Rules: Take that, Mr. Jefferson!

Thanks to a rule change passed by House Republicans Monday night, C-SPAN viewers will now be able to witness firsthand the tension between the House and Senate should another energy bill or tort reform package stall in the upper chamber.

The GOP caucus repealed a centuries-old rule prohibiting members from criticizing the Senate or senators from the House floor.

The change, offered by Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.), allows frustrated House members to single out their counterparts on the other side of the Rotunda by name. Until now, House members were restricted to referring to the Senate as “the other body.”
Thanks to a rule change passed by House Republicans Monday night, C-SPAN viewers will now be able to witness firsthand the tension between the House and Senate should another energy bill or tort reform package stall in the upper chamber.

The GOP caucus repealed a centuries-old rule prohibiting members from criticizing the Senate or senators from the House floor.

The change, offered by Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.), allows frustrated House members to single out their counterparts on the other side of the Rotunda by name. Until now, House members were restricted to referring to the Senate as “the other body.”
 

Associate Senate Historian Don Ritchie said the rule dates to Thomas Jefferson, who, as vice president, put together the first congressional rules manual. The original provision was designed to maintain civility between members and chambers by attempting to prevent members from questioning each other’s motives.

The House adopted Jefferson’s manual as its first set of rules and maintains much of its contents today, while the Senate does not.

The conservative Republican Study Committee, of which Feeney is a member, tracks House-passed bills that the Senate has defeated or disregarded.

“The world’s a very different place from when Thomas Jefferson was around,” Feeney told The Hill yesterday. But he added that it’s not “a conservative thing” because Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) has been trying to pass the same rules change for about 10 years.

Rohrabacher in Ukraine

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), a staunch anti-communist who briefly fought with the Afghan mujahedeen in the 1980s before coming to Congress, spent part of his winter holiday in Kiev, where he was touting free and fair elections.

Arriving in the former Soviet republic with five congressional colleagues just days before Ukrainians headed to the polls (for a makeup runoff election), Rohrabacher said he wanted “to give notice to all concerned that America was watching and would not tolerate the stealing of that election.”

Ukraine’s supreme court voided the Nov. 21 runoff election, which was marred by fraud. Viktor Yuschenko, a democratic reformer favored by Western countries over Russian-backed Viktor Yanukovich, won the second election.

Rohrabacher isn’t Yuschenko’s only tie to Washington. Yuschenko’s wife, Katyerina, a Ukranian-American from Chicago, is a former State Department official and a graduate of Georgetown University.


Ackerman saves the day

This is a story about how Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) helped avert a religious crisis as new members of the House posed for photos with Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) yesterday at a re-enactment of their swearing-in.

The near-crisis occurred when Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who is Jewish, asked Hastert to use a copy of the Old Testament for the re-enactment photo.

Her request sent Hastert’s aides scrambling to find a copy, but they weren’t able to.

Fortunately, someone pointed out that Ackerman keeps copies of the Old Testament and other Jewish prayer books in his office, where he often hosts minyanim, assemblies of 10 or more men required for Jewish community prayer.

Ackerman promptly delivered a copy of the Old Testament to Hastert’s office, which convinced Wasserman Schultz that he’s a mensch and bubbala.


Get-out-of-debt tour brings Nader to hometown

Even though he won only 89 votes in his hometown of Winsted, Conn., Ralph Nader is hoping that the hamlet in the Berkshire foothills (population 7,500) can help him replenish his campaign coffers, $450,000 in the red at last check.

Nader had been asking supporters for $100 in exchange for an autographed copy of his 40-year-old tome, Unsafe at Any Speed, or a cookbook written by his parents 13 years ago.

But on Dec. 23, in an empty storefront in Winsted, Nader was offering a special deal: At a display of hundreds of old books by himself and other authors, supporters could get four books for a $25 contribution, 10 for $50 or a whopping 20 for $100.

“We’re going to set a record for the highest ratio of books to political contributions,” Nader said. He even threw in an enticing bonus — a free 2002 “The Simpsons” calendar with any $25 purchase.

About 40 locals paid $5 to hear Nader reveal that he made an effort early last year to persuade Sen. John Kerry not to run for president. He said Kerry told him, “Ralph, I want you to know I have the best consultants ever,” prompting Nader to remind the crowd that “Robert Shrum is now 0-for-8” in presidential contests.

Nader concluded by saying, “You have to be strong enough to be humiliated. … Challenging this two-party system, you gotta be willing to lose, big time.” And true to his word, he’s putting his lack of money where his mouth is.
Broder’s story should ring true for Democrats

Democrats may be wishing they’d listened to David Broder, The Washington Post’s national political correspondent, when he appeared on a panel at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government late last year.

Talking about former President and Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson after Johnson biographer Robert Caro gave the annual Theodore H. White Lecture, Broder recalled a story told him by Johnson’s longtime friend and adviser Jim Rowe.

Noting that Rowe’s office was near the Post, Broder said Rowe “would often conduct these street-corner seminars ... and I owe him probably as much as any single person about trying to understand politics.

“[One day] he said, you know when I go to meet the Almighty, he says to me, ‘James, you have lived a good life, and I am going to reward you. You can have one amendment to the Constitution of the United States.’ He said, ‘David, do you know what my amendment would be?’ And I said no, and he said it would be very simple. He said no senator of the United States shall be eligible for the office of president.”

His point, Broder noted, “was the Senate, that’s a different set of skills entirely from what it takes to be an effective president.”

Death, defeat, disgrace have effect on ’05 Social List

Death, defeat, disgrace and departure from the halls of power will alter the Washington social scene in 2005.

The death of Rep. Robert Matsui (D-Calif.) and retirement of Rep. Amo Houghton (R-N.Y.) leaves just five House members on Washington Life’s 2005 Social List, while the defeat of former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and the retirement of Sen. John Edwards (D-S.D.) whittles to 13 the number of senators who are among those anointed by the magazine as the most “sought-after guests” at Washington’s “most exclusive social and charity events.”

And it’s likely that Secretary of State Colin Powell and Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson will lose their A-list status when they leave office.

However, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and his top political adviser, Bob Shrum, probably will remain on the list despite their failure on the campaign trail. But it remains to be seen if Franklin Raines, the deposed chairman of Fannie Mae, will keep his social credentials.