Heard on the Hill: And the Band Might Not Play On

Posted November 5, 2008 at 7:04pm

Don’t blame it on drugs or Yoko Ono — it was the vagaries of electoral politics that doomed Congress’ favorite rock outfit.

[IMGCAP(1)]The Second Amendments, the Members-only band that has spent three years playing charity events, Congressional gatherings and even entertaining American troops overseas, look to be calling it quits. Although the bipartisan bunch achieved fame for their repertoire of festive, family-friendly rock and country hits, the Amendments couldn’t escape an electoral beating this campaign cycle.

Drummer Rep. Kenny Hulshof (R-Mo.) already announced he would leave Congress, and his replacement, Rep. Bill Sali (R-Idaho), was voted out of office on Tuesday.

Keyboardist Rep. Jon Porter (R-Nev.) also lost his re-election bid, and with bass player Rep. Dave Weldon (R-Fla.) retiring at the end of the session, the only Members left in the group are lead guitarist Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.) and vocalist Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.). (New York Democratic Rep. John Hall, a member of ’70s-era pop-rock group Orleans, had hinted at joining full-time.)

But with their core lineup decimated, the sun likely has set on the Second Amendments, McCotter told HOH. McCotter said he spoke Wednesday to Peterson — who joked that “maybe you and me and John Hall can become a Kingston trio” — but otherwise, they agreed the outlook for the band looks bleak. Even if a replacement keyboardist and drummer could be found, the new Members might not make for a successful group, McCotter explained.

“Me and Collin are always going to be playing together every now and then, but I don’t know if we are going to get the band back together,” he said. “The unique chemistry of a band, it’s very hard to replicate.”

The Second Amendments aren’t the first musically inclined Members to form a group only to have it go bust; the Singing Senators, a barbershop quartet typically made up of former Sens. Trent Lott (R-Tenn.), Larry Craig (R-Idaho), John Ashcroft (R-Mo.) and Jim Jeffords (I-Vt.), entertained Capitol Hill audiences for years before finally calling it quits in 2007.

But the Amendments differed in that they were an honest-to-goodness rock band, playing their own instruments and entertaining for hours at various gigs.

“Our best times, we all said, was when we went and entertained the troops,” McCotter recalled. “We loved making people happy.”

Perhaps McCotter should save that line for when VH1 gets around to making its “Behind the Music” special on the band.

He’s Still Just Dan. For Dan Maffei, the New York Democrat who won the seat being vacated by retiring Rep. Jim Walsh (R) in Tuesday’s election, taking office is a homecoming of sorts. Maffei was a longtime Congressional aide, most recently as communications director for the Ways and Means Democrats under Rep. Charlie Rangel (N.Y.). Former colleagues of the now-Congressman-elect are chuckling over the fact that the cutup guy they once palled around with will soon be an actual vote-card-wielding Member of Congress.

Maffei is preparing to return to the House office buildings, but he said that returning as a freshman actually means a bit of a demotion. “I’ll probably have worse office space as a freshman than I did even as a Ways and Means staffer on the minority,” he joked to HOH.

Maffei said his experience as a staffer might give him a leg up over other freshman Members, if only because he knows his way around. For instance, he still has an account in the Capitol credit union. But HOH had to inform him that the five bucks he boasted he still had left on his old cafeteria debit card might not be any good now that the cafeterias are under new management.

As for his old colleagues, will they have to call him “Congressman Maffei” now? “What happens is that they call me ‘Congressman’ and then start giggling,” he said. “I’m just Dan.”

And in case any of his old Hill pals are wondering, Maffei’s fancy new job hasn’t changed him all that much: He still does a pretty mean impersonation of his old boss, Rangel.

Blue Light Special on McCain Gear. As if that classy concession speech by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) or the decisive vote tallies weren’t enough, proof positive that McCain lost the election is in the discounts.

McCain/Palin campaign merchandise — from buttons to T-shirts — immediately went on super-sale all around Washington Wednesday after the Republican ticket took a beating. At the Union Station store Making History, the GOP stuff is already 75 percent off. At downtown shop Political Americana, clerk Jeff Roquen said prices for GOP items will be slashed 20 percent in the next few weeks.

And at a truck hawking touristy political gear at the corner of 15th and E streets Northwest, vendor James Chen said he’s stopped stocking new McCain/Palin goods, but even the leftovers aren’t selling particularly well.

Hm, maybe it’s time for a sale?

Wax [Figure] Off. Poor Sen. John McCain. Not only did the Arizona Republican lose his bid for the White House on Tuesday night, but he also lost his chance to get immortalized in wax.

Guests at the Qorvis Communications party on Tuesday night could pose for a photo alongside wax figures, on loan from famed wax museum Madame Tussauds, of President-elect Obama and President Bush. But some complained that they had to settle for an ugly cardboard cutout of McCain, since Madame Tussauds has never made a wax McCain.

But that would not have been the case for long had McCain won, Madame Tussauds spokeswoman Kimberly Kress told HOH.

Prior to the election, Madame Tussauds artists were in the beginning stages of creating wax statues of Obama and McCain, Kress said. “Because the election was too close to call, or in our case too close to wax, the studio artist was actually working on both figures,” Kress said.

Once Obama won, the McCain statue was scrapped, and artists are now focused on creating yet another Obama statue. “For now, there are no plans to make a McCain figure,” Kress says.

Republicans who want to snap their pictures alongside a GOP leader at the museum’s Washington, D.C., location will have to content themselves with Bush or former Presidents George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Abraham Lincoln, Richard Nixon and Dwight Eisenhower.

Or, you know, right-wingers can take a shot with teen heartthrobs the Jonas Brothers or model-turned-talk-show maven Tyra Banks — who, unlike poor McCain, made the Madame Tussauds cut.

Perfect for an Obama-tini. As president, Barack Obama will have to face a slew of nasty problems, like two wars, an economic meltdown and rising energy costs, to name a few. But here’s a little silver lining that might cheer the Illinois Democrat: You get lots of personalized whiskey!

The Jack Daniel’s distillery announced (right before the election) that it would set aside a barrel of its famous spirit on Inauguration Day and name it after the new prez. After it’s aged, it will be bottled (into about 240 bottles), auctioned, and the proceeds donated to the commander in chief’s favorite charity.

Jack Daniel’s spokesman Mark Day tells HOH that this is the first time the distillery has done this, and that they will work with the incoming Obama administration to determine which charity the whiskey money will go to.

Briefly Quoted. “We are grateful to the Obama family for previously announcing they will rescue a dog — a real message of hope and change for all the dogs in shelters waiting for a loving home and those currently suffering in abusive puppy mills.”

— Statement from Wayne Pacelle, Humane Society president, indicating that Obama’s hope-and-change message reaches not just across party lines, but species, too.

Daniel Strauss contributed to this report.

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