Heard on the Hill: And He’ll Huff …

Posted May 18, 2009 at 6:30pm

Like the boy who cried wolf, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid doesn’t always get the response he wants when he issues threats of a dreaded weekend session.

[IMGCAP(1)]When the Nevada Democrat issued that familiar warning intended to strike fear into the hearts of Senators and their staffs (“We may have to work into Saturday,— he said on the floor last week), some Hill watchers, perhaps those still hopeful of salvaging their own weekend plans, shrugged it off as the usual strategic bluster meant to prod the balky chamber.

HOH took a not-entirely-scientific troll through the archives, which show Reid has issued a threat of a weekend session at least eight times in the past year or so, most of which proved idle. But here’s the catch that makes ignoring that terrifying phrase — “weekend votes— — impossible: The Majority Leader has actually made

good on the threats a few times (the Senate stuck around for weekends in January of this year and July and September of last).

Looking back at the highlight reel of the past weekend-vote scares, HOH was struck by the similarity of the phrase-ology Reid uses. Often, it’s enough for him to not “rule out— holding the chamber in on Saturday or even (gasp!) Sunday. And we also noted Reid’s frequent use of the non-threat threat, reminiscent of a parent’s “this is going to hurt me more than it hurts you— line.

Back on March 31, just before spring recess, Roll Call ran a story with the headline “Reid Doesn’t Rule Out Saturday Session— and a typical blasé quote from Reid: “I would hope it doesn’t spill into Saturday, but if it does, it does.— Similar headlines and quotes herald the reports of other previous incidents where the possibility of weekend votes was raised.

Reid spokesman Jim Manley tells HOH that Reid hasn’t had to impose many working weekends on Senators precisely because the threats work. “Thankfully, for those of us who like their weekends, most of the time he doesn’t have to follow through on those threats because it motivates the Senate to get things done,— he says. “There is nothing like the threat of a weekend session to hip the Senate into shape.—

Here’s the moral of the story: When Reid talks about weekend votes, odds are you can keep that plane ticket — but you just might want to get travel insurance.

Singing Idol’s Praises. It isn’t every day that a Member of Congress quotes musician Lenny Kravitz on the House floor.

But don’t think Members suddenly are getting hip — we’re chalking this one up to the case of “American Idol— fever that seems to be sweeping through Congress faster than head lice in a kindergarten class.

Rep. Brian Bilbray hit the House floor last week to praise “Idol— contestant Adam Lambert — the favorite to win the show’s finale on Wednesday — commending the glam, spandex-wearing crooner on “his amazing journey.—

“As one of Adam’s favorite artists, Lenny Kravitz, once said: I just need to know that I did the very best I could and that I was true to myself,’— the California Republican noted. “Adam, we will be rooting for you and looking forward to your next unique and creative performance.—

Bilbray actually met Lambert at a May 8 event honoring military families at the Marine Corps Air Station in Miramar, Calif., where the “American Idol— finalist sang the national anthem, Bilbray spokesman Fritz Chaleff told HOH.

Lambert grew up in the San Diego area and visited the city as part of the show’s tradition of sending remaining contestants to their hometowns just before the finals. San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders even named May 8 Adam Lambert Day.

“Every week, Adam has entertained the American public with his artistic renditions of American classics, from Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire’ to Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love,’— Bilbray enthused. “His performances are inspiring young people everywhere to work hard, aim high and follow their dreams.—

Bilbray isn’t the only Member engaging in “Idol— talk: Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) praised just-dismissed finalist Danny Gokey on the House floor while Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) commended former contestant Matt Giraud in separate floor speeches.

Senate Vs. House. Not that Hill staffers aren’t by nature philanthropic types, but if you add a little competition to the mix, look out: The annual Congressional Dress for Success Challenge is Wednesday — and this time, it’s personal.

Members of Congress and Congressional staffers are invited to donate suits, gently worn shoes and accessories to Dress for Success, a charity that provides low-income women with appropriate work wear as they prepare to enter the work force, often for the first time.

This year, the twist on the annual clothing drive is that the Senate and the House will compete to see who can collect the most donations, with Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) captaining the efforts. FedEx is the official sponsor of the event, while (full disclosure!) Roll Call is the media sponsor. Charlie Palmer Steak also will take part, donating 10 percent of its lunch revenues that day to the charity.

Senate donations can be made at the Reserve Officers Association on Constitution Avenue Northeast, while House workers should donate their gear at Bullfeathers on First Street Southeast. Breakfast will be offered from 8:30 to 10 a.m., with donations accepted until 6:30 p.m.

Overheard on the Hill. “In fact, they first realized he wasn’t a real Senator when after three hours he hadn’t groped anybody, raised taxes or taken a bribe.—

— Jay Leno, joking on the May 15 episode of “The Tonight Show— about the drunken man who managed to bypass Capitol Police and roam the Hart Senate Office Building unnoticed last week — a story first reported by Roll Call’s Emily Yehle.

Submit your hot tips, juicy gossip or comments here.