Dept. of Good Fences

Posted October 19, 2007 at 6:32pm

Forget about the welcome wagon and casseroles when you move into Rep. Ed Markey’s Chevy Chase, Md., neighborhood. The Massachusetts Democrat’s wife, former Assistant Surgeon General Susan Blumenthal, has been exchanging heated words with and trying to big-foot their new next-door neighbor’s contractor over the past couple of months, according to an HOH source familiar with the run-ins. [IMGCAP(1)]

The battle of words began after construction on

the lot next to the Markeys started. Their neighbors, Ilene Chaite and her husband, had big plans, including tearing down an existing house and building a new one, digging a pool and taking down a retaining wall that lined the Markeys’ property. According to the source, the Markeys were concerned that their prized blue spruce tree, whose roots have grown onto the neighbor’s property, would be harmed in the work.

“They’ve been trying to control the job,” the source said.

After a couple of terse exchanges with the contractor, the Congressman’s wife hired an arborist from Davey Tree Expert Co., the same company that has a subcontract with the Architect of the Capitol to work on preserving trees during Capitol Visitor Center construction, to do a report on how to save the tree.

The brouhaha is much ado about nothing, according to Markey’s spokeswoman, who said the Markeys have an “amicable” relationship with their neighbors, terse exchanges notwithstanding. “There is a tree on the property line between the two houses and both families have been working together to save the tree while the neighbor’s contractor is working at the site,” Markey spokeswoman Jessica Shaffer said.

And the Chaites tell HOH they concur. “We have managed to do everything we can together,” Chaite said.

Getting a Leg Up. Attention bare-legged hussies: The Republican women of the Senate welcome you! In response to an oh-so- scientific HOH poll, not one of the five female GOP Senators would admit to maintaining an office dress code for female staffers that requires ladies to wear pantyhose. A recent blog post claiming otherwise appeared last week on Jezebel.com — and was reposted to local news blog DCist.com — describing a woman who worked for an unnamed female Republican Senator. The office dress code for the woman in question apparently required gals to sheath their gams in hose, no matter the season.

But HOH couldn’t find a single such Senator who would confess to imposing such a draconian requirement on the women in their employ. All five offices — Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Elizabeth Dole (N.C.), Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Olympia Snowe (Maine) — gave HOH a “that’s not us” response.

Stamp Redux. It’s baaack. That giant rubber stamp prop that Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.) dragged with him to the floor to bemoan the “Republican Rubber-Stamp Congress” approximately a bazillion times during the previous Congress made a surprise encore reappearance on Thursday. The stamp had been “decommissioned” with plenty of pomp and circumstance once Democrats won control of Congress in November, and Meek posted several videos on YouTube seeking suggestions from viewers about what to do with the giant faux rubber stamp.

And a note about the prop itself: With all due respect for the staffers who assembled it, it isn’t the most professionally crafted prop. It’s made, Meek’s people tell HOH, out of a cardboard box topped with a large water bottle, all wrapped in paper printed with a design that resembles wood grain. If HOH were, say, a giant in search of oversized office supplies, let’s just say she wouldn’t be fooled.

Viewers voted in favor of Meek keeping the stamp around to remind him of the dangers of GOP rule, Meek spokesman Adam Sharon says, adding that the Congressman keeps the outsized prop “under lock and key.” But Meek was fired up about Republicans voting to uphold the president’s veto of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program bill on Thursday, and so he reached for his old toy. “He loves that stamp,” Sharon says.

Remembering Dunn. A memorial service for Rep. Jennifer Dunn (R-Wash.) being held Thursday in the Ways and Means Committee room in the Longworth House Office Building is expected to draw leaders from both sides of the aisle, as Members pay tribute to their former colleague, who died of a pulmonary embolism in September.

In a nod to Dunn’s love of music, opera singers will be on hand to perform selections from “The Phantom of the Opera” and Puccini’s “Nessun Dorma.”

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