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Hastert vs. Pelosi, Part I

Why wasn’t House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) invited on the Congressional delegation to Normandy to mark the 60th anniversary of D-Day?

Democrats say it’s because House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) didn’t invite her. Republicans say it’s the fault of World War II veteran Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), who, they say, was in charge of inviting Democrats.

Regardless of whose fault it was, all we know is that Pelosi was shut out. And her staff is outraged.

“It was Dingell that didn’t invite her, not Hastert,” says a senior GOP aide. “Dingell was the one that was in charge of getting the Democrats together — he’s the dean of the Democratic Caucus and he’s a World War II vet. It was up to him to take care of the Democrats, not Hastert.”

That’s nonsense, say Democratic leadership aides. It was Hastert’s invitation to issue — not Dingell’s, they contend.

“The Republicans can say whatever they want, but I think the Speaker should have made the invitation to her,” says one senior Democratic aide. “All we know is that the Speaker has taken a bunch of folks over there and he should have looked to her to see if she was interested.”

Hastert’s office was the one that put out the press release announcing the trip. The invite list did not include Pelosi. Making the list were: Reps. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.), Ralph Regula (R-Ohio), James Oberstar (D-Minn.), Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), Tom Petri (R-Wis.), Lane Evans (D-Ill.), John Spratt (D-S.C.), Amo Houghton (R-N.Y.), Peter King (R-N.Y.), Bob Ney (R-Ohio), John Shadegg (R-Ariz.), Mark Souder (R-Ind.), Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), John Larson (D-Conn.), Randy Forbes (R-Va.) and Jeff Miller (R-Fla.). Former House Minority Leader Bob Michel, a World War II veteran, was also invited.

A Dingell staffer who asked not to be named said Dingell was an invitee, not an inviter. “It was the Speaker’s CODEL. We didn’t have the authority to invite people,’ the aide said.

Another Shutout? Democratic aides called HOH to complain that Pelosi also wasn’t invited to participate in something else pretty major — the arrival ceremony of former President Ronald Reagan’s body in the Capitol Rotunda on Wednesday evening.

The official lineup of speakers includes Vice President Cheney, House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), who is President Pro Tem. The House and Senate Chaplains will also speak.

According to Democratic leadership aides, the initial list of speakers included Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Hastert, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and Pelosi. But then at some point on Monday, he said, “Hastert decided he didn’t want Pelosi to speak at Reagan’s arrival ceremony.”

Democratic aides noted that — although we are talking about Ronald Reagan — the late president was a fellow Californian and, therefore, it was appropriate that Pelosi be asked to say a few words at the arrival ceremony.

“It’s a sad partisan statement on a day that they’re remembering someone who was civil and believed that after 6 p.m. you could still be friends,” one aide said.

But Republican leadership sources say the Democrats are stirring up trouble.

“It is the Reagan family that planned this. They decided — the President Pro Tem would represent the Senate and the Speaker of the House represent the House,” a House GOP leadership aide said.

“It was decided a long time ago.” the aide added.

Senator Amidala, Meet Senator Clinton. We hear actress Natalie Portman and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) “hit it off” when they met recently in the real Senator’s office. (Portman starred as Queen Amidala who then became Senator Amidala in the first two films of George Lucas’ Star Wars trilogy. Sen. Clinton starred as Queen of the White House before she became a Senator.)

Portman has been making rounds on Capitol Hill in her new capacity as “Ambassador of Hope” for FINCA International, a non-profit that provides micro-credit loans to fledgling female entrepreneurs in developing countries, particularly in Afghanistan.

The Israeli-born Portman — a recent Harvard graduate with flawless skin and large, striking eyes, who turns 23 Wednesday — was turning heads as she strolled through the Capitol and House and Senate office buildings on her first visit to Congress as FINCA’s emissary. (And as not only a member of the Tribe but “the catch” of the Tribe, she apparently was oggled and coddled by young male staffers of a particular ethnic, religious persuasion who are hoping Portman’s work with FINCA will bring her back real soon.)

Bypassers who saw Portman riding the Senate Subway with Clinton on the Senator’s way to a floor vote say the two were laughing and chatting a mile a minute. One Senate staffer who entertained Portman off the Senate floor for about 15 minutes — who, by the way, is still in La La Land — described Portman as “very impressive and persuasive.”

“You could not tell she was a 22-year-old. She was not a ditzy celebrity. She’s obviously very, very bright,” the staffer said.

During her lobbying blitz, Portman met with an oddly disparate group of lawmakers, including among others, House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Reps. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) and Chris Smith (R-N.J.).

Portman, whose acting career, in addition to “Star Wars,” has included roles in the films “Cold Mountain,” “Where the Heart Is,” “Beautiful Girls” and “The Professional,” was inspired to get involved with FINCA out of a personal tragedy, FINCA officials say. Her cousin was killed in a suicide bombing attack in Israel.

The real queen behind the FINCA effort to raise loan capital is Queen Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan, who sits on the board of FINCA. The Queen and Portman met in Hollywood during the launch of FINCA’s global endowment for the poor. And they’re expected to see each other Wednesday night at a fundraiser for FINCA in New York at the home of Goldman Sachs Vice Chairman Bob Hurst.

Pitching Politics. Friday night was supposed to be a chance to kick back and relax for those who toil on the re-election campaign of Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.).

About two dozen Daschle staffers, seeking to enjoy a “gorgeous evening,” decided to take in a minor league baseball game featuring the Sioux Falls Canaries, who were squaring off against the Winnipeg Goldeyes. As they settled into their seats, they heard the public-address announcer offering a welcome to some of the groups attending the game, which included a GOP women’s group.

That was OK. The Daschle folks could handle that one.

But then, who strolled out to the pitcher’s mound to throw out the first pitch? Yep, it was none other than former Rep. John Thune (R-S.D.), who is taking on Daschle in November. “I almost fell out of my chair,” joked one Daschle aide.

Thune’s throw was “high and to the right,” claimed the Democratic source, although he may be a tad bit too biased to be calling that pitch.

It didn’t stop there, though. Thune stayed at the game and even ended up doing an inning of play-by-play work from the broadcast booth. “The whole thing was pretty amusing,” said the Daschle aide, who added that his colleagues kept up their good spirits throughout the game, despite Thune’s presence.

Which is good, since the Canaries lost to the division-leading Goldeyes by an 8-5 score.

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