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What Would Jesus Brew?

Given the fact that House Administration Chairman Bob Ney (R-Ohio) made a big show of changing the chamber’s french fries to “freedom fries” earlier this year, staffers were stunned Tuesday when they poured themselves cups of coffee.

The cups in the sandwich shop in the basement of the Capitol were emblazoned with various Proverbs and religious pronouncements such as, “Christ is the answer.”

Fearing a breach of the separation of church and state, HOH dutifully called Ney spokesman Brian Walsh to get to the bottom of the Coffee Cup Caper.

After some digging, Walsh

quickly discovered that the House’s contractor had merely slipped up and delivered the wrong cups.

“The vendor screwed up,” Walsh said. “They were removed immediately. We will have the normal white foam coffee cups in place.”

Walsh stressed that despite the chairman’s attempt to punish the French for not supporting the war in Iraq earlier this year, Ney knew nothing about this one.

“There was absolutely no political message being sent,” he said. “It was corrected immediately.”

Menacing Dennis. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (Ohio) was none too pleased that a rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, the Rev. Al Sharpton, suggested in a new magazine piece that the liberal lawmaker is a bit, well, out there.

That’s saying something when it comes from the eccentric Sharpton, who opines in New York magazine that Kucinich appears to be “out on a weekend pass.”

Whether Sharpton meant a mental facility or jail is not clear from the profile.

But Kucinich spokesman Doug Gordon came out swinging Tuesday, smashing two birds with one stone.

“If his bid for the White House should fail, Rev. Sharpton could possibly find a job at Fox News,” Gordon told HOH.

Gephardt’s Big Line. When he was Minority Leader, Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) was known as one of the most scripted pols in the history of the House.

So his decision to use a Democratic presidential debate to officially unveil the line that President Bush is a “miserable failure” must have come after hours of planning, right?

Not so, insists Gephardt spokesman Erik Smith, who tells HOH that the boss had used the phrase a few times before on the stump — and it didn’t come up during prep for last Thursday’s debate in New Mexico.

“It was naturally occurring,” Smith said. “I know it sounds too good to be true.”

Smith added that Gephardt used it once in the debate, and “he got a big response” and thus decided to bring it up repeatedly.

The line has now become Gephardt’s signature, and he used the phrase three times to describe the Bush presidency during a 15-minute appearance before the Service Employees International Union on Monday.

There was a twist this time, as Gephardt closed with a poem: “Like father like son/four years and he is done.”

During a plane change in Denver on the way back from New Mexico last Friday, Gephardt’s advisers called into the D.C. campaign office and had a staffer snap up the Web domain name, where they could document all of Bush’s alleged mistakes in copious detail.

They got that name because was already taken by someone else, who may or may not be selling it to the Gephardt campaign in the near future.

Viva La Vega. Miss Universe 2003 Amelia Vega was on the Hill Tuesday, lighting up the offices of Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), as well as Reps. Jim Leach (R-Iowa) and Jim McDermott (D-Wash.).

The statuesque 18-year-old native of the Dominican Republic is known for her vivaciousness, which serves her well in her work for the Global Health Council to promote global HIV/AIDS awareness.

Just back from China, where she was helping to plan the first-ever AIDS Candlelight Memorial, Vega arrived in D.C. on Tuesday and was immediately impressed.

“I love it,” she said. “It’s very clear and very clean. It’s beautiful and there are very nice people.”

Of course, people have a habit of being a little more polite to beauty queens, such as the star treatment she received from David Letterman after reading the “Top Ten Things I’d Like to Say Now That I’m Miss Universe” on his show a few months back.

There was everything from “A message to all the kids: just be smoking hot and you’ll do fine” to “Not only am I Miss Universe — I have just been named editor of The New York Times.”

“It was a lot of fun,” she said. “I loved it.”

Frist Things First. Wise old Senate hand Eric Ueland has been elevated to deputy chief of staff in the office of Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.).

The bow-tied backroom dealer, who has 14 years of Hill service under his belt, had been serving as a senior policy adviser in the leader’s office since Frist’s elevation to the post in January.

Ueland cut his teeth during seven long years on the staff of then-Republican Whip Don Nickles (Okla.) during the previous leadership regime. Before that, he spent seven years at the Senate Republican Policy Committee.

Meanwhile, House Energy and Commerce Chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.) on Tuesday named Virginia attorney Tom Feddo as the new oversight and investigations counsel for the panel.

Feddo, who has most recently been working as an associate of the law firm Pillsbury Winthrop, has a colorful background.

A former officer of the U.S. Navy, he at one time served on a nuclear-powered, fast-attack submarine. He was also an analyst and watch officer at the Navy Antiterrorist Alert Center in D.C.

“Not only does he bring a wealth of legal knowledge to our committee, but Tom’s keen tactical mind will be beneficial while gathering important information during our wide-ranging investigations,” Tauzin said in a prepared statement.

Senate Tragedy. Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) announced Tuesday that his 21-year-old son committed suicide on Monday.

Garrett Smith, who died at his home in Utah, had battled depression for several years, according to the prepared statement by the Senator’s top aide, John Easton.

“We wish the Smith family peace and comfort as they grieve this terrible tragedy,” Easton said.

The Senator and his wife, Sharon Smith, have two other children.

Chris Cillizza contributed to this report.

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