Heard on the Hill: A Mini Mistake

Posted January 13, 2010 at 6:38pm

We’re sure Members of Congress are good at some things. Baby-kissing, maybe, or cutting ribbons with those giant funny scissors.

[IMGCAP(1)]But parking? At least one Member needs a refresher course.

An HOH tipster snapped a picture of a Mini Cooper bearing Member plates identifying the owner as being from Texas’ 21st district (that would be GOP Rep. Lamar Smith) parked in an illegal spot near the corner of C and First streets Southeast.

The little car was halfway in a legal spot, with the rear half jutting out into no-man’s land, a configuration that normally would cause the city’s crack parking police to slap a ticket on the windshield faster than you could say “I’m so sorry, officer …—

Sure, Members are technically permitted to park pretty much wherever they like while attending to official business (and we hear Smith was attending a working breakfast nearby), but most try to stay in the strictly legal spots to keep up appearances.

But perhaps even more surprising than a Member of Congress parking in an illegal spot is the fact that Smith, who hails from the Lone Star State — where everything, from hairdos to T-bone steaks, is oversized — drives a diminutive Mini Cooper.

A Smith staffer jokes to HOH that the Texan might need an even tinier ride to fit into Washington’s scant parking spots. “He figured his Mini could fit,— the staffer says. “Maybe he needs to get a Smart Car.—

Saluting a Slugger. Canada is home to just one Major League Baseball team (the Toronto Blue Jays), but that doesn’t mean our neighbors to the north lack an appreciation for America’s pastime — and one legendary slugger in particular.

Canadian Ambassador Gary Doer will host an event at his country’s embassy tonight for Baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr., who will be honored as a “champion for children,— according to an embassy spokeswoman.

The Baltimore Orioles legend — and holder of the record for most consecutive games played — is set to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award from Super Leaders, a local charity that trains middle and high school students to become positive role models in their own communities.

In 2001, Ripken and his brother founded the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, a nonprofit that uses baseball and softball to help disadvantaged and at-risk youth. The charity partners with community groups to sponsor health education initiatives, summer camps and other programs designed to “help build character and teach critical life lessons.—

Not Quite Idol Worship. With Paula Abdul already gone and Simon Cowell exiting after this season, some “American Idol— fans are singing a sad tune.

But have no fear: Rep. Paul Hodes’ Senate campaign is hosting its own “Idol— competition. The New Hampshire Democrat’s version of the popular show, called “Extreme Republican Idol,— is designed to find the contestant who is “the most out of tune— — and it doesn’t even require any dreadful auditions.

Here’s how it works: Visitors to Hodes’ Web site vote on which of the four candidates vying for the GOP nomination — Bill Binnie, Jim Bender, Kelly Ayotte and Ovide Lamontagne — “has gone farthest to the right.—

Hodes spokesman Mark Bergman told HOH that the campaign “thought it would be a good opportunity for voters to pick— their favorite (or rather, least favorite) Republican candidate.

And the contest isn’t just about popularity. When voters weigh in, they must also type in a phone number, effectively signing up for the campaign’s text message program.

Two of Hodes’ GOP rivals weren’t singing his praises Wednesday.

“I think the Republicans have four very good candidates, and which one of us wins the nomination has a very good chance at winning the seat,— Bender said. “Maybe he ought to spend more time with the voters.—

Lamontagne spokesman Jim Merrill said Hodes should “stick to his day job as a … left-wing, tax-and-spend liberal and leave the comedy to Conan O’Brien.—

Votes have been coming in, and the contest will run as long as there is an interest, Bergman said.

No word on whether Cowell will offer his snarky thoughts on the contestants, however.

Burton’s Dutch Double Take. Anyone casually tuned in to the House floor Tuesday night might have been forgiven for doing a double take. Holy Cold War, Batman, was that Ronald Reagan speaking?

Actually, it was Rep. Dan Burton doing a brief but spot-on imitation of the Gipper while talking about taxes ­— specifically, the GOP’s desire to cut them.

The Indiana Republican uncannily nailed the former president’s soft, breathy voice and signature cadence. “And Reagan came in, instead of raising taxes, as many of his advisers said he should do,— Burton wound up. Then he really let loose with his best Ronnie. “He said, ‘No, no, I’m going to cut taxes. I’m going to cut taxes across the board for individuals, for businesses, for corporations, for industry.—

HOH thinks Burton’s impression rivals Phil Hartman’s classic portrayal of Reagan on “Saturday Night Live.—

Burton spokesman John Donnelly says that his boss gets plenty of practice and that it’s not uncommon to hear Burton channeling the Great Communicator.

“Reagan is a huge hero of his,— Donnelly says.

Winner in Political Football Over Heisman Resolution. Astute HOH readers will recall when we reported in December about the two similar House resolutions to recognize Mark Ingram, the University of Alabama running back who won the Heisman Trophy.

Sure, there are rival health care reform bills. Competing congratulatory sports resolutions, however, are a rarity.

Fortunately, our long legislative nightmare is now over, as a winner finally emerged Wednesday: Rep. Dale Kildee’s measure to honor Ingram passed the House by voice vote.

The process of officially congratulating the gridiron star became more complicated than actually choosing a Heisman winner.

Per House tradition, Kildee introduced his bill because Ingram hails from the Michigan Democrat’s district in Flint. Not surprisingly, Alabama Rep. Artur Davis (D), who represents the university, signed onto Kildee’s bill.

But Davis also introduced his own measure — a spokeswoman told HOH that he wanted to honor both Ingram and the school.

Ultimately, it was Kildee’s measure that reached the floor. In a floor speech, Kildee called Ingram a role model and congratulated him for leading the Crimson Tide to a national championship earlier this month.

“Our young people need a role model they can look up to, someone who can show them that through hard work and perseverance, their dreams are within reach and that greatness can be achieved,— Kildee said. “Mark Ingram is that inspiration for our community.—

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