Heard on the Hill: Bare-Knuckle Greeting

Posted June 27, 2008 at 5:31pm

Fist-bump fever is catching on.

[IMGCAP(1)]Michelle Obama started it all, giving her husband, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), a conspiratorial knock of the fists when he gave a major speech acknowledging his status as the presumptive presidential nominee earlier this month.

Since then, the gesture has taken on pop-culture significance, with the hosts of “The View” engaging in on-air fist-bumping with their guest host, Michelle Obama.

And Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) got in on the new (at least to political types) craze Thursday night as she approached Obama on the Senate floor. When the would-be president turned around to greet her, he was met not with a traditional handshake or even a hug, but with a fist extended. The two Democrats proceeded to bump fists in salutation.

We’ll know the trend has really gone mainstream, though, when politicians start fist-bumping babies instead of kissing them.

Webb Gets VP Nod. Does Sen. Claire McCaskill know something we don’t? The Missouri Democrat and confidante to presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) was overheard teasingly referring to Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) as “Mr. Vice President” on the Senate floor Thursday night.

Webb, McCaskill and a clutch of other freshmen were hanging out together on the chamber floor when Webb stood up from his seat to make his way to the podium to deliver a speech on the war spending bill. “Oh, Mr. Vice President,” McCaskill called after him. “Mr. Vice President!”

Webb, of course, is high up on the list of names that have been bandied about as possible veep picks for Obama’s ticket. McCaskill’s name, too, has been mentioned, so the teasing could be an inside joke among Senators who’ve been fielding will-you-or-won’t-you questions about their aspirations to be Obama’s No. 2.

Blocked Arteries. Usually, the word “obstructionist” comes up in political conversations. But on Friday, already-hassled Washington, D.C., commuters could level that charge at Rep. Paul Hodes (D-N.H.), on the topic of traffic.

Hodes’ black Toyota SUV was parked on the side of the inbound side of Massachusetts Avenue Northwest near Ward Circle while rush hour was in full swing, nevermind the fact that the right lane doesn’t turn into a parking lane until 9:30 a.m. The parked vehicle slowed traffic as motorists had to pull around the hulking truck. But at least they knew where to complain: The truck bore Congressional plates reading, “N.H.2nd,” which is Hodes’ district.

A Hodes spokesman fingered a “junior staffer” for the parking snafu, saying the new-to-Washington aide used the car to drop the Congressman at the airport the night before, then parked it and left it overnight, not realizing that the avenue was a no-parking zone during rush hour.

But unlike most illegally parked cars (at least those without Congressional plates), Hodes’ didn’t have a ticket on it.

We’re shocked, shocked.

Approps, the Nightclub. The nation’s capital can’t compete with New York or Hollywood as far as hip party scenes go. Sure, D.C. has a few exclusive spots, but most of our partying is done in dark, smelly bars and once-smoky backrooms.

That was until HOH heard about the new hotspot that is room H-310 in the Capitol, home to the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies.

Multiple spies tell HOH that a blowout took place in the subcommittee office on Thursday afternoon. Apparently, none of the spies were cool enough to actually get past the door, which was labeled with a sign reading “Gone Drilling” and another declaring the room to be “Lounge 301,” an apparent reference to the nearby Massachusetts Avenue bar, Lounge 201.

But our spies did hear laughter and loud ’80s music (along with the dulcet tones of “thumping bass”) emanating from the office. Several staffers were spotted stumbling into the hallway, some of them — gasp! — with alcoholic beverages in hand, and some partygoers even wore fashionable, apparently handmade, dunce-style party hats.

Even Rep. Ralph Regula (R-Ohio) was spotted stopping by the bash.

When one spy asked what was going on, partygoers were mum, responding with milquetoasty answers such as: “good time all around,” “business meeting” and “a little educational program.” Meanwhile, reporters heading to the nearby periodical press gallery and Capitol Police officers on duty outside were left to continue their work-filled (read: non-thumping-bass- accompanied) afternoons.

HOH doesn’t know the reason for the party, although we hear it’s not the first pre-recess bash the subcommittee has thrown. A subcommittee staffer referred us to an Appropriations Committee spokeswoman, who didn’t get back to us by press time.

Maybe the festivities went a little late …

Call’s Waiting. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is a popular guy. As one of the chief surrogates for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), HOH is sure his phone is ringing off the hook.

But a call came at an inopportune moment Thursday when, during a speech on the Senate floor in which the good McCain foot soldier was trashing Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), his cell phone started ringing.

He quickly interrupted his speech to turn it off, but then — perhaps fearing it hadn’t actually been turned off — reached for it again. The maneuver appeared to work, and Graham’s phone stayed silent for the rest of his speech.

Electronic devices are nominally banned on the Senate floor, and although most Senators aren’t above an occasional BlackBerry session, a ringing phone is considered a no-no.

And for the record, the ringtone was a standard one, though HOH can’t help but think the Senate floor could use something a little jazzier.

The Idaho Swag Bag. Weekly party lunches aren’t exactly known for being overly fun affairs. But when Sen. Mike Crapo hosted the Republican luncheon Thursday, his GOP colleagues probably left in good spirits — they took home a gift bag full of homespun goodies, courtesy of the Idaho Republican’s wife, Susan.

Mrs. Crapo put together a slew of homemade treats for the Republican contingent, including a fleece blanket, homemade cinnamon bread and a small jar of homemade strawberry jam, Crapo spokeswoman Susan Wheeler tells HOH. Susan Crapo is famous among the Senator’s staff for her bread, which Wheeler says she has “down to a science.”

“The staff looks forward to every Christmas when she makes all of us cinnamon bread,” Wheeler said. “My children look forward to it.”

Each Senator received a loaf of the famed bread along with strawberry jam to use as a spread, although Wheeler tells HOH that it’s delicious either way. And while it is pretty hot outside, the Members were able to pick out a comfy blanket to save for the winter.

“There were a number of different designs, so the Senators chose which ones they wanted,” Wheeler said.

HOH doesn’t expect for the swag bag to become a staple of party lunches — unless Crapo becomes permanent host of the lunches, that is.

“She enjoys doing those kinds of things,” Wheeler said. “And people enjoy it. Everybody wins.”

That’s just how they do it in Boise.

Jennifer Bendery, Tim Taylor and Lauren W. Whittington contributed to this report.

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