Washington knows how to put on a hard-core press, but it's not always slick-suited lobbyists applying pressure.
Sometimes it's longtime friends.
When the White House and congressional leadership were looking for votes for the controversial financial services bill, it wasn't President Bush who was dispatched to call Rep. Sue Myrick, a Charlotte Republican who initially voted against it. It was Dan Quayle and Jack Kemp.
Yes, that's Quayle, as in the former vice president, and Kemp, the former GOP vice presidential candidate, who was the honored guest at a Myrick fundraiser in the spring.
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“That's the typical stuff that goes on,” said Myrick, who said she was impervious to it (but was persuaded to switch her vote by a chorus of local business people who said that their or their customers' inability to get credit was affecting their bottom line).
Rep. Mel Watt, a Charlotte Democrat who was on board with the bill from the start, said he played no role in persuading colleagues to switch their votes, nor would he. He recalled that after agreeing to support Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., to become House majority whip in 2006, Clyburn asked if Watt would join the whip organization.
The whips' most important duties are to ensure that enough votes are lined up for important bills, and sometimes it takes a little cajoling.
“I said, ‘Hell no,'” Watt recalled. “I do not like to beat up on people about their votes, even when I vigorously disagree with them.”
Watt said he doesn't like trying to arm twist people whose decisions were based on “economic interest, or in their gut, or in their heart.”
“I know whipping is necessary, but very, very seldom do I ask people about their vote,” he said.
‘The day America died'
Emotions have run high in the Capitol as Congress has tried to cope with the financial mess. Take Rep. Virginia Foxx, the Republican from Banner Elk, who took to the House floor Friday morning with this comment: “There is a song ‘The Day the Music Died,'” she said.
“I don't think it is too much of a stretch to say this may be the day America died. I am not alone in feeling that what the Congress is about to do today is a very, very serious, consequential thing for this country.”
Later Friday, she appeared to have come down the ledge with another floor speech.
“I have confidence that everyone who cast a vote made a careful decision based on their conscience, and that's the way it should be for every vote that we take,” Foxx said.
“But now that this bill has passed the Congress, we must work together in a bipartisan way to hold those accountable who got us into this mess.”
Burr's old habit has a twist
There's no need to look around for a spittoon if Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., slides some chew into his mouth while he's chatting, and we all have his college football coach to thank.
Burr actually ingests the stuff, a habit instilled in him from his gridiron days at Wake Forest.
“Somebody had a mishap with a cup one day,” he explained, and his football coach said, “That's it.”
“He said, ‘If you're going to do it, then you swallow it, but there are not going to be any of these cups around,' ” Burr said.
“My wife is still on me to quit, but I just can't give up all my vices,” he said.