Heard on the Hill: And No Autographs, Either

Posted July 13, 2009 at 6:44pm

Sen. Al Franken is determined to shed his celebrity image, but Capitol Hill reporters have noticed that his efforts to keep a low profile wind up looking rather Hollywood-esque.

[IMGCAP(1)]Take Thursday, when the Minnesota Democrat emerged from the Senate chamber with an aide to find several reporters waiting for him. “No questions! No questions!— the aide bellowed, evoking a Hollywood flack as he attempted to shake the scrum. In their typical contrary fashion, the reporters, including a Roll Call scribe, proceeded to (you guessed it) ask questions. When there was no response, one reporter asked when the Senator would take questions.

Franken, the Roll Call reporter says, looked at his aide and sheepishly replied, “I don’t really know.—

It seems the brush-off is part of Franken’s media strategy of focusing on Minnesota first, a tactic aimed at painting the comic-turned-Senator as a workhorse, not a show pony. “He’s focused on Minnesota media for now,— Franken spokeswoman Jess McIntosh tells HOH. “It will give him time to get his bearings and time for Minnesotans to know that he’s working for them, not just [chatting up] the national media.—

Trim the Fat. Forget “The Real World— or “The Real Housewives— — cast members from the biggest reality show in America are set to break a sweat throughout Washington, D.C., all this week.

Contestants from the upcoming season of the reality competition “The Biggest Loser— will be in town through Friday, taking part in heart-pounding weight-loss challenges such as carrying 18,000 pennies — representing the total number of pounds lost on the show — up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

But they’ll also attend to less strenuous business by urging Members of Congress and other prominent officials to take action to combat the obesity epidemic, executive producer Todd Lubin told HOH.

The losers are scheduled to hold a special briefing on health and wellness at the Reserve Officers Association near the Capitol on Wednesday, speaking alongside Members such as Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.), Lubin said.

The contestants — there are nine who are facing elimination — will head to the White House on Thursday, where they will meet with the chef and tour the garden. The cast also was expected to eat dinner at Chinatown restaurant Proof on Monday night, where crews set up hidden cameras to see if they picked healthy choices off the menu.

All of this takes place in between all-day workout sessions at the gym in their hotel, Lubin said. “You still need to give them a ton of time to work out,— he added.

And while all the losers will leave D.C. this weekend, one player will head home: Contestants will weigh in on a scale in front of the Lincoln Memorial late Friday night, and, per “Loser— rules, the team that loses the least percentage of weight will vote a player off the show.

Delivering the News. GOP staffer Matt Lira was completely naked the first time he met Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas).

Of course, Lira, who is now 27, was a newborn at the time, and Burgess was the obstetrician delivering him, so it wasn’t awkward or anything.

Years later, the strange ways of fate reunited Lira, the director of new media for Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), and his deliverer.

Lira said that after he began work on Capitol Hill, his mother was watching the news and spied her former obstetrician, who had since become a Congressman. That’s how he found out he was working near the doctor who had ushered him into the world.

Prompted by his mother’s discovery, Lira reconnected with Burgess, who seems tickled at the thought that a baby he delivered would wind up as a colleague (and for the record, this time they met, Lira was fully clothed).

Burgess tells HOH that it’s common for him to meet young people who he delivered when he’s in his district but that Lira is the first “alumnus— he’s met in Washington. Lira’s family lived only briefly in the Texas town where Burgess practiced.

“It’s really validating — you always wonder if you gave the right care, and now here I look at Matt and see him serving our country, and I figure it’s good prenatal care,— Burgess jokes. “And he’s a conservative!—

Congressional Fashionista. Rep. Earl Blumenauer might be known for his love of bow ties, but who knew the Oregon Democrat harbored such a deep love of fashion?

The outdoorsy Blumenauer introduced legislation last week to reduce tariffs on imported recreational performance outerwear — think the vests, jackets and pants worn by hikers, hunters, fisherman and mountaineers.

But affordable style isn’t Blumenauer’s primary motivation. Aptly titled the “U.S. Outdoor Act,— Blumenauer’s bill would serve to lower operating costs for companies such as Columbia Sportswear, REI and North Face, which face average tariffs on their products of 17 percent (compared with the 2 percent average duty on all other imports).

“At a time when Americans are trying to save money however they can, this bill will make outdoor apparel more affordable,— Blumenauer said.

Originally, the unusually high tariffs were meant to protect U.S. manufacturers from foreign competition, but they no longer serve that purpose because there is no commercially viable production of recreational outerwear in the United States, Blumenauer argues.

The measure also would create a fund that will provide grants to nonprofits that research ways for the apparel industry to become more eco-friendly. Companies would be required to donate a portion of their savings from the reduced tariffs to the fund.

This isn’t the first time Blumenauer has pushed for cheaper fashion — he has authored similar legislation to reduce the tariffs on certain types of shoes.

While HOH might not be into the great outdoors, we do like the idea of more affordable shoes.

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