Veto Days and Jedi Knights

Posted April 30, 2008 at 6:45pm

Yoda, the Jedi master of the “Star Wars” franchise, is portrayed as a wise, deep-thinking philosopher. President Bush, on the other hand … well, he’s a self-described “C-student.”

[IMGCAP(1)]Still, one of Bush’s chief detractors on the Hill sees similarities between Yoda and the Decider, and he’s not just talking about their protruding ears.

In a press release yesterday, Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.) likened Bush’s statement Tuesday that he would veto a supplemental spending bill larger than $108 billion to one of the Jedi master’s sage decrees. Obey was incensed over Bush’s refusal to allow a veterans benefit bill to be included in the war-funding legislation. “The President seems to think that he can issue pronouncements like the great Yoda, and that the American people and the Congress will comply with his insistence to provide billions for the war in Iraq, but table scraps — or less — for war fighters and workers at home,” Obey said in the press release.

HOH took the liberty of imagining what Bush would sound like in Yoda-speak. We fed Bush’s veto remarks to a translation program (yodaspeak.co.uk) that turns regular English into Yoda parlance, and these are the highlights:

“Work with Congress on these veterans’ benefits, we will. Firm believer that we ought to treat our veterans with respect, I am. Of the union I talked about the idea of transferring in the state — to transfer educational benefits to a spouse or children — a soldier being able. Sent legislation to that effect up to Congress, we have; like for them to move on it quickly, we would. But $108 billion, the $108 billion is. Yes, hmmm.”

Sounds like Obey is going to need the force to be with him.

50-Cent Phone Call. House Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) is proud of his rep as one of Congress’ “Old Bulls,” and the guy’s suspenders apparently aren’t his only old-school flourish.

Rangel was spotted Wednesday morning in the first floor of the Capitol having a pretty animated phone conversation on the pay phone on the first floor. Which brings up the question: Doesn’t one of the chamber’s highest-ranking Members have a cell phone, BlackBerry or some other high-tech gadget that would save him from having to resort to a communications method that’s pretty much gone the way of the telegram?

Spokesman Emile Milne tells HOH that Rangel does, indeed, have a cell phone (although he doesn’t use a BlackBerry), but the trouble is, he sometimes forgets it. “He doesn’t always have it with him — sometimes he leaves it in the office,” Milne says.

House Lightens Up. House staffers are finally seeing the (energy-efficient) light now that their old-school bulbs are being swapped for greener ones, but the effort it’s taking to make the change has some folks wondering how much energy is really being saved with all the tinkering.

Architect of the Capitol employees have spent months switching incandescent light bulbs for the newer, greener compact fluorescent ones as part of the Green the Capitol Initiative aimed at making the House carbon-neutral by year’s end.

With a bunch of the big lights already replaced, AOC staffers now are busy replacing the smaller ones, like those in staffers’ desk lamps. One tipster tells HOH that an AOC worker came into his office a few days ago to switch the lights, even though none had burned out. Seems like a waste of cash, the staffer argued.

“Why not just stop buying the incandescent bulbs?” he said. “I can understand if they were 5,000 watt security lights that were burning tons of power, but these are little.”

Under Green the Capitol goals, 12,000 bulbs of the House’s 30,000 must be replaced by Sept. 30, according to AOC spokeswoman Eva Malecki. So far, 8,500 have been switched, she said.

Green the Capitol officials argue that in the long term, the House will save tons of money. A spokesman for Chief Administrative Officer Dan Beard, who is overseeing the project, estimated the switch will save the House $1.2 million in energy costs over a decade.

“These bulbs pay for themselves in under six months, and then they start paying us,” spokesman Jeff Ventura said.

There’s also a more practical reason for making the switch all at once, Ventura added. “Bulbs burn out at different times, and we can’t be sending staff out every time a bulb burns out,” he said. “Not when there are 30,000 light bulbs.”

HOH is certain there’s a how-many-AOC-staffers-does-it-take-to-change-a-light-bulb joke here somewhere; we’re just not bright enough to find it.

McConnell’s Horsing Around. For those trying to figure out where to put their money in this weekend’s Kentucky Derby race, HOH brings you the pick of someone we figure has the inside track.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (of Kentucky, natch) has picked Colonel John, a California horse who is a leading contender, to win the annual hat-and-julep race. McConnell, of course, plans to attend the big race, spokesman Don Stewart said.

Elizabeth Brotherton contributed to this report.

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