Spanish in Senate

Article excerpt


Spanish in Senate

Freshman Sen. Mel Martinez, a Cuban immigrant, shattered a 216-year tradition of the U.S. Senate yesterday when he used the ceremonial occasion of his first floor speech to speak three sentences in Spanish.

In his eight-minute bilingual address, Mr. Martinez, Florida Republican, touted his support for friend and fellow Hispanic-American Alberto Gonzales of Texas, President Bush's nominee to be U.S. attorney general.

Mr. Martinez said Mr. Gonzales' confirmation by the U.S. Senate would "resonate" throughout the Hispanic community, Hearst Newspapers reports.

The so-called "maiden speech" of a senator is a historic moment for the freshman and often is used to define his or her priorities.

When Mr. Martinez broke into Spanish, followed by his own English translation, the stunned Senate stenographer looked up quizzically and just typed: "speaking Spanish."

Using his native language, Mr. Martinez addressed those who came to America to make a better life for themselves, telling them: "Gonzales is one of us" - "uno de nosotros."

Mr. Martinez also said in Spanish that Mr. Gonzales represents "all of our hopes and dreams for our children," and that petty politics cannot be allowed "to deny us this moment" that makes us all proud.

Surprising statement

As was widely reported yesterday, the AFL-CIO's political leadership on Tuesday decided against endorsing anyone in the race for the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee. Perhaps overlooked was the statement earlier in the day by the head of the International Association of Fire Fighters, urging organized labor not to become a servant of the Democratic Party.

"If the federation picks the DNC chair, then we have picked the party's leader, and we are in effect a formal extension of the Democratic Party," Harold Schaitberger said.

"To successfully advocate the issues, policies and agenda that advance the interests of working people, the AFL-CIO cannot be viewed as solely obligated or tied to one party. We must work with members of both political parties to be effective on our members' behalf."

The IAFF, with 267,000 members, is the 16th largest union among the 63 national unions that make up the AFL-CIO.

Dakota intrigue

A scheduled meeting today between President Bush and North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven has the state speculating about Mr. Hoeven's plans.

Mr. Hoeven, a Republican in his second term as governor, is to meet with Mr. Bush aboard Air Force One while the president visits North Dakota to rally support for his Social Security reform package, United Press International reports.

Some Republicans hope Mr. Hoeven can be persuaded to run for a U.S. Senate seat in 2006 against Democrat Kent Conrad.

An easy victor in his bid for a second term in 2004, winning 71 percent of the vote, Mr. Hoeven has been mum about his plans regarding a bid for a U.S. House or Senate seat in 2006.

Dueling polls

A national survey conducted for the group USA Next shows clear support for personal retirement accounts and a solid majority in support of "major reforms" of the Social Security system, contradicting an AARP poll released last week.

USA Next said the AARP survey was "terribly flawed," noting that it did not poll anyone younger than 30 even though 18- to 29-year-olds made up almost 20 percent of the voters in the presidential election last year. …