All Right -- I'll Vote for Me, Too

By Al Kamen
Friday, January 25, 2008

With Congress deadlocked over how to fill four open seats on the Federal Election Commission, the two remaining commissioners sat surrounded by empty chairs yesterday during their first meeting of the year, our colleague Matthew Mosk reports.

The vacancies have left the commissioners powerless to conduct almost any official duties, but that didn't stop them from meeting to conduct important business.

At the top of their agenda: selecting a vice chairman. With David Mason already occupying the chairman's seat, there was not a lot of suspense on this one.

"I suppose I should say, 'I am shocked. I had no idea!' But, well, this is a very unusual circumstance," Commissioner Ellen Weintraub said after Mason nominated her. Weintraub's selection was unanimous. Breaking with protocol, she voted for herself.

Finding His Voice

Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who is incredibly soft-spoken, has been a reporter's nightmare for three years as the majority leader. You can't hear him half the time, and you have to stick your digital recorder really close to him to pick up everything.

So, at yesterday's leadership briefing, Reid starts by telling the assembled press he's angry no one had asked what his New Year's resolution was:

"I'm going to try to talk louder," he said.

The press corps broke into loud applause.

Thanks, but No Thanks

A refreshing sign of the times? Rep. James Walsh (R-N.Y.) announced yesterday that he is leaving Congress after 20 years in the House. Walsh, 60, narrowly defeated a challenger, former Ways and Means Committee aide Dan Maffei, in 2006 and was looking at a tough reelection.

But the decision must have been made recently. On Tuesday morning, at a campaign fundraising breakfast in Syracuse, Walsh gave a spirited defense of his record. We're hearing he picked up maybe $30,000 at the breakfast. Maybe he had an epiphany as he was walking out with the cash? Maybe he got tired of fundraisers?

In any event, he told his staff on Wednesday he is leaving. And we hear he also announced he is giving back the money. There have been other lawmakers over the years, in both chambers and on both sides of the aisle, who have not been so generous.

A Conspiracy? Surely You Jest.

So what happened to those pages of a bipartisan transportation commission report advocating major improvements in the nation's infrastructure? You know, the one talking about federal government involvement in improving rail transportation? The one that Paul M. Weyrich, the conservative guru and railroad-improvement advocate, worked on?

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