You go first
Based upon a review of the lengthy itinerary, the most newsworthy item we discovered was when Mr. Specter asked Russian Deputy Minister of Justice Nikolay Savchenko for his personal advice about "the U.S. entering Pakistan to apprehend Osama Bin Laden if we have information on his location."
"The deputy minister asked that I offer my opinion first, which I did," Mr. Specter said, "explaining that the U.S. should first approach President [Pervez] Musharraf to seek approval for such action, but if not given, then a pre-emptive action is warranted under international law if there is cause to conclude that an attack by Iran is imminent."
That was the political spin Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York put on yesterday's return by South Dakota Sen. Tim Johnson to Capitol Hill for the first time since his nearly fatal brain hemorrhage last year.
Politics aside, Mr. Johnson says he has "been given a second chance at life," if not a third. The Democrat successfully battled prostate cancer in 2004.
Now that Congress is back from its August recess, is the new Democratic majority living up to its pledges to reimpose fiscal discipline?
At first glance of fresh data released yesterday by the National Taxpayers Union Foundation, one would argue not. After all, each bill introduced in recent months in the Senate to reduce federal spending has been overshadowed by 30 bills to raise spending.
However outrageous, this 1-to-30 spread is actually an improvement from the ratio of nearly 37 increases for each cut in the first eight months of the previous Congress.
The final day of congressional voting before the just-concluded August recess was so frantic and fraught with partisan squabbling that "in the rush to close the session, a milestone occurred that went unremarked and it should not have."
Therefore, observes Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, let the record reflect that Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, who has spent an incredible 45 years in Congress, "cast his 15,000th roll-call vote the day we adjourned for summer vacation."
Mr. Reid describes the long-serving senator as "a man with a lot of humility."
"He is always willing to step back into the shadows and let others get the attention," he said.
Swaying with Ted
If organizers of last night's "Grammys on the Hill" gala had their way, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy was anywhere but in the shadows.
The Willard InterContinental hotel event was to cap a full day of music advocacy between the country's top music artists and members of Congress, and the gala finale called for the Massachusetts Democrat to join Quincy Jones on stage to sing "We Are the World."
"I think it will be an historic moment in musical and congressional history," Washington publicist Jill Collins told Inside the Beltway beforehand. "And we thought Karl Rove rapping was the ultimate."