Been Caught Stealing

Posted June 22, 2007 at 6:38pm



Correction Appended

On Thursday, during House votes, a very angry Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) had some distinctly non-collegial words for Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas). The words “gutless,” “chickens–t” and “thief” were flung. [IMGCAP(1)]

Shuler, a former NFL quarterback, was spotted towering over a seated Gohmert, wagging a finger in his face during the heated session, spies tell HOH.

Gohmert’s crime? Shuler and his gang, the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats, say the Texas Republican pulled off a high-stakes heist.

Late Wednesday night, Gohmert was heading to the House floor to come to the aid of Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) as he discussed holding down federal spending. Gohmert, whose office is on the fifth floor of the Cannon House Office Building, passed the door to Shuler’s office, located on the same floor, and apparently decided to make off with the sign perched on an easel outside the office, which was closed for the night.

The sign is one that all Blue Dogs post outside their offices; it changes daily and denotes the federal deficit as well as the average American’s individual share thereof. Gohmert pinched the sign and then went down to the floor to rail about spending, taking a few jabs at the Democratic majority, of course, and using the purloined poster as a prop. “Frankly, I want one of these signs,” he said. “I may have to change the name to the Blue Hound Dog Coalition or something.”

Minutes after Gohmert’s show and tell, Shuler staffers started to get e-mails: Someone in the office of neighboring Blue Dog Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) saw Gohmert carrying a sign down the hallway and noted that Shuler’s nearby easel was empty.

Gohmert, though, denies it was stealing, since he did, after all, return the item. Borrowing is more like it, said his spokeswoman. “I was shocked to find out that anyone who was a supporter of the Blue Dog Coalition signs did not want them shown on the floor to the rest of the world,” Gohmert said in a statement to HOH. “If you read the transcript of my comments, you will see that I was applauding the display of the signs and encouraged more Members to join me in displaying one in the hallway.” And as for that confrontation on the House floor, Gohmert professes himself to be surprised. “Congressman Shuler is such a great guy, I feel sure he did not mean anything too personal,” he said. “I know I did not go into his office; I know I did not steal anything; but I am still trying to discern if he might be right about my being chicken excrement.”

Shuler maintains that the reaction was warranted, given the nature of the offense. “After six years of stealing from taxpayers, I guess old habits die hard,” said Shuler spokesman Andrew Whalen.

Back to that nasty confrontation on the House floor: Clearly HOH is not picking sides in this fight, but of all the Members to tick off, why choose the former pro football player? Next time Gohmert gets the urge to steal — or borrow — something, HOH humbly suggests he chooses a less physically intimidating target.

Which would, of course, not be too hard.

My Best Pal, What’s-His-Name. Rep. Wally Herger (R-Calif.) lately has been boasting of his aisle-crossing friendship with Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.). But before he counts Meek as his new BFF, Herger might want to learn a little bit about him — like how to pronounce his name.

During a press conference on Wednesday in which the bipartisan duo introduced legislation together that would repeal a law requiring large counties to withhold 3 percent of purchases in federal taxes, Herger told stories of their chummy relationship, including the fact that their lockers in the House gym are near one another. But Herger kept calling his buddy “Kendricks,” not “Kendrick.”

A Herger spokesman said when staffers informed their boss of the gaffe after the event was over, he laughed off the mistake. Herger has been known to mangle or forget the occasional name, says spokesman Darin Thacker. “He told us that once, one of his kids asked him ‘Daddy, don’t you even know my name?” Thacker divulged.

To be fair, Herger has nine children.

No Means Yes. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) goes by the nickname “Dr. No,” a nod to his frequent “nay” votes as he adheres to a strict belief in (very) limited government. But it looks like Dr. No, who vehemently opposes the federal income tax, has been saying “yes,” or at least “please,” to some federal largesse.

Paul, who is a long-shot presidential candidate, last week released 65 letters in which he requested earmarks from appropriators for taxpayer-funded projects, including for transportation and other projects in his district.

A Paul spokesman says the earmark requests are simply Paul’s way of getting back for his constituents what they have to give to the government. “When the IRS stops taking tax money from the district, Dr. Paul will stop trying to get the money back,” he tells HOH.

Jay Heflin of CongressNow and Clay Flaherty of GalleryWatch contributed to this report.

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Correction: June 26
An item in the above Heard on the Hill column incorrectly identified the Blue Dog Democrat with an office near that of Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) as Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.). It should have been Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D-Ind.).