Heard on the Hill: Lack of Bread Gets a Rise

Posted December 12, 2008 at 6:14pm

Rep. Norm Dicks is a man of simple tastes. And when those tastes aren’t satisfied, the Washington Democrat apparently lets everybody know about it.

[IMGCAP(1)]An HOH tipster spotted Dicks waiting in line behind two staffers at the sandwich counter in a mostly empty Longworth House Office Building cafeteria on Thursday afternoon. According to our tipster, when Dicks overheard an employee say the cafeteria had run out of

wheat bread, he proceeded to yell about “the ridiculousness” of the situation, telling the employee: “I’m Congressman Dicks. You mean you don’t have any wheat bread?”

(Dicks is known for identifying himself — he has been spotted sporting a fleece jacket emblazoned with the phrase “Mr. Chairman” around town on the weekends, for example.)

And on Thursday, after Dicks was told there was no more wheat bread, he complained until a manager was summoned, our tipster says.

But a Dicks spokesman downplayed the whole incident, saying the Congressman merely wanted the cafeteria staff to double-check and see if there was any more wheat.

“He simply asked if they could get a manager to ask if they could get some bread,” spokesman George Behan said. “He does not say it was an argument in any way.”

Eventually, Dicks settled on pumpernickel bread and went on his way, Behan said.

“Too bad,” our tipster says. “As soon as he turned from the counter, out came the manager with half a loaf of wheat.”

Why Not Franken? True to their gambling roots, those Nevadans are a bunch of cards. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) and fellow Silver Stater Sen. John Ensign (R) host an annual joint holiday party, and the gag gifts flow like eggnog.

At this year’s soiree, held on Wednesday, Reid presented Ensign with a gift, prefacing it by saying that what was inside would help Ensign kill time while flying back and forth to Washington.

“Living in Nevada and serving in the Senate, we have to spend a lot of time on airplanes, and it can get lonely,” the puckish Reid told Ensign, according an HOH source. “I spend a lot of time reading, so I thought I’d give you some of my favorite books.”

Ensign opened the package — to find a copy of every book written by Al Franken. That’s Franken, as in the former comedy-writer-turned-Senate-candidate who’s been a thorn in the side of Ensign, who headed the Republican Senate campaign effort.

Reid’s joke was payback, we hear. Last year, Ensign gave Reid a giant piece of coal mounted on a wood base to honor “clean coal.”

HOH can’t wait to hear reports of Ensign thumbing through “Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot” on his next flight to Nevada.

Behind Enemy Lines. Sen. Bob Corker emerged as a key player last week in the debate over auto bailout legislation. But it’s clear the Tennessee Republican isn’t used to playing such a pivotal role in wheeling and dealing with powerful Democrats.

An HOH tipster says Corker was spotted on the second floor of the Capitol on Thursday asking passersby for directions to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) office.

Power Lunching. Forget the Palm — Washington’s newest power-broker lunch spot is decidedly more humble. HOH hears that the best place to see and be seen these days is the Au Bon Pain bakery and lunch spot at the corner of Sixth and D streets Northwest.

Located very near the Obama transition team’s digs, it’s where many transition staffers are taking lunches these days. But some have a reason to avoid the place. As the humble eatery’s reputation has leaked out, many job-seekers anxious to land a gig with the incoming administration have taken to hanging out there, too.

Would you like a résumé with that soup-and-salad combo?

Casey’s Snack Food Fury. Democratic Sen. Bob Casey certainly is a proud Pennsylvanian. Born in Scranton, he’s the son of a former governor.

So it’s not surprising that when Casey heard that two of the Keystone State’s greatest exports — Utz potato chips and Snyder’s pretzels — were removed on Monday from the Senate cafeterias as part of the restaurants’ transition to new management, he wasn’t pleased.

Casey on Friday sent a letter complaining about the snack food removal to Dan Cassil, the acting director of Senate Food Services, and Andrew Lisi, the general manager of Restaurant Associates, the new cafeteria vendor. In the letter, Casey writes that the “fine Pennsylvania products” have been enjoyed by Senators, staffers and visitors since 1996 and should be put back on the shelves.

“The fact that these products were on the shelves for more than a decade is a testament to their universal appeal,” Casey wrote. “If the complaints my office has received are any indication, numerous patrons are unhappy with your decision.”

HOH’s requests for comment from Restaurant Associates and the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, which is overseeing the transition, weren’t returned by press time on Friday.

Sushi: Still Cold, but Now Hot on the Party Scene. When you think of holiday delicacies, visions of honey-glazed hams, eggnog and gingerbread cookies might dance in your head.

But sushi? Eh, not so much.

Still, it seems that the fishy Japanese fare has been all the rage on the party circuit this holiday season, with several lobby shops serving up California rolls and edamame at their soirees. It seems that all those pesky ethical regulations are the reason — lobbyists can’t serve meals, but they can serve finger foods at receptions — and sushi is a perfect fit.

But Ken Gross, a political law expert and partner at the firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, cautions that it’s not the dish, but the way it’s served, that matters most when it comes to lobby rules.

“Certainly, you can make a meal out of sushi, as you can make a meal out of large slabs of beef,” Gross says. “So really, I think the issue comes down to the presentation of it. … You still need to make sure it’s done in a reception-style format, in small portions, not setting up a meal.”

And while sushi might be joining the ranks of crab cakes and mini-quiche as reception fare, Gross says the sudden preponderance of raw fish is a coincidence. “No word got out saying, ‘You’re good to go with sushi,’” he says.

Jennifer Yachnin contributed to this report.

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