Heard on the Hill: Spouses Break the ‘Pink Ceiling’

Posted April 28, 2010 at 6:30pm

The freshman House Members’ spouses don’t belong to your usual ladies-who-lunch set. In fact, some of their most prominent members aren’t even ladies.

The spouses of the class of 2008 on Wednesday launched a project against childhood obesity, and HOH couldn’t help but notice the preponderance of dudes at the event.

“They’re extremely accepting of us,” Jim Kelly, the husband of Rep. Betsy Markey (D-Colo.), said of his female fellow spouses.

Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper (D-Pa.), whose husband, Dan Dahlkemper, is the president of the freshman spouse organization — and the group’s first male leader — told HOH that she was proud of her better half “for breaking the pink ceiling.”

Dan Dahlkemper even joked about the gender stereotypes during the event. “I wore my best dress,” he told the crowd.

And Marlon Reis, the partner of Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), also stood at the dais as Polis praised their work on helping to get better nutrition in schools. Reis told HOH that he’s noticed a lot more men among the spouses. “We’re diversifying,” he said.

Many of the spouses had just come to the launch event in the Capitol from a White House luncheon with first lady Michelle Obama. Colleen Peters, wife of Michigan Democrat Rep. Gary Peters, pointed out a few women in the room carrying what will surely be the season’s “it” bag. The first lady gave as favors a quilted blue bag in a print bearing the outline of chandeliers.

“Her theme was ‘illuminating volunteers,'” Peters said. “She was absolutely inspirational.”

Bono’s Still the One

U2 rocker Bono is back in Washington, but unlike in many of his previous visits to our fair city, he won’t make it to Capitol Hill. Still, the do-gooding Bono got to see some of his Congressional pals at a Wednesday night dinner sponsored by the Atlantic Council, where he hobnobbed with former President Bill Clinton and dozens of Members of Congress.

A rep for the ONE Campaign, Bono’s poverty-fighting charity, says the star’s schedule doesn’t permit him a Capitol Hill visit (so, sadly, there’ll be no sightings of the sunglass-sporting musician-cum-lobbyist), but the rep adds that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was slated to introduce him at the black-tie gala. And Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), another of Bono’s closest Congressional-pin-wearing besties, also planned to attend the dinner, we hear.

Other political VIPs in attendance will be former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) and National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones.

The Race Was Down to the Wire

Freshman Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) has already scored a significant win on Capitol Hill — he’s the fastest Member of the House.

And while the 28-year-old lawmaker’s first-place victory among House Members in Wednesday’s ACLI Capital Challenge three-mile race certainly was impressive — his time of 19 minutes, 34 seconds was just a second ahead of fellow Illinois Rep. Dan Lipinski (D) — he still isn’t the fastest Member of Congress.

That title belongs to Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), who beat Schock by 15 seconds.

Schock is already looking toward 2011, tweeting that his “new mission” is to beat Thune. But he might have some competition from Lipinski.

“One second?! I demand a recount,” Lipinski said. “For the next year I will be playing over and over again in my head the last mile, and especially the last 200 yards. After this result, I’m only more determined to train harder next year … not that I’m competitive about this.”

Schock spokesman Dave Natonski told HOH, “Lipinski should be counting his lucky stars.”

“We all know what happened to the last Member who finished ahead of Aaron at the ACLI,” he said, referring to retiring Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.), who was usually the fastest Member but sat out this year because of an injury.

In other results, marathon-loving Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio) placed first among female House Members with a time of 23 minutes and 40 seconds. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) finished first among female Senators.

Team-wise, Sen. John Ensign’s (R-Nev.) office placed first on the Senate side, while Rep. Earl Blumenauer’s team, the Little Punk Runners, took the top of the podium in the House team category.

The Oregon Democrat and his office changed their name this year from their usual Red, White and Blumenauer in a nod to House Minority Leader John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) “little punk staffers” comment to bankers earlier this year. “This is victory not just for our office, but for ‘punk staffers’ everywhere,” said Blumenauer (who crossed the finish line in 27 minutes and 14 seconds).

HOH gives a special shout-out to our Roll Call colleague Blake Whitney, who placed first in the print journalist division (and 10th overall) with his impressive time of 16 minutes, 59 seconds. CQ-Roll Call Group’s News Travels Fast took second place overall in the print team division.

Overheard on the Hill

“Mark my words — Butler will be back again next year running with the big dogs — winning their way.”

— Rep. André Carson (D-Ind.) on the House floor Tuesday congratulating the Butler Bulldogs for reaching the championship game of the 2010 NCAA men’s basketball tournament. The Cinderella team lost to powerhouse Duke in a thrilling 61-59 April 5 matchup.

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