Heard on the Hill: The Candy Men Can

Posted January 16, 2009 at 6:15pm

Upheaval in the Republican Party is widespread — and its effects are reaching deep into the very fabric of life on Capitol Hill. It’s even affecting … the candy drawer.

[IMGCAP(1)]Cue the dramatic music.

The drawer, a Senate tradition that goes back to the 1960s, has been on a roller-coaster ride that reflects some Republicans’ woes of recent years: It was manned by Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) until he lost his re-election bid in 2006. Then, Sen. Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.) took on the duty of keeping the drawer

stocked until his death in 2007. The job subsequently fell to Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio), who recently announced he plans to retire in 2010.

That announcement has left the fate of the candy drawer up in the air. It will, by tradition, become the duty of whoever is assigned to the unofficial candy desk on the back row of the Republican side of the chamber.

And although the desk is located on the Republican side, it’s meant to be nonpartisan — meaning Democrats can (and do) dip into it, too.

But Democrats also maintain a candy stash on their own side, and compared to the Republicans, they’ve had a relatively stable sugar supply. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) told HOH that he has been stocking a desk on the Democratic side — in a little-known tradition that even the Senate Historian’s office doesn’t know much about — with sugary goodies for the past 24 years.

A Rockefeller spokeswoman confirmed that her boss has enjoyed keeping fellow Democrats (and Republicans sometimes, too) on a sugar high for more than two decades. Rockefeller, we hear, has quite a sweet tooth himself and began buying candy for a desk in the Democrat’s side of the chamber so that he could always have a few of his beloved sweets nearby.

Unlike the more official candy desk on the Republican side — which is filled with sweets donated by candy manufacturers from the home state of whichever Senator is in charge of it — Rockefeller pays for the confections out of his own pocket.

Isn’t that, um, sweet?

Biden’s Balls Get Their Due. In the lavish praise swirling around the Senate floor last week as Senators paid tribute to their departing colleagues, amid all the treacly hyperbole, it might have been easy to miss usually prim and proper Sen. Orrin Hatch dropping some unusually coarse language.

On Thursday, the mild-mannered Utah Republican was waxing profound on the many merits of former Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden (“integrity, truthfulness, passion,” yadda, yadda) when he took the unexpected step of praising Biden’s, um, balls. And we don’t mean the kind used in sports.

That’s balls as metaphor for gumption. Cojones.

Hatch, who is a clean-living, non-swearword-using Mormon, conveniently got around the “oh-no-he-didn’t” factor by quoting someone else complimenting Biden’s nether regions.

“As a kid growing up in Scranton, there was (to be perfectly blunt, as Joe would say) a breathtaking element of balls,” Hatch said during his floor speech. He went on to note that the phrase was actually a quote from Richard Ben Cramer’s 1993 book, “What It Takes.”

“That was Richard Ben Cramer, not me,” Hatch noted, lest anyone should think Hatch himself would dare to talk blue — and on the floor of the Senate, no less. “‘Joe Biden had balls. Lot of times, more balls than sense,’” he continued to quote from the book.

HOH has previously documented Hatch getting around his no-curse-words policy by quoting the dirty language uttered by others. The Utah Republican is especially fond of telling stories about legendary Mormon leader J. Golden Kimball, who was prone to profanity.

HOH plans to try that excuse sometime herself: It’s a quote, I swear.

Breaking the Glass Ceiling. It seems Congress is all about smashing gender barriers these days. For the first time ever, a dude is in charge of the Congressional spouses’ freshman class.

Dan Dahlkemper, the husband of freshman Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper, was elected the first male president of the Congressional Spouses Club’s freshman class, the Pennsylvania Democrat’s office announced Friday.

The group, whose members have included former President Bill Clinton and former Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.), promote various do-good projects and initiatives. Dan Dahlkemper’s predecessor, Gayle Kagen, the wife of Rep. Steve Kagen (D-Wis.), helped make 2-1-1 a call center for veterans and their families seeking counseling, for example. Dan Dahlkemper said he hopes to tackle similar issues.

“I ran for this office to support Kathy in the same fashion she has supported me all these years in my endeavors,” said Dan Dahlkemper, who co-owns a landscaping company with his wife.

Sure, he might support his wife — but will he remember to take out the trash?

Inaugural Pitch for Statehood. New York has its “National Debt Clock,” an electronic billboard located on Sixth Avenue that displays the country’s up-to-date deficit. Now Washington, D.C., has its own version — an electronic running tally of federal taxes paid by D.C. residents.

And with its location at the John A. Wilson Building on Pennsylvania Avenue, it’s certain to attract attention during today’s inaugural parade.

D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) on Friday helped unveil the sign, which informs passers-by that D.C. residents have paid about $151 million in federal taxes. But gripes about taxes aside, the sign helps get the word out (especially to the millions of tourists in town) that D.C. residents don’t have a vote in Congress.

“The goal is really to educate the Americans about the lack of representation,” said Ilir Zherka, who advocates for voting rights as executive director of DC Vote.

Visitors consulting the City Council’s official “Inauguration Day Walking Map” might find themselves looking for “No Taxation Without Representation Street,” the name the council recently gave to a portion of South Capitol Street near Nationals Stadium.

And advocates of representation for D.C. are hoping Barack Obama will help the effort by replacing standard license plates on the presidential motorcade with the “Taxation Without Representation” plates that accompany most D.C. vehicles, Zherka said. President Bill Clinton sported the plates, but one of the first things President George W. Bush did when he took office was to take the plates off.

Advocates expect that Obama — who as a Senator co-sponsored legislation to give D.C. a vote — will put them back on. “People have volunteered to bring over a screwdriver and do it for him,” Zherka said.

Hooker Serves Tail for Obama, Beaver-Style. Chilly Americans won’t be the only ones celebrating Barack Obama’s inauguration on Pennsylvania Avenue today. Our friendly neighbors to the north at the Canadian Embassy are hosting their own bash for the 44th president, and guests will dine on a favorite Canadian treat: beaver tail.

OK, it’s not what you think.

Beaver tail is a hot pastry treat of fried dough stretched into the shape of a beaver’s tail, in tribute to the hardworking, dam-building rodents that are one of Canada’s national symbols.

Typically, Canadians often top the treat with cinnamon, chocolate, hazelnut, maple butter or apple. But to celebrate the inauguration, the beaver tails will become “Obama Tails,” topped with cinnamon, sugar and a hazelnut-chocolate “O,” creator Grant Hooker told HOH.

“It is served piping hot, immediately, so it’s kind of like fresh bread out of the oven and a bit like a donut as well,” said Hooker, who learned the original beaver tail recipe from his grandmother.

Jessica Brady and Shira Toeplitz contributed to this report.

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