Tempest in a T-shirt

Posted March 9, 2007 at 6:30pm

When her “Support the Troops” T-shirt got Beverly Young, the wife of Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.), kicked out of the House gallery during the State of the Union address in January 2006, the mini-fracas made headlines. Since then, the T-shirt has made a journey to Iraq, and now the humble garment is headed for the annals of history. [IMGCAP(1)]

After reading about the incident, in which Capitol Police asked Young to leave the gallery for sporting the shirt (anti-war mom Cindy Sheehan was booted for wearing an anti-war shirt that same night), a young Army captain stationed in Iraq e-mailed Beverly Young, a spokesman for the Congressman tells HOH. While Capitol Police later

apologized for too strictly interpreting the ban on protesting in the Capitol, the shirt’s 15 minutes weren’t yet over.

The captain asked her to send the shirt to Iraq and offered to have his unit sign it. He made good on his promise and mailed it back to Young, inscribed with words of thanks from the fellas on the front lines.

Now the storied shirt is destined for the Newseum, the museum devoted to the media, where it will be displayed as part of an exhibit on the First Amendment, the Young spokesman says. The Newseum is slated to open this fall after years of construction.

And although she did donate the shirt off her back to the museum, Young apparently isn’t hurting for wardrobe choices: She’s built up quite a collection of pro-troop tees, which she regularly wears for public occasions, including her visit last week to the Capitol.

That’s what HOH calls wearing her heart (and some history) on her sleeve.

The Big Bilirakis. Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) is Capitol Hill’s reigning Bilirakis, after last year’s victory in the district that his father, Mike, occupied for 12 terms. But some people still have not caught on to the change of Biliraki (that’s the plural form, right?).

Take, for example, the news stories HOH has noticed announcing that “Rep. Michael Bilirakis” has introduced various bills, despite the fact that the elder, former Congressman can’t offer legislation unless the people voting on it are his wife and dog.

Bilirakis the younger tells HOH that the two are even confused in one Congressional directory, which features a photo of his father along with his own contact information. Colleagues often call him “Mike” on the floor, he says, presumably in jest.

“Or maybe they just slip up once in a while,” he allows.

Such are the perils of trying to make a name for yourself in Congress when your predecessor already did it for you.

But there are perks, too: Bilirakis lives in the Capitol Hill condo his father bought years ago, and he inherited his father’s office parking space. Plus, Papa greased the wheels a bit for his son.

“Dad’s a hardworking guy and a lot of people here liked him, so there’s a lot of goodwill that comes with that,” he says.

The confusion dates back to when he was serving in the Florida Legislature and his father was in Congress. At events outside his district, people frequently mistook him for the Congressman, the (current) lawmaker tells HOH. “One man came up to me and said, ‘You look good for your age,’” he recalls.

But he insists that father and son are very different. “I’m shorter,” Bilirakis deadpans.

Don’t let it get you down, Congressman.

Bottoms Up(ton). Now here’s a bit of constituent service that actually sounds pretty fun: Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) dropped by a Wednesday night beer tasting at the Brickskeller, the Dupont Circle temple of suds, for a tipple.

But Upton could legitimately claim that it was all in a day’s work, since the featured brews hailed from Bell’s Brewery, located in Kalamazoo, smack in his district. Upton is pals with brewer/owner Larry Bell, whose business employs more than 60 workers. Upton tells HOH his favorite beer is Bell’s Oberon Ale, a wheat ale that’s one of the brewer’s most popular.

“You’ve got to try it with a slice of orange,” the hop-loving Congressman tells HOH. “You know, like you’d have a slice of lime with a Corona.”

And although the beer is a specialty summer ale, Upton assures us “it’s worth the wait.”

Upton likes the brew so much he even shared it with an injured Marine he met at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Upton recalled to HOH that a few years back, he had brought fudge slices from a candy shop in his district to give to the patients and their families. But one severely injured soldier informed the Congressman that he’d rather have a beer, thank you very much. Upton promptly delivered a six-pack of Bell’s.

Bell himself told a group gathered at the Brickskeller that he was looking forward to dropping in on Upton during a Friday visit to the Capitol. “It’s nice to have friends in high places,” he said.

Please send your hot tips, juicy gossip or comments to hoh@rollcall.com.