By Betsy Rothstein - 03/13/07 07:12 PM EDT
About 3,000 Irish citizens and Irish-Americans came to Capitol Hill last week to lobby members of Congress on immigration. Dressed in T-shirts bearing the slogan “Legalize the Irish,” they plodded around Capitol Hill in groups of six to eight to visit congressional offices.
Not all offices were friendly, however.
“We were turned away by a few,” remarked Michael Campbell, an Irish-born Philadelphia resident looking to become legal. For instance, he said he and his group were not greeted kindly by a staffer for Rep. Todd Platts (R-Pa.). “Just opened the door and didn’t let us in,” Campbell said. “[The aide] said he’d already met with some Irish.”
Platts spoke with ITK yesterday and admitted that his office behaved inappropriately: “My understanding is a group from the legislative lobby on Irish reform met with a legislative assistant in my office, Mark Samuel. At some point later in the day, three or four came to my office and one of my staff, in a curt manner, must have said, ‘We already met with your group.’”
Platts said he talked with an entirely different set of Irish lobbyists in an impromptu meeting in the hallway that day and had a pleasant conversation with them.
“We strive to treat everyone who visits our office in a courteous and mannerly fashion,” the congressman said. “Apparently that didn’t happen, and I take responsibility for that and apologize for that. I take how we treat others very seriously. I would say my staff understands that. Clearly a mistake was made here.”
Platts said he plans to speak with the aide who behaved badly. “I’ll definitely have a conversation about conduct,” he said. “I’m not planning on disciplinary action.”
Among the lawmakers who were friendlier toward these Irish visitors were Reps. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.) and Phil English (R-Pa). Perhaps a “Happy St. Patrick’s Day” to them is in order.
Rep. Corrine Brown, newly slimmed-down
Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.) is looking markedly different these days. Last week the six-term lawmaker told ITK that since September she’d dropped 23 pounds.
How’d she do it?
Brown said daily 7 a.m. workouts with a personal trainer at home in Jacksonville and drastic changes to her diet were key. “I’ve given up eating meat,” she said. “No pork. More vegetables and fruits. My doctor is very pleased.”
Brown said she has wanted to lose weight for a long time. “I want to be healthier because I’ve been overweight for a while,” she said, complaining that congressional life doesn’t bode well for the waistline and that “you can gain 20 pounds a year. You have to figure out how to change that. I eat more mini-meals.”
Oh, and the best part?
The shopping, of course. “I like that!” she said, flashing a smile.
Lawmakers give up sweets for Lent
While some lawmakers reveal what they’ve given up for Lent, others are more private about the matter. By and large, those who will disclose what they’re giving up are giving up one thing: sweets.
Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) says he’s on a strict “no dessert” policy for Lent. Part of the problem, he says, is that when he gets dessert, “It’s always big.” One more dietary restriction the lawmaker has set for himself: “I’m actually abiding by no meat on Fridays.”
When asked about his 40 days of penance, Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.) demurred, saying, “That’s between me and God.”
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) is taking the practical approach to the ritual: “Actually, I made a commitment to show up here for every vote. I’m doing an affirmative Lent,” he says.
And Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass)? He keeps it short and sweet: “Sweets.”
Rep. Jeff Fortenberry’s (R-Neb.) Lent similarly involves no sugary treats. “Sweets are a weakness for me,” he admits, adding that he’s also cutting out eating between meals. “Some days it’s harder than others. You have to be careful.”
Rep. Conyers’s shoe fancy
It’s not every day that a member of Congress notices your shoes. But last week a Chinese radio reporter for Capitol News Connection, Yanmei Zxie, was complimented by none other than Judiciary Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) for her fancy red flats with little velvet bows on the toes and sparkles swirling throughout the body of the shoe.
“I love your shoes!” Conyers gushed.
The chairman is an obvious shoe connoisseur. He, too, wore fancy shoes — light-brown suede wingtips.
Steve Buyer joins the cane caucus
Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Ind.) has joined the unofficial Congressional Cane Caucus. He is recovering from a knee injury he got last December while skiing. Long-timers include Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), who often has been spotted walking around the Senate with the aid of two canes; Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas); Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), who is recovering from hip surgery; and Rep. Marion Berry (D-Ark.), who alternates between using a cane and a wheelchair.
Berry had foot surgery due to a childhood accident in which a horse fell on him.
Calling all Irish lasses
Of course, everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, but women aged 18 to 28 who can trace their Irish ancestry are eligible to become the 2007 Washington, D.C., Rose of Tralee and win an all-expense-paid trip to Ireland this August to represent the city at the International Rose of Tralee festival.
The festival, named after a love song of the same name, is a celebration of Irish culture. The 30 “Roses” from around the world will meet in Ireland in mid-August and travel around the country to appear at events covered by the press. The Rose tour ends with five days in Tralee, where the lasses are received as celebrities with live interviews on Irish television and the selection of the International Rose of Tralee.
Applications to be the 2007 Washington, D.C., Rose of Tralee are due on April 1, 2007. Selection night is Sunday, June 10, at Jury’s Hotel in Dupont Circle.
For more information, visit: http://www.washingtondcrose.com/ http://www.washingtondcrose.com/ .
Capital Club hosts annual Shamrock Soiree
When: Saturday, March 17
9:30 p.m. - 1:30 a.m.
Where: The Exchange Saloon & Grill, 1719 G St. N.W.
Tickets available at the door
Women pay $10
Men pay $20