Plopping Down Before the Cushion Gets Cold

By Mary Ann Akers And Paul Kane
Thursday, July 31, 2008

The indictment of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) this week has set off a game of musical chairs among Republicans to determine who ends up with his plum committee posts, which Stevens was forced to relinquish under Republican rules regarding senators facing felony indictment.

Acting quickly, the Senate Republican Conference met yesterday to fill the positions vacated by Stevens, as well as the spots of senators who moved up the leadership ladder to replace him. Technically, these are temporary moves. If Stevens can win reelection (no sure thing) and acquittal (ditto), he would get his committee posts back.

The biggest winner would appear to be Sen. Thad Cochran (Miss.), who already was ranking Republican on the Appropriations Committee. He replaced Stevens atop that panel in 2005, when Stevens was required to give up the post because of term limits.

But Stevens still held the position of ranking Republican on the defense appropriations subcommittee, which dishes out more than $450 billion in Pentagon funding. Now that Stevens gives up that position, Cochran, next in line based on seniority, has scooped up the ranking membership of the defense subcommittee. Best of all for Cochran, he's maintaining his ranking position on the homeland security subcommittee, because there are only two other Republicans who don't already have top subcommittee slots: Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who doesn't accept such positions; and Sen. Larry Craig, who is, well, retiring.

The other big winner was Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (Tex.), who takes over as ranking Republican on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. This makes Hutchison the top GOP voice on issues including airline safety, customer service, telecommunications policy and the railroad industry.

It's a nice position that Hutchison can use to promote herself back home as she considers a run for governor in 2010.

And Burlesque Is Different How?

It was a more likely venue for a bachelor party than a political fundraiser. Still, Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Tex.), a card-carrying conservative, chose to hold a fundraiser for his leadership political action committee at a Las Vegas burlesque club.

That's the same Pete Sessions who scolded Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake for forcing "their liberal values upon the rest of the country" after the 2004 Super Bowl halftime wardrobe malfunction.

Until now, Sessions was able to keep a lid on the fact that last year, his PAC held a fundraiser at the Forty Deuce club in Sin City. His PAC paid $5,378 to rent the entire club, whose Web site features scantily clad women and promises "sexy, sensual dancers" who shed "boa, gown and gloves."

The fundraiser was first reported on the public radio show "Marketplace" last week, even though the "Marketplace" interview with Sessions was conducted in December, ostensibly to discuss the congressman's role in Rudy Giuliani's now-defunct presidential campaign.

In the belatedly aired interview, Sessions corrected the reporter's assertion that the Forty Deuce is a strip club. "It is what I would call a burlesque show, where there's a woman who comes out and has a dress on," Sessions said. "She never gets naked. There's no nudity; there's no nudity in there."

Sessions's chief of staff, Guy Harrison, tells On the Hill that "it was as racy as a 1940s movie."

This year, Sessions held his annual Vegas fundraiser at the 40/40 sports lounge owned by hip-hop mogul Jay-Z. So maybe the congressman will get to keep that "true blue" award he won from the Christian conservative groups Focus on the Family and Family Research Council, after all.

Moving On

Senior Senate staffer David Wade is finally cutting the apron strings. Wade is leaving the office of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), the only politician for whom the 32-year-old aide has worked in his 11-year career on Capitol Hill, to become spokesman for Sen. Barack Obama's running mate (whoever that may be).

Today is scheduled to be Wade's last day in Kerry's office before he jets off to Chicago to settle in with the Obama campaign.

As our colleague Chris Cillizza reported on his blog, The Fix, this week, the Obama camp already has begun hiring staff members for the eventual veep nominee, signaling he's very close to choosing his No. 2. Wade was hired by Patti Solis Doyle, former campaign manager for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential bid who is now overseeing Obama's vice presidential effort.

"I think Crash Davis put it best: I'm just happy to be here and hope I can help the ball club," Wade told us, referring to the lead character in "Bull Durham," his favorite movie. "Senator Kerry's been like a father to me, and I'm grateful he urged me to do this."

It's not just congressional leaders who are writing books these days. Backbencher Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) has one hitting bookstores next week. Even if the book itself isn't that sexy, the title, "Sex, Science, and Stem Cells," is catchy.

DeGette, a chief architect of the stem cell research bill that was vetoed twice by President Bush, writes about the administration's politicization of science and sex. She warns that if the country elects Sen. John McCain president in November, "we'd be signing on for four more years of more of the same -- the same blind faith that dogma and ideology ought to stand ahead of science and reason."

"Sex, Science, and Stem Cells" comes out just in time for the Democratic National Convention, which will be held in DeGette's district next month. The new author plans to have at least one book signing during the convention while she plays hostess. "I'm having an after-party every night of the convention," she told us.

DeGette is also using her book tour, which she plans to kick off next week at the Barnes & Noble on Fifth Avenue in New York, to continue working over disenchanted Clinton supporters who have been threatening to vote for McCain. The Colorado congresswoman was a co-chair of Clinton's presidential campaign but is now, on behalf of Obama, lobbying disgruntled Clinton supporters who have been flooding her offices with angry phone calls.

DeGette has been telling them, "Do not confuse maverick for moderate." And she warns them that McCain could stack the Supreme Court with enough conservatives to roll back Roe v. Wade.

DeGette says the barrage of phone calls from die-hard Clinton fans has let up. Still, she says, "This is not a done deal for Obama."

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