Sens. Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey join forces again in effort to protect children

This week marks one year since Sens. Joe Manchin ­­
(D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey
(R-Pa.) formed their unlikely alliance to strengthen background-check laws on gun sales.

Manchin was seeking a Republican to team up with after the school massacre in Newtown, Conn. So he approached border-state pal Toomey, and the two drafted a modest proposal that still enraged the National Rifle Association, and failed to get enough votes in the Senate, but did earn them a spoof on “Saturday Night Live,” with actors Jason Sudeikis and Bill Hader as their stand-ins.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

A year later, it was Toomey’s turn to ask for Manchin’s help on background checks — not for guns, but for school employees. The Republican senator has been pushing a bill that would require any school that receives federal funds to perform background checks on all existing and new employees, including contractors. There is currently no national standard.

On Wednesday, the senators penned an op-ed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about their latest joint effort. The legislation was inspired by the 1997 murder of a 12-year-old boy in West Virginia by a teacher who had been fired from a Pennsylvania school for molesting a student.

Though their shared causes are solemn ones, the two senators seem to enjoy their fraternity.

Toomey told the Loop: “Joe Manchin is interested in getting things done. This isn’t the first time or the last time we will team up on bipartisan legislation. He is a strong partner in my effort to protect children from sexual and violent predators.”

So the team’s back together. But don’t look for another “SNL” parody.

Just a wee question

It took a 6-year-old to leave Hillary Clinton speechless about her political plans.

The former first lady, senator and secretary of state, who after Tuesday is officially “thinking” about running for president, did not have an answer to a final question from an elementary-schooler who inquired about the most pressing political mystery — with a new twist.

“In 2016, would you prefer to be called Madam President or Mrs. President?” the girl asked through a moderator at an event in Portland, Ore. (Yes, sticklers, 2017 would be the year for such choices — but the kid is 6 and delightfully precocious.)

Her question drew applause and laughter as Clinton sat smiling — but never answering. She leaned in toward the moderator and said it was a really good question. As she got up to walk off stage, she paused, looked at the audience and offered an exaggerated shrug.

The Loop believes the young questioner has a promising future in political journalism.

In debt, but on time

Facing jail time does not come with a “Get Out of Campaign Finance Reporting” card.

Disgraced former congressman Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.), charged with several counts of public corruption that included embezzling money from a family business to help pay for his first congressional campaign in 2002, filed his quarterly Federal Election Commission report Wednesday. It shows him nearly half a million dollars in debt.

Renzi, who did not seek reelection in 2008, because he was under investigation, faces three years in prison. But he appealed the charges, and a federal court agreed in February to let him stay out of jail during the appeal.

Most of the debt is from personal loans Renzi made to his campaign committee, though he owes Patton Boggs $106,157 in legal fees. Renzi’s campaign coffers have $1,244 left — little surprise, no campaign donations came in last quarter — so the lawyers probably won’t see that money anytime soon.

But the campaign got its ­11-page report filed on time, so that’s something.

It’s not uncommon for politicians to use their hard-earned fundraising dollars to pay legal bills that result from their own alleged wrongdoing. In February, for example, New Jersey election officials said Gov. Chris Christie (R) could use his campaign money to pay back bills incurred in the bridge matter.

Let’s go to the videotape!

Washington’s latest sex scandal — involving newly installed Rep. Vance McAllister (R-La.) and an aide — may seem just another in a long history of sordid behavior on the part of congressional and administration officials. But this appears to be the first uncovered by actual video evidence.

There have been photos, of course — for example, a selfie tweeted by then-Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.). Other scandals have included flirtatious e-mails, such as those that led to the resignations of Reps. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) and Chris Lee (R-N.Y). And there was the spectacular video of President Bill Clinton hugging Monica Lewinsky along a rope line of supporters greeting him on the South Lawn of the White House.

But most often there are scarcely any photos of the two lovers together, much less a videotape showing them, if not in flagrante delicto, then at least seriously making out. The surveillance video allegedly shows the married McAllister, with the back of his shirt out, and Melissa Peacock, his also-married district scheduler, in an extended and most passionate embrace.

And although there have been calls for McAllister’s resignation (Peacock is already off the payroll), the congressman told the Monroe News Star that he intends to run for reelection “unless there is an outcry for me not to serve, and so far there has been an outpouring of support.”

Well, people can surmount these obstacles. Remember that Mark “The Hiker” Sanford, then the governor of South Carolina, told his wife he was on the Appalachian Trail when in fact he went to Argentina to be with his mistress. Last year, the Republican easily won election to the House.

— With Colby Itkowitz

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop. Twitter:@InTheLoopWP.

Colby Itkowitz is a national reporter for In The Loop.
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