Bad Timing

Posted June 4, 2003 at 6:44pm

In what now turns out to be an awkward bit of political timing, Reps. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) and Mark Souder (R-Ind.) on Monday pushed a resolution through the House honoring Sammy Sosa — just 24 hours before the baseball slugger got busted for using a corked bat.

The resolution, which congratulated the Chicago Cub for recently slamming his 500th career home run, praised him for being an “outstanding role model” and embodying the “talent, exuberance, team spirit, and determination that Americans associate with the very best qualities of sports and athletic competition.”

Gutierrez said on the House floor that “countless young men and women can look at Sammy’s accomplishments, at his fervor, and at his fortitude and say, I too can achieve, I too can dream, and I too can overcome obstacles.”

Souder, meanwhile, said Monday that Sosa is “the exemplification of the best qualities the game of baseball holds for every American.” The resolution passed on a 372-0 vote.

With Sosa already dogged by allegations that he has used steroids or other performance-enhancing substances in recent years, the bat investigation now threatens to cloud his pursuit of Hank Aaron’s record of 755 career homers. Given the chance by HOH on Wednesday to revise and extend their remarks, Gutierrez and Souder are still going to bat for the slugger.

“I stood by Sammy Sosa when I drafted a resolution recognizing and honoring his 500th home run,” Gutierrez said in a prepared statement. “I stand by him today, and I would be honored to stand by him when he breaks Hank Aaron’s record.”

Said Souder: “I’m disappointed, but it doesn’t change the fact that he’s one of the greatest baseball players of all time.”

Radio Days. As if the Federal Communications Commission isn’t already facing enough heat from Congress for relaxing the media ownership rules, Rep. José Serrano (D-N.Y.) took to the airwaves on Wednesday to bash the agency for repeatedly fining radio shock jock Howard Stern.

Declaring himself the “King of All Congressmen,” Serrano gave a rousing appearance on Stern’s show. Among other things, the program featured the Congressman giving actress and pop star Jennifer Lopez a big thumbs-up when Stern asked, “Who is the hottest Latin chick right now? Is it J-Lo?”

“Oh, of course it is J-Lo,” Serrano responded. “She is probably the smartest businesswoman since Madonna.”

Serrano, who actually does hold sway over the FCC’s budget, said he regularly pounds the FCC about why it fines Stern for indecency, while the agency never probes conservative talking heads like Rush Limbaugh. The lawmaker said he finds Limbaugh’s rants against liberals “insulting to me.”

“My whole argument to the FCC, Howard, has always been: What is offensive?” said Serrano, the ranking member on the Appropriations subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, State and the judiciary, which controls the FCC’s purse strings. “When I hear a right-wing talk show host say that ‘all poor people are a bunch of idiots and are on welfare and nobody is a patriot,’ I may find them more offensive than anything you say.”

Serrano also used the show to defend the upcoming Puerto Rican Day parade, which a listener had mocked. And in a naked bid to get on the good side of a powerful broadcaster based in his home city, Serrano proposed a “Howard Stern Parade.”

A couple of hours after the show, Serrano told HOH he’s friendly with Stern and frequently listens to his show, which he described as engaging in nothing more than harmless “locker room humor.” The Democrat added that he believes the shock jock has a loyal following on Capitol Hill.

“All of those guys walking in with their suits and briefcases into Rayburn and the other buildings, I think they all listen to Stern,” Serrano said. “During the commercials they listen to NPR.”

As for crowning himself the “King of All Congressmen,” Serrano said, “Only if you are willing to go on the Stern show can you take the title of king of anything, because he is the self-proclaimed ‘King of All Media.’”

Price Is Wrong. Rep. David Price (D-N.C.) is paying up today on the losing wager he placed on behalf of Clay Aiken, who lost the controversial “American Idol” contest to Ruben Studdard by a whisker.

At noon, Price will show up at Rep. Spencer Bachus’ (R-Ala.) office with 15 pints of “Croonin’ Clay’s Carolina Crunch” ice cream. Aiken was beaten in the singing contest aired on Fox by Studdard, who was rewarded with a million-dollar recording contract.

“Ruben is a wonderful representative of the entire state of Alabama and we are all proud of him,” Bachus said of his constituent.

Price, meanwhile, joked that he would “rather eat our homemade ice cream than Alabama barbecue, anyway.”

The silliness has now extended to the NBA finals, with Rep. Steven Rothman (D) ponying up various goods from the Garden State, including Italian cannolis, as his New Jersey Nets take on the San Antonio Spurs. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D-Texas), meanwhile, has put some Mexican candy and pan dulce on the line for his team.

“As my fellow New Jerseyan Jon Bon Jovi would say, the Spurs are ‘Livin’ On a Prayer’ if they think they have a chance of beating the Nets,” cracked Rothman.

Family Ties. While the media has speculated on how Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) may have to sit and watch his outspoken wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, generate some difficult headlines during the presidential campaign, Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) appears to have a bubbling family issue of his own.

On his revamped presidential Web site, joe2004.com, Lieberman has a campaign diary in which he lets slip a secret about his 88-year-old mom, Marcia.

When former Vice President Al Gore announced last year that he would not run for president in 2004, Lieberman says he decided “it was Al’s night” in the limelight. On a conference call with his staff and family, Lieberman told everyone to ignore the press.

“At about 11:00 that night, I called my mom and asked how she was doing,” the Senator wrote in the Mother’s Day installment of his campaign diary. “She said, ‘Oh, it’s been a very exciting day. I’ve done six or seven media interviews.’”

Time to See the Light? David Wellstone, son of the late Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.), will be on hand tonight to accept The National Mental Health Association’s “Into the Light” award on behalf of the family.

Past honorees have included Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.), Tipper Gore and former first lady Rosalynn Carter.

Wellstone is being honored at a 5 p.m. reception in Dirksen G-50 for heightening awareness of mental health issues. His former colleagues, however, have still not seen the light to pass the mental health parity legislation that Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) wants to get done to honor the memory of Wellstone.