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Heard on the Hill: The Newest Fad Diet

Forget Atkins, South Beach or any of those crazy cleanses — the new way to drop those extra pounds is the town hall diet.

[IMGCAP(1)]Here’s how it works: Spend almost all of August wrangling angry constituents at town hall meetings (while skipping meals) and quickly drop 10 pounds.

At least that’s how freshman Rep. Tom Perriello got rid of his extra weight. The Virginia Democrat admitted to constituents at one town hall meeting this summer that he had gained 10 pounds since taking office in January and set a goal of dropping the weight before returning to Congress this week.

Perriello met that goal, spokeswoman Jessica Barba said. “Some of it could be attributed to the fact that he had to skip dinners on nights where his town hall meetings lasted 5+ hours,— Barba told HOH via e-mail.

But Barba added that the town hall method is “an unhealthy way to lose weight that he does not endorse,— noting that Perriello also got back into a regular running routine to help shed the pounds.

He’s aiming to keep up his running now that he’s back in D.C., she added.

The Joke’s on You, Senator. Somebody needs to get Sen. Ben Nelson a subscription to Us Weekly, ASAP.

The Nebraska Democrat appeared alongside House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and actress Jennifer Garner at a press conference Wednesday to introduce legislation that would provide grants to community schools. Nelson decided to crack a little joke when he got up to speak, saying: “I know a lot of you have come in to see Bennifer. I’m not the Ben associated with that.—

Now, as avid celebrity watchers will note, “Bennifer— actually is the tabloid-driven moniker given about five years ago to Garner’s husband, actor Ben Affleck, and his former fiancée, singer-actress-diva Jennifer Lopez.

Garner and Affleck got hitched after he and Lopez had a very public breakup, and although “Bennifer— technically could be applied to the happily married couple, it usually isn’t because it is a reminder of Affleck’s former romance.


Still, Garner laughed off Nelson’s verbal misstep, saying lightheartedly, “That was a really bad joke,— as the audience erupted in laughter. And when Mark Shriver, speaking as the vice president of the nonprofit group Save the Children, got up to the mike, he deadpanned, “I had a joke, but …—

[IMGCAP(2)]Garner wasn’t the only celebrity on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. Actress Christina Ricci visited Members to discuss her work as a representative of the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network. We hear the “Addams Family— star chowed down on salad and sandwiches in the Members’ Dining Room with Rep. Carolyn Maloney, where she thanked the New York Democrat for her work on issues related to sexual violence.

Ricci was scheduled to join several Members at a fundraiser for RAINN early Wednesday evening.

Blumenauer’s Hairy Situation. When Congress returns from August recess, it’s a little like the first day of middle school, with everyone checking everyone else out to see who got a cool new Trapper Keeper and who had a growth spurt over the summer.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer was showing off his new look Wednesday by the lockers, er … we mean on the House floor. The normally clean-shaven Oregon Democrat now has a full salt-and-pepper beard, which we think lends him a slightly professorial look.

Not all his colleagues were as complimentary. “Hey, Grizzly!— Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) called as he passed Blumenauer in the Speaker’s lobby.

Blumenauer spokeswoman Erin Allweiss said her boss returned to Washington sporting the new facial hair after he spent part of recess in Africa visiting his daughter, a Peace Corps volunteer. “Maybe he’ll keep it until we pass health care reform,— Allweiss suggested.

Heads Up. Don’t get any funny ideas about Rep. Vernon Ehlers. The Michigan Republican was spotted around the Capitol on Wednesday wearing an alarming-looking bandage on his head, but his spokesman wants to quash any rumors that his boss had injured himself in some back-alley fight.

It’s just the result of a “simple dermatological procedure— in which the Congressman had a small spot removed, spokesman Kevan Chapman told an inquiring HOH.

The 75-year-old is working on getting his pilot’s license, but that’s about as risky as he gets, we hear.

And in other medical news, Del. Donna Christensen (D-Virgin Islands) is using a wheelchair while she recovers from bunion surgery, her spokeswoman told us. No word on when she’ll be back on her feet.

As Members of Congress debate health care reform, it looks like they’re having a few firsthand brushes with the system.

No Reservations. Rep. Tim Murphy’s new favorite color might be navy blue. The Pennsylvania Republican was commissioned as a naval reserve officer over the August recess.

Murphy, a psychologist, told HOH that he was aware of the growing need for treatment of members of the armed services suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other conditions, and wanted to put his training to use for the public good. “I wanted to do more than just vote on these issues,— he said.

Murphy said he’ll work two days a month at Bethesda Hospital, but like other Members of Congress serving in the reserves, he won’t see active duty.

Tory Newmyer and CongressNow’s Geoff Koss contributed to this report.

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