Heard on the Hill: Burr Uses Prickly Language

Posted January 27, 2009 at 6:04pm

No need to check your hearing — you got it right. That was, in fact, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) dropping a bit of profanity on the Senate floor on Tuesday. Nothing too R-rated, or anything that would make the likes of former Vice President Dick Cheney and Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) bat an eyelash, just a little H-E-double-hockey-sticks.

[IMGCAP(1)]“This is another attempt to grow the size of a government program to include more Americans into it without taking on the tough task of debating how in the hell do we fix health care in this country,” the North Carolina Republican said on the Senate floor during a debate over health care legislation, immediately causing eyebrows to raise in the classic “did-he-just-say-what-I-thought-he-said?” pose.

Burr spokesman Chris Walker said the obscenity slipped out because his boss was just so impassioned on the subject. “Clearly, this is one of the more heated issues that we’ll be dealing with this Congress,” Walker joked.

Burr’s four-letter word, as it turns out, might not even be technically against Senate rules. Swearing isn’t specifically banned, although Senators may not insult one another’s states or “impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator,” according to the rules.

That’s How Merkley Rolls. The Senate might be a pinky-fingers-crooked kind of place, but someone apparently forgot to tell freshman Sen. Jeff Merkley.

The Oregon Democrat is parking a scruffy ride alongside his colleagues’ tonier wheels — Merkley just picked up a 13-year-old, slightly banged-up car from a Craigslist posting to ferry himself around town. Spokeswoman Julie Edwards said her boss’s red 1996 Ford Taurus might not be the best-looking car, but the secondhand wheels suit Merkley fine. Sure, it’s missing a little paint and it might be a little worse for wear — but not for long. “We’re looking for ways to trick it out,” she said. “There may be some fuzzy dice in his future.”

Reality Doesn’t Bite the Dust. You can’t keep a good blonde down. The reality show “Blonde Charity Mafia,” featuring the lives and loves of young Washington, D.C., socialites, isn’t dead yet — it’s just moved from Lifetime to the CW network.

The CW, home to kids-behaving-badly shows like “Gossip Girl” and “90210,” picked up the rights to the show and plans to “redevelop” it, according to a network spokesman. They will shoot additional footage in Washington next month and rename the show before testing it to determine whether it will be aired.

Billed as “The Hills” set in Washington, the potential show stars consultant Katherine Kennedy, boutique owner Krista Johnson and Sophie Pyle, the daughter of lobbyist Nick Pyle.

Thanks a Lot, Geoff Davis. Blame the dog-eat-dog world of political campaigning for why there never will be a Congressman George Clooney.

Astute political observers will recall that back in 2004, the actor’s father, former newsman Nick Clooney, ran as a Democrat for Kentucky’s 4th district seat against Republican Rep. Geoff Davis. The press dubbed the race the “Heartland v. Hollywood,” and Clooney contends that billing is one of the reasons he ultimately lost.

Another casualty of that campaign defeat: It turned the politically active George Clooney off to ever running for office.

“I think I have inoculated him. He saw me run and saw how terrible I was,” said Nick Clooney, appearing alongside his son at a Monday screening of the film “Good Night, and Good Luck” at the Newseum.

Despite some breezy banter between the pair at the event — George placed himself up for adoption, Nick said he always favored his daughter — Dad thinks his son would make a good Member of Congress.

“He’d be good at anything. That sucker’s great,” Nick Clooney said. “Don’t tell him I said that.”

Too bad we’ll never have a Rep. George Clooney — we never thought we’d be daydreaming about constituent services …

Abe-a-Palooza. With President Barack Obama’s admiration of former President Abraham Lincoln in the news — and with the beloved former president’s big bicentennial birthday celebration about to begin — it seems some Members of Congress are brushing up on their Lincoln studies.

Reps. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) and John Tanner (D-Tenn.) joined Congressional staffers and others at a preview screening of the upcoming PBS documentary “Looking for Lincoln” at the Motion Picture Association of America’s downtown theater on Monday night.

Narrated by author Henry Louis Gates Jr., the film studies the myths surrounding Lincoln’s life and the effect his legacy continues to have on the country.

Despite the documentary’s focus on Lincoln, discussion after the screening turned to Obama, including what lessons the new president can learn from Lincoln and what the inauguration meant to the black community. (Gates joked earlier in the night that the highlight of his inaugural experience was that Oprah Winfrey attended the Root Inaugural Ball, which he hosted.)

But not all talk centered on politics: HOH overheard Stearns chatting with a fellow guest about the Florida Gators’ recent national championship in football — and the potential for the school’s basketball team to do the same.

Celebs: They Just Can’t Get Enough of Washington. Kentucky native George Clooney wasn’t the only A-lister from the Bluegrass State to make a post-inaugural appearance in Washington, D.C., this week.

Actress Ashley Judd served as mistress of ceremonies at Tuesday’s NARAL Pro-Choice America luncheon at the Hilton Washington Hotel. Decked out in a floor-length green gown — which Judd covered with a large scarf because of the chill — the actress-turned-activist praised President Barack Obama’s support of the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, whose anniversary was two days after the inauguration.

But it was NARAL President Nancy Keenan who drew the most laughs. On a large television screen set up for the event, Keenan displayed a 2002 photograph of former President George W. Bush, surrounded by several Members of Congress, signing into law federal legislation limiting abortion.

“Some of you might recall the photo had a special place in the NARAL offices,” Keenan said, proceeding to display a photo of a framed version of the picture hung above a toilet. “It was a motivational device.”

Freshman Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) also was honored at Tuesday’s luncheon, and Judd noted several other Members in attendance, including Democratic Reps. Shelley Berkley (Nev.), Russ Carnahan (Mo.), William Lacy Clay (Mo.), Donna Edwards (Md.), Luis Gutierrez (Ill.), John Hall (N.Y.), Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (Mich.), Dennis Kucinich (Ohio), Betsy Markey (Colo.), Doris Matsui (Calif.) Betty McCollum (Minn.), Jim Moran (Va.) and D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton.

A Fashionable Sighting. Sen. Dick Durbin met in the Capitol late Tuesday afternoon with fashion mainstay Kenneth Cole. HOH hears the Illinois Democrat and the top designer (whose wife, Maria, is the daughter of former New York Democratic Gov. Mario Cuomo) chatted about various issues relating to the fight against HIV/AIDS, including the nation’s AIDS domestic strategy and HIV testing.

No word on whether Cole also gave the Senator any fashion tips …

Overheard on the Hill. “Congresswoman Linda Sánchez, now serving her fourth term in Congress, will celebrate her 40th birthday on Wednesday, January 28, 2009 and will be drafting a House Resolution titled, ‘Whereas, 40 is the new 30 …”

— A statement from Sánchez’s office, announcing a resolution that HOH is pretty sure would attract wide bipartisan support.

Jude O. Marfil contributed to this report.

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