Greg Mastel is leaving the Hill next month to work at the law firm of Miller & Chevalier but he won't be practicing law. He'll be practicing policy advising. (Published 2/14/03)

On Monday, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) told the Chicago Tribune editorial board that he told President Bush the administration's plan to make seniors leave Medicare to get prescription drug benefits was a loser.

"I don't think you can do it humanely," Hastert said he told the president at a recent White House meeting, according to the Tribune's account yesterday. "I don't think you can do it politically. I don't think it's practical."

Hastert said he told Bush: "I don't think you can pass a piece of legislation that takes an 80-year-old grandmother and says you have to give up your fee-for-service as you know it in order to get" a prescription drug benefit.

The Tribune account said Hastert used "uncharacteristically blunt language" in criticizing the plan.

Yesterday, back in character, Hastert through his office issued "clarifying comments" about his Monday blast. He wanted to criticize only "a perception out there" that Bush's plan "would force seniors into an HMO in order to get a prescription drug benefit," he clarified. The White House plan doesn't do that, he said.

Hastert issued these fine comments without prompting from the White House, we're told. So what about those casts on his kneecaps?

House of Cards

Order in the House. Forget anthrax, smallpox and radiation. House members and staff have a new worry: the dreaded Red Card.

Starting this session, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) has decreed that people who violate House rules on decorum and order will be cited by the doorkeepers. (Unclear how many cards you need to land in jail.)

The idea behind the business card-sized tickets apparently is to ensure proper respect is shown for other lawmakers and the institution. DeLay "really believes strongly in proper respect for House rules," his spokesman said.

Some veteran members are said to have complained that things have deteriorated on the floor in recent years, what with the use of such prohibited items as laptops and cell phones. Sloppy dressers are worried that they might get "Red-Carded," as one aide put it, but the card we've gotten only speaks to electronic devices, things that ring or beep or you shout into.

Specifically, the card says the violation is of House rule XVII, Clause 5, the "Comportment Clause," which, in addition to cell phones and laptops, bans smoking, wearing a hat or walking "between the person speaking and the Chair." And the House sergeant-at-arms "is charged with the strict enforcement of this clause."

Aren't you supposed to get a yellow card first?

The Other Law

If John Peter Suarez, assistant administrator for enforcement at the Environmental Protection Agency, tires of dealing with polluted water or foul air and needs some spiritual counseling, he doesn't have to go very far. Turns out his special assistant, Jeff Cuozzo, is also his pastor at the Calvary Chapel.

Cuozzo, with an undergraduate degree in communications and post-graduate work in Bible studies, moved here last spring, around the time Suarez, a former prosecutor and head of New Jersey's gambling oversight commission, was heading for the EPA job. Both men knew each other from having lived in the same county in New Jersey.

Cuozzo is also a missionary with Calvary Chapel Church. When he's not at EPA, he's "planting a new work," meaning a new church, in this area, according to his Web site. He and his wife, Naomi, started with one other couple last year, and the membership is now 20 couples and growing, he said. The group meets at a Tyson's Corner hotel, but Cuozzo sees a new church in the near future.

His Web site has a section for "prayer requests," asking visitors to "Please Pray for continued diligence in prayer against the insidious works of the evil one," and to pray "for the right people at the right time that God would want to bring along to be part of the team in the work that he is doing here."

As Mom always used to say, cleanliness is next to godliness.

No More Revs

Speaking of religious matters . . . Episcopal Church folks say that, contrary to Friday's column, Baltimore radio personality Lester Kinsolving is no longer an Episcopal priest. "Mr. Kinsolving was suspended from the Episcopal priesthood in 1978 and deposed from the priesthood in 1979," we're told. That's okay, he's still a member of the distinguished White House press corps.

In Transit

Greg Mastel, chief international trade counsel and top economist for the Democratic staff on the Senate Finance Committee, is leaving next month to practice law with Miller & Chevalier.

Lee Johnson, a top aide to the Senate GOP leadership, is now of counsel to Winston & Strawn in its D.C. office.