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Sister Act

When Rep. Loretta Sanchez takes to the stage tonight at the “Funniest Celebrity in Washington” contest, she’s doing it in the hopes of unseating her sister and fellow California Democrat, Rep. Linda Sánchez, who currently holds the coveted title. That family connection just might prove to be her secret weapon: Linda gave her elder sibling some sisterly advice on succeeding in the cutthroat stand-up smackdown, HOH hears. The advice, though, wasn’t free. [IMGCAP(1)]

Linda harkened back to what sounds like unpleasant meals from their childhood, offering to help her sis — for a price. “She has to eat my share of liver and brussels sprouts for a week,” she tells HOH.

Linda won’t be defending her title — per the contest rules, the reigning champ doesn’t compete the following year — but she will be introducing Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who will be picking up his lifetime achievement award. Meanwhile, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) will be dusting off his stand-up act (he put in a memorable performance at the Congressional Correspondents Dinner in 2006) and taking on Loretta Sanchez in vying for the prize.

And a spokeswoman says Loretta isn’t about to let the title slip away from the Sanchez family. But that’s not to say there isn’t some intraclan rivalry afoot. “Loretta’s a competitive person — she’s hoping for more laughs than Linda,” her spokeswoman says.

Like Ebony and Ivory. For proof that Democratic and Republican staffers can get along in perfect harmony, look no further than the Senate Finance Committee, where the departing Democratic health counsel got a tuneful serenade from her GOP counterpart.

Alice Weiss, the majority’s health counsel on the Finance panel, left the Hill for a spot at National Academy for State Health Policy. Her departure prompted Rodney Whitlock, the health policy point person for committee Republicans, to pen and perform some farewell tunes.

At Weiss’ send-off party, held during the Columbus Day recess, Whitlock crooned a reworked version of the Beatles’ “Yesterday” and was joined by a chorus of Republican and Democratic committee staffers in “You’ve Lost That Finance Feelin’” sung to the tune of “You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feelin’.” The songs were filled with in-jokes that only a health care geek could love (good thing the audience was loaded with them), such as, “You never roll your eyes anymore/when I say D-R-A,” a reference to the always-contentious Deficit Reduction Act.

Whitlock tells HOH that though he and Weiss have often disagreed on issues, they’ve worked together for years and are fast friends. “We go way back, and I want to make sure she was fêted properly,” said Whitlock, who carried a prop acoustic guitar during his performance.

One impressed audience member noted that while Paul McCartney has nothing to fear from Whitlock’s competition, the staffers-turned-singers did manage to stay in tune.

Now, if only legislating was so easy.

Just Here for the Chicken. Booking a trip to New Hampshire means only one thing for most lawmakers: testing the waters for a potential presidential run. So when the junior Senator from Virginia was named as the featured speaker at the New Hampshire Democratic Party’s annual Jefferson-Jackson dinner on Saturday, it left HOH wondering if perhaps Sen. Jim Webb had his sights set on higher office and had forgotten to tell us.

It’s especially eyebrow-raising considering the roster of past speakers at the event, which includes former Democratic presidential wannabes Sens. John Kerry (Mass.) and Evan Bayh (Ind.), retired Gen. Wesley Clark and former Sen. John Edwards (N.C.), who again is seeking the Democratic nod. But Webb spokeswoman Jessica Smith assures us that her boss is content with his current job. “He is very happy in the U.S. Senate, and it’s an important place for him to be,” said Smith, who also pointed out that the odds of her boss winning based on hair color alone aren’t very good. “Since you mention the Jefferson-Jackson dinner — has there been a redhead in the White House since Jefferson?” joked Smith, who herself is a redhead.

Popular Guy. HOH hears that Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) each paid a visit to the office of Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) in the Hart Senate Office Building on Tuesday. Now, why in the world, HOH wonders with wide eyes, would two seekers of the GOP presidential nomination bother take time out of their baby-kissing and fundraising to drop by a little old Senate office?

Grassley spokeswoman Jill Kozeny tells HOH that the double dose of GOP wannabes was simply a scheduling coincidence. Maybe they simultaneously had a yen to discuss tax policy, one of Grassley’s favorite subjects, or maybe they’re just very friendly guys. Gee, it couldn’t be that they’re looking to make nice with the senior Senator from one of the most crucial primary states who, by the by, hasn’t yet endorsed a candidate? Nah, couldn’t be.

Corny Coronation. That cheering sound you’re hearing is the collective whooping of University of Nebraska fans delighted that their legendary ex-football coach, former Republican Rep. Tom Osborne, is returning to the school. Osborne will take the job as interim athletic director at a time when the usually winning Cornhuskers are in a bit of a slump, which led to the firing of Athletic Director Steve Pederson.

Osborne, who enjoys a godlike stature among diehard Husker fans, served three terms in Congress. HOH is guessing that at least among Nebraskans, for whom athletics looms far larger than politics, the job is a considered a promotion from his old one on the Hill.

Quotable. “The platinum-selling artist you’re waiting to hear from is Paul Simon, not Orrin Hatch”: Singer-songwriter Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), modestly introducing Paul Simon, the slightly more famous singer- songwriter, during an event Tuesday on the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.

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