Heard on the Hill: Bumps and Bruises

Posted June 9, 2009 at 6:37pm

The Senate never has been a place for the faint of heart — but looking around the chamber these days, one might assume the place is downright dangerous.

[IMGCAP(1)]The Senate hallways resemble an infirmary this week, with several high-profilers sporting canes, slings, casts and splints while they heal from an array of injuries.

There’s Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, of course, whose broken ankle is forcing her to hobble on crutches while she visits Senate offices. But Senators haven’t been immune, either — Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) had his arm in a sling last week while nursing a sore shoulder, and HOH has learned two of his colleagues also are injured.

Sen. Mel Martinez’s right hand is in a splint, as the Florida Republican suffered a torn ligament while riding a dirt bike over the weekend, spokesman Ken Lundberg confirmed to HOH. And in a bit of kismet, Martinez had his one-on-one meeting with Sotomayor on Tuesday afternoon.

The pair’s matching injuries didn’t go unnoticed at the news briefing following the hearing, when a reporter asked Martinez to recall his first question for Sotomayor, Lundberg told HOH. Using his splinted hand, Martinez pointed toward Sotomayor’s knee-high cast and said: “What happened to your leg?—

And while the right-handed Martinez tries to work with his splint (making it pretty tough to BlackBerry), Sen. John Kerry is walking around with a cane.

The Massachusetts Democrat is nursing a sore leg likely caused by his recent participation in a 100-mile charity bike race, Kerry spokeswoman Whitney Smith told HOH. “He’s received 5,000 get-well cards and an e-mail from Dick Cheney saying, Hope it hurts,’— Smith said.

What, No Yearbooks to Sign? These getting-to-know-you sessions that Sonia Sotomayor is holding with Senators are starting to sound like scenes from a middle school hallway.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen on Tuesday added her signature to the aspiring Supreme Court justice’s ankle cast, according to the New Hampshire Democrat’s office. Shaheen’s inscription joins that of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.).

HOH hears that while Shaheen signed her name and the date on Sotomayor’s cast, a staffer asked the judge if she was going to try to collect 60 signatures.

Sotomayor’s reply: “No, I’m actually going for 61.—

And not to be outdone, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) on Tuesday presented Sotomayor, a Bronx native and a huge Yankees fan, with a snapshot (perhaps for her locker?) of himself posing outside the old Yankee Stadium. In the picture, taken during the 1980 Democratic convention in New York, Nelson is standing with the late Sen. J.J. Exon (D-Neb.).

[IMGCAP(2)]According to Nelson Communications Director Jake Thompson, Sotomayor asked Nelson to sign the picture, and the Senator happily complied. The two Yanks fans gabbed about current ticket prices, and Nelson confessed that his dream since boyhood was to pitch at Yankee Stadium.

“You’re wearing the right hat,— Sotomayor told him, pointing to the photo, in which Nelson is wearing a Yankees cap.

We’re not so sure how the other meet-and-greets will go, but these sound like home runs.

A Star-Struck Idol.’ It’s been described as a temple of democracy and numbers among the most famous buildings in the world, but “American Idol— finalist David Archuleta has this modest observation about the Capitol: “It’s real big.—

Archuleta came to the Capitol on Tuesday morning to help kick off a conference on foster and at-risk children sponsored by Children Uniting Nations and the Hip Hop Summit Action Network.

The baby-faced crooner told HOH it was his first visit to the Capitol, and it wasn’t a bad trip: He hobnobbed with fellow celebrities such as Russell Simmons, Gabrielle Union, Terrence Howard and a slew of Members of Congress, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.).

But a surprisingly shy Archuleta told HOH he “felt a little intimidated just walking in.—

“It’s real neat to be able to be here,— Archuleta said. “You forget how much they’re willing to do, how much positive stuff they are willing to do. It’s neat to see all these people just wanting to make a difference.—

Despite Archuleta’s fears, he was a hit. Several staffers approached him for autographs, and even Stabenow was visibly excited to meet him.

“I feel like I should break into song right now,— Stabenow joked. “I can do all the harmony.—

Geeky Is the New Sexy. Hey policy geeks: Gabrielle Union thinks you’re hot.

The actress (who’s no slouch in the come-hither department herself) is in town for the Children Uniting Nations conference (see previous item) and plans to spend today lobbying Senators on legislation protecting women from violence.

“Washington has become this sexy town, only it’s filled with do-gooders,— she told HOH at a Monday-night dinner at Teatro Goldoni in honor of hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons. “You’ve got all these people working on important issues, and that’s incredibly sexy.—

As a longtime observer of Capitol Hill, HOH always thought do-gooding was a tad nerdy, but apparently, for Hollywood starlets, the grass is always greener.

And speaking of sexy, Union says she admires the close relationship the first couple seems to share. “You get the feeling that it’s real — that they’re sitting on the couch, fist-bumping in private when they’re watching ESPN … and I love the date nights!—

Overheard on the Hill. “I used to say text,’ but that seems like stone tablets now.—

— Speaker Nancy Pelosi, joking at a Tuesday news conference about the ways young people communicate. The California Democrat appeared pretty up on the times, noting that Twitter is a popular way to share information these days.

Jessica Brady contributed to this report.

Submit your hot tips, juicy gossip or comments here.