Intrepid Lawmakers to Brave the Alpine Front

By Al Kamen
Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hurry, hurry, hurry. Congress will begin its 2009 travel season in earnest this weekend with two spectacular codels -- trips for House congressional delegations -- that are not to be missed.

On Saturday, Rep. John Tanner (D-Tenn.), chairman of the House delegation to NATO's parliamentary assembly, and his wife will lead a delegation of 13 lawmakers -- plus 10 spouses -- on a fine nine-day jaunt starting at NATO's headquarters in Brussels.

Before you start scoffing about how this hardly compares to Tanner's post-election delegation to Valencia and Rome in November, we would point out that the next stop is, yes, the City of Lights, Paris, where one could have a nice late Valentine's Day moment.

From there we move on to Vienna for a little Sacher torte and then to review NATO's strategy to defend the Bavarian Alps, stopping in the lovely ski center of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, with its breathtaking views.

The huge number of members, spouses and staffers, plus military escorts, will require taking one of the bigger military jets, but we're told these trips are an important use of taxpayer money.

The delegation is scheduled to include Democratic Reps. Ben Chandler (Ky.); Bart Gordon (Tenn.); Baron P. Hill (Ind.) Carolyn McCarthy (N.Y.); Kendrick B. Meek (Fla.); Charlie Melancon (La.); Dennis Moore (Kan.) Mike Ross (Ark.) and David Scott (Ga.). Republican Reps. John Boozman (Ark.); Jo Ann Emerson (Mo.) and Jeff Miller (Fla.) are also scheduled to be going.

If working on NATO matters is not for you, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is leading a delegation to Europe next week for some important meetings in -- where else? -- the Eternal City, Rome. Details are sketchy so far, but we're hearing that there's a meeting with Pope Benedict himself. (Hey, ask him about that Holocaust-denier guy if you get a chance.) Pelosi is apparently going to get an award from an Italian legislative group -- she's huge over there -- and then maybe do just a bit of NATO stuff. There may be some other stops.

High Places, Part 2

Rep. Jerry F. Costello (D-Ill.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee on aviation, said at a hearing yesterday that the Obama administration has "made an offer to the person it wants to see as administrator" of the Federal Aviation Administration, our colleague Sholnn Freeman reports. That person is presumed to be Randy Babbitt, a former president of the Air Line Pilots Association. That may, in turn, mean that former FAA chief Jane Garvey is in line for deputy secretary of transportation.

High Places, Part 3

There's buzz that Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske will become President Obama's drug czar. Kerlikowske told his commanders that he expects to take a law enforcement position in the new administration, with the likely scenario being head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, a Cabinet-level post, according to the Seattle Times.

Kerlikowske, 59, has headed Seattle's 1,800-officer force since 2000, and previously led the police departments in Buffalo and the Florida cities of Fort Pierce and Port St. Lucie. During the Clinton administration, he was deputy director of the Justice Department community-oriented policing division, where he developed a close relationship with then-Deputy Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., now the attorney general.

Kerlikowske serves as president of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, whose members include police leaders from the nation's biggest metropolitan areas. He is regarded as a reformer in law enforcement circles and is known as a proponent of gun-control measures. But he is considered a moderate on drug policy, a subject on which his views are less well known.

Heck of a Duo

The race to lead the illustrious Federal Emergency Management Agency is down to two.

News flash: Brownie weighed in, and he likes 'em both.

Craig Fugate, Florida's emergency manager, and Ellen Gordon, Iowa's former emergency manager, are the leading contenders for FEMA administrator, the Associated Press reported. Both Fugate and Gordon were approached about the job in 2005, after former President George W. Bush fired Michael D. Brown in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, but neither was interested in the post.

It turns out that wasn't the first time they were asked to join FEMA.

"I tried to hire both of them at one time or another," Brown, who worked at the agency since 2001, said in an interview yesterday. "They're both very good choices -- they both bring very good skill sets to the job."

Speaking of Speaking

Obama campaign folks are finding perches in the administration. Energy Secretary Steven Chu yesterday tapped four of them to take care of his press operation: Dan Leistikow, director of public affairs; Tom Reynolds, deputy director of public affairs; Stephanie Mueller, press secretary; and Tiffany Edwards, deputy press secretary.

So that puts the spin operation in fine shape. Now all he needs are a deputy secretary, a few assistant secretaries . . .

Lynn, in Like Flynn

It was not exactly the cliffhanger some predicted for Bill Lynn's confirmation as deputy secretary of defense. As you may recall, the president waived his strict ethics restrictions in nominating the former defense lobbyist, and Lynn was sharply criticized by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa).

But, in a squeaker 93 to 4 vote, the Senate confirmed Lynn yesterday. McCain voted in favor, Grassley was opposed, and Sen. Claire McCaskill (Mo.) was the only Democrat in opposition.

With Philip Rucker and Alice Crites

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