Heard on the Hill: ‘A’ for Effort

Posted January 13, 2009 at 6:39pm

Looks like the new guy’s an overachiever. HOH spies have noticed Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho) spending a lot of time on the chamber’s floor, apparently toiling away at his desk.

[IMGCAP(1)]The diligent freshman even hunkers down at times when the Senate is otherwise quiet, save for whichever Senator happens to be yapping away for the C-SPAN cameras, our floor-watchers say. Turns out, his reason for haunting the near-empty room is one part apple-shining and one part necessity.

Risch is a bit of a parliamentary geek, a spokesman said, and he enjoys learning about rules and regulations.

On a more practical level, Risch and his staff have been relegated to temporary lodgings in mobile units outside the Russell Senate Office Building, and the digs are a bit cramped for comfort. “I think he’s just looking for a little quiet time to think and study by himself,” the spokesman said.

Hey new guy, you don’t get extra-credit points for perfect attendance.

A Clinton Demotion. As Congressional interns go, Chelsea Clinton would be waaay overqualified. Not to mention that taking the gig would mean a huge pay cut for the former first daughter, who now works for a New York hedge fund.

So she must not have been all that tempted by an invitation to serve a “one-day internship” that was extended on Tuesday by Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) during the confirmation hearing for Chelsea’s mother, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), to become secretary of State. Kerry offered the job to Chelsea, who sat behind her mother during the hearing, so that she could sit with staffers on the dais, thus allowing Sen. Clinton to see her daughter’s face during the proceedings.

Kerry noted that Chelsea’s father, former President Bill Clinton, had once been an intern for the panel, and suggested that he could use his chairman’s prerogative to make the temporary appointment.

Chelsea, wearing a fitted, plum-ish dress and “fabulous” wavy hair, according to an HOH spy who got close enough to check for split ends, smiled but didn’t leap at the offer.

We wonder what this will do for all those theories about Chelsea someday going into the family business.

Pavlov’s Senators. Old habits sure die hard. Republican Senators peeking in on the Democrats’ weekly luncheon on Tuesday weren’t trying to conduct espionage, they were just confused.

And it’s easy to see why: This is only the second week in which Democrats have held their weekly Tuesday lunch meeting in the Senate Mansfield Room while Republicans dined in the nearby LBJ Room — this after many years of it being the other way around (Democrats in the LBJ space and Republicans in the Mansfield). At least six Republicans — Sens. Bob Bennett of Utah, John Cornyn of Texas, Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Jon Kyl of Arizona, Jeff Sessions of Alabama and David Vitter of Louisiana — made their way to the familiar doors of the Mansfield Room, only to register surprise when they realized it was full of — gasp! — Democrats.

Democrats placed dibs on the more spacious Mansfield in order to accommodate their larger majority. But a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) said Democrats have since discovered one major drawback to the move. Members must exit the lunch through a door that opens directly into the area where packs of reporters await.

McCotter’s No Mr. Manners. Warning to rubber-chicken-dinner attendees: Whatever you do, avoid sitting next to Rep. Thaddeus McCotter. No matter how stimulating his conversation might be, the Michigan Republican and chairman of the Republican Policy Committee does not sound like a pleasant dinner companion, at least when it comes to table manners.

McCotter, who is known for his wacky writings, penned a column for the latest issue of the Ripon Forum, a publication by the centrist-Republican Ripon Society. In the column “My Dinner With Andrea,” McCotter recounts a possibly imaginary dinner-table discussion he had about the future of the GOP.

A few of the ickier passages: “I tore into my salad. … I slobbered through a mouthful of lettuce. … I reflexively spit out a gnawed crouton that clinked off her wine glass and plopped on her plate.”

Paging Emily Post! McCotter’s bad etiquette gets worse. “I tossed my fork onto the plate and gravy splattered onto my tie. … I casually dipped my tie into her water and started dabbing at my freshly stained neckwear.” In this conversation with “Andrea,” McCotter also refers to the entree as “roadkill.”

HOH is sure that there was a bigger, more important point in the column, but we were so distracted by the gross-out table performance we must have missed it.

It’s clear that the cerebral McCotter has a mind, but minding his manners … well, that’s another story.

A Dogged Fight for Power. Forget bailout money — the most divisive issue in town might just be the kind of dog that will get the job of first pet.

And now one breed has its own lobbyist.

Washingtonian Greg Nelson launched the Web site Labradoodlesforobama.com after President-elect Barack Obama (D) confirmed on “This Week With George Stephanopoulos” that his family had narrowed down their choice of family dog to a Labradoodle or Portuguese water dog.

Nelson has owned his Labradoodle, Arbo, for about a year and a half, and he told HOH that his goal is to generate interest around what he calls the “best of both worlds” breed. “They have the friendly demeanor of the lab and the intelligence of the poodle,” he said. Labradoodles don’t shed, which is good for Malia Obama’s allergies, and unlike the water dog, they are bred in a variety of sizes.

Arbo speaks directly to Obama on the site, telling the soon-to-be prez that Labradoodles are “‘super fun,’ ‘super cute’ & ‘super smart.’” And Nelson notes he and the Obamas could meet up for doggie play dates, since he lives on 16th Street Northwest, in the nearest single-family home to the White House.

“We truly are the president’s neighbor,” he said. “How great would it be to turn the South Lawn into a dog park?”

HOH couldn’t find a lobby shop representing Portuguese water dogs. But we do note that Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) endorsed the breed in a recent statement.

“The Obama girls — and their parents — will love a Portuguese water dog,” said Kennedy, who owns water dogs Sunny, Splash and new addition Cappy. “They’re loyal, smart, loving and they became a real part of the family.”

The Beat Goes On. The Presidential Inaugural Committee announced on Tuesday the performers who’ll appear at two of the biggest official inaugural bashes next week — and with the number of divas expected to be in one place, HOH expects (OK, hopes) there will be a few clashing egos.

Tweens are bound to be excited about the talent expected at Monday’s “Kids Inaugural Concert” at the Verizon Center, as the Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato and Bow Wow are set to perform. Billy Ray Cyrus, Keke Palmer and Usher also will appear, and the concert will air on the Disney Channel.

“The Neighborhood Ball: An Inauguration Celebration,” Tuesday night at the Washington Convention Center, features performances by A-listers including Beyoncé, Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey, Faith Hill, Jay-Z, Alicia Keys, Shakira and Stevie Wonder. Carey’s husband, Nick Cannon, will DJ, and ABC will broadcast it.

It’s No ‘Sweet Caroline.’ It’s still unclear whether Caroline Kennedy will be given the Senate seat that would be vacated should Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) be confirmed as secretary of State. But now Kennedy has garnered a special honor sure to help her with nerdy teenage boys everywhere — she’s about to star in her very own comic book.

Kennedy will be featured in Bluewater Productions’ comic “Female Force,” a series that tells the stories of powerful, influential women. Past comic profiles have included Clinton, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) and future first lady Michelle Obama.

“She was on the short list before all the hype about the Senate seat,” publisher Darren Davis said in a press release. “She is an amazing person who has done a lot for education.”

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