Heard on the Hill: Remembering an Angel

Posted July 2, 2009 at 6:08pm

Pop icon Michael Jackson certainly got his due on the House floor a week and a half ago — Members took a moment of silence to mark his death, spoke of his life as being “full of artistry— and even offered a resolution honoring him as an “American legend.—

[IMGCAP(1)]Lost in all the accolades was actress Farrah Fawcett, whose death happened the same day as

Jackson’s and was largely overshadowed. But at least one Member of Congress did, in fact, pay tribute to the “Charlie’s Angels— star — albeit with far less fanfare.

Along with introducing legislation to honor Jackson, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee spoke on the floor on June 26 to “express and send my condolences— to Fawcett’s family and friends.

“I know the actress fought a very public battle with cancer, and I am proud to say that this beautiful, talented and courageous woman was an American legend, icon and a Texan,— the Texas Democrat said.

Calling Fawcett “a great American icon— and “a true Hollywood success story,— Jackson Lee described the actress’s film and television career and subsequent lengthy struggle with anal cancer. She also read Henry Van Dyke’s poem “Gone From My Sight— for “her friends and family and all Americans who have lost a loved one.—

“Farrah fought a long, difficult, brave battle against the cancer for three years and we must admire her determination and strength through it all,— Jackson Lee said. “She was able to give many people hope for a cure while documenting her own personal battle, so we must continue to search for a cure for this abhorrent disease.—

Rangel on Jacko. During the wall-to-wall coverage of the death of Michael Jackson last week, no guest on the cable TV shows was safe from a Jackson-related question.

One would think there’d be plenty of truly newsworthy topics to talk about with Rep. Charlie Rangel, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee — which happens to have a major hand in the health care reform bill being formulated on Capitol Hill. But the New York Democrat still fielded a Jacko question during an appearance Wednesday on MSNBC.

Asked about his take on the late pop star, Rangel praised Jackson in this rather rambling eulogy. “As far as I am concerned, I walked into fairy land and in that fairy land was Michael Jackson,— Rangel enthused. “He sang and he danced and he had the whole world in love with him. … He was just something that God made special, with special moves, special conduct. … He sings, he dances, he screams and yells, he changes colors.—

Changes colors? We’re not sure if Rangel was referring to Jackson’s infamous skin-lightening (the star said he suffered from a condition that caused a lack of pigmentation), his chameleon-like persona, or simply his use of flashy stage lighting.

At any rate, we’re not expecting Rangel to quit his day job for a new gig as pop-culture critic.

Lights, Camera, Confirmation! As if managing the confirmation process for Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor hasn’t been tricky enough, now comes the really hard part: Senate Judiciary Committee staff are bracing for the zoo that will be the public hearings.

The committee posted guidelines for the public attending the sessions, which are set to begin July13, and included a list of items attendees are banned from bringing, from the glaringly obvious (box cutters) to the seemingly innocuous (coffee).

For your edification, here’s the full list: “Firearms; weapons of any kind; ammunition (either real or simulated); explosives of any kind (including fireworks); knives; blades; razors; box cutters; or other sharp objects (of any length); any pointed object (i.e. knitting needles, letter openers, etc.); aerosol sprays; cans and bottles; coolers; thermal or glass containers; mace; pepper spray; sticks, poles; pocket or hand tools (such as a Leatherman); packages; backpacks; large bags; duffel bags; camera bags; suitcases; laser pointers; strollers; chairs; umbrellas; food or beverages of any kind; posters, signs or placards larger than 8.5 inches by 11 inches (must be held directly in front of the body and no higher than the shoulders); signage or clothing with profanity or images deemed inappropriate by security screeners; and any other items at the discretion of the security screeners that may pose a potential safety hazard.—

Phew.

A Judiciary staffer noted to HOH that the list was used in previous hearings, “so it’s not like we’re reinventing the wheel.— But keeping taboo items out of the hearing room is only the start, warn veterans of past Senate confirmations.

“For anyone who thought they worked overtime attempting to filibuster the last SCOTUS nominee, I can tell you, it doesn’t compare to the work it takes to prevent one,— said one veteran.

And Blain Rethmeier, a senior vice president of the American Insurance Association who was Judiciary press secretary and helped shepherd Justices Samuel Alito and John Roberts, told HOH he feels the pain of staffers whose holiday weekends were dampened.

“Staff hoping to barbecue with friends or drive to the Delaware shore have likely changed their plans,— he sympathized. “It’s a lot of countless hours spent doing document review, drafting questions and hoping that you can make your own fireworks when the klieg lights are turned on.—

Friends in High Places. Count a legend of the silver screen and a legend of finance among Rep. Jim McDermott’s list of supporters.

Entrepreneur George Soros and singer/actress Barbra Streisand both gave to the Washington Democrat’s legal expense trust in 2008, according to the Congressman’s financial disclosure forms. Streisand gave $1,000, while Soros donated $5,000, the forms show.

The Poker Players Alliance and Interactive Gaming Council each gave McDermott $5,000 — perhaps not surprising since the Congressman has championed legislation related to Internet gaming.

McDermott’s office did not return a call seeking comment by press time.

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