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A Rangel by Any Other Name

In what may be the ultimate in vanity plates, House Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) is hoping to steer some $2 million to a building project at the City College of New York that will house — wait for it — not one, not two, but three construction projects bearing the gravelly voiced lawmaker’s name. [IMGCAP(1)]

First, there’s the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service. Then, there’s the Rangel Conference Center and of course the Charles Rangel Library, which will hold all of his important papers. The building – which the college will refurbish using the federal funding — also will include a “well-furnished office” for the lawmaker, according to a CBS News report.

Now, while House rules prohibit Members from naming federal buildings after themselves, they don’t say anything about steering federal funding toward a project — or projects, as the case may be — bearing one’s name.

But it won’t happen if Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) — conservative, budget hawk and general party pooper — has anything to say about it. DeMint offered an amendment Wednesday to strip the language from the Labor-Health and Human Services appropriations bill. Although at press time it was unclear whether the effort would be successful, DeMint spokesman Wesley Denton, with tongue firmly in cheek, wondered if Rangel was simply confused. “When we said Members should put their names on their earmarks, we didn’t mean it literally. If he gets that trillion-dollar tax hike he’s working on, Rangel will have enough tax dollars to name just about everything in the state of New York after himself,” Denton said.

Seven Is Enough? Part of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s thumbnail biography is that she’s a grandmother of six. But the extended Pelosi clan is expanding, and soon the California Democrat will be able to call herself a grandmother of seven. Daughter Alexandra, a writer and documentary filmmaker, is expecting her second child in early December, HOH hears. The younger Pelosi and husband, Dutch journalist Michiel Vos, welcomed their first child in November 2006. Speaker Pelosi (we’re guessing that’s not what the tykes call her) boasted of the new addition to reporters Wednesday morning, referring to her swelling brood of “six grandchildren, going on seven.”

Shake on It. You can take the man out of Searchlight, Nev., but you can’t take Searchlight out of Sen. Harry Reid (D). After speaking at the Dalai Lama’s Congressional Medal of Honor ceremony Wednesday, the Majority Leader could only have been what HOH would describe as star-struck (and we’re guessing it’s not because Richard Gere was near).

Following his remarks, Reid proceeded to shake the Dalai Lama’s hand, then Speaker Pelosi’s, bypassing the guy standing to the Dalai Lama’s right — who was none other than President Bush — at least until Pelosi redirected him to shake the prez’s hand.

Was it a partisan slight? Not according to his spokesman. “What can I say, with the Dalai Lama in the room it’s hard not be distracted by his greatness,” said Reid spokesman Jim Manley.

With Friends Like These … While Matt Lauer’s “I’m totally not gay either!” approach to Tuesday night’s interview with Sen. Larry “Wide Guy” Craig (R-Idaho) may have been a yawner, NBC’s local Idaho affiliate delivered on at least some of the dish we Washingtonians were hoping for.

While Lauer played it, ahem, straight, and focused on Craig’s feelings and the details of the scandal, KTVB’s Mark Johnson spent much of his nearly 90-minute interview with the Senator discussing how the controversy has affected Craig’s relationship with his colleagues.

For instance, Craig claims GOP leaders warned him in August that they were going to try to force him to resign, but that some in the GOP stuck up for their embattled colleague. Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and an unnamed legion of other Senate supporters “welcomed me back with open arms, and said, ‘Larry, fight for your rights, and we’ll defend you and support you in doing that,’” Craig said. “Yeah, a few had lopped off my head and rolled it right down the street. But a good many weren’t doing that.”

On Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) — who until the scandal broke was close to Craig both politically and personally — Craig said he was disappointed by Coleman’s decision to quickly abandon him in his time of need. Craig said his old buddy — whom Craig himself nominated for leadership positions — didn’t even bother to give him a courtesy heads-up phone call before publicly denouncing him. “Norm is in a very tight political race in his state. And I’m sure that he doesn’t want anything to deter him from that. … Norm and I had been friends. So I was disappointed that he didn’t pick up the phone and call.”

Craig also took a veiled shot at the GOP’s field of presidential hopefuls, which includes Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), one of Craig’s earliest detractors, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who has distanced himself from his former Senate liaison since the scandal broke. “I can understand people who are running for president. Oh my, are they righteous. That’s OK, that’s what they have to do.”

No More Cheeseburgers. Rep. Ric Keller (R-Fla.) used to rail against fast-food lawsuits as the sponsor of legislation that encouraged “personal responsibility” in the fight against obesity. Now the author of the “cheeseburger bill” is putting his high-fiber, low-fat diet where his mouth is.

Keller has lost 41 pounds since July, Chief of Staff Bryan Malenius tells HOH. We couldn’t help but notice the difference in the newly svelte Keller, and Malenius confirms that the disappearing act isn’t just an illusion from a particularly slimming suit. “He’s doing the old-fashioned way — fewer calories and more cardio,” he says.

King for a Day. Feeling the earth move under your feet? That’s just “Natural Woman” songstress Carole King on the Hill today. The environmental activist is testifying before the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands. The topic of the hearing is legislation that would protect millions of acres of land in the northern Rockies. King’s message to the pristine land: “You’ve Got a Friend.”

John Stanton contributed to this report.

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