Posted: March 2, 2012


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

The Delaware delegation in D.C. used to be about as hard to get into as the House of Lords. Nobody not named Biden, Roth, Carper or Castle could crack it for 26 years.

The oligarchy ended when Joe Biden, who set a state record as a Democratic senator by spending six terms as part of it, left for the vice presidency. Otherwise, it probably would have stayed the same. Creaky, but the same.

Since Biden's ascendancy in 2009, the delegation has gone from something like the House of Lords to more like a house of cards. It kept needing to be set up all over again.

Ted Kaufman took a quick turn as a Democratic senator, appointed to Biden's seat until someone could be elected. A funny thing happened to Mike Castle, the Republican congressman, on his way from the House of Representatives to the Senate. Now two-thirds of the delegation have been in Washington for all of one year and counting.

Woops, there it is, an all-Democratic contingent with Tom Carper, a senator since 2001, and a couple of rookies with Chris Coons as the other senator and John Carney as the congressman.

The last time the Congress seated two unadulterated newbies from Delaware, none of the state's current members were even born yet.

Not even Carper, and he just turned 65. The session opened on Jan. 3, 1947, with John Williams as a new Republican senator and Cale Boggs as a new Republican congressman. Carper was born 20 days later.

There are new things to learn about this delegation all the time.

MILLION DOLLAR MAN. Both the Delaware Democrats and the Republicans recently set the filing fees for candidates running statewide in 2012. As usual, the fees amount to 1 percent of the salary for a full term in office, and the one for the Senate shows something that senators probably would rather their constituents not think about much.

Electing someone to the Senate is a million dollar paycheck.

The salary in the Senate -- and the House, too, for that matter -- is $174,000 a year. Paid over the six years of a senator's term, it comes to $1,044,000.

Carper will be shooting for his third term this year. Coons, by the way, is not a million dollar man. He was elected to complete what would have been the final four years of Biden's seventh term, so Coons is but a $696,000 man.

REAL CONGRESSMAN FROM DELAWARE. As the voters get used to Carney as the congressman, Carney is getting used to the Congress. This is reflected in a video called "Day in the Life," which he posted this week on his congressional Web site.

The video tracks Carney from Delaware to D.C. and back over 14 hours on Jan. 31, a day essentially chosen at random.

It begins with Carney's trek from his home in Wilmington for a workout at the Central Y, where he is shown bench-pressing 135 pounds. An aide called it a warm-up on the way to 175 pounds. Not bad for a 55-year-old guy.

Bless him, Carney keeps his shirt on. No political figure should ever take his shirt off in public, not even if he looks like Scott Brown, the Massachusetts Republican who was a centerfold for Cosmo in his pre-senatorial days. (Cosmo suggested saucily that Brown's campaign slogan should have been Vote for Brown, he has one hell of a stimulus package.)

TALKING POINTS. Coons not only acquired Biden's old seat but his urge to go on the Sunday talk shows. Roll Call, a newspaper that covers Capitol Hill, keeps a tally of the appearances for each year. Coons had three in 2011.

It was far from the total for Michele Bachmann, the Republican congresswoman who topped the list with 20 appearances, but it did tie Coons with Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic minority leader who used to be the speaker.

Nor is Coons in Biden's league. As a senator, Biden often logged the most appearances. One year he was on the talk shows 28 times. Twenty-eight times!

This should not come as a surprise to Delawareans, who figured out a long time ago that Biden literally could talk for a month of Sundays.