Heard on the Hill: Catching His Zzzs

Posted June 24, 2009 at 6:40pm

Health care is an important topic, of course, but deep discussions of its finer points can be a little sleep-inducing.

[IMGCAP(1)]Just ask Rep. Dave Loebsack, who was spotted Tuesday dozing off during the House Education and Labor Committee hearing on health care reform, according to an HOH spy.

The Iowa Democrat “definitely shut his eyes— multiple times during the hearing, at one point resting his head in his hand as witnesses spoke, our spy says.

But our spy adds that Loebsack wasn’t entirely checked out: He frequently opened his eyes, looked around and then closed them again.

“He might have been just closing his eyes and listening, but he seemed like he was resting,— our spy says. “He was taking his breaks.—

A Loebsack spokeswoman didn’t return our repeated requests for comment. To be fair, the spy admits that “everyone looked sort of tired— since the morning hearing dragged on well into the afternoon — without any breaks.

And Loebsack did contribute, our spy noted. “He was able to ask questions at the end,— the spy said. “He had some input.—

Health care reform: It’s the new bedtime story.

Having an Impact. House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence is no stranger to clashes — although they’re usually more of the political sort. The Indiana Republican, though, had a literal collision when he got into a fender bender near Union Station around noon Wednesday.

Pence and three staffers were stopped at a red light, waiting to turn from E Street Northeast onto Columbus Circle, when a large white van suddenly tried to get in front of Pence’s silver Chevy Malibu, spokesman Matt Lloyd told HOH. But in the process, the van clipped the car’s front fender.

Capitol Police were dispatched to the scene, and Pence (who was not driving the Malibu) hung around as the two parties exchanged necessary information. No one was hurt in the accident, which Lloyd described as “very minor.—

Pence even made it on time to the House floor, where he blasted the Democrats’ proposed climate change bill. In fact, Lloyd even used the accident as an opportunity to push the GOP agenda, noting that it’s “doubtful that the Democrats’ National Energy Tax would have prevented the accident.—

The Approps 15.’ Reasons to serve on the House Appropriations Committee: 1) power, 2) prestige, 3) fundraising opportunities and 4) awesome snacks.

That last, lesser-known, reason for wanting to sit on the purse-strings panel was on display when staffers were seen handing out beef jerky to the Members before a markup Tuesday.

GOP committee spokeswoman Jennifer Hing tells HOH that treats from Members’ home states are a big draw at committee gatherings: Rep. Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.) shares Little Debbie sweets (he even once presented the snacks to Florida Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz); Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) brings Oreos; and Members from Virginia and Georgia provide peanuts.

“These markups can run really long,— she says.

No wonder it’s considered such a “sweet— committee assignment.

But Does She Clip Coupons? Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius might have a Cabinet-level position and an entire department at her command, but she still puts her groceries in a cart one item at a time, just like the rest of us.

The former Kansas governor was spotted at the Harris Teeter grocery store on Capitol Hill on Tuesday night. Our spy says two SUVs with her security staff stood by while Sebelius entered the store and made a beeline for the produce section.

True to her department’s mission (healthy eating is good!) and her party (blue=Democrat), Madam Secretary picked up some fresh blueberries.

A Starry Day. Enough about tween rocker Nick Jonas — there were plenty of other famous faces spotted on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, and HOH feels obligated to give them their due.

[IMGCAP(2)]Actress Mary Tyler Moore and boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard, after all, testified alongside Jonas at a Senate hearing on diabetes — and Leonard even met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Wednesday afternoon.

And the prizefighter wasn’t the only famous face to visit the Nevada Democrat, either.

HOH hears that “Days of Our Lives— actress Deidre Hall also stopped by Reid’s office, lobbying for a bill that would update nutrition standards in public schools. Earlier in the day, Hall and “Desperate Housewives— actress Andrea Bowen appeared alongside a slew of Members at a news conference to push the legislation.

[IMGCAP(3)]True to her melodramatic soap roots, Hall hailed the bill as “so close to many of us on a profound level,— noting she first got involved in the issue when “a wonderful, gentle woman delivered into my hands a squishy and slimy little boy.—

That led Sen. Lisa Murkowski to recall how her own “squishy and slimy— children led her to get involved in local school issues. “If you think that the United States Senate is political, get involved in PTA politics,— the Alaska Republican joked.

Hall also visited Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wis.), while Bowen stopped by the offices of Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Reps. Baron Hill (D-Ind.) and Zack Space (D-Ohio).

Yet more celebs are due in town today: Actress Edie Falco, famous for her role on “The Sopranos,— is scheduled to appear at a health care rally in Upper Senate Park.

In the evening, entertainer Nick Cannon will attend the Congressional Award recognition dinner at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. Cannon (perhaps best known as the husband of songstress Mariah Carey) is set to receive a special honor for his “involvement and dedication to nonprofits benefiting youth,— according to a spokeswoman.

Overheard on the Hill. “… wtf, weirdest political story ever!—

— Meghan McCain, in a post on Twitter about the scandal surrounding South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford.

Jackie Kucinich and CongressNow’s Geof Koss contributed to this report.

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