Heard on the Hill: Doing It for Dad

Posted September 14, 2010 at 6:35pm

As part of their Congressional duties, Members often work to raise awareness (and perhaps more importantly, funding) for various diseases. But for Rep. Brian Baird, speaking out during National Pulmonary Fibrosis Awareness Week is personal.

The Washington Democrat lost his father in 2001 to the relatively unknown lung disease, which kills as many people as breast cancer each year and has no cure. Baird’s dad, William, died in his arms, “the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through in my life,” Baird says.

Since that difficult time, Baird joined Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.), who lost two siblings to pulmonary fibrosis, to introduce legislation authorizing $16 million in funding to establish a patient registry for the disease and to expand research. Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) introduced companion legislation in the Senate, and the Coalition for Pulmonary Fibrosis is on Capitol Hill lobbying for the legislation this week.

Baird was scheduled to speak at a reception Tuesday evening promoting the bill. Despite the fact that pulmonary fibrosis kills more than 20,000 people each year, shockingly little attention is paid to it — something Baird hopes to change.

“It doesn’t make sense. It’s not rational,” Baird says. “If some invading army came into our country and killed 20,000, oh, I think we’d do something about it.”

Cuteness Alert!

Rep. Michael McCaul and his family hosted a lemonade stand Tuesday in the front yard of their new Capitol Hill house on Tuesday. The proceeds from the lemonade sales were donated to the fight against childhood cancer. Everybody together now: Awwwww!

While the Texas Republican was unable to work at the stand because of a prior engagement, his wife, Linda, and four of his five children were on hand to serve tall glasses of lemonade. In fact, two of the McCaul triplets, Lauren and Avery, were even wearing matching purple outfits.

“My kids are having a blast,” Linda McCaul said.

The benefits from the lemonade stand — which was funded by the McCaul family independently of his Congressional office — will be donated to the nonprofit Alex’s Lemonade Stand in honor of National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. The stand also helps to usher in the Childhood Cancer Summit that McCaul and Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) are scheduled to host later this week.

Bill Walton Takes It to the House (and Senate)

Basketball legend Bill Walton has a few words of advice about how the nation’s most famous basketball fan, President Barack Obama, can improve his game — both on and off the court.

“The ultimate skill is to pull a team together and come up with the innovations and ideas and path to victory — and that usually requires hitting first,” Walton says. Plus, great leaders always “define the terms of the conflict.” Another piece of advice: “Shoot more threes in transition,” Walton jokes.

Walton gave his b-ball tips during a visit to Capitol Hill on Tuesday on behalf of
CONNECT, a nonprofit that links inventors and entrepreneurs with the resources they need to grow their businesses.

He spoke at forums in both chambers about policy issues affecting the athletics industry. Walton is executive chairman of the San Diego Sports Innovators, a group that works with CONNECT to help new sports-related companies.

The basketballer’s speech was more of an athletic pep talk than the wonky monologue typically uttered on Capitol grounds, and he often referenced his mentor, legendary coach John Wooden.

After his chat, HOH wondered whether Walton might ever make a run for office.

“I am very happy with the job I have,” Walton says, but he adds that he could return to Capitol Hill to lobby. “I will go wherever I need to go to get the job done.”

Political Poetry

Move over, Robert Frost. There’s a new poet in town, and this one is writing about the state of the American economy. Sen. Jim Bunning chose to recite a poem on the Senate floor to describe the financial woes of the nation.

While the Kentucky Republican may not be a wordsmith, average joe Norm Klopp of Cleveland is. His poem, “The Reason,” found its way into Bunning’s hands and struck a chord with the Senator.

“I think it represents what many people across the country are feeling about their government,” said Bunning, who met Klopp before the tea party gathering last weekend.

The 10-stanza poem speaks of the troubles facing American families. “In cities, town and villages/ As families faced what’s real/ They make the tough decisions/ To make family finance heal,” the poem reads.

It goes on to villanize the government for taxing and spending, and at the end, it issues a warning to Congress: “And rest assured incumbents all/ There’s a rising in the land/ And real and wanted change will come/ Our future is at hand!”

Overheard on the Hill

“I’m biting my tongue. Give me credit for biting my tongue.”

— Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, after a Roll Call reporter asked him about Lady Gaga’s request to the Senate to end “don’t ask, don’t tell.” While the Michigan Democrat kept quiet, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) tweeted back to Gaga: “There is a vote on #DADT next week. Anyone qualified to serve this country should be allowed to do so.”

Submit your hot tips, juicy gossip or comments here.

Can’t get enough HOH? Get a midday dose of fun and gossip with HOH’s One-Minute Recess, delivered to your inbox daily. Sign up here — because everyone deserves more recess.