The Washington Post
Senators From One State, but of Two Minds, Agree to Disagree
In an unusual turn of events, the omnibus energy bill on the Senate floor this week is being led by both the Democratic senator from New Mexico and the Republican senator from the same state — who despite partisan disagreements must not be seen squabbling by the constituents back home. It would just be unseemly.
But Senate energy committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman, chief sponsor of the bill, found himself pushing up against ranking committee Republican Pete Domenici last week. Domenici was threatening a filibuster of a Bingaman amendment.
“There is no animus between Senator Bingaman and Pete Domenici,” the Republican felt compelled to say during the debate. “New Mexicans ought to be wondering what’s cooking. But they also ought to know that he has an idea and I have a different idea built on it, and that’s all there is to it.”
The duo have been rotating the chairmanship of the committee since 2002 — depending on which party is in power — which is not all bad for a state that is home to the Los Alamos National Laboratory and other key Energy Department facilities.
Bingaman and Domenici have been trying to collaborate on the energy bill, which could receive a final vote as early as tomorrow. In a system built on seniority, it is not often that both senators from one state would find themselves the senior members of the same committee.
In an interview yesterday in his office, Bingaman, like Domenici, dismissed talk of tension between the two.
“We try to find those things we can agree upon
Take Them Out to the Ballgame
substantively,” he said. “We also try to reach agreement on how to proceed. People expect us to try and work together and get something done and I think we try very hard to do that.”
Bingaman seemed a tad more concerned about the fate of his complicated bill, which has been weighted down with amendments and fought over this week. He said he hopes the bill will retain its main mission.
“This is the way I look at it: There are a variety of measures in the bill that move us toward domestically produced renewable energy,” he said.
“All we are doing is trying to process as many amendments — and trying to accommodate as many senators — as we can to bring this thing to closure. . . . You never know until it’s done.”
Can we expect a thawing of the often tense and partisan relations between the new Democratic majority on the Hill and the White House?
There sat Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), head of the House Democratic Caucus, and White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten at the Washington Nationals-Detroit Tigers game this week. The men, who seemed to be chatting amiably, had lined up a couple of great seats (Bolten’s, we’re told), two rows behind the dugout.
Hill Democrats have long been bitter that the White House virtually ignored them when they were in the minority. And despite early promises of bipartisanship, relations between the White House and the new majority remain strained. So even a social evening between Bolten and Emanuel is progress.
A White House spokesman confirmed to our colleague Michael Abramowitz that Bolten invited Emanuel to the game.
“What happens at the game stays at the game,” Emanuel quipped in an e-mail response.
Emanuel would not elaborate further except to say that he paid for his own ticket.
Democrats See Opportunity in Alaska
The Democratic vultures are circling in Alaska these days as two of the three members of the Republican congressional delegation struggle to ward off escalating problems.
Most prominent among those who get “the mention” is Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, who is being courted by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Democrats believe that Sen. Ted Stevens and Rep. Don Young — the state’s lone House member — are vulnerable.
Stevens has said that the FBI asked him to save records of a remodeling project at his house that was partly overseen by an executive of an Anchorage-based oil field service company. In addition, last summer the FBI raided the offices of about six Alaska state legislators, including that of his son, Ben Stevens, looking for links between the lawmakers and the same company. Until that time, the younger Stevens had been considered the heir to his dad’s seat.
Young — popular for his blunt manner — has been under siege lately for slipping into a transportation bill last year a $10 million earmark for a road in Florida that benefited a contributor.
Last week, an indignant Young crowed on the House floor about his earmark prowess: “I was always proud of my earmarks. I believe in earmarks, always have, as long as they are exposed. But don’t you ever call that a scandal.”
He may rethink those remarks after he studies a poll that was commissioned by the Alaska Democratic Party and released this week. The survey by Hays Research “found 54 percent of Alaskans unlikely to vote for Don Young,” while 42 percent said they would be likely to vote for him.
Stevens didn’t fair much better. The poll shows 50 percent of those questioned said they were likely to vote for him. He was reelected in 2002 with 78 percent of the vote. A spokesman for Stevens said last night that the poll was partisan and that he questioned its accuracy.
The lawmakers have held their seats for 30 years, leaving little opportunity for Democrats until now.
A Cycling, and Recycling, Push at Capitol
The House leadership today will announce a plan to create a more environmentally friendly Capitol.
Recommendations include reducing the levels of carbon dioxide emitted by House operations; operating in a carbon-neutral manner by using renewable fuels and purchasing offsets; reducing energy consumption by 50 percent in the House over the next decade; and encouraging the 6,000 Hill employees who drive to work to carpool or find alternate transportation, such as biking.
Good luck on that last one.