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Another Switch?

Party-switching Sen. Jim Jeffords (I-Vt.) had a little trouble remembering his current party affiliation during an event Friday to promote his new book at Politics & Prose.

Jeffords spent a good part of his remarks ripping into Republican leaders before noting that he is now a Democrat. Folks in the audience were a little surprised, given the fact that the name of the man’s new tome is, well, “An Independent Man.”

Liz Daley Jeffords, who was standing beside her husband, quickly nudged him. As you may recall, the Missus was said to be none too pleased in 2001 when her hubby decided to switch, so she’s all too familiar with his current affiliation.

There was some whispering before the red-faced Senator corrected himself and declared that he is, in fact, “an Independent.” [IMGCAP(1)]

The Senator will undoubtedly remember upon further review that his first book, “My Declaration of Independence,” also hinted at his current status. But he may be a bit confused by the fact that he aligns himself with Senate Democrats for organizational purposes, such as committee assignments.

Adding to the uncertainty now is that members of the Green Party showed up at the event and urged the Senator to run for president in 2004 as that party’s candidate.

“He was flattered, but he’s got his hands full in the Senate,” said Jeffords spokesman Erik Smulson.

Gephardt’s Hill Strategy. Staffers to some rival presidential campaigns were surprised to see a packet from Rep. Richard Gephardt’s (D-Mo.) presidential campaign land in Congressional Democratic offices Tuesday.

The packet addressed to fellow Democratic lawmakers included a copy of Gephardt’s announcement speech from last month, including the line that “with your help, we can take that fight to the most powerful office in the history of humankind.”

Although rival camps immediately raised questions about the propriety of trying to round up support in the halls of Congress, Gephardt campaign spokesman Erik Smith stressed that too much was being made of it.

“It was a packet produced by the campaign and handed out by volunteers,” Smith told HOH.

One staffer in a rival camp tried to find humor in the situation. “I appreciate Dick Gephardt letting us know that he’s running for president,” said the staffer. “I vaguely remember seeing him on CNN giving a speech, but then they broke away to cover the breaking news of a dog being rescued from the ice and I never heard what Gephardt had decided to do in ’04.”

Smith shot back that it “sounds to me like you’ve got a [legislative correspondent] with a lot of free time on their hands.”

He added that while others want to be “vitriolic,” Gephardt hopes “other people will eventually engage us” in a contest of ideas.

The Z Files. Aides to House Select Homeland Security Chairman Christopher Cox (R-Calif.) had at least one minor glitch at the panel’s first organizational meeting on Tuesday.

The placard for one committee member, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), identified him as “Mr. DeZafio.”

“I don’t know if Mr. DeFazio is using an assumed name — maybe it’s an intelligence [secrecy] thing,” joked one Democratic aide. “But it wasn’t a good start for the new committee.”

One GOP aide joked that Democrats are being overly generous by chalking the misspelling up to encryption: “It’s true we’re taking security precautions for members of this committee, but disguising their names isn’t one of them.”

The Pitts. In what some insiders are billing as a major shakeup, House Rules Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.) has replaced his committee staff director, Matt Reynolds, with former high-profile lobbyist Billy Pitts.

Pitts was a top lobbyist for the Walt Disney Co. and then before retiring in 2001. But he’s best known for cutting his teeth as the chief legislative strategist to then-House Minority Leader Bob Michel (R-Ill.) back in the day.

People close to Dreier insist that it is an “amicable transition” from Reynolds to Pitts. Reynolds has been shifted over to handle foreign policy issues for the Congressman.

Pitts is expected to play a major role in brokering jurisdictional disputes that the Rules panel will have to settle over the new Department of Homeland Security.

The staffer first caught Dreier’s eye when the Congressman served as co-chairman of the Bicameral Joint Committee to Reorganize Congress in the 103rd Congress, where Pitts played a key role.

“Dreier is one of the institutionalists in Congress and Billy is one of the staff institutionalists in Washington,” Brad Smith, Dreier’s longtime chief of staff, told HOH. “So we thought we’d bring him aboard.”

Weighty Matters. Attention all Members: The Dutchess of York, Sarah Ferguson, wants you.

The spokeswoman for Weight Watchers wants lawmakers to turn out today for the American Cancer Society’s First Annual Great American Weigh-In at 8:30 a.m. in Room 106 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

But Senators and House Members, especially those who like to frequent the city’s fancier steakhouses, should be warned that Ferguson is going to make you weigh in to determine your Body Mass Index.

“Look, if you don’t lose weight, you have an increased risk of cancer,” Ferguson told HOH on Tuesday. (Fortunately it was a telephone interview, so this columnist didn’t get a lecture.)

The lovely dutchess said that while she realizes it’s a difficult message for some people to hear, she wants to help deal with the obesity problem in America.

“I want to give back to the American people,” she said. “I want to thank them for helping me and my children by getting them to wake up and smell the roses.”

She also is trying to deal with the problem by targeting schools. “It is important to get the government involved because they have to change cafeteria food,” she said. “Get rid of soda drinks in schools!”

The spokesceleb also said she thinks President Bush, who stresses physical fitness, is a “very fine role model and man.” While she has concerns about a potential war in Iraq, she is backing Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

“I support our prime minister and I support your president,” she said.

Car Tawk. After taking a gander at the Duchess during the weigh-in, Hill denizens can drop by a rather interesting reception sponsored by National Public Radio at 5 p.m. tonight.

Tom and Ray Magliozzi, the zany brothers who host NPR’s humorous “Car Talk” program each weekend, will be performing for lawmakers and staffers. The program itself starts at 5:30 p.m. in Room 2226 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

“Ever wanted to ‘stump the chumps’ on Car Talk?” asks the invite. “Now’s your chance.”

Sad Day in the Neighborhood. While male lawmakers are supposed to wear suit jackets to keep the proper decorum on the House floor, nobody was really upset that Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) chucked his coat in favor of a red cardigan sweater on Tuesday.

That’s because Doyle and Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) led the tributes to one of their own, Pennsylvania native Fred Rogers (aka “Mr. Rogers”), who passed away last week.

At press time, it looked like the lawmakers would push through House Resolution 111, which said in part that “his landmark show ‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’ inspired, taught, and encouraged children, families, and adults since its first nationwide broadcast on February 19, 1968, with messages of love, peace, and comfort.”

Moving On Up. CNN’s “Inside Politics,” the daily television narcotic for Hill junkies, has promoted Sasha Johnson to the post of senior producer at the 4 p.m. EST show.

Johnson is a five-year veteran of the show. She’s risen from a researcher for political analyst Bill Schneider to aide-de-camp for anchor Judy Woodruff.

She reports directly to the show’s executive producer, Paul Steinhauser.

“I think it will be a challenging position to have just because there’s so much happening with Iraq and the 2004 Democratic field,” Johnson told HOH. “We’ve got a great anchor and team of reporters, so that makes it easier.”

Billy the Kid. For a brief moment it looked like Bill Pickle, who was named the new Senate Senate Sergeant-at-Arms by Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) on Tuesday, might be a happening dude.

A search for individuals named Bill Pickle on the Internet yielded a story in the Cleveland City Beat newspaper about a swing band known as “Big Bill Pickle and the Legendary Jerkin Gherkins.”

But there unfortunately doesn’t appear to be an actual guy named Bill Pickle in the band; it’s just a moniker. And a press release from Frist revealed that his new top cop is a veteran of the Secret Service.

It’s too bad. HOH was looking forward to the concerts from the folks who bill themselves as more than just a swing band — their music is known as “jitterbilly” to loyalists. And the name of their new CD, just for the record, is “Size Doesn’t Matter.”

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