Heard on the Hill: Lance Says McCain, Obama Can’t Hang

Posted July 23, 2008 at 6:44pm

Correction Appended

Lance Armstrong, the uber-athlete who launched a thousand yellow bracelets, was in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday to debut a national cancer-combating campaign at the National Press Club. HOH, of course, wanted to talk politics, and asked the seven-time Tour de France winner, cancer survivor and fitness buff which candidate — Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) or Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) — he’d rather have as a workout buddy.

[IMGCAP(1)]The diplomatic Armstrong tried at first to avoid the question. “That’s an obvious answer,” he said, hinting that 46-year-old Obama would be his choice over the 71-year-old McCain to take part in what HOH is certain are some grueling workout sessions. Then, Armstrong apparently thought better of that approach and decided to go for an equal-opportunity dis.

“Neither of them could hang — let me put it that way,” he said.

Congressional Baby Boom. Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin announced on Wednesday that she and her husband, former Rep. Max Sandlin (D-Texas), are expecting their first child together in late December. And should the South Dakota Democrat give birth before the Congressional session ends, it will mark the third time in the 110th Congress that a Member has given birth.

Which would be a pretty big deal, considering that only six other Members have given birth while in office during the entire history of Congress.

The House’s newest mom is Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who gave birth to son Henry Nelson in May. In April 2007, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers gave birth to son Cole.

The Washington Republican told HOH becoming a new mom provided a renewed passion for her Congressional work, and she congratulated Herseth Sandlin on her upcoming delivery.

“It’s exciting to be expecting the birth of your first child,” McMorris Rodgers said. “Also, as someone who was pregnant and campaigning at the same time, I can say it’s not easy, but it’s well worth it.”

Given the preponderance of Congressional moms, HOH fully expects to hear that diaper-changing stations are being installed in the Cloakrooms.

Low-Ball Tactics. The 2009 Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game is nearly a year away, but the trash-talking has already begun. After the respective managers of the Republican and Democratic teams had a touching moment on the House floor on Tuesday in which they congratulated one another on last week’s game, the jabs began.

Rep. Joe Barton (Texas), who coached the GOP team to a hard-fought victory, announced a suspicious recruiting campaign to fill spots on the roster that are soon to be emptied. “With our retirements … I would love to have some new blood,” Barton said. “If there are some Democrats who didn’t get playing time, if you want to switch parties, we are open for business.”

He also suggested that baseball-playing ability (or at least relative youth) should play a bigger role in how Republicans select political candidates for House races. “And to Tom Cole at the NRCC, please, please recruit us some new flat bellies,” Barton pleaded.

Rep. Mike Doyle (Pa.) answered Barton’s solicitation with a boast, alluding to the number of seats Democrats are expected to win in November. “If we’re going to have so many new players next year, we might have some extras for you,” he charitably offered.

Rangel’s New Wheels. Keeping up with House Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) has always been hard, but it’s getting even more difficult these days. Rangel has been tooling around the Capitol in a zippy scooter this week, traveling to votes and meetings on the new wheels. He’s been parking the machine outside the chamber and hearing rooms, and walking with a distinct limp.

A Rangel spokesman says his boss is suffering from a pulled ligament in his right leg and is using the scooter while the injury heals.

Game of Telephone. And speaking of Rep. Charlie Rangel, the Old Bull had a surprise conversation on Wednesday with fellow Old Bull Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), who is undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments for brain cancer in Massachusetts.

Kennedy’s son, Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), was chatting on the phone with dear old dad while standing in a hallway just off the House chamber. Rangel passed by, and Patrick Kennedy handed the phone off to his dad’s old pal.

“Dad, Charlie Rangel wants to say ‘hi,’” the younger Kennedy said into the phone as he handed it to Rangel, according to a tipster who witnessed the exchange. Rangel and the elder Kennedy had a brief chat, with Rangel smiling and chuckling. Rangel handed the phone back to Kennedy, and the father-son conversation continued. “Yeah, Charlie’s the best,” Kennedy told his father.

Dog Day Afternoon. The annual Hot Dog Lunch put on by the American Meat Institute is among the most exclusive events held each year on Capitol Hill. It’s invite-only, leaving staffers scrambling for the chance to stuff themselves with free hot dogs for an afternoon.

Members, of course, automatically get in, and a few dozen stopped by the Rayburn House Office Building on Wednesday to eat one (or several) of the 4,000 dogs dished out at this year’s lunch. In between bites of her own, HOH tracked down a handful of Members to check out their hot dog toppings of choice.

Rep. Michael Arcuri (D-N.Y.) sticks to chili and cheese, he said, adding he had to show some restraint. “I had to stop at three — I probably could have eaten a couple more. But I have a long day ahead of me,” he said.

Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) puts “simply mustard” on his dog, he said. “If they had red onions, I would have thrown some of those on there. They’re a New York specialty,” he said.

Rep. Rob Wittman goes for a more-is-more approach, piling on mustard, ketchup, relish, chili and cheese.

“My hot dog was so full it came out of the bun,” the Virginia Republican joked. “It’s not fun if it doesn’t.”

For some Members, hot dogs weren’t the best part of the lunch. Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) gushed to HOH about meeting New York Yankees great Russell “Bucky” Dent, who signed autographs along with fellow baseball legends Bruce Sutter and Oscar Gamble. The Heisman Trophy runner-up’s first-ever autograph from a professional athlete was a ball signed by Dent. “I thanked him, 25, 30 years later,” Shuler said, explaining that his grandfather got him the autograph as a gift.

Ride ’Em Cowboy! The Sewall-Belmont House is known for hosting dignified (read: stuffy) affairs. Events often feature a soundtrack of classical music and are staffed by tuxedo-clad waiters handing out tiny little appetizers.

But on Saturday, Sewall-Belmont will provide the backdrop for jeans and boots, a mechanical bull, live country western tunes and a whole lot of beer.

The relatively low-brow trappings are all in celebration of Cheyenne Frontier Days, an annual event held in Cheyenne, Wyo., that features the largest rodeo in North America. It’s a proud tradition for folks from the Equality State — so much so that those stuck in Washington, D.C., during the yearly festivities have begun their own version.

COWPIE — short for the Committee of Wyoming People in the East — is “as close to a night in Wyoming as you get,” Wyoming State Society President Elly Pickett tells HOH.

“Pearls take a backseat to denim and boots are standard attire,” said Pickett, who also is press secretary for Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.).

The festivities are open to the public at 8 p.m., provided you pay the $30 admission. Riding the mechanical bull? That’s optional.

Briefly Quoted. “An avid, aggressive pro-driller.”

— Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) describing himself and his stance on energy issues during a Wednesday hearing.

George Cahlink of CongressNow and Jennifer Bendery and contributed to this report.

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Correction: July 24, 2008

The article provided the wrong age for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). He is 71.