Heard on the Hill: Senator in Train-ing

Posted January 30, 2009 at 6:32pm

Vice President Joseph Biden made riding the rails cool — he famously took the train home to Delaware each night during his 30-plus years in the Senate.

[IMGCAP(1)]His successor, on the other hand, has a thing or two to learn about public transportation.

A Senate staffer eyed Sen. Ted Kaufman riding a Red Line Metro train into Union Station on Thursday morning. When the Delaware Democrat exited the station, he had a bit of trouble with his paper farecard, the staffer said.

“He slapped it against the SmarTrip swipe circle several times before realizing that it needed to be inserted instead,” the staffer told HOH.

Eventually, Kaufman made it up to Capitol Hill, where he used his Senate privileges to breeze by another obstacle — the magnetometers at the Dirksen Senate Office Building — although the folks waiting in line didn’t immediately recognize the freshman Senator.

“The lady fumbling to get her metal items off was quite surprised when Sen. Kaufman walked right past her, setting off the detector, and down the hall to his office,” the staffer recalled. “It later dawned on her that it’s a new Congress, and she doesn’t know all the new faces yet.”

Rummy’s Left Out in the Cold. Sen. Ted Kaufman wasn’t the only notable Washingtonian who ran into trouble with public transit last week.

An HOH tipster spotted former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld waiting for the 42 Metrobus just north of Dupont Circle on Thursday. The particularly icy morning made driving difficult and snarled traffic, making public transit among the better options for commuters.

On that bitter winter morning, that included Rumsfeld, who quietly stood alone at the bus stop, holding his SmarTrip card.

“It was almost like the guy at the first day of work,” the tipster recalled. “He was looking at the card, thinking, ‘How does this work?’”

Eventually, a 42 bus did come — but it was too packed to pick up any more passengers. “Everybody was a little dejected,” our tipster said, adding that Rumsfeld apparently had enough and walked away.

“He made it down the hill just fine,” the tipster said. “He didn’t fall or anything.”

That’s more than we can say about Rumsfeld’s descent from power…

McCaskill’s Mad as Hell, and She’s Not Gonna Take It. Sen. Claire McCaskill is one of HOH’s favorite Twittering Members. The Missouri Democrat posts pretty darn often, musing on topics ranging from wonky legislation to ordering pizza for her family.

But on Friday, McCaskill got really, really mad — and unleashed her wrath via the popular micro-blogging Web site.

Reacting to Friday’s news that Wall Street employees earned an estimated $18.4 billion in bonuses in 2008, McCaskill went on a Twitter rampage. At noon, she posted: “Ok. I’m Mad about these yahoos on Wall Street taking bonuses and trying to buy fancy jets on the taxpayers dime.” Just five minutes later, the Senator announced she was “going to the floor to introduce a bill to limit pay and bonuses. I’ve had enough.”

Then two minutes later: “Will speak at about 12:30 eastern for all you cspan junkies.” And a few minutes after that: “Going on floor. Sheldon Whitehouse speaking on same topic right now. I will follow him. We are all mad.”

McCaskill spokeswoman Maria Speiser told HOH that the Senator “was kind of riled up” after reading the news reports on Friday morning. Posting to Twitter was an almost natural response — since McCaskill started Twittering just a couple weeks ago, she’s really taken to it. “She does it herself. This is not a puppet operation,” Speiser joked.

And McCaskill made good on her word to take action, introducing legislation that would cap executive pay at $400,000 (which is what the president makes) for any company accepting federal bailout money.

[IMGCAP(2)]Invited to the Big Dance. Rep. Trent Franks (R) planned to watch his Arizona Cardinals play in last night’s big Super Bowl dance from a pretty exclusive perch — the White House. Franks, who despite having a member of his own party in the White House for most of his House tenure hasn’t been a regular at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., was among the Members of Congress invited to watch the game with President Barack Obama.

Apparently, the decision to RSVP “yes” wasn’t that hard.

Franks had to stay in Washington this weekend anyway after returning from the GOP retreat, a spokeswoman told HOH, so watching the game back at home wasn’t even an option. “Besides, it’s a unique invitation — in fact, all the staff here has been saying, ‘You know, I think he needs to be staffed for this event,’” his spokeswoman said.

Obama invited members of both parties from both the Pennsylvania and Arizona delegations. (For a complete list of the lucky attendees, see RollCall.com.) And Franks isn’t too worried that talk will turn to politics over halftime snacks — a subject that could get awkward, since Franks voted against the stimulus plan for which Obama was furiously lobbying.

Fenty Dines With an Obama, Again. Call Washington, D.C., Mayor Adrian Fenty the ambassador for local cuisine: A tipster spotted Hizzoner dining at Southern cuisine stalwart Georgia Brown’s on Friday, accompanied by first lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden (Vice President Joseph Biden’s wife).

It’s the second time in just a few weeks that Fenty has taken a new White House resident to a D.C. food favorite — the mayor accompanied President Barack Obama to Ben’s Chili Bowl just before the inauguration.

Which ‘Mr. President’? Here’s a fun guessing game: To whom was former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie speaking when an HOH tipster overheard him practically yelling into his cell phone in the lobby of the St. Regis Hotel, “Yes, Mr. President. Thank you Mr. President, and please give my best to the first lady…”?

HOH couldn’t reach Gillespie to get the straight scoop, so here’s our dilemma: Given Gillespie’s GOP credentials, our first thought was that he must have been speaking to former President George W. Bush. But with all the bipartisan schmoozing President Barack Obama has been doing of late (cocktails with House Republicans?), we’re not so sure.

Amanda Temple of GalleryWatch contributed to this report.

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