Heard on the Hill: Mixin’ Up the Medicine

Posted July 11, 2008 at 6:33pm

The kookiness that is Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (Mich.) just keeps rolling. McCotter, a music lover and chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee, has filmed a brief video modeled on Bob Dylan’s iconic “Subterranean Homesick Blues” and posted the clip — which apes Dylan’s video in which the vest-wearing troubadour holds and discards handwritten signs — on YouTube.

[IMGCAP(1)]McCotter’s video protests the moves by House Democrats to limit where Members can post official videos online. Under the Democrats’ proposal, Members would have to clear outside Web sites that host Members’ content — such as YouTube — through the House Administration Committee. Advocates say the policy would keep Members’ messages free from advertisements and partisan leanings, but Republicans are crying foul, claiming it would abridge free speech.

So in protest (surely, the 1960s-era Dylan would approve), McCotter, joined by GOP Reps. Steven LaTourette (Ohio) and Lee Terry (Neb.), filmed the video, in which they denounce “Stalinist Democrats” and “Nancy’s Apparatchiks,” an apparent reference to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and, um, communism. McCotter wears a vest, a la Dylan, and LaTourette and Terry linger in the background, just like two men in the original Dylan video.

HOH spies saw the clip being filmed on Wednesday in an alley near the RNC headquarters. Dylan chose the alley behind New York’s famed Savoy Hotel as his setting.

And McCotter, with his balding pate, might not resemble the shaggy-haired Dylan, but he did have one thing in common with the music legend: He certainly was, as the song’s original lyrics go, “on the pavement, thinking about the government.”

Gimme a W! Staffers who work for the House Administration Committee have something to cheer about (other than the Green the Capitol initiative, of course): Their colleague Kristie Muchnok just landed a coveted gig on the Washington Wizards cheerleading squad. The results of the hypercompetitive auditions were announced July 1.

Muchnok, who HOH hears has a background in theater and dance, will have to balance her Congressional duties with the demands of being a Wizards Girl. Muchnok’s day job entails acting as a liaison between the committee, the House restaurants and the greening initiative, a position that we’re sure involves almost as much flexibility and nimbleness as do those courtside dance moves.

Rough Reading. Most memoirs by Members of Congress are safe, tepid retellings of hardscrabble upbringings (here’s looking at you, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid) or glossing-over of troubled pasts (hiya, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay).

Not so the candid new book by Rep. Barbara Lee, which delves into raw emotional territory from the California Democrat’s past, including a secret marriage, a clandestine abortion, an abusive marriage and even an LSD trip forced upon her by her violent ex-husband. In “Renegade for Peace & Justice,” Lee chronicles not just her legislative accomplishments, but her darker moments as well.

The earlier chapters of her life provide the most fodder on that front: She describes marrying her boyfriend while in high school and keeping the marriage a secret; her first teen pregnancy ended in miscarriage and the second in an abortion administered in Mexico. She divorced her first husband and ended up in an abusive second marriage to a man who not only beat her violently but administered LSD to her, telling it was a pill to calm her.

Still, the story ends with triumph, and Lee remembers her career in the House and the support, both public and private, that she’s gotten for her controversial stance as the sole Member of Congress who voted against the use of force after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

We do love a happy ending.

Salad Days, in a Tossup. Since HOH is your go-to source for all the hot developments on the topic of the House cafeteria’s beloved institution, Taco Salad Wednesdays, we bring you this fast-breaking news: Taco Salad Wednesday will soon be Taco Salad Tuesday or Taco Salad Thursday.

Visitors to the cafeteria located on the House side of the Capitol basement are being asked to vote on paper ballots whether they would prefer to enjoy their cult-favorite chips and toppings on Tuesdays or Thursdays.

All of that might sound trivial, but HOH knows that House staffers take their cherished taco salad ritual seriously.

Jeff Ventura, spokesman for the office of the Chief Administrative Officer, which oversees the cafeteria, tells HOH the special is moving because the establishment also offers a popular fried-chicken special on Wednesdays and decided it was best to spread the “culinary blockbusters” throughout the week.

Voting will continue through the week of July 28, when the ballots will be tallied.

“The only thing more important than the November elections is the vote on taco day,” Ventura cracked.

A Mass-ive Clash. Even the return of Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) to the Senate this week wasn’t enough to give his office softball team, the Ted Sox, an edge. The Sox lost 8-2 in their annual game with the rival team from the office of fellow Massachusetts Democratic Sen. John Kerry on Thursday.

Kerry’s team, which this year shook things up by changing their name from the Chowdah to Sweet Kerry-line, were gracious, conceding that the Ted Sox won in the spirit division.

An attendee tells HOH that highlights include Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee staffer Jeremy Marcus starting things off with a solo homer in the first inning, and intern Jake Falby ending the game with a dramatic last out he caught while back-pedaling into a group of nearby kickballers.

“We knew we were going to win when they didn’t discover the John Kerry jersey we buried under their dugout,” Kerry spokeswoman Whitney Smith tells HOH. “It was just nice to see two teams of great ballplayers, and none of them are dating Madonna.”

A First in the Senate. Barriers are shattering all around. On Thursday, the Senate saw the first black woman act as guest chaplain and administer the Senate’s opening prayer.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) nominated the Rev. Patricia Bryant Harris, who is the pastor of the Marshallton United Methodist Church, to lead the chamber in prayer.

Harris told Wilmington, Del. newspaper The News Journal that she didn’t realize when she faced the Senators — and the C-SPAN cameras — that that she was making history. “I’m from the First State,” she told the paper. “I’m the first African-American female to present the prayer. It was an awesome experience.”

A Carper spokeswoman says the Senate Chaplain’s office alerted them that Harris was indeed a first.

You go, Reverend!

Briefly Quoted. “They’ve taken away Christmas! This is awful. Can’t they think of people like me?”

— Anti-earmark crusader Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), channeling poor little Cindy Lou Who from “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” Flake was responding to reports that House Democrats are considering not bringing any appropriations bills to the floor — possibly ruining Flake’s plans to introduce hundreds of amendments striking earmarks.

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