Heard on the Hill: Let Them Eat Lobster

Posted April 3, 2009 at 5:52pm

Republicans spent much of Thursday crowing about the need for back-to-basics frugality. But just a few steps off the Senate floor, GOP Senators were indulging in a posh lobster lunch, HOH hears.

[IMGCAP(1)]The pricey crustacean, long a symbol of dining decadence, wasn’t the most on-message menu choice for a party preaching the equivalent of coupon-clipping for the federal government. After all, as the Republicans dined on the delicacy, the unemployment rate was reaching a quarter-century record high of 8.5 percent, leaving many working stiffs contemplating how they could afford a tuna sandwich, let alone a luxurious dish such as lobster.

The lunch was one of a weekly series of lunches in which Republican Senators play host, offering dishes, recipes and foodstuffs from their home states. Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) was the host of the Thursday lunch, HOH hears, and lobster is, of course, one of her state’s signature products.

Democratic aides found the menu choice deliciously apropos.

“It’s ironic that on the same day Republicans voted against middle-class tax cuts and stood on their soap boxes preaching about belt-tightening and fiscal restraint, they would have no problem indulging in such an extravagant meal,— one Democratic aide said. “But, then again, no one ever accused the GOP of being the party of the middle class.—

A Collins spokesman contends that the lunch of lobster rolls and Maine potato chips was actually a boon to the Senator’s home-state economy — and he noted that lobster prices are at an all-time low. “So, in addition to serving a delicious lunch, Sen. Collins is promoting two of our state’s most important industries, and she is hopeful that her colleagues will spread the word in their home states as well,— he said.

The Nose Knows. Capitol Police officers: They protect the Hill, direct lost tourists and, apparently, use their wits to identify the causes of offensive odors.

A Congressional staffer tells HOH that he was walking out of the subway in the Hart Senate Office Building on Thursday afternoon when he became “overpowered by the smell of manure.—

Naturally curious, the staffer asked a nearby Capitol Police officer whether he knew the source of the foul stench. “That’s the budget,— the officer replied.

Ba-da-bum.

Blame the beckoning spring for the stench. Architect of the Capitol spokeswoman Eva Malecki tells HOH that workers were spraying a special organic fertilizer in the flowerbeds and grassy areas at the nearby Dirksen Senate Office Building courtyard on Thursday afternoon “and that may have produced the odor.—

Shake Your Groove Thing. Even Members of Congress need a night to let loose.

Spotted at the Tower of Power concert at the State Theatre in Falls Church, Va., on Tuesday night: Democratic Reps. Neil Abercrombie (Hawaii), Mike Doyle (Pa.), John Larson (Conn.) and Gene Taylor (Miss.).

HOH hears Members “had a blast— grooving to the jazz-rock stylings of the 10-member, horn-driven band, and an HOH spy noted the crew fit in well with the laid-back crowd. “They’re regular guys,— the spy said.

Still the New Guy. Sen. Roland Burris still hasn’t quite gotten the hang of this whole Senate thing.

The Illinois Democrat showed up late to an Armed Services Committee meeting Thursday morning, missing a vote. Burris arrived just as the panel was adjourning. “I thought we started at 9:30 a.m. — did I miss anything?— he asked, eliciting some amusement from the audience.

Um, just the vote, Senator.

And since the committee is more forgiving than, say, a freshman English professor, the clerk allowed Burris to record his vote anyway.

Crumpets, Anyone? Something strange is brewing in the mail coming into Senate offices.

The Senate Sergeant-at-Arms on Friday sent an e-mail to Senate staffers warning that some of the envelopes included in their incoming mail might include “loose tea.— The SAA reassured the possibly mystified aides that there was no cause for alarm in the influx of Earl Gray- and pekoe-infused missives. “The envelopes have been irradiated, x-rayed, opened and tested by the Senate Post Office and have been cleared and deemed safe for delivery,— the e-mail reads.

Blame the tea-laced letters on a number of anti-tax groups around the country, who have been organizing “tea parties— to coincide with the April 15 tax-filing deadlines. Their efforts were inspired by the Boston Tea Party of 1773, in which American colonists threw tea into the Boston Harbor rather than accept a tax imposed by Parliament.

Mail takes a little longer to reach Capitol Hill offices than it does to other addresses, after the anthrax-laced-letter scare in 2001 prompted officials to irradiate all incoming mail.

But just because the tea is safe to handle, don’t expect Senate staffers to brew any of it up. Looks like President Barack Obama (who took tea with the Queen last week at Buckingham Palace) will be the only one crooking his pinkie.

Pity the April Fool. Rumors of Rep. Jerry Moran’s death [as a Senate candidate] have been greatly exaggerated.

On April Fools’ Day, political blogger Jason Croucher decided to have some fun at Moran’s expense by posting on his Web site, Kansas Jackass, that the Sunflower State Republican had decided to drop out of the race to succeed Sen. Sam Brownback (R).

“I thought people would see it was a joke and knew it was a joke and would move on,— Croucher told HOH. “But obviously, somebody didn’t get the joke.—

The gag created a momentary frenzy in the state Capitol, Croucher recalled, as rumors quickly spread that Moran had withdrew his candidacy. As a result, Moran’s campaign issued a statement letting everybody know the Congressman actually hadn’t quit the race.

And Moran supporters, you can relax: Campaign spokesman Travis Murphy told HOH that Moran is in good shape heading into a primary battle against fellow Kansan Republican Rep. Todd Tiahrt. “Our statement was merely a chance to clear up the confusion that some had about a fake news story from a fake news source,— Murphy said.

Ouch! For his part, Croucher didn’t mind the extra attention.

“I had about double my usual hits for a Wednesday,— he said. “Which was very nice.—

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