GOP Dilemma: Who's on First?

By Al Kamen
Monday, September 14, 2009

We got a nice note Friday from Andrea Saul, press secretary for Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). "I was reading your . . . column this morning," she wrote, referring to the 2010 Almanac of American Politics quiz that we included, "and noticed you have Sen. Lugar listed as the longest-serving Republican senator. Sen. Hatch is actually the longest-serving GOP Senator," she said, and if you see photos of them in the chamber, "you can even see that he is in the first GOP seat, with Lugar behind him. . . . Can you correct this?"

Certainly. We looked at Hatch's Web site and there it was, plain as day. Hatch "is the most senior Republican," it said.

So we took a quick look at Richard Lugar's site and there it was, plain as day: Lugar is "the U.S. Senate's most senior Republican." Lugar's site refers to him as the fourth-most-senior member of the Senate, and notes that Hatch is the fifth-most-senior.

Competing claims? Apparently the debate has raged for some time.

Seems both lawmakers were sworn in on the same day -- Jan. 3, 1977. There are numerous criteria set by the Senate Rules Committee for determining seniority when senators are sworn in on the same day. These include whether you've been in the House, or have been a governor or member of the Cabinet. If there is still a tie, senators are ranked in terms of their state's population at the time of their swearing-in.

Under those rules, the edge would go to Lugar. The Senate historian's office uses those rules to decide who's senior for historical purposes, we were told, which is why Lugar is ranked 1,705th senator (out of a total of 1,911) and Hatch is 1,708. It's also why Lugar has a lower Senate license plate number.

We were cautioned, however, that while that's how the committee rules work (the Democrats follow those rules), the ultimate decision on party seniority is set by each party's caucus. Under Republican rules when Hatch and Lugar were elected, the GOP used the alphabet and not state size to determine party seniority. So under those rules, Hatch is clearly No. 1.

The GOP's rules have since changed. They now say: "If all prior service considerations are equal, Senators' conference seniority and position for selection of committees should be determined by drawing." (Safer, though less dramatic, than the old pistols at 40 paces.)

And the GOP caucus, of course, can do whatever it likes should it revisit the issue -- something it's not likely to do until the ranking actually matters. That won't be until the GOP gets 11 more seats and retakes control of the Senate.

Well, they're both No. 1 in our book.

Sorry, Wrong Number

Meanwhile, several callers have noted question No. 6 in the Almanac quiz should have asked which four (not three) former House members lost in party primaries last year. The fourth was Wayne Gilchrest (R-Md.)

Distinguished Company

Outgoing Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton was in town Friday to accept the title of honorary commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for promoting police cooperation between the United States and the United Kingdom.

Bratton, a former New York police commissioner, is leaving the LAPD to lead Altegrity Security Consulting, a new unit of the company formerly known as USIS. Bratton is looking for State Department contracts to train police in Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries, our colleague Spencer Hsu reports.

He would be competing for -- or taking over -- work started by the likes of Xe Services, the company formerly known as Blackwater, and by Bernard B. Kerik, the former New York City police commissioner sent by the U.S. government in 2003 to lead the Iraqi police training mission. Kerik is facing federal and New York state public corruption trials.

Terrorist Nats?

The long Washington Nationals season is finally crawling to a close. The chronic basement dwellers have outdone their prior haplessness and are on pace to lose 106 games, which would make them the second-worst Washington team in a century. (Thank goodness the Mets lost 120 games in 1962.)

Now it seems that being a Nats fan -- and wearing one of those green Nationals hats -- not only can be embarrassing but can even get you in a heap of trouble.

Take what happened when Tyler Allard, legislative assistant to Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), wore the cap as he returned from a trip last month to Jordan and Israel. An Israeli airport security guard pointed to the hat with the curly W team logo and demanded with a tone of disgust, "Why do you wear that?"

"Good question," his father, former longtime Senate aide Nick Allard, replied. "They are hopeless. They desperately need relief. You never know when they will hit, and because their defense is so bad, they suffer more than they can dish out. It's not rational and I can't explain why, but we are loyal and we love them." The more he talked, the more upset the security folks became, Nick Allard reports. Their luggage was checked and rechecked, and they were quizzed by security.

When they were finally cleared to board, Allard wrote in an e-mail, the head of the security detail said: "We do not appreciate your Hamas headgear." Green apparently is a Palestinian "color," Allard speculated, and the vaguely Arabic Nats logo might have been mistaken for an extremist emblem.

"What the Nats have done this season is almost unforgivable," Allard notes, "but they are a long way from being mistaken for an organization capable of terrorizing the eastern division much less the Middle East. It's tough being a Nats fan. Home or away."

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