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Lotta Seating Assignments

With speculation swirling that Sen. Trent Lott is going to find ways to get back at President Bush for helping to push the Mississippi Republican out of the Majority Leader job, Hill aides are buzzing about one lever Lott could exploit to get some revenge.

As chairman of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, Lott would oversee the next presidential inaugural ceremony in January 2005, right down to building the stage where the president gets sworn in.

“Make sure there’s not a trap door,” cracked one senior GOP aide, who has

already been dreaming up possibilities for Lott to tweak Bush.

A senior Democratic aide in the Senate, meanwhile, said senior White House aide Karl Rove — who allegedly greased the skids for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) to force Lott out — should expect a terrible seating assignment.

“It will be very interesting to see where ‘Boy Genius’ is going to end up for the inaugural in ’05,” said the Democrat. “I can’t believe there’s any love lost between them after what happened.”

Of course, in order to witness such a delicious moment Democrats will have to stomach another swearing-in ceremony for Bush.

The Washington Post reported last week that “many Republicans expect Lott to seek retribution against Frist, Bush and other Republicans who he believes conspired against him. Lott, who spent 30 years climbing to the top, is considered a master of the Senate’s arcane rules, which are full of traps to spring on unsuspecting political foes.”

Lott, whose office did not return a call from HOH, told Gannett News Service that he’s “not going to dwell on the negative and not try to get even.”

Lott, meanwhile, added that he got some bum advice from his allies about how to deal with the fallout from the infamous birthday party that brought him down. “I got a lot of advice, some of it good and some of it bad,” he said. “I followed some good advice and a lot of bad advice.”

Oh No, Lamar! There was quite an uncomfortable moment at a swearing-in party for freshman Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.).

Alexander’s predecessor, former Sen. Fred Thompson (R), decided to get up and say a few nice words. Thompson told the crowd how proud he was to see Alexander in office and another Tennessean, Frist, bringing such honor to the Majority Leader’s job.

Some attendees noticed that Lott, who shared a group house with Alexander when they were both young political staffers in the early 1970s, was standing in the audience. About 10 seconds later, the former Majority Leader magically ducked out of the room.

Trouble in Paradise? Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), who prides himself on being an iconoclast, must have spilled his Cheerios when he saw the front-page of the Omaha World-Herald one morning last week.

“Votes by Nelson reveal Nebraska’s real maverick,” screamed the headline on a profile of the Nebraska delegation’s only Democrat, Sen. Ben Nelson, who was also added to his party’s leadership team last week.

“With his votes on Iraq and his Sunday morning talk show sound-offs, Sen. Chuck Hagel might seem Nebraska’s leading renegade,” began the story. “But when it comes to actual votes, Sen. Ben Nelson’s the maverick,” citing data showing Nelson has backed Bush 91 percent of the time.

Given how hard Hagel works to cultivate his image, one might expect the story to ruffle some feathers in the delegation. But the Republican told the paper that he’s amused by the maverick label anyway: “I just say what I think.”

Coleman’s New Role. While new Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) is dutifully hiring policy aides and receptionists alike to get a new office up and running, his wife, Laurie, will be busy playing a receptionist on the new NBC show “Kingpin,” which debuts next month.

The midseason replacement series about a family-run Mexican cartel may feature the actress in the second episode, according to Laurie Coleman’s publicist.

“She did three scenes, but only one was kept, and it’s brief,” Anthony Turk told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “But she does have a few lines.” She’ll also be on a future cover of Women’s World magazine.

As for the question that the Minnesota press has been bugging the couple about, Turk suggested that the missus — who spends a fair amount of time in Hollywood — will not necessarily be putting down roots in D.C.

“She’s very excited about moving to Washington,” said the publicist. “But she’s probably going to be spending most of her time in Minnesota.”

Feeling Forgotten. Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.) may have had one of the best opening weeks of the GOP freshman class. He started work last week as a Deputy Whip to Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), one of at least nine freshmen to join a roughly 60-member whip team. And he landed his top two committee requests, a couple of plum panels for any Member, let alone a freshman: Financial Services and Judiciary.

But if Feeney and his staff needed any reminder of the low-profile existence for first termers, it came just days before last Tuesday’s swearing-in ceremony. A Feeney staffer dropped by the new office, on the third floor of the Cannon House Office Building, and discovered that House officials had put the wrong nameplate on the office door. It read “Mike Feeley.” Apparently there was a mixup and Feeley’s name was put up. Feeley actually lost his House bid to Rep. Bob Beauprez (R-Colo.) by a mere 121 votes, a race that wasn’t officially called for Beauprez until December.

Luckily, the staff acted quickly and got the correct name up on the door, so Feeney himself didn’t actually see the indignity. “It was corrected before we got here,” said Jason Roe, Feeney’s chief of staff.

No word on whether Democratic Caucus Chairman Bob Menendez (N.J.) has requested the Feeley nameplate for a personal keepsake, considering Feeley was allowed to vote in the November leadership elections and supported Menendez, who beat Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) by one vote, 104-103.

Chris Cillizza and Paul Kane contributed to this report.

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