Heard on the Hill: Hold the Phone

Posted October 27, 2010 at 6:47pm

There’s nothing like an early morning lecture from a member of the Obama administration to get the day started.

While driving to a Utah television station for an interview early Tuesday morning, Rep. Jason Chaffetz received a call on his cell phone. The Utah Republican scrambled to answer it, and after he did, he asked the caller to hold on.

‘I was trying to get my Bluetooth up to my ear,’ Chaffetz says. ‘I didn’t even know who it was.’

At the other end of the line was Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. You know, the guy who has made one of his top priorities stopping people from using their cell phones while driving.

Perhaps not surprisingly, LaHood scolded Chaffetz just a bit, immediately telling the Congressman to pull over.

Chaffetz says LaHood told him, ‘You shouldn’t be on the phone while you are driving.’

Eventually, Chaffetz was able to use his Bluetooth, he says. LaHood then delivered his news: Provo, Utah, in the Congressman’s district, has been awarded a $500,000 federal grant to support air service at the city’s municipal airport.

A Midterm Office Makeover?

The House Judiciary Committee is undertaking a series of renovations to improve its office space, including room B-351 of the Rayburn House Office Building. Now, that might not sound particularly noteworthy because such work happens in House office buildings frequently.

But some GOP aides are questioning the timing of the soon-to-be-undertaken renovations, pointing out that the space is for minority staff.

Could Democrats be readying a makeover of their new digs, anticipating they will lose control of the House on Tuesday?

‘Democrats concerned about being ousted for their reckless spending prepare for the backlash by wasting more money on unnecessary renovations? I’m sure taxpayers facing serious hardships would appreciate Democrats playing ‘Extreme Makeover House Office Edition’ with their tax dollars,’ one GOP staffer says snidely.

But Judiciary Committee Democrats argue there’s nothing noteworthy about the renovations, pointing out that they have long been in the works to tackle safety issues, not spruce up office space.

‘The committee has been renovating its offices over the past several years in coordination with the Architect [of the Capitol]’s office to remove the asbestos ceiling tiles,’ a Judiciary staffer says. ‘The plans to renovate Rayburn B-351 are part of this plan and have been in place since 2005.’

Daytime Drinking Gone Awry

The Capitol Police had an unexpected visitor last week when a drunken driver showed up at the station.

The intoxicated individual, identified by police as John Hawkins, was arrested after ‘showing signs of impairment’ and blocking the entrance to headquarters with his car, according to Capitol Police. Talk about asking for it.

While most people hit the bottle in the evening ‘ with the exception of game day and St. Paddy’s, that is ‘ Hawkins got an early start and was arrested around lunchtime. No word on whether he indulged in a martini lunch on Capitol Hill, a la Don Draper.

Tending the Political Bar

Being in politics isn’t unlike working as a bartender, Rep. Chellie Pingree says.

In Esquire magazine’s ‘What I’ve Learned’ online feature, Pingree joins other Members of Congress in sharing several grand musings about life. And the Maine Democrat tells the magazine that being a bartender is her ‘highest calling.’

‘What I love about being behind a bar is people get lively and opinionated after they’ve had a couple of drinks,’ Pingree says. ‘They love to chat away with the bartender, and a bartender in politics is even better. The difference is, there’s no video camera and most of the time the next morning they forget what they told you and what you said, so you can have a pretty lively debate and not worry about being quoted on the record.’

Hey, we’ll toast to that.

Pingree also jokes about the political ambitions of her daughter, Hannah Pingree, Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives. ‘I figure pretty soon she’s going to decide to run against me in a primary and I’ll just know enough, when I lose that race, to step aside gracefully,’ the proud mother says.

White House Event Draws Celebrities

Former New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers manager Joe Torre and ‘Law and Order: Special Victims Unit’ star Mariska Hargitay were in town Wednesday to meet with President Barack Obama.

The pair attended an event at the White House marking Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Torre is a survivor of abuse, while Hargitay is the founder of an organization that supports victims of domestic and sexual violence.

No word on Torre’s agenda for the day, though HOH learned Hargitay attended a roundtable at the White House hosted by Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett. She later met with Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden.

‘I cannot tell you how proud I am to be a part of this community and to stand behind the enlightened leadership of an administration committed to addressing sexual and domestic violence and bringing safety, compassion and justice to survivors,’ Hargitay says of her visit.

We hear the trip to D.C. was all work and no play; Hargitay took the Acela down from New York on Wednesday morning and was planning to head home that evening.

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