform but chides him for his “clumsy handling of the Terry Schiavo case.” Notes writer Massimo Calabresi, “As Bob Dole learned in 1996, running for the White House while running the world’s most deliberative body is a daunting task.”

Writer Perry Bacon praises Obama for shouldering an “almost impossible set of expectations” as only the third black senator since reconstruction.

The only others from inside the Beltway to make the list are President Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and former President Clinton, as well as conservative pundit Ann Coulter, who made the “Artists and Entertainers” list.