Heard on the Hill: Another Mulligan for Justice Roberts

Posted January 26, 2009 at 6:24pm

The scene on Monday was familiar: Chief Justice John Roberts presiding over a swearing-in ceremony of an important public official. Pomp and circumstance. An expectant crowd.

[IMGCAP(1)]But this time, there were no gaffes. (Whew!)

Unlike when Roberts administered the oath of office to President Barack Obama — and created controversy leading to a do-over when he stumbled over his words — this event went smoothly.

Roberts was swearing in G. Wayne Clough as the 12th secretary of the Smithsonian Institution at a Monday ceremony at the Museum of the American Indian and told the crowd that tradition used to hold that the incoming Smithsonian secretary had to take an oath of office. But now, the appointment is made official when he receives the ceremonial key that unlocks the old oak doors of the Smithsonian Castle on the National Mall.

As he handed over the key, Roberts joked that he was glad about the change.

Now he’s got three years and 358 days to practice.

Congressman of Steel. Sunday’s Super Bowl matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals will generate plenty of trash talk on Capitol Hill, as Members from the Keystone and Grand Canyon states no doubt make corny wagers over which team will take home the Vince Lombardi trophy.

But there’s only one Member of Congress who can claim a true ownership stake in the big game.

Freshman Rep. Tom Rooney, the grandson of legendary Steelers founder Art Rooney, is an heir to the Steelers franchise. And the Florida Republican plans to travel to Tampa, Fla., to attend the big game on Sunday, spokesman Jeffrey Ostermayer told HOH.

Rooney — who served as a towel boy for the team as a teenager — will sit alongside the rest of his legendary family as the Steelers fight for their sixth Super Bowl victory, Ostermayer said. It’s an especially important moment for Rooney, since it’s the first Super Bowl to which he’ll get to bring along his young sons, Tommy Jr., 7, Sean, 5, and Seamus, 2, Ostermayer added.

Rooney’s stake in the team is relatively small — he has six siblings and 35 first cousins, so it isn’t clear what inheritance, if any, he might eventually garner from the team.

The family remains close, despite its big size — and despite some notable partisan differences.

During the 2008 elections, Steelers President Dan Rooney, the Congressman’s uncle, endorsed Democrat Barack Obama. Meanwhile, the Republican Rooney waged his ultimately successful battle to unseat former Democratic Rep. Tim Mahoney down in Florida.

But Ostermayer said there probably won’t be much talk of politics when Steelers fans begin to wave their Terrible Towels in Tampa.

“They usually keep the political rivalry at the door,” Ostermayer said. “They have a big family, so not everybody is going to share the same political beliefs.”

The Other Sherman Hawks Patriotism. With an economic stimulus package in limbo and additional corporate layoffs announced each day, Californian Brad Sherman says he has a surefire plan for stimulating the struggling economy — ramp up the sale of patriotic-themed gifts.

And in an effort to generate Congressional support for his unique money-generating idea, the Californian has sent hundreds of Members of Congress a package featuring items from an America-themed gift line, called “Tribute,” which includes items such as a bald eagle-covered greeting card and a stars-and-stripes-covered baseball cap.

Now, HOH should probably establish that it’s actually not Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) who is sending Members packages filled with patriotic writing pens, but rather one of his constituents — who coincidentally also is named Brad Sherman.

“He and I live in the same town; I’ve met him several times,” Sherman said of his legislative doppelgänger. “I’m much better looking than he is.”

Levels of attractiveness aside, Sherman the entrepreneur admits his name can only help him gain further notoriety for his gift line — and Sherman already is used to being confused for the Congressman.

During election time, Sherman typically fields dozens of phone calls from California voters looking for the Congressional candidate, he said. He also received several campaign donation checks in his mailbox, which he insists he always forwards to the Congressman’s campaign.

Sherman jokes that he’s even thought about running for Congress against his namesake, just to confuse voters.

But until he forms his own campaign committee, Sherman is focused on running his corporate gift and graphic design company called “The Social Graces.” He thinks the company’s Tribute line is perfect for government officials and corporations to use as gifts for dignitaries and constituents, and hopes to sell the items in Smithsonian gift shops, he said.

Department of Easy Lifting. So maybe they can’t agree on a single thing that should go into that pesky stimulus package, but the House jumped feet first into work this week on a few matters on which they actually could see eye to eye.

Namely, that the crew and pilot of US Airways Flight 1549 deserve a pat on the back. The House last night was set to adopt a resolution honoring Chesley B. Sullenberger III and the flight’s crew “for their heroism, calm under pressure, and dedication to the safety of passengers on board.”

The Senate actually beat the House to the punch on that one, having passed its own resolution to the same effect last week.

In another act of daring bipartisanship, the House on Monday also planned to act boldly, by naming Jan. 28 as National Data Privacy Day.

Now, onto the tough stuff …

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