Heard on the Hill: Body Politic

Posted June 26, 2009 at 6:14pm

We’ve heard Congress defined as a legislative body before, but we rarely think of it in the rather bawdy way Rep. Mike Pence recently put it.

[IMGCAP(1)]The Indiana Republican, speaking Friday on the House floor, complained that Democrats had not allowed enough time for debate on the climate change bill — and in doing so, the Democrats had gone against the very definition of the word “Congress.—

Pence then went about explaining the origins of the word, veering into tawdry territory.

“The term, Congress,’ Madame Speaker, actually is an ancient term,— Pence innocently began. “It means interaction — it means the intercourse between men and women — and ideas and philosophies.—

Now, we know that the world of politics was far more, well, sensational in ancient times (hello, Caligula!) but we didn’t realize stuff like THAT was going on in the hallowed halls of Congress.

Of course, the word “intercourse— doesn’t necessarily connote sex — it can also refer to the exchange of thoughts or feelings between people. And we’re almost sure that was the definition Pence was going for.

But our naughty mind, of course, didn’t hear it that way.

Bottled-Up Frustrations. The House Energy and Commerce Committee has made going green its business, taking up global warming legislation and championing alternative energy. But its ecofriendly philosophy apparently doesn’t extend to the drinking water provided during recent meetings.

A tipster notes to HOH that after years of doling out water to thirsty Members and hearing witnesses in pitchers and glasses (very environmentally correct, since they’re reusable), the panel is now using that ecoscourge, the disposable plastic water bottle.

Members of the committee at a hearing last week sipped from Deer Park brand bottles labeled “Aquapod,— the company’s line geared toward children, our spy says. The Aquapod bottles are round and squeezable, all the better to appeal to kids — but they’re definitely considered an enviro-no-no.

One Republican staffer joked that Democrats could claim that they’re only using the plastic bottles “for the kids.—

“Sure, cynics will say they’re a pack of secret plastic-squeezing hypocrites, but a fair assessment would be that they were just the hapless victims of devious corporate marketing,— the staffer said.

Whatever the reason (the committee’s majority office didn’t respond to our request for comment), HOH will drink to it — with our washable glass, of course.

Opportunity Knocks. To some, the scandal surrounding South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) was merely an absorbing and steamy storyline to follow during a dull week. But to others — like the Sierra Club — it was a golden opportunity for shameless marketing.

The conservation group sent out an e-mail to its members capitalizing on the governor’s peccadilloes, which famously involved a cover-up in which he initially claimed to be hiking the Appalachian Trail but later admitted to visiting his mistress in Argentina. Sanford’s public downfall was the Sierra Club’s gain, providing a clever way to promote the club’s newest feature, an online community in which users share information about nature trails around the country.

“We heard the governor of South Carolina had some trouble finding the Appalachian Trail last week,— the e-mail cheekily began. “We don’t want that to happen to anyone else, so now’s a perfect time to let you know about our new online community: Sierra Club Trails.—

Sierra Club spokesman Oliver Bernstein told HOH that the scandal, in which one of the most famous trails in the country played a starring role, was just too good to pass up. “We just wanted to take the opportunity to promote— the new feature, he said, adding that the message generated an unusually high number of people who opened and forwarded the e-mail.

They’ve apparently picked up a trick that Madison Avenue has known for years: Sex sells.

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