Defeated Congressman Leaves Military-Academy Applications Unprocessed

Some Pennsylvanians' hopes of attending a military academy appear to be in jeopardy as lame-duck Rep. Phil English scales back his constituent services.
Some Pennsylvanians' hopes of attending a military academy appear to be in jeopardy as lame-duck Rep. Phil English scales back his constituent services. (By Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post)
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By Al Kamen
Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The presidential transfer of power may be going swimmingly, but things are not so smooth in Pennsylvania's 3rd Congressional District. That's where Rep. Phil English, a Republican who has represented the Erie area since 1994, lost his reelection bid to Democratic challenger Kathy Dahlkemper. And he seems to be taking it hard.

This week, English shuttered his offices and has been turning away constituent work, even though he and his staff remain on the federal payroll until January. English closed up shop before he could finish one of his most important December constituent duties: interviewing and recommending candidates for the military service academies.

Anxious and angry parents of high school seniors have been calling Dahlkemper's campaign office asking for help getting their children's applications processed. The families "were in a bit of a panic because evidently Congressman English's office sent back their applications," said Tina Mengine, Dahlkemper's campaign manager. "For these kids, this is their future."

English spokeswoman Julia Wanzco said her boss has "ceased all casework because we're going to have limited access to federal resources." Beginning Dec. 1, English will work out of a "cubbyhole" with access to just one computer, phone line and printer, Wanzco said, adding that other departing lawmakers will have similar accommodations during the transition.

It's unclear how much communication English has had with Dahlkemper, but it's safe to say they've talked less than President-elect Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain, who appeared chummy in their meeting in Chicago this month. Wanzco said she thinks English may have called Dahlkemper on election night.

A Blow, but No Punch

It's always a problem when your 401(k) takes a massive hit and the stock market drops a few thousand points and unemployment ratchets up. All those things certainly signal a rough patch economically.

But when the Pentagon cancels a holiday party because of the tough times, then you know things are really serious.

We got this note the other day from Joints Chief Chairman Michael G. Mullen:

"The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Mrs. Michael G. Mullen wish to inform you that in these trying financial times they have decided to forego their holiday reception this year.

"Instead, they will host a small gathering for wounded service members, their families and the families of the fallen.

"Therefore, please disregard your December 7th Holiday Reception invitation. We sincerely regret any inconvenience and greatly appreciate your understanding."

Well, at least the people who truly deserve a reception are getting one.

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