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Senate Defies Cheney

HOH thinks Congress has been getting a bad rap.

For years, a few squishy, possibly French, critics have claimed that the legislative branch has not done enough to stand up to the bullying Bush administration.

Need evidence to the contrary? Look no further than Tuesday’s Senate Republican luncheon, where a brave group of Senators bucked the wishes of Mr. Executive Branch Power himself, Vice President Cheney.[IMGCAP(1)]

As his groupies know, Tuesday was Cheney’s 66th birthday. So when the Senate President showed up at the GOP luncheon, the assembled lawmakers thought they’d mark the occasion with a little party.

First, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) brought in a cake. Then the group, led by Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott (R-Miss.), was set to launch into a rousing chorus of “Happy Birthday.”

Now, HOH usually associates Cheney with revelry and general merriment, but surprisingly, Cheney asked Lott and the others not to sing. Did they cower before his wishes? No!

“We did sing ‘Happy Birthday.’ He insisted that we not, which guaranteed that I insisted we should,” Lott said afterward, adding: “I pointed out that he’s older than I am.”

Lott was then thrown into a military detention camp.

Ha! Kidding! In all seriousness, Cheney took the whole thing good-naturedly, and the chorus of Republicans reportedly sounded pretty harmonious.

“We were more in tune than we usually are on the issues,” joked Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.).

Are Hurricane Jokes Now OK? After the drubbing they took at the hands of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in November, you would think Republicans wouldn’t be feeling so charitable toward former DCCC Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.).

But Rep. Heather Wilson (R-N.M.) — one of the few GOP incumbents who held onto her seat despite an onslaught from the DCCC — wanted to show that there are no hard feelings toward Emanuel, who now serves as Democratic Caucus chairman.

It seems that after Election Day, Emanuel went over to Wilson on the House floor to congratulate her on her victory. Wilson told Emanuel that she had shirts made for her campaign staff that said, “I Survived Hurricane Emanuel November 7, 2006.”

Emanuel said he’d like to get one of those shirts, so on Tuesday, he trucked over to Wilson’s office in the Cannon House Office Building and picked one up.

While he was there, aides said, Emanuel apologized to Wilson’s staff for making their lives miserable, prompting some laughter.

He then said: “I’m really looking forward to wearing this at the House gym tomorrow morning.”

HOH can feel the love all around him.

How About Flood Jokes? In the aftermath of last week’s well-chronicled House Republican retreat to Maryland’s Eastern Shore, one little mystery remained unsolved — Which Member was it who asked President Bush a question about flood control?

After Bush addressed the assembled lawmakers Friday morning, reporters were hustled out of the room so Members could ask Bush the real, tough questions about Iraq and the future of our great nation.

Afterwards, word trickled out that some unnamed Member had taken the opportunity to ask about something decidedly local. As WashingtonPost.com blogger (and Roll Call alum) Paul Kane wrote Friday, “the flood-control lawmaker is, for now at least, a mystery.”

No, it wasn’t Rep. Virginia Foxx (N.C.) in the drawing room with a candlestick. It was … Rep. Mike Ferguson (N.J.). And he’s pretty proud of it.

Specifically, Ferguson asked Bush about the Green Brook Flood Control Project, which has been a priority in New Jersey’s 7th district since Hurricane Floyd devastated the area in 1999.

“It’s a really big deal in our district,” Ferguson told HOH. “I urged him to include it in his budget.”

Did Bush even know what Ferguson was talking about? “I’m certain the president remembers this project because I never miss a chance to advocate for it,” Ferguson said.

The White House’s budget request comes down Feb. 5. Keep an eye out.

Oh Boy, Famous People. If you enjoy seeing celebrities, particularly of the TV-star kind, you’ll want to head over to B. Smith’s at Union Station tonight for the Creative Coalition’s event to welcome the 110th Congress.

Since this is Washington, the gathering will of course be hosted by two lobbyists, Morris Reid of Westin Rinehart and Ed Rogers of Barbour Griffith & Rogers.

Attendees will have the opportunity to mingle with a bunch of celebrities, including Heather Graham, Allan Cumming, Tim Daly, Fran Drescher, Morgan Fairchild, Wendie Malick, Joe Pantoliano, Rachel Shelley, Giancarlo Esposito, Anson Mount, Tim Blake Nelson and Tamara Tunie.

Oh yeah, more than 100 Members of Congress are also expected to attend. But you probably see them all the time.

Anyway, back to the celebrities. On Thursday night, Graham, Shelley, Cumming and the lovely Bridget Moynahan will be over at the House of Sweden on K Street for the premiere of the film “Gray Matters.” Like Wednesday’s event, the premiere and the subsequent reception will be hosted by the Creative Coalition and Capitol File.

Attendees should leave their flasks at home; Absolut is helping to put on the reception.

Erin P. Billings and Emily Pierce contributed to this report.

Please send your hot tips, juicy gossip or comments to hoh@rollcall.com.