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Sen. Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho) has completed a reshuffling of his communications team with the addition of one of the longest-serving flacks on Capitol Hill and the departure of two press aides who served as point men during Craig's legal and political crisis last summer.

Susan Irby, who served for nearly 23 years with Mississippi Republican Trent Lott in the House and Senate before Lott retired to K Street in December, has become Craig's communications director.

She replaces Dan Whiting, the Washington-based press adviser who is leaving for a post with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Back in Idaho, Sid Smith has left as press secretary to become executive director of the Idaho Republican Party. During the scandal over Craig's arrest in an airport restroom, Whiting handled much of the national media and Smith the local press.

For Irby, it's a natural fit. Lott and Craig were close allies throughout the 1990s, and made up half of the "Singing Senators" barbershop quartet.

"I know that [Craig's] energy and leadership made possible the victories of the Reagan and subsequent Republican revolutions to cut spending, cut taxes, cut federal regulations and rebuild our national security," Irby told On the Hill. "Senator Craig is committed to maintaining that same level of dedication in his service to Idaho and the nation throughout his last term, and I'm honored to have the opportunity to work with him."

In her new job, Irby isn't likely to face anything resembling the media attention that her predecessors endured last fall. Craig intends to resign at the end of this year. His appeal to withdraw his guilty plea to disorderly conduct -- the charge that resulted from his arrest in a sting targeting lewd behavior in a Minneapolis-St. Paul airport bathroom -- is still pending before the Minnesota Supreme Court.

For those hesitant to believe Craig will resign -- he changed his mind several times last September -- the filing deadline to run for reelection in Idaho is March 21.

Byrd Rehospitalized

The Senate's longest-serving member, Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.), was readmitted to the hospital yesterday afternoon. According to Byrd's spokesman, Jesse Jacobs, the senator was hospitalized because of a reaction to antibiotics used to treat a urinary tract infection.

"His stay is expected to be brief," Jacobs said.

Byrd, 90, was first admitted to Walter Reed Army Medical Center last week after falling at his Virginia home. He was later released after doctors concluded he hadn't broken any bones.

Suffragette Station

Given the major role women voters are playing in this year's presidential race, the Capitol's women's caucus should have plenty to roar about at next week's annual gala, where it will unveil its legislative agenda.

The bipartisan Congressional Caucus for Women's Issues boasts members in Sen. Barack Obama's (D-Ill.) corner, others in Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's (D-N.Y.) camp and yet others siding with presumptive GOP nominee, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.).

Yet, Wednesday's dinner in the East Hall of Union Station will put partisan presidential politics aside -- don't worry, junkies, it's only for a few hours -- to unite around one happy bipartisan agenda.

The group's co-chairs say women have come a long way since gaining the vote 87 years ago.

"Today, women are expected to cast more than half the votes in the upcoming 2008 election, and the issues driving women to the polls in record numbers this year -- health care, the economy and education -- are issues the Congressional Caucus for Women's Issues has been tackling for 31 years," say Reps. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.).


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