Chilly Reception

Posted June 8, 2007 at 6:43pm

HOH realizes that the bribery charges against Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) are serious stuff and all, but the case continues to be a font of mirthful metaphors that we just can’t resist. For instance, the flurry of news reports about how a federal judge on Thursday “froze” some of Jefferson’s assets — not, we assume, including the $90,000 cash that federal agents discovered in the Congressman’s freezer during a raid — caused snickers in certain corners of Washington, D.C. [IMGCAP(1)]

And the cold-cash funnies kept coming when a crack Roll Call photographer caught Jefferson exiting the courthouse in Alexandria, Va., where he pleaded not guilty to the charges on Friday. There, among the police force providing security, was a member of the “Police ICE,” the immigration and customs enforcement branch.

The temperatures in Washington may be rising, but … OK, somebody stop us.

She’s Smokin’. It’s such a Washington moment: Powerful Member strolls out onto the majestic balcony off the Speaker’s Lobby and lights up a stogie while surveying the rolling view. Last week, though, that made-for-the-movies scene had a surprising twist. The Member on the puffing end of the cigar was a woman.

Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio) on Thursday afternoon fired up a big cigar while taking a break from the action on the House floor and enjoying the warm Washington weather.

Not that HOH is saying that women can’t be cigar afficionados (she’s been known to enjoy a stogie or two herself, after all). But let’s face it, most of the Members who have been known to light up on one of the most powerful balconies in the free world are almost exclusively of the Y-chromosome set. Other cigar lighters among House Members include Democratic Reps. Barney Frank (Mass.) and Kendrick Meek (Fla.).

Just Like “Working Girl.” Members of Congress, in some ways, are like the rest of us. Sure, they have staffs that do their bidding and they get to vote and sit in on super-secret classified briefings. But they put their pants on one leg at a time — or as in the case of Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), their shoes.

Like so many commuting Washington women who walk to work in sensible flats before slipping on heels once at the office, Bachmann, too, is a shoe-changer.

She’s been spotted perching on a chair in the posh Speaker’s Lobby, removing what appeared to an HOH spy to be comfortable, orthopedic-looking sandals and donning a pair of dressier, low-heeled sandals.

After her very public Mr. Rogers-in-reverse (or Superman in the phone booth) routine, Bachmann then strolled out onto the floor to vote.

Bachmann carries a roomy handbag to accommodate her spare footwear, our spy notes.

A Bachmann staffer tells HOH that the shoe-switching isn’t about vanity — or even relative comfort. Bachmann had foot surgery in late November, before she came to Washington for her first term, and gave up pinchy shoes under doctor’s orders. Her doctors tell her it will take a year to recover, the staffer says. “So the shoe-changing will continue for a little while longer.”

Somebody’s Crying. Who was that teary-eyed Senator? One Member of the august chamber was reduced to sniffles when the long-negotiated immigration bill crashed and burned last Thursday night, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said.

But the discreet Majority Leader unfortunately left the question of just who the weepy lawmaker was up in the air, and HOH wants to know which of the usually stiff-upper-lip types turned on the waterworks. “One of my colleagues in my office today, who has worked on this bill so hard, shed some tears,” Reid said on the Senate floor late Thursday when the bill was declared to be parliamentary toast. “This is a bill about which people have a lot of emotion.”

Not that there’s anything wrong with crying, mind you. HOH is, by nature and profession, just being nosy.

Speculation was swirling among Senate staffers following Reid’s cryptic remarks, and HOH dutifully put on her best Nancy Drew act. Clue No. 1: Reid mentioned later that he had met with a group of Democrats, so the weeper was likely to be a D.

Also, it had to be one of a handful of Senators who were closely involved in the negotiations over the bill, a group that includes Sens. Edward Kennedy (Mass.), Bob Menendez (N.J.), Ken Salazar (Colo.) and Dianne Feinstein (Calif.).

One Senate staffer suggested it might have been Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) — not a Democrat, of course, but someone who was involved in the dealmaking nevertheless. But one GOP aide dismissed that idea, saying, “There are two people who don’t cry — Jon Kyl and Chuck Norris.”

Our mystery-solving ends there, though. Lacking the budget of Larry Flynt to offer a reward, HOH will just ask that if you know who the sniffly mystery Senator is, you e-mail her.

Oh, and make sure the Cloakrooms are stocked with Kleenex.

He’s a Regular Longfellow. Most bosses reward overworked underlings with little more than the occasional pep talk. In the office of Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), though, staffers who answer the phones — and often get a nasty earful from those on the other end of the line — got more than that.

Brownback’s chief of staff, Glen Chambers, penned a poetic tribute to the hardships of manning the phones and e-mailed it to the staff last week as a way of saying thank you to those in the telephone trenches.

The wacky versifying isn’t Chambers’ first; Brownback spokesman Brian Hart said the chief of staff is occasionally moved to poetry.

Here’s a sample from “Ode to the Answerers of the Phones”:

If I could wake each morning to bird’s-song/Or, could read each evening in silence./If we could hear from supporters all day long/Or, could go though the day without threats of violence.

It will serve as little consolation, but,/Perhaps it will serve as a salve …/if woulds and coulds were candy and nuts/Oh what a party we’d have.

HOH wonders if the idea of Congressional communications in poetic form will catch on. Free-verse memos or haiku talking points, anyone?

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