Heard on the Hill: It’s Frank’s World; We Just Live In It

Posted September 28, 2008 at 4:59pm

In case there was any doubt who was running the show over the past week, or how confused even most Members were about what was happening with the Wall Street bailout, a few lawmakers confirmed it for us.

[IMGCAP(1)]A handful of Members — guys who are ostensibly getting briefings and actually sit in on meetings — were apparently so confused about the status of the bailout, they sunk so low as to actually join press scrums (those knots of lowly reporters crowding a particularly in-the-know Member) around House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank to try to get a clue.

The Massachusetts Democrat logged plenty of time last week on his usual perch, a bench on the Democratic side of the Speaker’s Lobby, where he’s routinely been mobbed by reporters chasing the changing-every-minute story. On Friday, the dozen or so reporters crowded and stooped around him had some rather illustrious company.

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), followed by Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.) and later Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) all joined the ink-stained wretches to hear the latest developments, straight from the horse’s mouth. Brady’s visit to the Frank Oracle was especially funny, an HOH operative tells us. He was doing that move, perfected by reporters who sometimes find themselves on the outer fringes of a scrum, in which one bends in toward the subject in an awkward ear-first lean.

Somebody give these guys some reporter’s notebooks and ugly sport coats, and they just might pass for Capitol Hill reporters.

Frankly, Scarlett. The proposed Wall Street bailout bill making the rounds last week, titled the Troubled Asset Relief Act, was notable not just for the staggering amount of money it includes or the political grief it sparked, but also for its acronym, TARA.

Catchy acronyms are a staple of Capitol Hill. You might recall that Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) named a big transportation bill after his wife, whose nickname is Lu, when he was Transportation Chairman: the Transportation Equity Act — a Legacy for Users, or TEA-LU. Others are torturously constructed to fit the bill’s themes, like the PATRIOT Act, which stands for Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism. Whew.

One HOH tipster pointed out that the moniker TARA is appropriate for the bailout bill, since the bill deals with the fallout from the housing crisis, and what home better reflects families wanting to hang on to their houses than the fictional manse of the O’Hara family in the classic film “Gone With the Wind”?

It certainly calls to mind this line from the movie, in which the oh-so-Southern O’Hara patriarch admonishes his daughter. “Do you mean to tell me, Katie Scarlett O’Hara, that Tara, that land doesn’t mean anything to you? Why, land is the only thing in the world worth workin’ for, worth fightin’ for, worth dyin’ for, because it’s the only thing that lasts.”

And then it gives us the chance to make other GWTW allusions. Perhaps President Bush could use this line, a takeoff of the film’s most famous line, directed at the Alabama Republican who’s been a thorn in his side: “Frankly, Sen. Shelby, I don’t give a damn.”

Richardson’s Blind Item. Freshman Rep. Laura Richardson might have just celebrated her one-year anniversary as a Member, but the California Democrat already has learned that the House, in many ways, is still a man’s world.

And she’s calling the men out on it — even if she’s not naming names.

While hosting a forum at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation conference on Friday, Richardson discussed the image of blacks in the media alongside “College Road Trip” actress Kym Whitley. The two were chatting about how strong, black women are perceived when Richardson recalled that, once when she was conducting business on the House floor, she overheard this statement uttered by a fellow Member: “Wow, she’s tough. I don’t know how she stays married.”

Richardson (who is single, by the way) wouldn’t identify the Member by name, but did reveal that the anonymous person is a male who chairs a House committee.

Raise a Glass, Save the Economy. With the economy in shambles and little hope in sight, Rep. Mike Conaway wants to point out that drinking doesn’t just provide a temporary escape from financial woes — it can help solve them.

The Texas Republican introduced a concurrent resolution on Thursday recognizing the importance of the United States wine industry to the American economy. The legislation notes that the U.S. is one of the largest wine producers in the world, representing more than 1 percent of the 2007 gross domestic product.

And the wine industry in Conaway’s home state of Texas has grown steadily this decade, the bill notes, producing more than 626,000 cases of wine, creating 8,000 jobs and generating $69 million in federal, state and local taxes in 2005 alone.

So when HOH enjoys that bottle, er, glass of cabernet (sorry, Rep. Conaway, it won’t be from Dallas) after work tonight, she’s just doing her part to help fix the current economic crisis.

Tory Newmeyer contributed to this report.

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