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D.C. Buzz: For Blumenthal, an ‘F’ to be proud of

December 12, 2018

I don’t think I run the risk of ethnic stereotyping when I say that Jewish families in America recognize the value of education and encourage their children to do well in school. (I speak with some authority on this subject because I myself grew up in such a household.)

So it was amusing to hear uber-achiever Sen. Richard Blumenthal last week boast about how he has consistently earned “F’s” — from the National Rifle Association.

The nation’s premier gun-rights group and inalterable foe of gun control grades lawmakers on their positions on gun issues. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., gets an “A,” as do most Senate Republicans.

But Blumenthal — Harvard grad, Yale Law, Supreme Court clerk, state attorney general, senator — gets “F’s.” And so does his Connecticut colleague, Sen. Chris Murphy. No surprise for either one, given their liberal Democratic leanings and representation of a state that suffered grievously from the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting (the sixth anniversary of which is Friday).

Even so, Blumenthal must have felt the mystical presence of his late mother, Jane Rosenstock, in the room where he was addressing a conference of advocates organized by Newtown Action Alliance.

“My Mom told me never to get F’s,” he told the audience, deadpan. “But she’d be proud of this one!”

Luck of the draw

Rep.-elect Jahana Hayes must have been feeling very lucky indeed when she dug her hand into the bowl determining the numerical order for picking offices on Capitol Hill — and came up with number 12! Hayes hasn’t even been sworn in for her first term but already she’s scored a major legislative success in selecting a coveted office in the Longworth House Office Building, 4th floor.

The suite is far from plush, to be sure. Aides sit cheek by jowl in smallish rooms set off from the boss’ office, which is private but far from spacious. The quarters are a stark contrast to comparable digs in the Senate office buildings no the other side of Capitol Hill. If Senate offices are the Waldorf Astoria, House offices are just barely the Courtyard Marriott.

But Hayes certainly is not complaining. She knows it could have been a whole lot worse in a drawing that involved 80 or more of her fellow newbies. Just ask Hayes’ predecessor, Rep. Elizabeth Esty, who occupied what she termed an “attic office” on the 5th floor of the adjacent Cannon House Office Building.

Known variously as “Freshman Hall” or “Freshman Penthouse,” the 5th floor of Cannon requires an extra elevator ride for access and connect to …. Nowhere.

Hayes is hoping her luck holds up for the next major hurdle: committee assignments. The 45-year-old former history at Kennedy High School in Waterbury is hoping for an assignment to the House Education & the Workforce Committee. As Teacher of the Year 2016, Hayes should get it in a heartbeat.

And it doesn’t hurt that she endorsed House Speaker to-be Nancy Pelosi last week and helped the 78-year-old Californian ward off what would have been an embarrassing defeat among House Democrats.

But the jury is still out on that one, so please stand by.

Life after Congress

And speaking of Esty, this is the valedictory season as she prepares to depart Capitol Hill after serving three terms. With Esty having declined interview requests from me and Hearst Connecticut Media colleague Rob Ryser, I feared she was about to go gently into that good night and never be heard from again.

Turns out there was no reason to fear. I encountered Esty after the above-mentioned Newtown Action Alliance meeting. She was the same old Elizabeth Esty, full of talk-talk-talk and thoughtful reflection.

Plans for the future? Uncertain, but tending to her aging mother in California is high on the list.

Travel is another definite possibility. Son Jonathan is in Hong Kong, so there’s that. Also, husband Dan is on sabbatical and his Yale Law School interests may take him to France.

Esty studied in Paris after Harvard on a Rotary International scholarship, and she helped translate French-written documents for President Richard Nixon’s memoir. (Her reward? Two copies of the book, signed by the 37th President of the United States himself.)

“I haven’t had a break in 10 years!” she told me.

Ideally, she says, she’d like to pursue public-policy interests that parallel her work on Capitol Hill — science, guns. Infrastructure, veterans and that all-encompassing “civic engagement.”

She laughs when asked whether any of those interests translate into a day job at some point in her future.

“I’m just postponing figuring out what that might be,” she answered. So hit the “pause” button on Elizabeth Esty, rather than “cancel.”

dan@hearstdc.com