July 25, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Heard on the Hill: Going for the Gold

Freshman Senators often vie to be the first in their class to collect the prized “Golden Gavel,” the award given to Senators who log 100 hours presiding over the chamber.

The frosh, of course, are tasked with the not-so-glamorous job of whiling away time in the president’s chair, tapping their gavels and calling on various “distinguished gentlemen.”

And this year’s crop of fresh faces is on a pretty brisk pace to earn the geeky title, with Sen. Jeff Merkley looking like the class frontrunner. The Oregon Democrat, by his office’s count, has been parked in the chair for a whopping 28 hours and 15 minutes since being sworn in. Nipping at his heels is Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) at 24 hours and 10 minutes). Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) is at 21 hours, while Sens. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) are in the 15-hour range. Alas, HOH couldn’t pin the other newbies down on their numbers.

Merkley spokeswoman Julie Edwards said her boss was eager to learn the ropes of the chamber up close. “When you’re a policy wonk and you’ve got a front-row seat to C-SPAN, you need to take advantage,” she said of Merkley’s eagerness to wield the gavel.

And speaking of nerdiness, last year’s class has two super-geeks: Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) already has collected two, count ’em, Golden Gavels, putting him way ahead of his classmates. And Sen. Jim Webb earned a special “S.O.S” Golden Gavel for “presiding over the Senate in times of urgent need during the 110th Congress,” even though the Virginia Democrat hasn’t yet logged 100 hours — his assigned times to preside are Mondays and Fridays (because he lives so close to Washington and can be there when traveling Senators can’t), but the Senate usually isn’t in on those days.

Gridiron-Clad Government. Retired NFL running back Herschel Walker has a football-friendly way of explaining the system of American government.

As Walker sees it, the president is the quarterback, calling the plays. Congress, meanwhile, is the offensive line, creating openings and blocking opponents so the president can generate a first down.

And since President Barack Obama has called an audible for greater physical fitness in schools, Walker wants Congress to uphold his charge.

“Our president, our leader right now, is big on fitness,” Walker told HOH. “You can get a new quarterback, but if you keep the same offensive line, it means things might not change.”

The Heisman Trophy winner joined more than a dozen celebrity athletes on Capitol Hill on Wednesday for National Health Through Fitness Day, visiting about 80 Congressional offices to lobby for initiatives supporting physical education in schools.

Other notable sportsmen sprinting through Congressional hallways included footballers John Booty, Trent Cole, Vernon Davis, Chris Draft, Onzy Elam, Ken Harvey and Kerry Rhodes, baseballer Dave Stewart, boxer Paulie Malignaggi, tennis player Stan Smith and soccer star Abby Wambach.

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