Catching Up With Leahy, Clyburn and Pelosi

Latin lessons

This columnist just rode the U.S. Capitol subway with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat.

"So, is your party going to get a presidential nominee soon?" we inquired of the six-term senator, referring to the escalating slugfest between Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

"Oremus! Oremus!" Mr. Leahy replied with hopeful enthusiasm.

Which, when translated from Latin to English, means "Let us pray."

Seconds later, as Mr. Leahy rode up the escalator to the Senate elevators, he turned and shouted back something to the effect of "Permissum campana orbis," meaning "Let the bells ring!"

Climb down

"As you know, the architect of the Court, Cass Gilbert, designed the Supreme Court’s facade in such a way that walking up the 44 steps was dramatically symbolic of approaching the highest court," says our Capitol Hill source.

"I’ve heard that the Supreme Court is about to close the steps. The plan is that nobody will be allowed to make that awesome climb."

Say it ain’t so.

"We’ve been going through a modernization project for some time, and part of the project is the creation of a visitor entrance to the building," Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg tells this columnist. "And what that will mean is, when completed, the public will come in on the plaza level … and the front steps will be used as an exit.

"So the door won’t be closed, but the flow of traffic in and out of the building will change. There will be access, but a change in flow."

Abe’s access

A wiseguy working in the U.S. Capitol Police Identification Branch Office in Room 58 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building stuck a photograph of Abraham Lincoln, with his trademark beard and black stovepipe hat, into an official U.S. Capitol laminated credential that hangs behind his desk.

Pumping Pelosi

"Pelosi Premium" bumper stickers are now being distributed by the Freedom Project to let the Democratic majority in Congress know that Americans can’t afford to pay nearly $4 for a gallon of gas.

The project supports Republican efforts to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign sources of energy and expand production of American energy to create new jobs and grow the economy.

Republican roots

Last time we checked in with House Majority Whip Rep. James E. Clyburn, the South Carolina Democrat had just received the "Barrier Breaker" Award from the NAACP for having attained the highest-ranking position of any black in Congress. That was in March.

Now we read:

"My father was a Republican," declared Mr. Clyburn, when questioned by a reporter for the Orangeburg (S.C.) Times and Democrat about the "Martin Luther King Jr. was a Republican" national billboard campaign launched by the National Black Republican Association (NBRA) in Orangeburg, the congressman’s hometown.

"Representative Clyburn’s stunning admission is a testament to the success of our billboard campaign thus far," reacts NBRA Chairman Frances Rice. "We are making great strides with recapturing the Republican Party’s civil rights heritage and … [finding] some signs of progress with our effort to get Democrats to apologize to blacks for the Democratic Party’s horrendous racism."

Auditing Al

That was Imperial College of Science and Oxford-educated Iain Murray, senior fellow in energy, science and technology at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, delivering a Heritage Foundation lecture the other day on his new book, "The Real Inconvenient Truths: Seven Environmental Catastrophes Liberals Don’t Want You To Know About — Because They Helped Cause Them."

You can read all seven catastrophes in the book, but as for one of them, Mr. Murray addresses Al Gore’s "crusade" against global warming and as an aside examines whether the former vice president practices what he preaches.

He does, doesn’t he?

"Of course not," says the author. "At the end of ‘An Inconvenient Truth,’ Al Gore outlines some things the individual can do to ‘make a difference’ about global warming. First and foremost among these is cutting the energy you use at home.

"The Tennessee Center for Policy Research performed a home energy audit on the former vice president and revealed him to be a Class A hypocrite," Mr. Murray states. "In 2006, Gore devoured nearly 221,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) — more than 20 times the national average. Last August alone, Gore burned through 22,619 kWh — guzzling more than twice the electricity in one month than an average American family uses in an entire year.

"As a result of his energy consumption, Gore’s average monthly electric bill topped $1,359."

Sorry about that

It was 208 years ago that President John Adams approved the appropriation of $5,000 for the purpose of "such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress."

As Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell recalls today, the library was set up in what is now the reception area of his leadership office.

"The original collection included just 740 volumes and three maps, which were stored right here in the Capitol," he notes. "When British troops burned the Capitol building in 1814, they used the books and maps of the library to ignite the flames, and all 3,000 volumes of the collections were destroyed."

An amused Mr. McConnell hasn’t forgotten the day when then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair addressed a joint session of Congress and "he visited the leader’s suite and told then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist that although it was coming a bit late, he was sorry for the fire incident."

The library remains the largest in the world, with a staff of more than 3,500 and holding more than 138 million items — books and maps to sheet music.