Heard on the Hill: Ruff Business

Posted October 2, 2009 at 7:02pm

Correction Appended

Real men can have tiny, fluffy dogs — as long as they don’t have wimpy names, apparently.

When Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) was walking on Capitol Hill on Thursday with his bite-sized bichon frise on a leash, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) nearly stumbled over the pup.

[IMGCAP(1)]According to a spy, Kerry asked Conrad whether the bundle of fur was named “Fifi— (which HOH thinks sounds rather effete or … er, French).

“It’s Dakota,— Conrad proudly informed his colleague. This apparently rendered the dog acceptable. “You’re forgiven,— Kerry replied, reaching down to pet the dog.

Conrad jokingly tells HOH that Dakota, who frequently accompanies him to work, has become one of his “most trusted advisers— and has in fact taken up a pet issue of his own. Conrad called Dakota the “poster dog— for a proposed law banning insurance companies from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions — which just happens to also be one of Conrad’s causes.

Dakota, a shelter dog, has Crohn’s disease, Conrad says.

Dakota has gotten to be a bit of a celebrity around Capitol Hill, his owner boasts. “All the guards recognize him,— he says.

That might put Conrad at risk of seeing his dog become more popular than he is, something he clearly wouldn’t mind.

“Happily so,— he says of being eclipsed by Dakota.

Garlic Spat Comes to a Head. Rep. Mike Honda thinks House Minority Leader John Boehner made a real stinker last week when he compared the public insurance option to “a garlic milkshake.—

See, Honda supports both the public option and the pungent plant — the California Democrat’s district includes the city of Gilroy, which hosts an annual festival each year celebrating all things garlic.

Hoping to halt the anti-garlic rhetoric, Honda decided to personally deliver a basket filled with the “stinking rose— to the Ohio Republican’s office Friday morning.

Unfortunately for Honda, Boehner had already left Capitol Hill for the weekend when he arrived. But Boehner’s staff politely accepted the gift, and one staffer even promised to make a dish for the GOP leader using it.

Honda reminded the Boehner folks that the rumors surrounding garlic aren’t accurate — “It’s not true that you smell later on,— he said. Before he left, Honda even read the Boehner staffers a short poem promoting both garlic and the public option: “Two things make for a strong healthy heart/Gilroy garlic, for one, a good start/Public option? Also high, in the American eye/65 percent n’er want it to part.—

Boehner spokesman Michael Steel told HOH that the office was thankful for the gift.

“We like garlic,— Steel said. “The point Boehner made [Thursday] was simply that garlic milkshakes aren’t popular, like the Democrats’ government takeover of health care.—

So has Honda ever tried a garlic milkshake himself? “I’ve had everything but,— he confessed.

Reid’s Got Game. The Senators used to be a baseball team, but these days, Senators are just a bunch of baseball groupies. Chicago Cubs legend Ernie Banks had the Members of the Senate acting like giddy fans Thursday, when he visited Capitol Hill for a reception hosted by Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).

And HOH hears that Banks, who signed hats and balls for about 20 Senators who dropped by to meet him, put a playful challenge to Majority Leader Harry Reid. When the Nevada Democrat told the former infielder that he used to play catcher, Banks grabbed a ball and stepped back as if to throw the ball. Reid gamely played along and assumed a catcher’s crouch.

Reid apparently made the catch, our witness says, although it was only thrown over an easy foot and a half or so.

Banks is in town for a symposium on baseball at the Library of Congress.

A Hot Time in the Old Town. OK, Al Gore, we get it. Global warming stinks. A spy tells HOH that the party hosted by the former veep and his Alliance for Climate Protection on Thursday night featured not only sustainable and locally grown hors d’oeuvres (natch), but also a live demonstration of what unchecked global warming might feel like.

The party, our tipster says, was hot (and he didn’t mean that metaphorically). Sweaty guests at the alliance’s Penn Quarter headquarters weren’t sure whether the air conditioning was on the fritz or whether Gore was making a point, but there was plenty to distract them, including a guest list that included Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) — whose wife, Maggie Fox, is the group’s CEO — former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, actress Gloria Reuben and plenty of top Hill staffers and Gore alums.

Coming Up Roses. HOH usually isn’t in the business of delivering birthday greetings (trust us, you don’t want to hear us singing “Happy Birthday—), but we’ll make an exception for Rose Kearney, better known as “Miss Rose,— the beloved longtime cashier at the Senate takeout and refectory.

Her customers on Friday joked that she would be celebrating her “25th— birthday Sunday, and who are we to question a lady’s age — particularly when we count on her for our lunches? Kearney’s been charming Senators, reporters, Capitol Police and staffers, while doling out change and pleasantries, for more than a decade. Many happy returns, Miss Rose!

Overheard on the Hill. “The Healthy Behaviors Amendment.—

— Legislation offered by sex-scandal-tainted Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) during the health care debate in the Senate Finance Committee last week seeking to offer financial incentives for “healthy behavior.— No, not THAT — the amendment encourages Americans to avoid smoking and maintain a healthy weight.

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Correction: Oct. 5, 2009

The article incorrectly identified the position that former Chicago Cub Ernie Banks played. He was an infielder.