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Heard on the Hill: Frank Says Kirk’s Got Senate Envy’

As the rest of Capitol Hill was playing the “will he or won’t he— game over whether Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) would run for the Senate, one of his colleagues called him out for having Senate envy.

[IMGCAP(1)]On Thursday night, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) challenged Kirk, who had asked that the entire text of a bill be read on the House floor. “In the alternative,— Frank snarked, “those Members who suffer from Senate envy could write a 700-page nongermane amendment.—

Unless you speak parliamentary-geek-ese, that might not sound like much, but those who do recognized it for a “zing!— Republicans on the House floor did, and they let loose with a round of jeers.

Their reaction caused Frank to reconsider the insult, and a moment later he added this: “Let me amend what I said and refer to those thin-skinned Members with Senate envy.’—


Cheap Eats. It’s not quite the McDonald’s dollar menu, but cheaper lunchtime choices are coming for cash-strapped House staffers.

HOH hears that the Longworth House Office Building cafeteria will unveil “House Value Meals— this week, offering patrons $5 lunchtime menu options, from burritos and quesadillas to soup, chicken wings, sandwiches and hot dogs (a fountain drink is included).

The current entree salad station in the cafeteria will permanently change to accommodate the new fare. Staffers won’t be allowed to substitute menu items, but station options will change weekly to keep the choices fresh.

The cafeteria will offer specials on Fridays, including $1.50 for a quarter-pound hamburger and $1.25 for bottled water.

And Twitter-ers could have an advantage over their digitally impaired friends: HOH hears a special-value menu choice will be revealed each Friday via the cafeterias’ new Twitter page,

The value menu comes amid escalating staffer complaints about a sharp increase in cafeteria prices. In fact, Members such as Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) recently grilled Chief Administrative Officer Dan Beard about an average 30 percent price increase in cafeteria meals over the past two years.

As in Mary Jane,’ Not Michael Jackson.’ Given the wall-to-wall Michael Jackson coverage last week, you can’t blame people for seeing Jackson references everywhere. And so it seemed plausible that some sneaky staffer had made a sly joke about the late pop star’s rumored drug use.

At a Thursday press conference on illegal drugs, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) clutched a prop, a box that represented a shipment of medical marijuana. On the box was the handwritten phrase “Medical Rx— and a drawing of a pot leaf.

And in what some onlookers suspected was a crack at the late pop star, the initials “M.J.— were doodled on the box as well.

Rusty Roberts, chief of staff for Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), who helped orchestrate the event, tells HOH that staffers in his office made the prop using a shoe box and markers. And “M.J.— is the abbreviation for marijuana, a shorthand form that’s often used in the context of medical marijuana, sometimes called “med M.J.—

Cable news coverage to the contrary, it wasn’t all about Jacko.

One-Man Band. No matter that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) determined that there would be no official legislative tribute to Michael Jackson — one Member paid homage to the late King of Pop in his own special way. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) was spotted sitting in one of the guard’s chairs just outside the House floor during a vote Wednesday.

Jackson (the Congressman) was singing bits from the Jackson (the pop star) oeuvre. “Don’t matter if you’re black or white!— the Congressman belted out, singing the lyrics to one of the Gloved One’s hits.

Jackson was wearing jeans and a blazer, our spy says, but no sign of a glittery white glove.

He Sells Seashells. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) speaks fluent Alabamian. He showed off mastery of a Southern tongue twister when he introduced an amendment on Thursday calling for a study of the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa and Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river basins.

Try saying that three times fast. Shelby actually used the phrase at least five times during a committee markup, in a perfect drawl and without tripping up a single time, a spy says.

Not everyone finds it so easy to rattle off. Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) attempted to utter it, but gave up halfway.

Political Novice. Hollywood types have been coming to town in droves these days, regaling us all with their deep, important thoughts on the world of politics.

So it’s refreshing, really, when a celebrity comes to town and admits he knows very little about the inner workings of Washington.

Actor Jeremy Renner came to D.C. last week for the premiere of his critically acclaimed movie “The Hurt Locker,— about three Army soldiers charged with disarming improvised explosive devices in Iraq. Renner told HOH that while he follows politics, he doesn’t “have a political agenda— and admitted he’s “completely naive— when it comes to Capitol Hill.

“I don’t get too involved in that if I don’t have to,— Renner said of politics. “But there are things worth fighting for.—

Renner probably knows more than he lets on, at least when it comes to military issues. The actor met with troops at Fort Irwin, Calif., to research his role, and then spent three months in Kuwait shooting the movie, calling it “the hardest, most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do.—

“I didn’t enlist — I signed up to do a movie. But I felt like I enlisted,— he said. “It’s the closest to war I ever want to get.—

The film premiered on Thursday at the Navy Memorial Theater to a packed audience made up mostly of members of the military. Renner spoke, tearing up while talking about Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians in Iraq.

And while he may shy away from Capitol Hill, Renner urged Members and staffers to see the film. “I hope that they appreciate it, that they dig it, that it creates awareness for something that’s going on right now,— Renner said.

Powell’s Hot Rod. For such a modest guy, Gen. Colin Powell sure drives some flashy wheels. An HOH spy (as well as a Roll Call photographer) spotted the former secretary of State leaving the Capitol on Thursday with Richard Armitage, his former deputy, strolling out to the parking lot.

Powell slipped into the driver’s seat of a sleek, late-model silver Corvette and sped away, our tipster says.

Powell’s wife, Alma, penned a book called “My Little Wagon— — but clearly, his own taste in transportation is a touch more sophisticated.

Work Up a Sweat. Sen. Tom Carper didn’t need to join fitness guru and “P90X— creator Tony Horton when he put selected Members through a grueling workout last week — the Delaware Democrat definitely knows how to break a sweat on his own.

An HOH spy eyed the retired Navy captain in what appeared to be the final throes of an early morning run Thursday. Spotted on Constitution Avenue just outside the Capitol, the fitness-loving Carper was decked out in a white T-shirt and dark shorts and drenched in sweat, according to our spy.

Here’s hoping Carper hit the showers before attending to official Senate business.

Boys’ Night Out. While Carper might have been working up a sweat, others were satisfying their appetite: An HOH tipster spotted Republican Reps. Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), Steve Scalise (La.) and Jim Jordan (Ohio) dining at downtown seafood restaurant the Oceanaire on Thursday night.

Geof Koss of CongressNow and Jessica Brady contributed to this report.

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