Heard on the Hill: Vitter Dissed

Posted January 6, 2009 at 6:49pm

If the first day of a Congressional session really is like the first day of high school, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) was totally exiled to the cafeteria losers’ table.

[IMGCAP(1)]Sex-scandal-singed Vitter was spotted navigating the Senate halls solo while his colleagues enjoyed the company of friends and family. But the biggest diss of all came when fellow Louisianan Sen. Mary Landrieu was sworn in.

All of the other Senators being sworn in were accompanied by their fellow

home-state Senator, who walked with them as they approached Vice President Dick Cheney and stood behind them as he administered the oath of office. Landrieu, however, bypassed Vitter and instead asked Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) to stand with her during the ceremony.

Following the swearing-in, HOH caught up with Landrieu, who explained simply that she had asked two Senators she admired to join her. “I asked Sen. Mikulski, the dean of the Senate women, in honor of the extraordinary progress we’re making in electing women,” Landrieu said. “And I asked Sen. Domenici out of my deep respect for his many years of service.”

Landrieu called them both “mentors” whom she admires. “And I could only have two …”

HOH didn’t get the chance to ask if Vitter was anywhere below that on the short list.

Stay tuned — maybe next week he’ll get locked inside his locker.

They’ll Be Seeing a Lott More of Him. It’s the Washington equivalent of turning 21 and thus being able to drink legally — and former Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) is popping the bottles.

“I’m legal!” the usually jovial former Majority Leader — looking even more jovial than usual — was overheard announcing to former colleagues on Tuesday, as he mingled with the crowd gathered outside the Senate chamber following the swearing-in ceremonies. Lott was referring to the expiration of the ban that prevented him from lobbying. When Lott resigned his seat on Dec. 18, 2007, ethics laws prevented former Senators from lobbying Members of Congress for a year (if he had waited until 2008 to resign, the ban would have lasted two years under the ethics law that had just been passed).

The Mississippian, who now runs big-bucks lobby shop Breaux Lott Leadership Group with former Sen. John Breaux (D-La.), had been offering advice to clients seeking lobbying services, but now he’s able to do the real thing.

And it looks like he might be getting practice: He was also spotted earlier on Tuesday riding the subway to the Capitol with his old counterpart, Tom Daschle, the former Senate Majority Leader who’s now President-elect Barack Obama’s nominee to head the Department of Health and Human Services. Lott and Daschle, both of whom have seen their stocks rise in recent weeks, were chatting cheerily, HOH’s spy reports.

Cane and Politically Able. Rep. Chris Van Hollen earned plenty of praise for overseeing the Democratic takeover of two dozen House seats in the 2008 elections, but that big win apparently had its consequences.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman needed the help of a cane to walk around Capitol Hill on Tuesday. The Marylander told fellow Members that he needed it because “he ran into a dark alley full of a bunch of former Republican Members of Congress,” according to a spokesman.

Ouch — talk about a tough political climate.

While Republicans might still be upset about their Congressional losses, they haven’t resorted to violence. Van Hollen actually had hip surgery during the holiday break to repair an old sports injury, and he likely will need to use the cane for the next few weeks to help get around, the spokesman said.

And while the cane might be an inconvenience for right now, Van Hollen expects it will come in handy in the future. “He intends to keep the cane after his recovery in order to get Members to pay their dues, and get recently elected Members to do the right thing,” Van Hollen spokesman Doug Thornell told HOH.

Note to Members: If you like your kneecaps where they are, better get out those checkbooks.

The New Duncan Hunter, Fit to Be Tied. Swearing-in ceremonies on the House floor might be awe-inspiring for some freshmen, but for Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), it’s been there, done that.

Hunter, who won his father’s seat after the elder California Republican announced his retirement, was a mere tyke of 3 when his father joined the House in 1981, and attended the swearing-in ceremony in his dad’s arms. It’s a scene that the older Hunter’s classmate Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.) remembers well: Dreier recalled that at one point during the proceedings, the little boy grabbed onto Dreier’s tie, damaging it.

In honor of the 28th anniversary of little Hunter’s escapade — not to mention to welcome him as a colleague — Dreier on Tuesday presented the freshman Hunter with a tattered old tie.

So, has the newly inducted freshman learned better House-floor manners? Maybe, maybe knot.

A Last Supper? Is-he-or-isn’t-he Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) might be waiting on a legal challenge to the tally of votes showing his Democratic challenger, Al Franken, defeating him, but he’s at least waiting in style. Coleman was spotted Monday night noshing at swank Pennsylvania Avenue watering hole Capital Grill.

Earlier in the day, Franken declared himself the winner of the election after the state’s vote-counting board certified that Franken was 225 votes ahead of Coleman.

Perhaps a tasty steak helped that news go down a bit easier.

Bathroom Break. When you’ve gotta go … HOH spotted Rep. Jim McGovern beating a hasty retreat from the lengthy House swearing-in ceremony on Tuesday to attend to more pressing business: helping a child who was his guest to the big event find the loo. The little girl, who a McGovern spokesman told HOH is a friend of the family, rushed to the first-floor ladies’ room while the Massachusetts Democrat waited patiently outside for her to return.

Now that’s constituent service.

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