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Hollings to Women: Shut Up

One sure loss for the Fourth Estate is the retirement of Sen. Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.), who is leaving the Senate after 38 colorful years. A reporter could always count on Hollings for a zany quote, a snappy sound bite, or just a hearty laugh. And true to form, Hollings provided a nice dose of comedy in his good-bye speech on the Senate floor Tuesday. [IMGCAP(1)]

Noting how dramatically the chamber has changed during his nearly four decades of service, Hollings said when he first arrived in the Senate, there were many more lushes than there are today.

“We had … five, six drunks when I came here,” Hollings said nostalgically, sounding with each drawl more like Foghorn Leghorn. Now, though, “there’s nobody drunk in the United States Senate. We don’t have time to be drunk.”

Even better than getting rid of the drunks, there are women running all over the place these days — chatty, aggressive women.

Back in the day — in 1966, when he was first elected — Hollings said there was only one woman in the Senate, sweet, demure Sen. Margaret Chase Smith (R-Maine). “She was outstanding, but she was outstandingly quiet,” Hollings recalled.

“Now we’ve got 15 or 17, and you can’t shut them up. I mean, they keep on talking and talking and talking and they do — you get into a debate with Barbara Mikulski [D-Md.] or Barbara Boxer [D-Calif.] and they’ll take your head off, I can tell you that. They know how to really present a viewpoint.”

Catholic Guilt. You gotta blame somebody when your party loses the White House, the Senate and the House. So why not blame the Catholics?

That’s sort of what House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) did in a letter sent this week to major donors to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

While the letter was gracious, thanking donors for their generosity in helping to elect 15 new House Democrats, as well as optimistic, expressing hope that Democrats will win the House in 2006, it was also remorseful for the losses of 2004. That’s where the blame part of the story comes in.

In the second paragraph of the letter, Pelosi said the election outcome showed a distinct pattern — that “the Democratic message was eclipsed by so-called values pronouncements.”

“As a devout Catholic, I observe with great regret the intervention of some Catholic bishops who joined evangelical leaders in the political arena,” Pelosi said. She said the bishops’ actions helped to blur the separation of church and state, “and that is wrong.”

True, during the presidential campaign, numerous Catholic bishops blasted Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) as, basically, a bad Catholic. Some said they would refuse to allow the Democratic candidate to receive Communion in their dioceses. And one influential bishop in Green Bay, Wis., who was upset by Kerry’s support of abortion rights, urged Catholics to base their votes in the presidential election on opposition to abortion and gay marriage.

But never mind what the Catholic bishops did or didn’t do: One Roman Catholic PAC donor was offended when he received Pelosi’s thank-you letter that not-so-subtly blamed the bishops.

“Oh, so it wasn’t that we had a bad message badly delivered by bad candidates,” the Catholic Democratic donor said. “It wasn’t the Catholic Bishops fault. It’s bizarre to be blaming them.”

Pelosi, for her part, is not backing down. She stands by her comments in the letter, said her spokesman, Brendan Daly.

Early Whine Harvest. If early complaints are any indication, then the new crop of Senators will be a demanding lot. Sen.-elect John Thune (R-S.D.) — aka The Man Who Ate Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) For Lunch — told HOH during a visit to Roll Call’s offices Tuesday that he is miffed about his office space situation.

For now, Thune’s transition office is in the basement of Dirksen Senate Office Building. As if that weren’t bad enough, he was told he may not get a permanent office until April. How rude, Thune thought. “I told them I think this is obnoxious,” he said.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) tried to cheer Thune up by telling him a story about the tough-love good old days. Back in 1968, when Alexander came to the Senate as an aide to then-Sen. Howard Baker (R-Tenn.), the Baker people did not get a permanent office until July — a full six months after taking office.

At press time, we had not heard back from Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), chairman of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, about whether he can get Thune into a permanent office sooner than April. For now, though, Alexander’s pep talk may have to suffice.

School Boys. Two nerds from the same high school could end up controlling all the money that goes into Senate races in both parties.

If Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) wins his bid today to become chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, he and his high school classmate, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who just accepted the job to head the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, will be opposing comptrollers of the money that flows to Senate campaigns.

Coleman, who represents Minnesota but originally hails from Brooklyn, graduated from James Madison High School, just like Schumer did. Coleman graduated in 1966 and Schumer in 1967.

“Let’s hope the math department was good,” Schumer said. Coleman also stopped to mull the cosmic coincidence. “It’s pretty interesting, isn’t it?” Coleman said.

Paul Kane contributed to this report.

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