Heard on the Hill: Hearing … or House Party?

Posted April 13, 2010 at 6:43pm

A hearing on arts funding went to the dogs Tuesday, with lawmakers cracking jokes with celebrities about their four-legged friends. And in keeping with the “Animal House” atmosphere, Rep. Louise Slaughter flashed the attendees of the hearing.

[IMGCAP(1)]The New York Democrat, who testified before an Appropriations subcommittee, proudly opened up her very dignified blazer to reveal … a T-shirt from the New York Shakespeare Theater emblazoned with a picture of William Shakespeare and the phrase “Will Power.”

The G-rated striptease was greeted with applause from the audience. But it was hardly the only comedic moment during the session before the Subcommittee on Interior and Environment. Subpanel Chairman Jim Moran (D-Va.) and ranking member Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) joked with witnesses, actors Kyle MacLachlan and Jeff Daniels, about their dogs.

Simpson asked MacLachlan about the “Desperate Housewives” actor’s two dogs, Mookie and Sam, who have their own blog. Simpson described himself and his wife as among the fellow “dog-obsessed” and talked about their own pups, Snickers and Nibby.

Then Moran jumped into the fray, complaining that his Portuguese water dog, whom he claimed “Ted Kennedy unloaded on me,” was nothing but trouble. “She insists on sleeping with her head on the pillow,” he said.

But wait, wasn’t the hearing supposed to be about, er, arts funding? Oh right. Back to the business at hand …

But the topic of canines eventually crept back into the conversation when Daniels prefaced his testimony by confessing that he has two dogs and that, “Yes, they sleep on the pillow too.”

Free as a Bird. While HOH is hardly an expert on legislative matters (we usually stick to poking fun at Members’ funny outfits and embarrassing antics), we’re confidently predicting most Americans will happily support a measure put forth on Monday by Sens. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.).

The duo introduced a bill banning airlines from charging passengers a fee for carry-on bags on the heels of Spirit Airlines’ announcement that it will begin charging customers up to $45 to bring luggage into an airplane’s cabin. Cardin and Landrieu were fighting such fees even before Spirit’s announcement — they proposed similar language last month to be included in the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill, but their effort was blocked.

“Last month, on the floor of the Senate, I said that while ‘it may seem improbable now that airlines would charge passengers for carry-on luggage, we cannot rule out that these fees could never come about in the future,'” Cardin says. “That day in the future came sooner than most of us expected.”

Cardin argues that airline passengers shouldn’t have to pay to bring carry-on bags aboard, as they contain “items essential to their health, work and safety.”

The bill was referred to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. And Cardin and Landrieu aren’t the only people in Washington angry about the planned carry-on fees — Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said over the weekend that his agency will hold Spirit’s “feet to the fire.”

Now if only Members can bring down those ridiculous airline “snack box” prices …

Bernanke’s Recession-ista Duds. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke might have loads of fiscal sense. But fashion sense? Perhaps not so much.

The moneyman attended a Saturday evening performance of the play “Master Class” at the Kennedy Center wearing a pair of ratty khaki pants instead of his usual pinstriped suit, an HOH tipster said. “And I don’t just mean that the cuffs were frayed — they were falling off!” our spy said.

Maybe Bernanke’s so full of financial restraint that he’s holding off on buying a new pair until the old ones become completely unwearable, HOH posited. Perhaps, our tipster said, but maybe it’s a sign that our economic times are even worse than we think. “Things must be really rough” if he can’t buy a new pair, our tipster said.

Maybe he should think of it as an economic stimulus — hey, even a pricey pair is still cheaper than an AIG bailout.

Wamp Rains on a Parade. Politicians are known for being as stubborn as a mule — but it appears one Member was stubborn this weekend because of a mule.

Well, sort of.

Republican Rep. Zach Wamp, who is running for governor in his home state of Tennessee, did not march in this weekend’s Mule Day Parade in Columbia. It’s a big surprise, considering the parade is a huge deal in the Volunteer State — Naomi Judd was this year’s grand marshal, after all.

And it looks like an ongoing feud between Wamp and one of the parade organizers is to blame.

According to a report published on a Nashville Post political blog, Wamp and parade organizer D.C. Neeley got into a scuffle at last year’s event after Neeley informed him only four people were allowed to ride in a cart that was being pulled by mules. No groups of people could walk alongside the mules either, Neeley told Wamp.

This upset Wamp, who had brought 12 people to take part in the parade with him, Neeley tells Post reporter J.R. Lind. In response, the Congressman told Neeley, “I make my own rules” and “You can’t tell me what to do,” Lind writes.


At this year’s parade, tempers flared again. Wamp and Neeley got into another tiff — and Wamp left the parade without marching in it (but not before calling Neeley a “Democrat,” Neeley told the Post).

Double burn!

Alas, HOH wasn’t able to get Wamp’s side of mule-gate — a campaign spokesman declined to comment Tuesday afternoon.

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