Heard on the Hill: What Happens in the RSC Stays in the RSC

Posted September 30, 2009 at 6:37pm

Draw the velvet ropes — the Republican Study Committee meetings just got a little more exclusive. The GOP group introduced a new ID policy in which members plan to check the identities of those entering the meetings to ensure there aren’t any nosy interlopers.

[IMGCAP(1)]The move, which committee spokesman Brendan Buck tells HOH is motivated by “an abundance of caution,— comes as cameras get ever tinier and muckrakers ever muckier (think the now-famous ACORN sting video).

“Obviously, there’ve been reports of new media types — bloggers and others — infiltrating meetings, and that’s something we want to avoid,— Buck tells us.

Members are exempt from the new policy, but all staffers now have to present their badges to gain admittance. In an e-mail to staffers on Tuesday, the rule is explained as such: “We do not suspect any problem, but we’re trying to prevent one, in your and your boss’ interests,— the notice read. “Please have your ID out as you enter 2168 Rayburn for the Members Meeting, even if we know you.—

In that ACORN video, two conservative activists secretly taped their visits to a handful of ACORN offices, where they posed as a pimp and a prostitute and got tax advice on how to set up a brothel employing underage hookers.

How to Lose Friends and Alienate People. Not that he’s usually in the running for Mr. Congeniality, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid didn’t win any popularity points on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.

First, the Nevada Democrat announced that there isn’t likely to be a Columbus Day recess, quashing the dreams of a weeklong break for run-down Hill staffers. And just moments later, Reid had the guts to (gasp!) talk smack on the Senate floor about Washington’s beloved Redskins.

[IMGCAP(2)]What’s next on Reid’s agenda? Throwing cute puppies off a bridge?

While discussing Time magazine’s recent cover story on the struggles facing Detroit, Reid mentioned Sunday’s game between the Motor City’s Lions and the Redskins.

(The Lions were on a 19-game losing streak until Sunday, when the team beat the Redskins 19-14. It’s best not to mention this incident to Redskins fans.)

“Now, Mr. President, I am pulling for Detroit. I was glad they beat the Redskins,— Reid said. “It is not going to hurt the Washington Redskins to be on the losing side. Detroit needs a little boost.—

A Reid spokesman later added, “Sen. Reid has always looked out for the least fortunate amongst us, and God knows Detroit Lions fans have spent a lot of time in that category. No offense meant to Skins fans.—

John Wayne Vs. Batman: Leahy’s Choice. HOH still isn’t exactly sure what Bono meant when he called Sen. Patrick Leahy “the John Wayne of D.C.,— but the Vermont Democrat seems to have taken to the new moniker.

Leahy spokesman David Carle tells us his boss appreciated the shout-out, which the U2 frontman threw out during the band’s Tuesday night concert at FedExField. “There just may be a hint of swagger to his stride today,— he says.

However, it seems to have created a potential problem in which Leahy might have to choose between adopting the persona of a swaggering cowboy and that of the Senator’s long-standing comic book hero. “This could also sow the seed of a future dilemma,— Carle says. “May the day never come that he has to choose between John Wayne and Batman.—

Leahy is such a Batman fan (we’ll call him Batfan) that he even snagged a cameo role in the last movie version.

Guess Leahy will just have to decide whether he looks better in spurs or a cape.

Frist Dings Lott. Former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist’s new autobiography might not be the most brisk or salacious tale — after all, the Tennessee Republican was a mild-mannered surgeon with few political killer instincts — but it does offer a few dishy details.

Frist, who replaced then-Majority Leader Trent Lott after the Mississippi Republican resigned over controversy he stirred in making comments some perceived as racist, had a frosty relationship with his predecessor.

In the book, “A Heart to Serve,— Frist takes a few subtle jabs at Lott (though he takes pains to praise him for his prowess at “political maneuvering—), saying Lott “was not a visionary sort of leader who comes up with innovative transforming ideas.—

And Frist recalls how after he took over the top leadership spot, Lott continued to snatch his spotlight. Lott routinely showed up late for the party’s weekly caucus lunch meeting, “making a dramatic entrance, talking as he entered the back door, flicking various Senators’ ears as he passed behind his seated colleagues, and finally sitting on the far side of the room.—

And in what might be an even more stinging revelation, Frist relays how he “quietly extended courtesies— to the ousted Lott, including using money from the Majority Leader’s budget to cover an official car and driver and an extra staffer for the Mississippi Republican.

The New Mr. Blackwell? If Rep. Xavier Becerra ever leaves Congress, the California Democrat could have a fallback career lambasting celebrity fashion.

When “That ’70s Show— actor Wilmer Valderrama came to Capitol Hill to appear at the Congressman’s briefing on Latino civic engagement on Wednesday, Becerra poked a bit of fun at the Hollywood playboy’s attire. Just before the briefing began, Becerra asked Valderrama — dressed in a relatively sharp-looking black suit — to pull up his pant legs for the cameras.

Valderrama obliged, flashing a pair of white cotton socks (a definite fashion no-no).

“Only in D.C. do you get this kind of style,— Becerra laughed, joking that Valderrama must be copying the style of late pop star Michael Jackson — an excuse the actor quickly appropriated.

“Oh yeah, we lost an icon this year and I wanted to wear my white socks for the rest of the year to pay tribute,— Valderrama joked.

His fashion faux pas aside, Valderrama talked about his work with Voto Latino, a nonprofit group working to get Latinos in America involved in the political process. Valderrama screened an episode of a telenovela created by the group to urge Latinos to register to vote (aptly titled “La Pasion De La Decision—). He also promoted his animated series, “Handy Manny,— which features the adventures of a bilingual handyman who helps young viewers learn Spanish.

Valderrama’s involvement in civic issues has helped get scores of young Latinos involved in politics, Becerra said. “He certainly steps up to the plate,— Becerra added. “With white socks.—

On Par. Golfing legend Arnold Palmer came to Capitol Hill on Wednesday for a meet-and-greet with several Members of Congress, including Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.). Palmer accepted the Congressional Gold Medal from President Barack Obama at the White House for his achievements on and off the golf course.

Baca introduced the House resolution nominating Palmer for the honor, the highest civilian award bestowed by Congress.

Overheard on the Hill. “For more than 40 years, Darden Restaurants has been nourishing and delighting guests through the operation of some of the most popular brands in the country, including Red Lobster, Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, the Capital Grille, Bahama Breeze and Seasons 52.—

— Rep. Alan Grayson praising the parent company of the popular mid-level chain restaurants, which opened its new headquarters in the Florida Democrat’s district on Wednesday. We’re guessing his views on popcorn shrimp go over better than his controversial take on health care.

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