Tales from the Trail

Helloooooo out there…. Senator asks if anyone paying attention to speech

Senators go to the Senate floor and make speeches about issues near and dear to their constituents all day long — but whether anyone is actually listening is another matter. USA-CONGRESS/

Making speeches on the Senate floor gets the words into the official record, but often they are made to a near-empty chamber so it is never quite clear whether the words are heard.

That can be frustrating for politicians used to getting plenty of attention.

Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski got fed up when she was speaking about the budget fight and how a government shutdown would hurt port and airport operations. As she talked, she saw the senator who was presiding over the chamber, another Democrat, apparently checking her BlackBerry.

“I’m telling you, Madam President, this is not going to be good. But you know what’s not really good? Not only the consequences but the way we’re functioning here. Madam President, Hello? Madam President? I don’t know if my speech is not that attention-getting but could I have your attention?” Mikulski said.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand responded dutifully: “The senator has consumed ten minutes.”

A long slog gives way to a ‘good week’ for U.S. Justice Department

After months of trying times, U.S. Justice Department officials are walking with a little spring in their step, describing it as a “good week” after the terrorism suspect accused of trying to detonate a car bomb in the heart of New York’s busy Times Square was nabbed only two days after the failed attack.

TIMESSQUARE/The department has been under fire since last fall over issues ranging from Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to prosecute the accused plotters of the Sept. 11 attacks in the heart of Manhattan to closing the military prison at the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

And when a Nigerian man was able to sneak a bomb hidden in his underwear aboard a U.S. commercial jet, the dull roar of anger became white hot rage by both Republicans and President Barack Obama’s fellow Democrats about how the administration handled the situation.