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Majority Leader Hastert?

Majority Leader Hastert? It’s unclear who was elevated to Speaker. But Dennis Hastert was demoted to Majority Leader by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

[IMGCAP(1)]On printed invitations to AIPAC’s annual banquet Monday night, which were sent to thousands of pro-Israel activists and Members of Congress, the group

mistakenly identified the Illinois Republican as “House Majority Leader Dennis Hastert.” Hastert, along with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (Tenn.), Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) — all three of whom, by the way, were identified correctly — was scheduled to speak at the Israeli lobby’s banquet at the Washington Convention Center.

Even if the 4,000 pro-Israel activists who were expected to attend the dinner didn’t notice the flub, folks on Capitol Hill sure did. But Hastert’s office took the “demotion” in stride.

“The Speaker would be honored to serve as Majority Leader, but he has his hands full serving as the Speaker,” joked his spokesman, Ron Bonjean. “And besides, the Speaker thinks [Rep.] Tom DeLay [R-Texas] is doing a great job as Majority Leader.” (Note to readers: Bonjean, perhaps not entirely subconsciously, used the title “Speaker” three times.) Bonjean said Hastert recognized the misprint as “an honest mistake, and the Speaker appreciates being invited to speak to this group.” As the Speaker!

Slumming in First Class. Would-be first lady Teresa Heinz Kerry was spotted at London’s Heathrow airport last week after landing on a British Airways flight from Washington, D.C., and being escorted to the front of the customs line. An HOH informant who took the same flight from Dulles last Wednesday morning said Mrs. Kerry emerged from first class carrying what appeared to be a hat box.

“She did not even entertain the idea of waiting in line,” our informant said. Instead, Mrs. Kerry stood to the side and “patiently waited until an official escorted her to the front of the line and whisked her through customs.”

But our source said passengers waiting in the long United Kingdom customs line were more curious as to “why someone with a private jet” was flying on a commercial aircraft. “It’s not quite Air Force One but you have to make do with what you can get,” our source said, showing an appropriately dry British wit.

A Kerry family friend said Mrs. Kerry was in the U.K. last week to attend a friend’s wedding and visit the Senator’s daughter, Vanessa Kerry, a medical student who is studying in Great Britain on a Fulbright scholarship.

Hubby Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) was grounded in the States, what with the judicial filibuster debate reaching critical mass. Apparently, the Senator’s wife regularly flies commercial despite the luxury of owning a Gulf Stream. Our source on the British Airways flight was incredulous, saying, “I thought they traveled on private jet, or at least Air France!”

Loneliest Job. Let’s hope Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.) has a well-stocked toolbox. Because it seems he has some serious bridge building to do.

Partisans are furious at Wexler for bucking the Democratic leadership and introducing his own Social Security bill, which has sparked some pretty nasty whispering about Wexler — behind his back, naturally.

At last week’s House Democratic Caucus meeting, sources said they were both surprised and irked to see Wexler show up for one of his first meetings in a long, long time. Wexler sat in the back of the room, and spoke to few other Members.

“He looked like the kid who forgot to take a shower before he came to school,” said one Democrat who was at the Caucus. Ouch. Another Democrat told HOH, “Perhaps if Mr. Wexler came to Caucus or whip meetings more regularly and didn’t buck the party on the key issue that has united Democrats, more of his colleagues would want to chat with him.”

Wexler’s spokeswoman, Lale Mamaux, said no one has complained to the Congressman’s face and he isn’t going to engage anonymous bullies. “We’re not going to play that game. It’s silly,” she said.

Maybe the complainers just don’t get it. Wexler, whose district includes the retiree-heavy communities of Boca Raton and Margate, represents the second largest constituency of Social Security beneficiaries in the country. (GOP Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite of Florida has the most.)

Mamaux said her boss is united with Democrats in opposing privatization, but felt he had to propose an alternative to the GOP plan. “He felt this was his time to do this now. … Our constituents are extremely, extremely strong and vocal about this issue.”

Please send your hot tips, juicy gossip or comments to hoh@rollcall.com.

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