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Heard on the Hill: A Scout’s Honor for the Scouts

We’re sure Rep. Bart Stupak is proud to be a Member of Congress, but we think he’s just as proud to be an Eagle Scout.

The Michigan Democrat took to the House floor last week to salute the Boy Scouts of America on its 100th anniversary. As an Eagle Scout (the group’s highest rank), Stupak said he has “a special appreciation” for scouting.

“In scouting, you learn to do a good deed every day,” Stupak said. “The world would be a better place if we all lived by this simple creed. In scouting, you learn to leave your campsite in better shape than you found it. Many scouts grow up to be leaders in their communities or here in the United States Congress, and strive to leave things better than they found them.”

Becoming an Eagle Scout isn’t easy; requirements include performing a leadership service project in the community.

Stupak spokeswoman Michelle Begnoche tells HOH the Congressman is from the “old school,” meaning he wasn’t required to do a specific project to earn the rank. But Stupak did do “loads of community service” to earn Eagle Scout status, she said.

Penn: Dirksen Over Cannes

Actor-activist (can we call him an actor-vist?) Sean Penn is always there when duty calls. The paparazzi-slugging former Mr. Madonna is forgoing the glitz and glamour of the Cannes Film Festival this week for a far less ritzy gig: a Senate hearing.

Penn is testifying about the post-earthquake mess in Haiti, the New York Post’s Page Six reports. Penn’s new movie, “Fair Game,” in which he plays the husband of CIA agent Valerie Plame (played by Naomi Watts), premieres at the festival. But Penn won’t be soaking up the sun in the south of France — he’ll be under the lights in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, where he will testify today for the Foreign Relations Committee.

Penn is the founder of the J/P Haitian Relief Organization and is no stranger to leaping into causes. He has toured Haiti and has traveled to Iran, Iraq and post-Katrina New Orleans.

While HOH finds it incroyable that one would choose Dirksen over the Riviera, one Senate aide had a plausible theory: “Paparazzi and red carpets are probably old hat for guys like that, and the Senate sounds more exciting.”

Ellen Joins Healthy School Lunch Chorus

Celebrities get a lot of mail — but Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) might just get the most mail from celebrities.

Talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres and wife Portia de Rossi are the latest famous folk to write to the House Education and Labor Committee chairman asking him to support the Healthy School Meals Act, which would provide funding for public schools to offer more vegetarian meal options.

They join a slew of celebs who have written letters supporting the bill, including actors Scarlett Johansson and Woody Harrelson, talk-show host Tavis Smiley and Olympic gold medalists Amanda Beard and Nastia Liukin.

“Two years ago, we switched to a plant-based diet out of concern for animals and the environment,” DeGeneres and de Rossi write. “Many children stop eating meat for the same reasons. Adding vegetarian options … would provide healthier options for all young people.”

Introduced by Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), the measure is getting a huge push from the Physicians Committee for
Responsible Medicine — including its director of public affairs, Elizabeth Kucinich, the wife of Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio). The group has
held several briefings on Capitol Hill about
the bill, with celebs such as actress Marilu Henner and former NBA star John Salley.

An Abstinence-Only Chat

Outgoing Rep. Mark Souder’s “sex tape” with his reported mistress/staffer (OK, so it was a PG-rated discussion of abstinence-only education) wasn’t just about titillation.

The issue of sex, at least when it comes to sex ed, is a serious topic on Capitol Hill. And so a video in which the Indiana Republican and the staffer with whom he reportedly had an affair discussed the merits of abstaining was more than just a funny diversion. For some, it was about hypocrisy.

In the Web video, which Souder’s office apparently took down after HOH and others reported on it, Souder extols the virtues of abstaining while staffer/reported mistress Tracy Jackson nods and agrees with him. Souder tells Jackson, “I wish I’d abstained” from a 2008 hearing critical of abstinence-only programs.

HOH asked Sen. Frank Lautenberg, one of the leading opponents of abstinence-only education, to weigh in.

“Abstinence-only education is not working in our classrooms — nor apparently in some Congressional offices,” the New Jersey Democrat’s spokesman, Caley Gray, tells us.

Lautenberg is a co-sponsor of legislation that would allow federal funding for “comprehensive and medically accurate sexual education” (i.e., they’ll tell you about contraception).

Alas, HOH’s calls to other anti-abstinence-only reps weren’t returned. We wonder what Bristol Palin would say …

Overheard on the Hill

“I don’t even know how to use one.”

— Sen. Ben Nelson, confessing his inexperience with debit cards to reporters Tuesday. Asked about ATM fees, the Nebraska Democrat says he only pays with cash or credit cards and confessed to being “frugal.”

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