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Sen. Schumer Proves Worthy of 'The Amazing Race'

By Al Kamen
Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Passengers on Sunday's 1 p.m. US Airways shuttle from New York to Washington may have been lucky participants in an event that has rarely -- if ever -- occurred in aviation history: The shuttle not only took off on time, it did so 16 minutes early.

For a Sunday, it was crowded in the La Guardia terminal. The security line was clogged when word came over the PA system at 12:30 announcing "last call" for the shuttle. People hustled to get on their shoes, rushing with their bags to the gate. Airline folks let some people trickle in to be seated on the fairly full plane, but it seemed to our source that a few stragglers were left behind.

What was the rush? Seems the senior senator from New York, Charles E. Schumer (D), needed to get to Washington in time for an important -- and unusual -- 2 p.m. vote on public lands legislation and asked that the plane take off early.

But there really wasn't any harm, his office explained yesterday. (Except maybe for some elderly passengers trampled in the stampede?) The problem began when the noon shuttle, which Schumer was scheduled to take, ran behind schedule and its departure had to be delayed until 1 p.m. Schumer worried that, with the tight turnaround, he would not make it back to Washington in time for the vote.

But the regularly scheduled 1 p.m. departure was sitting at the gate, so Schumer seized the moment. He asked US Airways to let the 1 p.m. flight leave early, which the airline agreed to do. Several other delayed noon passengers shifted planes along with him.

The stragglers left behind by the early departure still got out on time, joining passengers on the delayed noon shuttle. And democracy was served: Schumer made it in time for the vote.

Cigars All Around?

Thomas A. Daschle has tapped yet another former aide to join him at the Department of Health and Human Services. William V. Corr, former chief counsel to Daschle, will be nominated to become deputy secretary at the department.

Since 2000, Coor has been executive director of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a privately funded anti-smoking group. In that role, he lobbied to give the Food and Drug Administration the power to regulate tobacco. Transition officials say that doesn't violate the president-elect's no-lobbying mandate because he hasn't lobbied since September.

The move would represent a return to HHS for Corr, who served as chief of staff to then-Secretary Donna E. Shalala during the Clinton administration.

In his two decades on the Hill, Corr served as Daschle's top legal adviser and worked for Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) who, as the new chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, will play a major role in shaping health-care reform legislation.

Other Daschle alums in the Obama administration include Pete Rouse and Phil Schiliro at the White House and Jeanne Lambrew and Mark Childress at the new White House Office of Health Reform.

The Communicators

Speaking of HHS, Linda Douglass, former ABC News correspondent and more recently Obama spokeswoman and even more recently press secretary for the Presidential Inaugural Committee, is expected to be named the department's assistant secretary for public affairs. Jenny Backus, a longtime Democratic media strategist who is doing media work in the transition for Daschle, is expected to get a top communications/strategy post at the department.

More Personnel Rumors

Buzz is that John Berry, who was assistant interior secretary for policy, management and budget and then executive director of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation before becoming director of the National Zoo, has accepted an Obama offer to be director of the Office of Personnel Management.

Goldman Sachs executive Mark Patterson, now volunteering on the transition team, is said to be Treasury secretary-designate (and Goldman Sachs alum) Timothy F. Geithner's pick for his chief of staff. Jason Furman, who was most recently at the Brookings Institution and worked hard on the presidential campaign, is in line to be deputy to White House economy czar Lawrence H. Summers.

Judge of Judges

Most every lawyer who yearns for the black robes is now recalling going to summer camp, high school, college or just being really good friends with Washington lawyer Mark Gitenstein, former chief counsel of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He's rumored to be the choice to head the Justice Department's Office of Policy Development -- making him the point man for screening Obama's judicial picks.

Still on the Job

Need to postpone the farewell party. Mark Dybul, President Bush's global AIDS coordinator, informed his staff via e-mail Friday that he was asked to stay on for an indeterminate length of time. Dybul, an openly gay physician, has overseen the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR. Some reproductive rights and AIDS advocates have complained that the international relief program has been hampered by the president's conservative social views.

Earlier speculation had Nils Daulaire, president and chief executive of the Global Health Council, as a top contender. But apparently nothing's happening just yet, according to an e-mail that Dybul sent Friday night to his staff, our colleague Ceci Connolly reports.

"Greetings:

"I wanted to let you know that I have been asked to rescind my resignation so I will be continuing in the coordinator position beyond the inauguration. Look forward to our continuing work together."

With Philip Rucker

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