Heard on the Hill: A Members-Only Fight Club?

Posted March 20, 2009 at 6:22pm

Members of Congress are thick-skinned, sure — but would they ever dare to enter the Octagon?

[IMGCAP(1)]That’s the question HOH posed to Members on Wednesday night, when the nonprofit Armed Forces Foundation honored Ultimate Fighting Championship President Dana White at its annual Congressional gala at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center.

The UFC is the nation’s top mixed martial arts league, featuring often-brutal fights between two contenders in the steel cage called the Octagon. (Arizona GOP Sen. John McCain once referred to the sport as “human cock fighting.—)

But as UFC lightweight championship contender Kenny Florian explained to HOH, the blood-soaked battles aren’t merely violent for violence sake — after a bout, fighters emerge with newfound respect for each other.

Which had us thinking … perhaps this is the way for Democrats and Republicans to handle their political differences over the economic crisis?

“No,— quipped Rep. Darrell Issa, although the California Republican added he would enter the cage for one exception. “I guess for this charity,— he joked.

As for Rep. John Boozman?

“This guy could whoop me with both his hands and feet tied together,— the Arkansas Republican joked of the UFC fighter on hand. “He could beat me with just his head, I think.—

Perhaps Members shouldn’t be so hesitant, according to Florian — who won his last bout by, um, choking a guy. “Politics itself, there’s probably aspects to it that’s more brutal than getting into a cage,— he said.

Repeat Offender. Get actress Maria Bello a SmarTrip card — she’s becoming a regular Washingtonian.

Bello, who spoke at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in February about the genocide in Sudan’s Darfur region, returned to D.C. last week, this time visiting with Sen. Barbara Boxer’s (D-Calif.) staff and others on Capitol Hill.

Bello lobbied for the RAISE Hope for Congo campaign, run by the Enough Project, the anti-genocide campaign at the Center for American Progress. “It’s sheer devastation what’s happening in the Congo,— Bello said.

During her visit, Bello also appeared at a press conference calling for an end to the genocide in Darfur, took a private tour of the Holocaust Museum and joined celebrities such as Ben Affleck (also spotted on Capitol Hill last week), Sally Field and Candice Bergen at the Vital Voices benefit at the Kennedy Center.

And don’t worry if you missed her — like frequent visitor Fran Drescher (who also came to town last week) before her, Bello intends to return to our fair city often. “I feel really fortunate that I have a foot in Los Angeles and a foot here,— she told us.

Honda Revs the Pipes. Known karaoke all-star Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) took to the stage at the Democratic Club on Tuesday night — that would be St. Patrick’s Day — crooning to ditties such as “Unforgettable— and even one tune in Spanish, according to an HOH spy.

Honda, who the Washington Post once dubbed the “Karaoke Congressman— for his spirited (if not technically accomplished) singing performances, has said the singalongs helped him overcome a fear of public speaking.

Overheard on the Hill. “He appointed my uncle to be ambassador to Ireland yesterday, so I sort of have to watch what I say about the president.—

— Rep. Tom Rooney (Fla.), chatting with HOH on Wednesday about President Barack Obama’s (now abandoned) plan to bill private insurance companies for the treatment of combat-injured troops. The Republican Rooney spoke out against the idea — even though his uncle, Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, is now part of the Obama administration.

“This event is closed press.—

— The White House’s Friday schedule, describing an event in which Obama was getting the “Newsmaker of the Year— award from the National Newspaper Publisher Association.

Shira Toeplitz and GalleryWatch’s Dan Peake contributed to this report.

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