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HOH’s One-Minute Recess: Zoo in the Swamp

Cute kids and fluffy animals are classic attention getters, but some Members of Congress got a reminder during a Thursday news conference that what’s supposed to be the backdrop sometimes has a way of upstaging the message.

[IMGCAP(1)]A cheetah, a civet, an Anatolian Shepherd dog and a gaggle of adorable kids had the run of a news conference called by Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and other backers of a bill, titled No Child Left Inside, to fund outdoor and environmental education. During the session in the Senate swamp, photographers all but ignored the speakers at the podium and focused on the cuddly (and photogenic) creatures.

[IMGCAP(2)]They didn’t seem to mind being upstaged, though. “I don’t have a chance, do I?— Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) ruefully acknowledged, as the cheetah sprawled at his feet and rubbed its head on the base of the podium. “Kids and animals — not a chance!—

Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.) comically tried to avoid stepping on the cheetah’s tail when it was his turn to speak, and even Reed himself got distracted mid-speech when the cat began playing with his shoe laces.

HOH didn’t even catch what Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) had to say — and we’re guessing much of the audience didn’t either, because as he began to talk, the crowd was riveted by the arrival of a large civet perched on the back of one of the animal handlers. Even the kids who were holding a banner behind the speakers dropped what they were doing to play with the animal.

In addition to visiting Capitol Hill, the animals, we’re told, also stopped by the White House Wednesday night for a visit with the first daughters.

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