The Sept. 6 On the Hill column incorrectly said that Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) was in line to become the ranking Republican on the Veterans' Affairs Committee. Sen. Richard Burr (N.C.) is in line for that position. Murkowski is in line to move up in seniority on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
Lost in the Shuffle, a Milestone
The Senate is full of pomp and circumstance at the slightest historical moment, so it was a stunning oversight on Aug. 3 when not a bit of attention was given to Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), with a 45-year career in the chamber, as he cast his 15,000th vote.
No laudatory speeches that night, no commemoration, no pause to recognize an achievement reached by only two other senators: the late Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.), who cast 16,348 votes; and Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.), who was sitting on 18,081 roll calls as of the start of this week.
Just how upset was Kennedy at the slight? Not the least bit -- because he had no clue of his accomplishment.
After some cajoling from On the Hill yesterday, Kennedy offered a confession about his momentous vote: He had "absolutely no idea" that he had reached the threshold when voting "nay" on President Bush's preferred plan to expand domestic surveillance of alleged terrorists through courts overseen by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
In fact, no one in the chamber or on Kennedy's legendarily loyal staff was aware of the importance of the moment until aides realized the historic nature of the vote "about three or four days ago," said Kennedy, who was vacationing at Hyannis Port when he recognized just how big a deal -- personally and politically -- the FISA vote was. "They called me at the Cape," said Kennedy, 75, laughing at the oversight.
So, after recognizing the slip-up, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) tried to pay proper respect to the senatorial lion, opening the chamber Tuesday with a tribute to Kennedy's milestone and noting that it occurred during the frantic final day of the summer session, during which the chamber passed a flurry of bills and everyone was in a hurry to bolt for the four-week August recess.
Kennedy confessed that the tributes from Reid, Byrd and others on Tuesday were more touching than he expected. He recalled his first campaign, in 1962, trying to take the seat his brother John F. Kennedy had held before moving to the White House. Teddy Kennedy, 30 years old at the time, was told by his critics that his problems were "youth and inexperience."
"And I said," Kennedy recalled yesterday, "that can be overcome with time."
Talk about going the extra mile for your boss.
Phil Singer, a veteran congressional aide who is now spokesman for Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign, is raising money for the Marine Corps Marathon, which he plans to run for the worthy cause of -- get this -- Hillary Clinton for President.
In the previous two marathons he ran, back when he worked for the senior senator from New York, Chuck Schumer, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Singer raised beaucoup bucks to fight Parkinson's disease, cancer and tuberous sclerosis. This time, he's raising money to fight Barack Obama and John Edwards.
"Running a marathon is hard. So is running for president," Singer wrote in a recent e-mail solicitation. "That's why I'm dedicating my marathon effort to helping my boss -- Hillary Clinton -- raise money for her marathon effort to become the next President of the United States."