- The Washington Times - Monday, June 30, 2003

Class-warfare struggle

House Democrats have taken to comparing discretionary federal spending levels for fiscal 2004 — which rises at more than the rate of inflation yet again — with the latest income-tax cuts championed by President Bush and passed by the Republican Congress.

During debate in the House Appropriations Committee before passage of the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education spending bill, Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy, Rhode Island Democrat, turned the gleeful childhood holiday known as the Last Day of School into the greatest of horribles.

“When they don’t go to school, they don’t have a life,” said Mr. Kennedy, arguing for more money for the “latch-key kids” who need summer school programs. Many carefree kids might beg to differ.

Mr. Kennedy also said he was ashamed about the way Republican tax policies treated, um, heirs of Camelot.

“I made my money the old-fashioned way. I inherited it,” Mr. Kennedy said, getting a laugh out of the oldest of jokes. What was not funny, he said, was the way Republicans “are all about elitism and oligarchy” — as opposed to a son of one of America’s most prominent families.

Rep. Todd Tiahrt, Kansas Republican, protested that “to use class warfare in this bill is unfair,” and pointed to “dramatic increases” in all spending programs.

But Rep. Steven R. Rothman, New Jersey Democrat, said, in effect, “tough.”

Republican tax cuts “give a benefit to those who have already done so well,” Mr. Rothman said. They’ve done so smashingly, in fact, that “the top 1 percent [of income-earners] rely on the other 99 percent to empty their bedpans and to mow their lawns,” Mr. Rothman said, prompting more guffaws.

“You are taking $2 trillion away from the government,” said Mr. Rothman, describing Democratic plans to roll back the tax cuts as “prudent spending of the people’s money.”

That prompted Rep. John T. Doolittle, California Republican, to rise.

“We are not going to just sit here in silence,” Mr. Doolittle said. “Please don’t think we’re embarrassed about those tax cuts. We’re proud of these tax cuts. We did it to stimulate the economy.”

With that, Appropriations Committee Chairman C.W. Bill Young, Florida Republican, began to keep a tighter leash on nongermane debate.

Elle in Washington

Welcome to Washington, Hollywood. Before streaming into the “Legally Blonde 2” screening at the Loews Georgetown theater, invitees were treated to a wanding and thorough bag check.

The predominantly female audience — some dressed in shades of Elle Woods’ signature pink — oohed and aahed as Reese Witherspoon’s character tackled Capitol Hill and “the Washington way,” all the while maintaining her killer sense of fashion.

The basic plot of the movie: While working to pass a bill against animal testing, Elle ultimately proves that one person can indeed make a difference.

One line that drew a lot of laughs went something like: “I taught Bruiser how to shop online. I think I can handle Congress.” Another crowd-pleaser: “Is bill-writing super fun or what?”

Two other interesting tidbits spotlighted in the movie: The Washington Times (is this a super-fun newspaper to read, or what?) and Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican.

“Legally Blonde 2” opens nationwide tomorrow.

Once upon a time …

Yes, Virginia, there are fairy-tale romances.

Ask Amy Harkins, who for the past two years has been a media relations specialist in the U.S. Senate Press Gallery. Her knight in shining armor — White House spokesman Taylor Gross — rode in unannounced on Friday evening.

“I lured her over to the White House under the ruse of going to a reception in the East Wing,” Mr. Gross tells Inside the Beltway. “I had pre-arranged with Secret Service agents posted by the Rose Garden to keep foot traffic at a minimum and then took Amy into the garden on our way to the East Wing.”

And?

“I was really nervous and didn’t know what to say,” he says, “so I began telling her some history about the Rose Garden.”

And when you ran out of things to say?

“I dropped down on one knee and proposed to her.”

We wouldn’t be telling the whole story if we didn’t mention that the flustered spokesman (trust us, Mr. Gross thinks more quickly on his feet) began sliding the engagement ring on her wrong hand. Which isn’t to say the tearful Miss Harkins wasn’t in a similar state of blissful confusion, given the incredible turn of events.

“I’m the luckiest girl in the world,” says the Mississippi native, one of triplet sisters. “Taylor can never put one over on me, but he did it this time.”

As quickly as the Tennessee native got the ring on the right (meaning left) hand, Secret Service agents hiding in the bushes and atop the White House roof broke into applause.

Also hiding in the bushes, it turns out, was White House spokesman Scott Stanzel, who captured the moment on film.

Oh, and Miss Harkins did say “yes.” Then she told her new fiance, “I need to call my sisters.”

John McCaslin, a nationally syndicated columnist, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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