D.C. Shadow Senator Gets First Junket -- To See Shuttle Launch
||Washington Examiner (DC)
||Sunday, February 7, 2010
Ah, the perks of being the shadow senator for the District of Columbia! We are stuck here in our winter wonderland, contemplating whether to dig out the car or shove another frozen pizza in the oven. Shadow Sen. Paul Strauss is down in Florida at Kennedy Space Center watching Endeavor lift off.
"It should be quite a thrill," Strauss told me as he loaded his family and his car on the Amtrak in Lorton, Va., for the 17-hour trip south. "Flying was too iffy if we were going to make our schedule."
Maybe you didn't know the District has two shadow senators. Even those of us who live and vote in the nation's capital, and have even voted for Strauss, might not understand what purpose he and his fellow senator serve.
Being a federal enclave, rather than a state, D.C. has no representation in Congress, save for a nonvoting delegate. As part of the push for full statehood, Washingtonians voted to elect "shadow," or pretend, senators. It would be a symbolic job. They would have few privileges and no pay. Their job would be to lobby the House and Senate for statehood; short of that, they would try to convince member of Congress from, say Kentucky, to stay out of the District's affairs on matters such as gun control or school vouchers.
In 1996, Strauss became one of the first two elected shadow senators. He's on his third term. He could be a lifer, in part because there's not much competition.
But there are some rewards. Well, there's one: Strauss gets to use the Senate dining room.
And now -- finally -- his first junket!
Most senators in their third terms would have racked up free "research trips" to European capitals or even war zones. Strauss was overjoyed to be heading south to Kennedy Space Center.
"It's something I've always wanted to do," he tells me. Nothing in Washington just happens, especially for a shadow politician. Strauss let it be known that he wanted to see a shuttle launch, D.C. residents who work for NASA took note and tried to get him on the schedule, finally a spot came free.
"I have never voted against a NASA appropriation," Strauss says. "Not too many senators can say that."
"Meanwhile," he says, "D.C. taxpayers have paid for this fancy stuff. They deserve to get some representation at the launch event."
The launch is scheduled for 4 a.m. Sunday. Strauss and his guest were to be fetched from their hotel at 1 a.m. and bused to the pad at the Banana Creek VIP viewing site. Strauss allows that there might not have been much competition for a night launch on Super Bowl Sunday, but he says Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd is scheduled to show.
"I will take that opportunity to push for the D.C. voting rights legislation," he says. "Our residents deserve it."
And Strauss deserves better perks, even if he's only a shadow of a real senator.
Read more at the Washington Examiner: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/local/D_C_-shadow-senator-gets-first-junket----to-see-shuttle-launch-83659727.html#ixzz0exwPUvEh