Editor's note: Mike took you inside the smoke-filled Speakers' lobby in a post on June 27, 2006, which as he updates below, is history after less than a week of the 110th Congress.
New Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi has announced that smoking will no longer be permitted in the Speakers' Lobby, the anteroom of the House chamber that had previously served as a smoking sanctuary for members of Congress. The move comes 10 days after a smoking ban went into effect in Washington, D.C., bars and restaurants, and years after smoking was banned in executive branch buildings all over town.
Members will still be permitted to light up in their private offices, however.
Editor's note: Our sister blog about politics, First Read, is eating turkey until Nov. 27, so Mike offers this to The Daily Nightly, which I gladly accept.
Nancy Pelosi has decided to pick up and move her suite of offices across National Statuary Hall to the space now occupied by GOP Speaker Hastert.
Democratic speakers and leaders have been in the suite where Pelosi is now situated for years. Pelosi herself has often marveled at how she finds herself in the same office used by one of her personal heroes, Tip O'Neill.
But construction on the Capitol Visitors Center has shrunk the space considerably, and though Pelosi was known to harbor desires to stay where she was, her staff was insistent. Plus, the Hastert space on the west side of the Capitol has a balcony that affords a dramatic view down the National Mall.
So it turns out that she really will need to measure the drapes. One thing that will definitely have to change is the motif. Speaker Hastert's office is done in all red.
Two lessons that authorities have included among the first to impart to the 54 new members of the U.S. House of Representatives: how to cover your (rear end), and to how to duck and cover.
Newly elected members, some wide-eyed in awe of the their surroundings, are here on Capitol Hill today for freshman orientation. The morning portion of the program was devoted to advice on how to run an office and an organization within the ethical boundaries of the House.
On the way into the closed-door confab, congresspersons-elect were handed a pamphlet from the Hill's Office of Emergency planning that featured instructions on how to cover your head with a bio-hazard mask in the event of attack, replete with photographs of smiling models with the plastic sheaths over their faces.
"It's fine, especially if I were having a bad hair day," said member-elect Nancy Boyda, D-Kan.
Editor's note: Portions of Mike's analysis were excerpted in First Read, the NBC blog that covers politics 24/7. Here's the rest of it.
Many aides and lobbyists believe that President Bush and Democrats -- should they take control of the House -- will have at least a few areas where compromise is possible over the next several months before the 2008 fight begins in earnest. The following is gleaned from several conversations at the end of last week.
To the extent that Democrats will have a "mandate" should they win control of one or both houses of Congress, surely it would be to do something to force the president's hand on Iraq policy. To a lesser extent, if Democrats try really hard they might be able to read a rejection of Bush's Social Security plan into the election results.
Editor's note: Producer Mike Viqueira, who covers the House of Representatives for NBC News, contributed the following to our sister blog First Read. It's too good not to post here, as well. But just a reminder that you can get your political blog fix any time at www.FirstRead.MSNBC.com.
Let's be clear about what is at stake here on Tuesday. When you're talking about holding the majority in the U.S. House, you're talking about being in utter control of everything from how, when, and what is actually debated on the floor of the chamber to what is served for lunch in the cafeteria.
"The job of the minority is to make a quorum and to draw its pay." Words spoken by House Speaker Thomas Reed in 1890 that perfectly describe the sweeping hegemony of the majority party -- and emasculation of the minority -- that is as evident today as it was 116 years ago. The majority here controls every step of the process, and when you control the process, you control the substance.
The language of love can once again be spoken in the halls of your House of Representatives today, as GOP leaders have quietly - almost furtively - re-labeled "Freedom Toast" as French Toast.
The switch in the House basement cafeteria, first reported in this morning's Washington Times, came at some point yesterday, the first week of an extended recess for the House. A trip downstairs this morning by yours truly confirmed the change: there, plain as day, the sign reads "French Toast" and "Fries."
There is a place, not so far away, where you can visit a political age of yesteryear. It's an enclave deep in the heart of the U.S. Capitol, and to find it all you must do is follow your nose through the halls of Congress and around the House chamber. Sooner or later you are bound to stumble into the Speakers' Lobby. Now, my friends, you're in flavor country.
The powers that be in your U.S. House have just made yet more encroachments into the ever-shrinking universe of public spaces where smoking is still allowed. Beginning this week, lighting up is no longer permitted in the outdoor courtyards, garages, lobbies, foyers, etc., on the House side of Capitol Hill. Smokers are now largely confined to two glassed-in, highly ventilated hamster cages in the adjacent office buildings.
But not all smokers.
The House will today debate and likely pass a measure that would ensure the needs of household pets and service animals are taken into account when disaster preparedness plans are developed and presented to FEMA.
The Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act, HR 3858, was sponsored by Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., who can often be seen strolling through the Rayburn building with a small dog in tow. More information than you care to know about this fact was provided upon request by Lantos' office: "The little Westie mix who rules the Lantos office is named Max. His Hungarian name is Macko (pronounced "MOT-sko"), which translates to "Teddy Bear." Max is owned by the Lantos' neighbor, a researcher at the Congressional Research Service, who cannot take pets to work. So he contentedly spends his days by Tom's side."
The bill would require Senate approval and a presidential signature if it is to become the law of the land.
A few dozen very angry people on both sides of the immigration debate faced off outside the Capitol today, hurling bellicose insults and calling each other racists and fascists in two different languages. The occasion was a rally by the Minutemen in Senate Park, where leaders of that organization took turns bashing the president and the Senate for what they believe will be the ultimate passage of an "amnesty" for illegal immigrants.
Emotions were running very high as a group of about two dozen counter-protesters gathered 80 or so yards away and -- with the help of a bullhorn -- taunted the Minutemen with chants like, "You forgot your hoods!" and, "No Minutemen, no KKK, no fascists in the U.S.A.!" and so on.
"Go to hell!" shouted Minuteman founder Jim Gilchrest back at them. He called the protesters "proponents of anarchy, communism, and the true segregationists in this country."
The political rhetoric is heating up on the Medicare Rx plan as the May 15 sign-up date looms.
Democratic leaders plan a large rally-style event this afternoon to call on the administration to extend the deadline, but Republicans appeared on camera this morning to deliver some pre-emptive salvos. To say that they oppose an extension would be an understatement.
"It's absolute sheer hypocrisy," says Rep. Bill Thomas of the Democratic call. "They take the law of the land and try to create doubt and confusion...and then complain that we don't extend the deadline."