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At 'Florida House,' LeMieux gets a hero's welcome

Floridians gathered Thursday night to toast newly-appointed Sen. George LeMieux at Florida House, the restored 100-year-old home with a clear view of the U.S. Capitol dome and the only "state embassy" of its kind in Washington. The retreat was the brainchild of Rhea Chiles, wife of former U.S. Sen. and Gov. Lawton Chiles, in the 1970s.

Former Sen. Connie Mack recalled hiring a 20-year-old LeMieux to work as a summer intern in his office two decades ago. Grace Nelson, wife of Sen. Bill Nelson, invited LeMieux's wife Meike to join a Senate spouses' club, and offered to escort her around D.C. to locate dry cleaners and grocery stores. Democrat Bill Nelson, whose Senate seat LeMieux could be poised to seek in 2012, said LeMieux will like an atmosphere where senators must seek a bipartisan consensus.  

"You can't pass anything unless you get 60 votes to cut off debate. You have to find consensus, and that means it has to be bipartisan consensus," Nelson said, adding that a rule allowing one senator to place a "hold" on an appointment or legislation means "any senator can completely botch up the works."

LeMieux noted how inept he was working on his father's construction business in Fort Lauderdale. "He would never let me do anything skilled, and he always wanted me to have a job with air conditioning," LeMieux said. "Dad, I've achieved that. They have air conditioning in the United States Senate." He also noted the irony that exactly 10 years before he became a senator, on Sept.10, 1999, he proposed to his wife.

"I may not be the brightest or most experienced person in this institution, but I aim to be the hardest-working," LeMieux said. 

-- Steve Bousquet