DC january 2013

Enthusiastic Joe Kennedy III says it’s ‘surreal’ to join Congress

January 7th, 2013 at 11:16 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

​By Ted Nesi

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WPRI) – Hours before Joe Kennedy III’s swearing-in last week, his brand-new congressional office looked like a college dorm room on freshman move-in day.

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• Related: Joe Kennedy III met his wife in Warren’s Harvard Law class​ (Jan. 3)

Watch Newsmakers with Steven Pare, Ted Nesi from DC

January 6th, 2013 at 5:00 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

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.


Photo Gallery: A look at the RI and Mass. delegations in DC

January 4th, 2013 at 5:27 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

I’m no Ansel Adams, but check out some photos from my Capitol Hill reporting trip here.

Jack Reed joins Levin for 14th official trip to Afghanistan

January 4th, 2013 at 5:03 pm by under Nesi's Notes

​By Ted Nesi

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WPRI) – U.S. Sen. Jack Reed left Washington in secret on Thursday for an official visit to Afghanistan and Pakistan, WPRI.com has learned.

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Sheldon Whitehouse, Kennedy draw inspiration from – Gretzky

January 4th, 2013 at 12:24 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

WPRI.com’s Ted Nesi is reporting from Capitol Hill this week.

WASHINGTON – Wayne Gretzky retired more than a decade ago, but he’s still inspiring congressional Democrats from Southern New England.

In separate interviews this week, Rhode Island U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and newly elected Mass. Congressman Joe Kennedy III both cited the wisdom of the legendary Canadian hockey star as a model for how they’ll approach the 113th Congress.

“If you remember the great Wayne Gretzky,” Whitehouse told WPRI.com, “he used to say you become a great hockey player not when you go to where the puck is but when you go to where the puck is going to be. And I think there’s four issues where the puck is going to be where we really need to be working hard even if it’s not the so-called issue of the moment.”

Whitehouse’s four issues: climate change, the oceans, cybersecurity, and streamlining the way health care gets delivered.

The next morning, Kennedy had the same lesson on his mind.

“Wayne Gretzky was famous for saying he doesn’t go where the puck is, he goes to where the puck’s going to be,” he said, arguing that members of Congress need to think the same way.

Informed that Senator Whitehouse had used Gretzky’s famous aphorism less than 24 hours earlier, Kennedy said, “Did he really? You’re kidding me!” He laughed and added: “Maybe he and I can talk about that.”

• Related: More stories from Ted Nesi’s trip to Washington this week

​(photo: Wikipedia)

Watch: A look at the start of the 113th Congress, Sandy bill

January 4th, 2013 at 5:00 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

After surviving tough race, Cicilline excited to start a new term

January 3rd, 2013 at 7:52 pm by under Nesi's Notes

​By Ted Nesi

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WPRI) – With the Providence issued receding and his political future looking secure, Congressman David Cicilline and his aides are clearly excited to refocus on his work in Congress.

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Elizabeth Warren goes from blogging about Senate to joining it

January 3rd, 2013 at 1:04 pm by under Nesi's Notes

​By Ted Nesi

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WPRI) – Seven years ago Elizabeth Warren was blogging for a liberal website as the U.S. Senate debated a tough new bankruptcy bill, pointing out her disagreements with the lawmakers. On Thursday, she was sworn in as the Senate’s newest member.

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Joe Kennedy III met his wife in Warren’s Harvard Law class

January 3rd, 2013 at 12:00 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

WPRI.com’s Ted Nesi is reporting from Capitol Hill this week.

WASHINGTON – Harvard Law School Professor Elizabeth Warren’s class was an important one for future congressman Joe Kennedy III, and not just because he and his teacher would soon be serving together in Congress.

Kennedy, 32, met his wife, Lauren Birchfield, when they were both students in Warren’s class. “He sat in the front row, on my left, and Lauren was in the back row on my right,” Warren recalled Thursday in an interview with WPRI.com.

Kennedy and Birchfield married last month. “Joe tells me there are five couples from that class, and I take credit for all of them!” Warren said.

“She was and is an amazing professor,” Kennedy, who received his law degree in 2009, said in a separate interview. “There’s a reason she always wins the best-teacher award.”

He recalled: “I’d get lost in the intricacies of the bankruptcy code, and I’d go up to her office, and this was when she was the overseer of TARP – and she’d say, ‘Yes, senator, yes, senator, I need to go because I have a student here.’”

“He was a good student,” Warren said, laughing.


Reed frustrated with Obama on taxes, worried about debt limit

January 2nd, 2013 at 10:55 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By ​Ted Nesi

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WPRI) – U.S. Sen. Jack Reed is still frustrated that President Obama didn’t push harder to include in this week’s fiscal cliff deal the entire tax increase he backed on the campaign trail, and is already ringing alarm bells another potential fiscal crisis later this winter.

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Sheldon Whitehouse on what makes an effective U.S. senator

January 2nd, 2013 at 5:38 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

WASHINGTON – Robert Caro’s magisterial biography of LBJ gets a reader thinking about what it takes to be an effective senator. It’s not just legislative smarts, and it’s not just political skill – and it’s different in different eras. Johnson himself might have had trouble if he stepped in to take Harry Reid’s place today.

During a 45-minute interview this afternoon with U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, who recently won a second six-year term with 65% of the vote, I asked him which senators he admires and how he thinks a lawmaker can be effective in the chamber. Here’s what he had to say:

I’ve had the pleasure and the privilege of serving with some of the real titans in the Senate: Robert C. Byrd, Ted Kennedy, Chris Dodd. My very strong feeling is that the things that make you an effective senator are:

Seniority, which you can’t do much about – it is what it is – but as time goes by you need to be ramping it up to match your seniority.

Very hard work, and I demand that of my staff as well – you can outwork other offices, you can have the report prepared in advance because you know where the public is going to be.

Gradually building enough expertise on an issue so when the discussion comes and you have something to say, people say, “Oh, this is an issue that Whitehouse has put a lot of work into and I’ve heard him before on this – he has credibility with me – I trust him.” You don’t completely cede your vote to another senator, but you trust people more on some things than you do on others, and you trust some people more than you do on others because you’ve seen them put the work in.

And then a certain amount of the rest is just timing and finding your moment where the things converge, so while seniority accrues, hard work and trying to pick the Wayne Gretzky puck locations, and being there when the time comes so that you can influence the debate in the right way, I think, is key.

More quotes from my interview with Whitehouse still to come.

RI Dems back Obama on fiscal cliff deal despite concerns

January 2nd, 2013 at 10:58 am by under Nesi's Notes

​By Ted Nesi​

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WPRI) – They didn’t love it, but in the end all four Democrats in Rhode Island’s congressional delegation stood by President Obama and voted for this week’s “fiscal cliff” compromise, once again standing with their party’s leadership during a major confrontation.

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I’ll be reporting from Washington the rest of this week

January 1st, 2013 at 4:27 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

I’m off to scale the fiscal cliff! Or something.

This afternoon I’m flying right into the madness of a House Republican revolt on Capitol Hill as Congress battles over the fiscal cliff. I’ll be filing dispatches from the nation’s capital for the rest of the week, interviewing members of the Rhode Island and Massachusetts delegations and offering up whatever I find out.

Check back throughout the week for my interviews and other dispatches. Let me know if you have story ideas for me to track down or others who’d make for a good interview.