Heard on the Hill: Bring in the Translator

Posted October 27, 2009 at 6:38pm

Forget the inability of Republicans and Democrats to communicate (one man’s public option is another’s government takeover), or even the whole men-are-from-Mars bit. For conversational breakdowns, you can’t top that old-fashioned North-South divide.

[IMGCAP(1)]During a House Financial Services Committee markup on Tuesday, Chairman Barney Frank was having trouble understanding Rep. Spencer Bachus’ Southern-fried drawl. The Alabama Republican was discussing an amendment he had proposed that would clarify the definition of a “client.— However, in Alabama-speak, the word sounded more like “clant— — at least to the Massachusetts Democrat’s Yankee ears. Frank interrupted Bachus and asked him to spell “clant.—

We’re guessing the feeling is mutual, and that Bachus might have trouble understanding what Frank (who boasts a Bostonian brogue) might mean if he instructed him to “Pahk the cah in Hahvahd Yahd.—

No Swine Past Its Time. We thought it might be the fumes from the hand sanitizer we’ve been slathering on ourselves, but that really was Rep. Greg Walden back at work on Tuesday. The Oregon Republican was diagnosed with a probable case of swine flu last week and was quarantined for several days.

Now he’s back on the job, and an HOH tipster spotted him walking on Tuesday morning near Johnny’s Half Shell. Walden’s spokesman (who didn’t return HOH’s calls) told the Associated Press that the Congressman’s doctor cleared him to go back to work.

Wonky Jams? The sound of a public insurance option might be music to some liberals’ ears. But the sound of “The Public Option— is for all listeners, no matter their political leanings.

In an indication of how popular health care jargon has become, HOH found at least two bands that have taken on the wonky-catchy name the Public Option. There’s Matt Stache and the Public Option, a Tallahassee, Fla., “garage-progressive— outfit, and Boston-based jazzmen Jason Palmer and the Public Option.

Matthew Sexton, the keyboardist whose stage name is Matt Stache, says his band adopted the name about three months ago, around the time the phrase “the public option— was coming into mainstream cable-news vogue. “I have the habit of saying, ‘That would make a good band name’ whenever I hear a distinctive phrase,— Sexton tells HOH. “And it kind of stuck.—

Sexton says the band leans “liberal-progressive,— and although his music isn’t political, he says the name sometimes provokes a policy debate.

HOH couldn’t reach Jason Palmer through his band’s MySpace page.

And since those bands have already claimed that bit of zeitgeist, here’s an idea for newly forming bands looking for the next hip health care thing: “Olympia Snowe and the Triggers.—

Political Football. We’re guessing at least a few Members of Congress are pretty sore today after taking part in Tuesday night’s Longest Yard football game, but when gridiron professional Charles Tillman spoke on Capitol Hill earlier in the day, he appeared as comfortable as any Member behind a lectern.

The Chicago Bears cornerback appeared at the Capitol Visitor Center at a briefing sponsored by the Advanced Medical Technology Association to talk about the Berlin Heart, a medical device he credits with saving the life of his infant daughter, Tiana, who turns 2 in February. Tiana was struck with cardiomyopathy, a fatal heart condition that required a transplant. While waiting for her new heart, Tiana was given the Berlin Heart, which allowed her to survive until a donor was located.

Tiana is now doing well, and Tillman has used his celebrity to tout the benefits of the device, which is not yet fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration (although the agency approves its use on a case-by-case basis). “If they can approve Cialis and Viagra for someone to have — you know what — they can definitely approve this,— Tillman joked to HOH.

Along with appearing on Capitol Hill, Tillman told HOH that he and his wife visited Arlington National Cemetery, toured the White House and had dinner at B. Smith’s restaurant at Union Station. “Best Southern food I’ve ever had in my life,— he said.

Capitol Hill is quickly becoming the new it-place for football stars these days (despite the Washington Redskins’ paltry season). National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell and other league officials are scheduled to join a number of former NFLers, including Tiki Barber, Merril Hoge and Bernie Parrish, at a House Judiciary Committee hearing this morning looking at football head injuries.

Pacific Party. Capitol Hill was home to a bit of inter-branch love on Tuesday evening as members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus were planning to host a reception for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders serving in the Obama administration, HOH hears.

Three members of the Asian American and Pacific Islanders community — Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki, Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs Tammy Duckworth and Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services Howard Koh — are serving in Senate-confirmed positions under President Barack Obama, more than any administration in history.

Held in the Rayburn House Office Building, the reception honored the trio alongside new members of the caucus, including Reps. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.), Bob Filner (D-Calif.), Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.).

More than two dozen Members are part of the caucus. Chairman Mike Honda (D-Calif.) told HOH that the caucus is working closely with the administration on a number of issues, including immigration, census outreach, education and health care.

Overheard on the Hill. “You can’t dance if your partner was unwilling to get off the chair — like when I was in high school. I wanted to dance but she wouldn’t get up.—

— Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), likening negotiations with Republicans to some of the more awkward moments of his youth.

Geoff Koss of CongressNow and David M. Drucker contributed to this report.

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