Congressional Idol

Posted May 20, 2003 at 6:42pm

There will be dueling Capitol Hill parties tonight as lawmakers take sides in the “American Idol” final showdown between Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken on the red-hot Fox reality show.

Rep. Spencer Bachus (R) is throwing a bash at Lounge 201 so that the Alabama delegation can root hard for Studdard, the Homewood, Ala., native who’s known as the “Round Mound of Sound.”

“We’re betting that Ruben will outweigh Clay in the finals,” Bachus spokesman Evan Keefer told HOH of the corpulent crooner.

Not to be outdone, Rep. David Price (D-N.C.) is putting together a party at Politiki on Capitol Hill to cheer for Raleigh, N.C., native Aiken.

“Clay Aiken has won the affection of fans from Carolina to California with his incredible voice and unique style,” Price said of his constituent.

The two singers have made it through the early rounds by impressing the judges on the show and winning enough votes from the millions of viewers who cast their ballots by telephone. Wednesday night’s final winner will walk away with a genuine recording contract.

Price has gone so far as to place a friendly wager with Bachus, offering a batch of ice cream from Chapel Hill’s own Maple View Farm, which has created a special “Croonin’ Clay’s Carolina Crunch” as collateral.

Bachus has countered by putting up Full Moon Barbeque and two baskets of Chilton County peaches from his district. Studdard has taken to wearing shirts that say “205” on the show in reference to the metro Birmingham area code.

“Ruben Studdard has represented the ‘205’ with dignity and class,” said Bachus. “Our office is confident that his extraordinary talent has resulted in nationwide support that will propel him to victory.”

I Want to Hold Your Hand. In the Montana delegation, Sens. Max Baucus (D) and Conrad Burns (R) are not known as the best of friends.

That’s why staffers in the delegation have been chuckling about a photo of the two Senators posing with Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) to promote a bipartisan economic summit in their home state next week.

If you look closely at montanajobs.org, the left hand of a giddy Baucus is clearly interlocked with the right hand of a smiling Burns. Rehberg is shown in the photo, which was snapped outside the Capitol, keeping a safe distance.

“Oh geez, don’t let that get out in public,” a laughing Burns told HOH of the photo.

Burns said he doesn’t know how he and his colleague ended up holding hands. But he noted that while they don’t see eye to eye on many issues, they tend to come together “on these kinds of issues.”

Jeff Forbes, Baucus’ top aide on the Finance panel, thinks it may be an optical illusion — but that seems like a dubious explanation.

“We’re in a new age of bipartisanship in Montana,” Forbes told HOH.

Kennedy Cabal. The third-floor Capitol hideaway office of Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), which has been the scene of many interesting meetings over the years, was the spot where the liberal lion got a Republican to switch parties on Tuesday.

Andrea Cabral, the sheriff in populous Suffolk County, trekked to the Capitol to get assurances from Kennedy that he would endorse her 2004 re-election if she bolted to the Democratic Party. She has been sparring with new Republican Gov. Mitt Romney.

Kennedy seized the chance for the photo-op with a black female law-enforcement official at a time when Democrats are anxious to show they’re tough on homeland security and other matters.

“I want to welcome Sheriff Cabral to the Democratic Party with open arms,” Kennedy said after the meeting.

No Socks, No Service? While the chamber is already cracking down on men who show up for floor votes without a necktie, Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) may spark a new rule on footwear.

The Senate’s first vote of the week is typically at about 5:30 p.m. on Monday night, so lawmakers are often scrambling to get suited up as they rush to the chamber from an airplane or tennis match.

After casting his Monday night vote, Breaux appeared to be the picture of buttoned-down perfection as he chatted with reporters about the fate of President Bush’s tax cut in the hallway. But then wise-cracking Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) snuck beside Breaux, pointed to his colleague’s right foot and said to the press, “Excuse me, but he doesn’t have any socks.”

A sheepish Breaux lifted his pant leg to reveal that in fact there was nothing under his loafers. “That’s because I’m a poor man,” he said, staying on message. “I get no benefits out of this tax cut. I only get $130. Isn’t that embarrassing?”

Breaux, who noted that wealthier colleagues like Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) will probably gain about $1 million from the tax cut, added: “With the tax cut, I’ll buy some socks.”

Beat the Meat Industry. Actor Alec Baldwin joined forces Tuesday with Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to release a new DVD titled “Meet Your Meat” on Capitol Hill.

The DVD is a “heart-wrenching and shocking indictment of the treatment of animals by the farmed-animal industry” and slaughterhouses, according to a letter Baldwin circulated to Members.

At least one GOP aide was unimpressed with the actor, whose career has been sagging of late. “It’s good to see that Alec Baldwin is on the Hill hawking his latest straight-to-video release,” said the staffer. “I’m sure it will be of the same quality as his other smash hits like ‘The Shadow’ and ‘Outside Providence.’”

Morella to the Rescue? When they were in the House together last year, Bob Ehrlich and Connie Morella were once considered the Republican Party’s potential dream ticket for the governor’s race in Maryland.

While Ehrlich won the top job with Michael Steele as his No. 2 on the ticket, Morella lost to Democrat Chris Van Hollen (D) in one of the most closely watched Congressional races in the nation.

So when Ehrlich presented Morella with an award last week at an event for moderate Republicans, he urged his former Capitol Hill colleague to set her sights a bit lower and join him in Annapolis.

“I miss you, the state of Maryland misses you, and I need you in the General Assembly,” Ehrlich said.

But Morella has made it clear that she’s pretty happy out of office and isn’t interested in a political comeback. To illustrate the point, Morella has been telling friends about the recent night when her Bethesda, Md., neighborhood briefly lost its electricity at a late hour.

A former constituent decided to call the home of Morella, who was always accessible as a Congresswoman, seeking help. Her husband, attorney Tony Morella, found a double entendre to explain that they couldn’t help.

“Mrs. Morella is also without power,” he quipped.

Josh Kurtz contributed to this report.