Heard on the Hill: It’s a Live One

Posted July 15, 2009 at 6:51pm

The curse of the live mike strikes again: While presiding over the House, Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.) was caught expressing frustration that clearly wasn’t meant to be heard by his colleagues, let alone those C-SPAN viewers watching the floor.

[IMGCAP(1)]Tierney was trying to power through appropriations amendments on Wednesday afternoon, when Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Calif.) sought recognition for herself and a group of female lawmakers who were eagerly awaiting the chance to celebrate the Congressional Women’s Softball Game, which they played Tuesday night.

Tierney apparently didn’t welcome the distraction. “Oh, please!— he could be heard muttering irritably to himself before slipping back into his official mode. “For what purpose does the gentlewoman from California rise?— he asked.

It wasn’t clear if Tierney realized immediately that his insulting remark was caught on mike. And a Tierney spokeswoman said she suspected Tierney was simply responding to a side conversation about the order of votes.

But he’s now part of a proud tradition of caught-on-tape political types, which most famously includes then-President George W. Bush calling a reporter a “major league asshole.—

Welcome to the club, Congressman.

Veggie Dog Day Afternoon. The oft-quoted adage that nobody reads Playboy for the articles could probably apply to this HOH item — because we’ll be impressed if anybody interested in the topic looks beyond the accompanying photo.

Playboy Playmate of the Year Jayde Nicole and fellow playmate Jo Garcia came to Capitol Hill on Wednesday, joining People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals staffers, to hand out free veggie hot dogs to hungry Congressional staffers at the Independence Avenue entrance to the Rayburn House Office Building.

It’s an annual tradition for the animal rights group to serve the meat-free dogs to urge people to become vegetarian, and, keeping with tradition, Nicole and Garcia had stripped down to nothing but stiletto heels, a Playboy bunny necklace and bikinis made of strategically placed pieces of lettuce.

Their bikini tops were essentially bras made of lettuce (embellished with tiny rhinestones) while their bottoms consisted of a piece of lettuce covering their front and sheer, nylon fabric trimmed with green lace covering their bums. (Well, maybe “covering— isn’t the right word.)

“They’re wonderful representatives of the fact that going vegetarian is a great way to maintain a sexy, fit body,— PETA spokeswoman Ashley Byrne told HOH.

Vegetarianism: We’re sure that’s what all the googly-eyed, 20-something male staffers on hand were thinking about as they snapped pictures.

Double Birthday Surprise. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen celebrated her birthday on Wednesday with a pretty special present. Her first granddaughter, Morgan Elizabeth, was born.

But that wasn’t the only treat in store for the Florida Republican.

Just moments after Ros-Lehtinen finished chatting with family members on the phone about her granddaughter’s birth, former staffer Lee Cohen surprised the Congresswoman by arranging to have four members of a local barbershop chorus, the Alexandria Harmonizers, sing “Happy Birthday— and “God Bless the U.S.A.— to her on the Capitol steps.

“Blow me down. I cannot believe this,— Ros-Lehtinen said. “This has been the best-kept secret and the best present. Well, I don’t know. … Morgan Elizabeth’s cries are just a little better.—

Staffers had lured Ros-Lehtinen out to the steps where her birthday surprise was waiting by telling her she would be taking a picture with constituents as a favor to Cohen. And the Congresswoman admitted she wanted to get the picture over with so she could get back to her duties. “All of the sudden, I’m no longer in a hurry,— she joked.

Most of Ros-Lehtinen’s staff was on hand for the surprise, along with Reps. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) and Mike Pence (R-Ind.). The Congresswoman — who turned 57, by the way — told staffers she was shocked that everyone managed to keep the secret.

“You can go to any classified briefing,— she said. “Congress leaks more than you guys.—

Ros-Lehtinen wasn’t the only Member of Congress who took part in a birthday sing-a-long: HOH hears that Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) led panelists and attendees at a clean coal event in singing “Happy Birthday— to Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio), who turned 73 on Wednesday.

Franken-Frosh. Just like a freshman trying to get the hang of his new school, Sen. Al Franken is adjusting to life in Washington a little at a time.

A tipster spotted the freshly sworn-in Minnesota Democrat looking like a fish out of water Wednesday morning as he jaywalked across Connecticut Avenue, near the Washington Hilton.

Franken was stuck in the middle of the street, caught by traffic, our spy says.

And he was carrying an unusually shabby accessory for a Senator: a bulging plastic grocery bag.

Spokeswoman Jess McIntosh tells HOH that Franken knows his way around just fine, and he was simply heading in the direction of the hotel in order to find a cab.

And the grocery bag — well, that was a version of the proverbial apple for the teacher. It was stuffed full of “snacks for the staff,— McIntosh says, as provided by the Senator’s wife, Franni.

Buttering up the people who make you look good? Maybe Franken’s not as green as he seems.

Pretty in Pink. A broken leg didn’t keep Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz from showing her true colors on Wednesday. The Florida Democrat fractured her leg and sprained her ankle while sliding into second base at Tuesday night’s Congressional Women’s Softball Game (see story), but she turned up for votes on Wednesday accessorized with crutches, a cast on her right leg and a bright pink low-top Converse sneaker on her left foot.

Pink is something of a signature color for Wasserman Schultz, who has battled breast cancer herself and helped organize the softball game to benefit other young breast cancer victims.

Jacqueline Linnane of GalleryWatch contributed to this report.

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