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Speaker John Boehner needs an aide schooled in official etiquette to help the House's top official stay on the right side of foreign dignitaries like Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
Speaker John Boehner needs an aide schooled in official etiquette to help the House's top official stay on the right side of foreign dignitaries like Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
In what be more an indication of just how much distance there normally is not just geographically but psychically between the People's House of Congress and, say, Buckingham Palace, Speaker John Boehner is sending an aide to etiquette school at taxpayer expense.
It's not that big an expense in the scheme of things, mind you. According to news reports, the Northern Virginia etiquette course will cost taxpayers $5,800. The speaker's office got a $500 discount by registering early for the May session.
Boehner's critics will no doubt see this kind of spending as, at best, frivolous and, at worst, hypocritical, coming at a time when Republicans are calling for deep spending cuts.
But it is true that while the White House can rely on the State Department's protocol chief to assist on trickier matters of etiquette when dealing with foreign officials Congress, in contrast, has no similar resource.
CNN's Political Ticker checked in with the staff of the previous speaker to see how Rep. Nancy Pelosi handled her etiquette requirements.
It's not uncommon for the Speaker of the House to pay staff to handle the details of arranging visits, planning public events or handling who sits next to who on the dais or a dinner table. Boehner's office has assigned one aide who will attend the class to those duties, but his predecessor Nancy Pelosi had two full time aides who handled protocol. But the California congresswoman's spokesman also notes that these two aides had other responsibilities, such as coordinating internal requests from members to host events in various rooms in the Capitol, all of which fall under the speaker's office.
Pelosi's spokesman Drew Hammill, said their office did not pay for either of these aides to attend a class to learn proper etiquette. "We never did this."
One GOP aide said getting up to speed on appropriate procedures helps so Speaker Boehner "knows not to bow to the King of Saudi Arabia," a not so subtle jab referring to controversy that arose when President Obama appeared to bow when he greeted the King of Saudi Arabia in 2009.