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Another Sen. Kennedy?

Everybody likes to be asked. Word is that people close to Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) are encouraging him to rethink his decision not to run against Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.) in 2006. And Kennedy is signaling that he would be open to changing his mind if Rep. James Langevin (D-R.I.) drops his campaign and if the right people, including perhaps his father, ask him to. [IMGCAP(1)]

Though Kennedy originally said he would not run

for the Senate and, in fact, encouraged Langevin to go for it, Rhode Island politicos are now worried that the abortion issue could cause a divisive primary and ruin the Democrats’ chances of knocking off Chafee.

“Patrick is the 800-pound gorilla who could clear the field,” said Bill Burke, a lobbyist with the Washington Group and a Rhode Island native who worked on Kennedy’s first campaign. Burke said he and “a broad coalition” are trying to convince the Congressman to run.

Langevin, who opposes abortion rights, is mulling a bid but is not yet an official candidate for Senate. He would face Rhode Island Secretary of State Matt Brown, who favors abortion rights, in a primary. Sources said if Kennedy ran for Senate, Langevin would stay put and Brown would then run for Kennedy’s House seat.

Burke said although Patrick gave his word to Langevin, “At the end of the day, I think people are going to realize that he’s the best candidate. … Patrick delivers the base better than anybody and I think [Sen. Harry] Reid and [Sen. Charles] Schumer will realize that.” Reid, the Senate Minority Leader (D-Nev.), and Schumer (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, are the two key decision makers here.

Rep. Kennedy gave HOH the old line: “Right now, I’m committed to the people of the 1st district to serve them on the most powerful committee in Congress, the Appropriations Committee.” But when pressed, he said, “I support Jim Langevin for Senate. But if Jim Langevin decided not to run, then my answer would be I’d have to balance the interests of my state in my being on the Appropriations Committee in the House versus the benefits to my state having another Democratic vote in the Senate.”

Another source close to Rep. Kennedy said what you’re doubtless already thinking: “Patrick would like to be talked into it.”

It’s not clear yet where Reid and Schumer come down on the question, but one Senate Democratic leadership aide told HOH, “Research shows Langevin beats Chafee handily and at this point, you gotta put your eggs in that basket.”

Black Caucus Miffed at Ford. The Congressional Black Caucus is less than pleased that one of its members, a certain Tennessee Democrat who wears his statewide ambitions on his sleeve, did not vote for the CBC’s budget alternative on the House floor last week. Instead of pushing the green button, Rep. Harold Ford Jr. voted “present,” which is sort of like being Switzerland in the middle of a war.

Though no one said it publicly, Ford’s colleagues privately questioned why he would abandon the group on such a key piece of legislation aimed at closing equality gaps for minorities. They were even more baffled since the CBC had just wooed its first Republican vote in a decade for its budget alternative, from Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio).

“My boss was not particularly pleased,” noted one aide to a CBC member. “My boss couldn’t understand it. The hope is Mr. Ford will come and explain himself.”

Ford explained to HOH that he did not vote for the Republican budget plan, the Democratic leadership’s alternative or the CBC budget proposal because “they weren’t balanced.”

As a Blue Dog Democrat, Ford said he opposed any budget that wasn’t balanced, including the CBC’s. “The Democratic alternative and the CBC alternative were far better than the Republican budget, but I wanted to be consistent,” he said.

The Congressman noted that while he voted “no” on the Democratic budget, he voted “present” on the CBC budget since he is a member of the caucus and believes strongly in its cause. The fact that he’s all but announced that he’s running for the Senate in a reddish state didn’t come up.

Blabber Mouth on Steroids. Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.) came close to outing another Member of Congress as being a steroid user back in the day. During the House Government Reform Committee’s epic hearing on steroid abuse in the Major Leagues on Thursday, Kanjorski said a colleague told him earlier in the day that he took “animal grade” steroids in 1967 on the advice of a coach.

HOH was curious to know who this steroid abuser was, so we asked Kanjorski, “Did you say another Member of Congress told you he took steroids in 1967?”

“Oh no. That must have been Congressman Canseco,” Kanjorski said, making HOH pause trying to recall a Member named Canseco. “Canseco,” Kanjorski said, winking and smiling, before finally saying, “Sometimes I say things I shouldn’t.” He refused to say which Member he was referring to during the baseball hearing.

And, unlike Canseco, Kanjorski said he’s not going to blab about it in a book.

Signs, Signs. The folks at Americans United to Protect Social Security are ticked off at the Capitol Police and House GOP leaders for squashing their protest on Capitol Hill last week. About 35 protesters crashed a Republican photo-op press conference that featured a vintage1935 Ford, to symbolize the year Social Security was created. Police made the protesters leave the Capitol grounds and move to the sidewalk in front of Cannon House Office Building, where they were put up and shut up.

Brad Woodhouse, a spokesman for the anti-reform group, said, “Shame on the Speaker of the House for denying people access to their House. It’s bad enough that the president requires protesters to be relegated to a free speech zone at his events … but now the Speaker of the House is using the Capitol Police to kick protesters off the grounds of the people’s House.”

Capitol Police spokesman Michael Lauer says groups of more than 10 or 15 protesters — he couldn’t remember the exact number — must apply for a permit to protest on Capitol grounds. Andrea Tantaros, a spokeswoman for the House Republican Conference, thought the interlopers were a bunch of losers. “Protesting is SO 1965,” she said. “Between the vintage car, the antique phone and the washboard, we thought we had enough throwbacks for one press conference.”

Stenholm’s Snub? A rumor was floating around certain Democratic circles last week that the White House asked ex-Rep. Charlie Stenholm to go around the country touting President Bush’s Social Security plan, but that the White House wouldn’t foot the travel tab for the Texas Blue Dog Democrat.

Contacted by HOH, Stenholm, a victim of redistricting who lost his 2004 re-election race, said that wasn’t quite right. “We never got to that point,” he said. What really happened is that “a second party” contacted Stenholm and asked if he would be interested in traveling with the president to tout Bush’s proposed Social Security fix.

Stenholm said no because, as he put it, “I have not been comfortable with the president’s so-called plan because there’s never been one.” Not exactly what the president hoped to hear from someone he considered to be among his most likely Democratic allies on Social Security. Stenholm co-sponsored the bipartisan Social Security bill when he was still a Member of the House.

“How would I look up on stage with the president saying, ‘I can’t go with you on borrowing $2 trillion to fund the individual accounts’?” Stenholm asked. He’s upset with the president for taking tax hikes off the negotiating table, which he called “fiscally irresponsible.” So Stenholm said he “responded to the second party and said, ‘I don’t think I would be happy until I have a little better idea of what we’re advocating and how we’re doing it.”

The former Congressman decided instead to continue working on Social Security with former Rep. Tim Penny (D-Minn.) at their group “Four Our Children.”

Erin P. Billings contributed to this report.

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