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Heard on the Hill: Pearls Before Swine

Sen. Barack Obama got himself into a whole sty of trouble with his “lipstick on a pig” comment. Republicans instantly saw a porcine conspiracy behind the words and accused the Illinois Democrat of a sexist smear of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the running mate of Obama’s opponent, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

[IMGCAP(1)]But the phrase actually is an oft-used old saw among Members of Congress of both parties. In a highly scientific survey of the Congressional Record,

HOH turned up 16 such uses of some variant of the phrase by Members during the 110th Congress. And the oinky utterance knows no party lines: Six of its uses were by Democrats, and 10 by Republicans. Most were straightforward, but there were some amusing spins. And some Members are clearly fond of the swine-y figure of speech. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.), for example, is responsible for three of the GOP’s uses of the expression.

• Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine) on the Peru free-trade agreement: “Same old model with a little lipstick.”

• Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.) on trade policy: “You know the old saying about lipstick on a pig? Well, I smell bacon.”

• Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) on withdrawal in Iraq: “Calling this surrender a ‘withdrawal’ or a ‘redeployment’ is like putting lipstick on a pig. No matter what you call it, it is still a pig.”

• Westmoreland on energy policy: “The energy bills that were brought out this week was kind of like putting lipstick on a pig.”

• Westmoreland, again on energy policy: “It’s almost like putting lipstick on a pig. You can make it look good, but it’s only going to be a pig.”

• Westmoreland, yet again on energy policy: “So while we are passing these bills … it’s been putting lipstick on a pig.”

• Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) on an omnibus spending bill: “There has been lipstick placed on this pig, but it’s still a pig.”

• Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.) on an ethics proposal: “They may have put lipstick on that pig, but it is still a pig.”

• Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D-Texas) on the president’s veto of a children’s health bill: “There’s just no lipstick to pretty up this pig.”

• Ortiz on language in a border-wall bill: “That puts a little lipstick on the pig.”

• Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) on Republican moves on carbon emissions: “You can put lipstick on a pig, but it is still a pig.”

• Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas) on a children’s health bill alternative: “We have a saying in Texas, if you put lipstick on a pig, it will still be a pig.”

• Rep. Howard McKeon (R-Calif.) on equal-pay legislation: “This amendment is the equivalent of putting lipstick on a pig.”

• Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) on wiretapping legislation: “It’s very difficult to put lipstick on a pig.”

• Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) on Medicare legislation: “… trying to put lipstick on this legislative pig.”

• Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) on a college- cost bill: “You can put lipstick on a pig, but it is still a pig.”

And HOH’s personal favorite:

• Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) on a human rights commission: “Ambassador [John] Bolton stated at the creation of the new council, ‘We want a butterfly. We’re not going to put lipstick on a caterpillar and declare it a success.’”

A Different Kind of Pig. Sen. Elizabeth Dole has some very powerful lawyers around town absolutely mortified. The North Carolina Republican told an anecdote on Wednesday while accepting an award from Working Mother Media about a sexist — and as-yet unnamed — former classmate.

Dole says that on her first day of classes at Harvard Law School (in the early 1960s), a male student approached her. “What are you doing, Elizabeth?” the chauvinistic fellow asked, presuming that the young lady wasn’t planning a career in public life but perhaps just trying to land a husband with prospects. “Don’t you know that there are men who would give their right arm to be here? Men who will actually use their legal education?”

Dole says the guy from the embarrassing (for him!) story is now a prominent lawyer in Washington and the head of a big firm. And, just to make him squirm, she says, she loves to tell the story in front of him.

But the anecdote apparently has other attorneys around town who were also Dole’s classmates in a twist: Dole says she’s gotten calls from other lawyers who feared they might be the John Doe of the story. “They say, ‘Please tell me I’m not the one,’” the Senator told the crowd.

And Dole revealed another tidbit from her Boston days: She says she met former Colorado Rep. Pat Schroeder (D) (who was in the audience) at Harvard Law, when Dole’s car rolled down a hill and hit Schroeder’s.

Talk about meeting cute.

Senatorial Smooch. Lucky Rep. James Oberstar. The House Transportation and Infrastructure chairman got a super-warm welcome from fellow Minnesota Democrat Sen. Amy Klobuchar on Wednesday, when Oberstar was testifying before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, the California Democrat who chairs that committee, announced from the dais that it was Oberstar’s birthday and led a polite round of applause for the newly minted 74-year-old. But Klobuchar, who was sitting next to Oberstar at the witness table, went further in her birthday well-wishing. She landed a kiss on the birthday boy’s cheek.

Boxer seemed to approve of the gesture. “Oh, a birthday kiss!” she noted. “Well, you deserve it.”

Paul’s United Way. Who says party unity is on the wane?

While Republicans and Democrats continue to butt heads over basically everything, the various third-party presidential candidates are putting up a united front, all at the urging of Rep. Ron Paul. At the National Press Club on Wednesday, the Texas Republican brought together Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney, Constitution Party candidate Chuck Baldwin and Independent candidate Ralph Nader in an effort to convince Americans to vote outside the box this fall.

In front of a mixed crowd of buttoned-up Washington journos and enthusiastic Paulistas, Paul called the presidential contest between Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) “a charade,” adding that he even turned down a request from McCain’s camp to endorse the Arizona Republican.

“I don’t like the idea of getting 2 or 3 million people mad at me,” he said.

Not everybody was seated around the fringe-candidate campfire, however. Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr backed out of the event at the last minute, creating a bit of a huff among the gathered Paul supporters.

But Barr spokesman Andrew Davis tells HOH that the decision wasn’t meant as a snub, and he said his boss is still on board with the overall united-front effort. The former Republican Congressman from Georgia merely was prepping for his own press conference, held down the hall just minutes later, where Barr announced he has asked Paul to be his running mate.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Paul had not responded to Barr’s offer.

Tying the Knot. Sorry, ladies, one of the House’s few bachelors is off the market.

Rep. Artur Davis is engaged to Tara Johnson, the Alabama Democrat’s office confirms. A resident of Montgomery, Ala., Johnson oversees outreach efforts for the Alabama Forestry Commission and previously worked as the state coordinator of the Alabama Network of Children’s Advocacy Centers.

The pair met in late 2006 and plan to marry in January.

It’s the first marriage for the 40-year-old Congressman, who turned heads during a 2007 Appropriations subcommittee hearing when he (seemingly jokingly) hit on actress Kerry Washington by “personally” welcoming her to Washington as “a single member” of the House. When Washington testified again before Congress earlier this year, she opened her remarks with a joke about how she got a date out of her previous visit (although, as we’re sure Johnson is glad to hear, the date never actually happened).

Sans Stones, Hodes is Rolling. If we were as good a musician as Rep. Paul Hodes, we’d write a get-well ditty for the New Hampshire Democrat (and half of folk duo Peggo & Paul), who missed work in Washington to recover from a kidney-stone operation. According to a statement from his office, Hodes was taken to the emergency room at Concord Regional Hospital on Monday and had kidney stones surgically removed in a routine procedure on Tuesday. “He will be flying to Washington as soon as possible to vote on the comprehensive energy package that is expected to come up on the House floor later this week,” the statement says.

HOH sends its best wishes for a speedy recovery.

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