Heard on the Hill: Sleeping on the Job

Posted November 18, 2008 at 6:51pm

While most incoming Members of Congress are checking out lofts and row houses around our fair city, Rep.-elect Jason Chaffetz doesn’t expect to be searching those Craigslist ads anytime soon: The Utah Republican plans to snooze in his office when he’s in town.

[IMGCAP(1)]But while that certainly will save Chaffetz some cash each month (he jokes he’s “too cheap” to find his own place), whether doing so is kosher is another matter.

Although Members sleeping in House offices technically isn’t against House rules (and insiders say dozens of Members, perhaps 50 or more, actually do it), it is frowned on. An HOH spy says House Administration Committee member Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) warned against the practice during freshman orientation Monday. And it is against the rules to sleep in the House gym — although why anyone would want to do that is beyond us.

High rents aside, Chaffetz, a former marketing exec, says he simply has too much to do to bother with house hunting, adding that he wants to focus his first term on legislating, not decorating.

“I just want to work around the clock, so at this point, getting an apartment is not priority No. 1,” he tells HOH. “I’m sure it’s not encouraged. But we’ll see how it goes.”

Chaffetz won’t be sleeping on his office couch, however, because he bought a cot that he spotted “by the ice cream” at a local Utah grocery store Friday night.

“I thought, ‘I’m probably going to need one of these,’” he says.

Just make sure to wear flip-flops when you shower in the Members’ gym, Congressman.

Welcome, Sorta. Normally it falls to the chairman of the House Administration Committee to teach the freshmen about the housing rules during orientation (as well as where the bathrooms are and how to adhere to tricky ethics rules). But Chairman Robert Brady (D-Pa.) was conspicuously absent from the first few days of this week’s sessions, and sources tell HOH that he unloaded the responsibility of running the program onto Rep. Zoe Lofgren (Calif.), the panel’s No. 2 Democrat.

Brady remained in Philadelphia, missing the crucial first two and a half days of orientation, finally showing up for the last few minutes of a session Tuesday. HOH hears that Lofgren’s staff was notified Friday that she would have to run the show in Washington, D.C., and that the sudden shift ruffled a few feathers.

Committee spokesman Kyle Anderson said that Brady had obligations in Philadelphia that conflicted with orientation and that the chairman is always happy to share the committee’s “spotlight.” A Lofgren spokesman wouldn’t comment.

Brady, who commutes daily to Washington from Philadelphia, also is likely to be a no-show at the reception at the Botanic Garden that the committee is hosting tonight: A copy of the program shows that Lofgren, not Brady, will welcome the guests and that ranking member Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.) also will speak.

At least Brady’s teaching the frosh (by example) a skill that they’re going to have to learn eventually on Capitol Hill: delegating.

Dean’s 60 Candles. Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean might already have gotten everything on his wish list — including a Democrat in the Oval Office and expanded majorities in both chambers of Congress — but on Monday night, Dean still celebrated his icing-on-the-cake birthday in style.

A spy says the silver-haired Dem rang in the big Six-Oh at Charlie Palmer Steak, accompanied by a gaggle of pals that included pollster Cornell Belcher, media consultants Mark Squier and Steve McMahon, and DNC Communications Director Karen Finney.

Other diners at the swank restaurant stopped by the table to add their well wishes, our source says, including Sens. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).

No word on whether Dean actually had cake, but if so, the 60 candles could double for the number of Democratic Senators he wants to see arrive on Capitol Hill in 2010.

Thomas: Never Off the Clock. Legendary White House reporter Helen Thomas has covered every president from John Kennedy to George W. Bush, and one would think that after decades of raking the proverbial muck, the 88-year-old journalist would welcome a break from reporting every once in awhile.

Apparently not.

Thomas attended a party at the new Busboys and Poets at 5th and K Streets Northwest on Monday night in honor of Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and her autobiography, “Renegade for Peace and Justice.” Lee told the roomful of attendees — which included fellow California Democratic Reps. Henry Waxman and Lynn Woolsey — that Thomas had helped persuade her to write the tome, calling the reporter “an unbelievable woman.”

But when the Q&A portion of the evening got under way, Thomas showed no mercy, proving that she’s always in journalist mode, even when she’s an honored guest.

Thomas asked Lee what she thinks President-elect Barack Obama should do first to tackle the economic crisis. (Lee hopes Obama and Congress will prevent more people from losing their homes.)

Lee tried to move onto the next questioner, but Thomas wasn’t done — she held onto the mike to follow up on whether Lee supports the proposed bailout of the auto industry. (Lee responded that something must be done because “there are many, many jobs that might be lost” if automakers go under.)

Lee wasn’t thrown by the tough questioning.

“This is the toughest interviewer in the world,” Lee said, telling Thomas: “Thank you for your wisdom. This is a wise woman.”

Schumer and Coleman Are Frenemies. The hunter and the hunted ended up in close quarters Tuesday: Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) shared a cozy subway car with his most-wanted quarry, Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.). Schumer, as the head of the Senate Dems’ campaign arm, has been trying desperately to knock Coleman out of his seat — and he just might have succeeded, because Coleman’s narrow win over Democratic challenger Al Franken is currently the subject of a recount.

Schumer even announced earlier in the day that he plans to stay on at the helm of the DSCC long enough to see the Coleman-Franken contest, as well as two other outstanding Senate races, to a close.

Despite the built-in animosity, HOH’s spy says the two at the very least didn’t come to blows as they rode together on the underground subway from the Capitol to the Senate office buildings.

Or perhaps the two were reliving high school memories; they both attended Brooklyn’s James Madison High School, with Schumer graduating in 1967 and Coleman in 1966.

Is that a bull’s-eye on your back, Sen. Coleman?

Briefly Quoted. “During this Congress, the Majority has been rather promiscuous in its issuance of subpoenas to the executive branch.”

— GOP Sens. Jon Kyl (Ariz.), Jeff Sessions (Ala.), Sam Brownback (Kan.), and Tom Coburn (Okla.), essentially calling Democrats cheap dates, in the Republican Senators’ “minority views” added to a report on the Justice Department’s prosecutor firing scandal.

Lauren W. Whittington and Alison McSherry contributed to this report.

Submit your hot tips, juicy gossip or comments here.