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A Woman's Place

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Hillary Learns to Speak Softly, Cash in Big Chits

Hillary Clinton tried her best last week to be just one of the rookies, trooping around Capitol Hill with other Senators-elect and sitting through hours of lectures on how to set up her legislative office. Behind the scenes, the First Lady and soon-to-be New York Senator has buttonholed the chamber's old hands on how she should act to fit into the club. Their advice: pay your dues, speak when you've really got something to say and lose the Secret Service detail when you're in the Capitol. Senators hate colleagues with too many "suits" around them. Clinton has been huddling with BARBARA MIKULSKI, dean of the Democratic women in the Senate, about how to please constituents and get "super A" committee assignments out of the old boys who still run the club. Clinton's top committee choices: Finance and Appropriations. Her legislative priority after being sworn in next month: a pork-barrel bill for upstate New York. "She's asked me workhorse questions," says Mikulski. "She didn't ask where the Senate press gallery was." She doesn't have to; the press gallery will come to her, and so may a big book advance. She's fed up with others writing books about her and her rocky marriage. Word is that Clinton will tell her side of the story about life as First Lady (with details from her marriage and the impeachment) in a memoir that could fetch at least $7 million from publishers.

Clinton won't find it all smiles in her new job. There's a long line of Senators senior to her who want seats on Finance and Appropriations, so she may have to wait for those plums. She may bump hulls with CHARLES SCHUMER, New York's senior Senator, an aggressive press hound back home. She's received a mixed welcome from Republican Senators, who remember her haughty attitude when she was in charge of trying to get health-care reform through Congress. Majority leader TRENT LOTT huffed that she'll be "one of 100, and we won't let her forget it." But G.O.P. Senator PHIL GRAMM tells time, "Anybody who can move into a state and get herself elected to the Senate, I'm impressed with." --By Douglas Waller and Ann Blackman/Washington


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Cover Date: December 18, 2000

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