Heard on the Hill: Alcohol Livens Up the Joint?

Posted September 19, 2008 at 6:35pm

Raise a glass to this — it’s been 75 years since prohibition was officially repealed!

[IMGCAP(1)]In recognition, Members of the House — a bunch not exactly known for being teetotalers — passed legislation last week recognizing state regulators and industry leaders for enacting an effective system of regulating, distributing and selling alcohol.

And the measure is giving the folks who lobby for one green, leafy substance hope that their dreams of legalization will soon be realized.

Introduced by Rep. Howard Coble (R-N.C.), the resolution praises the repeal of Prohibition, noting that the time of no alcohol “resulted in a dramatic increase in illegal activity, including unsafe black market alcohol production, organized crime, and noncompliance with alcohol laws.”

The enactment of the 21st Amendment led to the “development of a transparent and accountable system of distribution and sales” and helped generate “billions of dollars in Federal and Sales tax revenues and additional billions to the economy annually,” the legislation reads.

According to the folks over at the Marijuana Policy Project, that language sounds pretty familiar.

“The same argument applies to both marijuana and alcohol,” said Aaron Houston, MPP’s director of government relations. “We are stunned that the Congress was so publicly praising the system of regulation while we haven’t seen movement on a medical marijuana measure.”

But Houston also thinks the bill is a sign that Congress is at a tipping point when it comes to marijuana. Members will soon realize it is better to regulate marijuana than ban it outright, Houston said, adding that many already believe pot should be legal but are afraid to admit it.

And Houston promised to contact Coble to join the legalization effort. Coble spokesman Ed McDonald declined to comment on the marijuana policy debate, telling HOH he’d would leave that up to the folks at MPP.

The purpose of the bill, McDonald said, merely was to honor alcohol wholesalers and government regulators for their efforts.

“It’s a system that works,” he said.

Please Silence Your Cell Phones. There’s nothing more annoying than that moment when, at the climax of a heartwarming movie, someone’s cell phone begins to beep, ring or warble.

Also annoying: when a cell phone goes off at the climax of an important political debate. But it is sort of funny when it’s a Member of Congress who interrupts the fracas.

Toward the end of Thursday’s Senate debate between former Virginia Govs. Mark Warner (D) and Jim Gilmore (R), Rep. Jim Moran’s phone began to ring, according to an HOH spy.

It took the Virginia Democrat quite a few seconds to shut it off, the spy said — the “missed call” beep even went off before he managed to put the device on silent. Warner even said something to Moran in response to the ringing, our spy said, although he couldn’t hear exactly what that was.

The Dreamgirl’s Dream Candidate? Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Hudson has a lot going on these days, what with her first album hitting stores soon and her recent engagement.

So it’s understandable if the “Dreamgirls” actress hasn’t had time to focus on the upcoming election. Case in point: When a reporter asked Hudson — who was performing at the Newseum for “Good Morning America” on Friday — what she considers the most important issue this year, she considered for a moment before an assistant needed to prompt her, whispering “health care.”

“I would have to say health care,” Hudson affirmed, laughing at having needed the help. “And I think taxes need to go down.”

Hudson did confirm she’s registered to vote — “My mom has it no other way,” she said — but the Chicago native wouldn’t say if she’ll be supporting hometown Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) come November.

She did, however, notably use the words “change” and “hope” to describe her feelings about the election.

Pressed on whether that meant Obama would get her support, Hudson acknowledged that she was referring to both his historic candidacy and the fact that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) could be elected vice president.

“I’m just so glad to be [in America right now],” she said. “America is open to change. I’m just so caught up in the moment.”

Greens Seeking Green. Much fuss was made last week of the Hollywood fundraiser for presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, a star-studded affair that netted $9 million for the Illinois Democrat’s campaign.

But now there’s word that another celeb will be throwing a big bash out in LaLaLand for a presidential candidate — and this one could get a bit more rowdy.

Comedian Roseanne Barr will join Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney for a fundraiser at the gay and lesbian nightclub Jewel’s Catch One in Los Angeles on Thursday. The pair, labeling themselves as the “First Ladies of Truth,” will appear for a Q&A session, then hit the dance floor alongside party attendees.

And while admission to Obama’s big bash cost $28,500 — and $2,500 more to hear the legendary Barbra Streisand sing later in the night — tickets for McKinney’s soiree start at only $15. For $10 more, guests can attend a screening of the film “American Blackout,” a 2006 documentary about McKinney, a former Democratic Representative from Georgia. VIP tickets are going for $200 — and that gets you into an exclusive dinner with the Green Party candidate and her loudmouthed supporter.

There’s no word on whether Barr plans to belt out her famed rendition of the national anthem at the bash.

Edwards Draws a Crowd. Elizabeth Edwards might have appeared before Congress on Thursday to talk about why the United States needs universal health care, but there’s little doubt that most folks on hand were there just to see her.

Edwards, however, kept the focus on health care.

Her testimony before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee marked her first appearance on Capitol Hill since her husband, former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.), admitted to having an extramartial affair.

And Room 2123 in the Rayburn House Office Building was packed for the hearing, with folks on hand coming to full attention when Edwards (one of nearly a dozen panelists) got her chance to speak.

Dressed in a white pantsuit and blue shell with her hair pulled back in a ponytail, Edwards managed a shadow of a smile while cracking a series of sassy jokes in between her arguments for a universal health care system.

Edwards, who is suffering from cancer, explained that health insurance companies are only good to people when the people themselves are in good health.

“I’d like the prescription for that,” she said, spurring a fair amount of chuckles.

She also attacked Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain’s (Ariz.) health care plan, noting that “neither of us would be covered under his health care plan,” as both are over 55 and have had cancer.

Committee members were protective of their star witness. Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas) called her “courageous,” while Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) called her “a champion on health care reform.”

Casey Hynes, Bill Clark and Daniel Strauss contributed to this report.

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