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P Is for Cactus

One of Rob Portman’s last official acts as a Republican Congressman from Ohio was to pass the cactus. It goes now to the next longest serving member of the Ways and Means Committee whose last name begins with “P.”[IMGCAP(1)]

Portman had the cactus in his office since late 1996, when Ways and Means member L.F. Payne (D-Va.) gave it to him. Payne got the cactus from Ways and Means member J.J. “Jake” Pickle (D-Texas) in 1994. Pickle had watched over the cactus since late 1992, when Ways and Means member Don Pease (D-Ohio) delivered it to him.

Just as the tradition began with Pease, it continued on Thursday, when Portman, after the Senate confirmed him as the next U.S. Trade Representative, walked the cactus over to Ways and Means member Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.). (Portman officially resigned from the House on Friday.)

Pomeroy is taking his custody of the desert plant seriously. He said he’d like to have officials from the Botanic Garden inspect the plant’s health, and he suggested he might get a new pot for the plant with a plaque on it listing the tradition of the “P Club” Members who have held the cactus over the years.

HOH has no clue why Pease decided to give the cactus to Pickle, who gave it to Payne, who gave it to Portman, who gave it to Pomeroy, but we hope the prickly cactus brings bipartisan peace and prosperity on the committee, even as it prepares for war over Social Security.

Beware, though: At present, no other “P” Member sits on the committee.

Linder: No Biggie. How many dead people does a catastrophe make? All we know is that Rep. John Linder (R-Ga.) does not think an airliner full of passengers exploding is a catastrophe.

“If an airline is blown up in the air, that is a very bad circumstance for 200 or 300 people. But it is not a catastrophe,” Linder said during a hearing last week in the House Homeland Security Committee.

Jaws dropped and drooping eyes popped open. Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Calif.), chairman of the committee, interrupted Linder when he continued talking, trailing off to the inaudible about the more pressing need to look for nuclear weapons rather than beef up passenger aviation security.

“Is the gentleman’s microphone turned on?” Cox asked.

“Yes,” Linder said, continuing to explain, “It is my view that no airplane will ever hit a commercial building, which is the only value they have in taking out large numbers of people. It is my view that passengers won’t allow that to happen.” (Oh, OK. So scratch the aviation security budget and leave it up to the passengers?)

“But it is entirely possible,” Linder continued, “that an airplane will blow up in the air. … That is a very bad circumstance for about 200, 300 people. But it is not a catastrophe.” Instead, Linder said, the committee should be thinking about the “1 million or 2 million-person catastrophe that could be caused” by a nuclear or biological device.

One Democratic aide who was there told HOH, “Everyone in the room was shocked. … It was totally bizarre.”

Linder’s office did not respond to e-mail requests for comment.

Ginsberg to Rescue on Nuke Option. Turning to a proven master of message, the grassroots group Progress for America has recruited lawyer Ben Ginsberg, of Swift Boat Veterans For Truth fame, to help spread the “nuclear option” gospel on judicial nominees.

Progress for America, which already is spending tens of thousands of dollars to promote President Bush’s Social Security plan, is launching a multimillion-dollar ad campaign today in six key states and on the Internet blasting Democrats for trying to preserve the minority right to filibuster judicial nominees.

Online newspaper ads will run in Arkansas, Alaska, Rhode Island, Nebraska, North Dakota and Maine, states where Senators are either on the fence about disposing of the filibuster for judicial nominees or are outright opposed to it. Additional ads will air on TV and radio and on 15 conservative and religious Web sites, including the Drudge Report and BeliefNet.

Progress for America’s dense new Web site,, seeks to dispel “myths” about judicial filibusters and present “facts” about the Democrats’ history of trying to end legislative filibuster. The site lists names and faces of Bush judicial nominees who have been blocked, complete with biographical backgrounds and more “myths” and “facts” on each case.

Ginsberg, an adviser to Progress for America, and the group’s president, Brian McCabe, will unveil the Web site and announce details of the group’s judicial nominee strategy at a news conference at 10 a.m. today at the National Press Club.

“Our general position [is] that the U.S. Senate must fulfill their responsibility with judicial nominations and make sure every nominee with majority support receives a timely up-or-down floor vote,” said spokeswoman Laura Dlugacz.

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