Hunger Strikes

Posted December 12, 2007 at 6:42pm

It’s the home stretch before Congress recesses for the holidays and plenty of staffers and Members are planning to clock long hours on the job. And they’ll need plenty of fuel, in the form of greasy lunches, coffee and afternoon snacks to complete their work — but they aren’t likely to get them in the House cafeterias, where food supplies are dwindling.

[IMGCAP(1)]In scenes reminiscent of Soviet-era Russia (er, minus the communism), long lines and food shortages have been the norm for the past few days, as the vendor

operating the cafeteria apparently isn’t restocking, since its contract is up on Saturday. That’s when a new vendor, Restaurant Associates, takes over. But promises of a new and better-stocked cafeteria next week aren’t helping the hordes of hungry folks, who have reported tales of dining woe to HOH, including a severe condiment shortage, meaning there’s no ketchup or even any lettuce to top burgers (the horror!).

Even the man charged with overseeing the House cafeterias has had problems getting his favorite items this week.

“I went down for my morning coffee in the cafeteria, and I couldn’t find any cream,” Chief Administrative Officer Dan Beard joked Tuesday. But Beard also promised that things will get better next week once RA, which also oversees the award-winning cafeteria at the National Museum of the American Indian, takes over. Beard has promised a better variety of tasty dishes, along with a spiffy new look for the cafeterias and plenty of environmentally friendly restaurant supplies.

So, now you know who to see if you don’t like what’s on the menu.

Sorry, Wrong Number. Conservative presidential wannabe Alan Keyes might have some things going for him, but the guy definitely needs a better phone book.

A man identifying himself as Keyes recently mistakenly called a liberal media watchdog group, thinking he was dialing Fox News, a staffer who took the call tells HOH. Keyes identified himself and said he was looking for Fox, whereupon the liberal group informed him he was barking up the wrong tree. Keyes volunteered that he was hoping the conservative-tilting network would give his long-shot presidential campaign some more coverage, and asked for Fox’s number.

HOH can’t be sure the caller was, in fact, Keyes (though the fellow answering the phone sure thought it sounded like him). Still, Keyes supporters might want to make sure their candidate is dialing all the right (leaning) numbers.

A Hairy Situation. With the end of the session nearing, HOH readers may have been wondering if Republican Sens. Pete Domenici’s (N.M.) and Tom Coburn’s (Okla.) new facial hair was an intimidation tactic against their Democratic counterparts. Both normally clean-shaven Senators have been sporting salt-and-pepper goatees since the Thanksgiving recess. But the blog “Beards for Budget,” which launched Wednesday, got HOH thinking that the duo may have been early joiners of the blog’s mission to pass the budget. The blog, written by an anonymous male government worker whose online handle is “bearded man,” laments Congress’ delay in passing the budget and asks Washingtonian males to unite in not cutting their beards. “We must come together in manly hairiness. Don’t shave until the President signs into law a government budget for the rest of the fiscal year!!” writes the blogger.

Alas, Coburn spokesman John Hart says his boss’s new goatee isn’t part of the pass-the-budget push. “He decided to stop shaving, he didn’t decide to grow a beard,” Hart said. But it looks like the trend may be catching on: An HOH tipster spotted Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) sporting an intense five-o’-clock shadow on the House floor Wednesday.

Rhyme and Season. For all the wee Democratic children out there, Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) has penned a little holiday poem sure to be this year’s substitute for the classic bedtime reading material “A Visit From St. Nicholas” (’Twas the Night Before Christmas). Writing a holiday ditty is something of an annual tradition for the House dean, and this year’s version doesn’t disappoint.

In the poem, which Dingell sends to friends on and off the Hill, the White House is cast as the dastardly Grinch (sans the part where the green beast discovers he actually has a heart) bent on obstructing the Democratic Congress. In this stanza, a group of GOP grinches plot their strategy: “Do tell!” said the listener, his ears all atwitter/ We need a good plan, the pick of the litter. /We have no agenda, the Party’s a mess/Our presidential frontrunner too often wears a dress/Tax cuts for the rich failed, so too has fear, war and bigotry/So what I propose are filibusters and stopping conference committees.”

But Dingell’s poem holds out hope that the holiday spirit will prevail. “All the majority asks for is good faith, on both sides of aisle/To settle our differences together, with a handshake and a smile.”

Guitar Gimmick. Luxe holiday parties are a dime a dozen these days, and all of them have the same freebie nibbles (yawn) and open bars. To stand out from the pack, a party planner’s got to have a gimmick. The Association for Competitive Technology is hoping to draw attendees to its holiday happy hour tonight at House-side bar Top of the Hill by giving revelers a chance to act out their rock god or goddess fantasies. The group is promising to have several TVs and Xboxes on hand to play “Guitar Hero,” the video game in which players pose as rock stars. The invitation promises “lots of rocking out, leaps off the couch, and countless moments of faux-rock star posturing.”

But how convincing is a Slash impersonation, really, if one is wearing Brooks Brothers?

Shuttle-Pass Diplomacy. Sen. John Kerry practically got tackled during the 2004 presidential campaign for fumbling the name of the storied field where the Green Bay Packers play — it’s Lambeau Field, not Lambert, Mr. Senator. But now the Massachusetts Democrat has another chance to show his true football bona fides.

Kerry is trying to get the commissioner of the National Football League to sit down with cable execs in an effort to get the Dec. 29 New England Patriots-New York Giants game broadcast to a wider audience. The game is slated to air on the NFL’s own cable channel, but because of an impasse between the NFL and cable companies, fans who don’t get the NFL channel won’t get to see the game.

HOH suspects part of Kerry’s motivation might just be that he’s hoping more people will get to see his Pats, who have a perfect season so far, trounce the Giants. Still, if he succeeds, the one-time presidential candidate might have just pulled off his very own Camp David moment.

Elizabeth Brotherton contributed to this report.

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