The Saturday Morning Post: Quick hits on politics & more in RI

January 5th, 2013 at 5:00 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site, The Saturday Morning Post

Welcome to another edition of my weekend column. As always, send your takes, tips and trial balloons to tnesi@wpri.com. For quick hits all week long, follow me on Twitter: @tednesi.

1. It’s possible Rhode Island’s current U.S. Senate delegation will be in place for quite a while. Jack Reed​ will almost certainly win re-election next year to serve through 2020, when he’ll be 71 years old; considering how long many senators serve, it’s not inconceivable he could serve into the 2030s. ​Sheldon Whitehouse​ is about six years younger than Reed and just won a commanding victory; a few more of those would keep him in place into the 2030s, too. Those are hardly outlandish scenarios considering the long tenures of most recent Rhode Island senators – ​Claiborne Pell​ (36 years), ​John Pastore​ (26), ​T.F. Green​ (24) and ​John Chafee​ (23) – with only ​Lincoln Chafee​ lasting less than a decade. Then again, periods of Senate stability can end quickly: Massachusetts had the same delegation from 1985 through 2009, but looks set to have two brand-new senators by the end of this month.

2. Rhode Island’s U.S. House delegation is another story – there’s almost no way the state will avoid losing one of its two congressional seats after the next census, and if it happens there’s no way ​Jim Langevin​ and ​David Cicilline will both be serving in the House come 2023. In interviews this week they acknowledged it’s a real possibility the delegation will be downsized. “Of course, you know, they’ve said that the last two times as well, and each time it hasn’t happened,” Langevin told me. “But eventually there will be a day when, as a result of the census and population shifts and growth in other areas, Rhode Island very likely will lose a seat. It’s always a loss of clout, I believe; it’s better to have more members than less. And again, the more senior you become the more important that seniority is and you have increased responsibility. So we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.” For now, though, change is unlikely: Langevin says he’s running in 2014.

3. If you missed them earlier in the week, check out my new interviews with Elizabeth Warren​, Jack Reed​ and ​David Cicilline​. And keep an eye out next week for my interviews with ​Joe Kennedy, ​Sheldon Whitehouse​ and ​Jim Langevin​. All my DC coverage is collected here.

4. As I was leaving Senator-elect Warren’s makeshift office Thursday morning, I ran into a familiar face: ​Mindy Myers​, who managed Warren’s campaign after masterminding Whitehouse’s in 2006 and Connecticut Sen. ​Richard Blumenthal​’s​ in 2010. Myers has signed on as Warren’s first chief of staff, playing the same role for the former Harvard Law professor that she did for Whitehouse when he joined the Senate back in 2007. “I love startups,” Myers told me. One job Myers definitely won’t be taking: campaign manager for ​Ed Markey​ or one of the other Democrats vying to win ​John Kerry’s​ seat.

5. This video of ​Joe Biden​ working the crowd at Thursday’s Senate swearing-in ceremonies is hilarious. Don’t miss the moment around the 22-second mark when he spies Molly Whitehouse, the senator’s daughter, and declares: “I want you next to me!” (Twice, actually.)

6. A number of bold-faced names showed up Thursday afternoon at ​Whitehouse’s swearing-in party, held in a Senate hearing room in the Dirksen building. Among them were Senate Majority Leader ​Harry Reid​, who told the crowd Whitehouse is “a great senator, and getting better every day.” Other visitors included Minnesota Sen. ​Al Franken and Whitehouse colleagues Jack Reed and David Cicilline. Also spotted: James Diossa, Rick McAuliffe and Jeff Taylor, Jimmy Riley, Tony Simon, Peter Baptista, ​Brett Smiley​, ​David Preston​, ​Alex Swartsel​, Gabe Amo and ​​Nancy Langrall.

7. Could Providence native Tom Donilon​, currently President Obama’s national security adviser, become the next White House chief of staff? He’s widely seen as a contender for the job if the current chief, ​Jacob Lew​, gets the nod as treasury secretary. Donilon wouldn’t be the only one in the family with that title: his wife, ​Cathy Russell​, is chief of staff to ​Jill Biden​.

8. Jack Reed reiterated this week – for the umpteenth time – that he is not going to be the next defense secretary. When I mentioned my own skepticism about the perennial speculation that he could take over at the Pentagon, Reed replied: “It’s a very difficult job. It’s a very important job. And my interest is serving in the Senate. I’ve been very clear to everybody: that is my interest.” Reed may still wind up with considerable sway over the Defense Department, though, if he succeeds Carl Levin as chairman of Senate Armed Services.

9. Reed and Elizabeth Warren both say they’re looking forward to working together on one of his other committees, Senate Banking. “I’m a huge fan of Jack Reed,” Warren told me. “He’s terrific.” As for Reed, actions speak louder than words: he worked behind the scenes to get Warren on the committee despite Wall Street opposition.

10. ​Ian Prior​, who acquitted himself well managing ​Brendan Doherty’s​ congressional campaign in a tough year for Republicans, is leaving Rhode Island. He and his wife (who are expecting their first child) are moving to Washington so he can take a new job as the National Republican Congressional Committee’s communications director for candidates out west. While Republicans will surely congratulate Prior, they’ve got to be a little disappointed to lose a young operative with local experience.

11. It’s interesting that Deepwater Wind, which first came on Rhode Island’s radar screen as a pet project of ​Donald Carcieri’s​ in 2008, has now become something strongly supported by the state’s congressional delegation. Whitehouse and Langevin both mentioned to me this week that one of their reasons for backing the fiscal cliff compromise was its extension of the tax credit for wind farms, which would keep the Deepwater project on track. Democrats greeted Deepwater with some skepticism when Republican Carcieri first presented it, but the company and its project have been more widely embraced in the years since – not a huge surprise, perhaps, since alternative energy is usually one of their party’s priorities.

12. Set your DVRs: This week on Newsmakers – Providence Public Safety Commissioner ​Steven Pare​, plus my report from Washington on the first week of Congress. Watch Sunday at 10 a.m. on Fox Providence. See you back here next Saturday morning.

Ted Nesi ( tnesi@wpri.com ) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com and writes the Nesi’s Notes blog. Follow him on Twitter: @tednesi

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