Santorum returns to Senate

Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) made a special appearance at the Senate Republican Conference policy lunch on Tuesday.

Santorum, who lost to Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) in 2006, told ITK, “[I] just wanted to say hi to everyone. It’s the first time I’ve been back since the election. There are some things going on in my life personally, and I wanted to update everybody.”

Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) later said Santorum visited the lunch to express his thanks for their support during the illness of one of his two daughters.

Santorum, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a Fox News contributor, also has four sons.

Martinez called Santorum “a good friend” and said the former senator came to thank the lawmakers “for their prayers.” He added, “I’ve been e-mailing him about his tragic situation.”


Choir from Murphy’s district drowns out Senate press conference

Republicans have found a new way to block their Democratic counterparts from advancing their legislative agenda. A Tuesday press conference in Russell Park held by Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) was upstaged by a boisterous choir a few hundred feet away. The singers, from Westmoreland County Community College in Youngwood, Pa., were guests of Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.).

An aide had to turn up the senators’ sound system twice so attendees could hear the lawmakers’ talking points on American jobs over the choir’s thunderous hallelujahs and electronic-keyboard accompaniment. While the three senators were decrying the state of unemployment benefits, the choir was singing “What a Wonderful World.”

ITK found Murphy enjoying the music and hoping it would inspire other lawmakers to invite musicians from their districts to perform on the Hill.

“It’s more soothing than political discussion,” he said with a smile. “I think this is the start of something big.”

As the choir finished its rendition of “Over the Rainbow,” the lawmaker clapped furiously, whistled, and shouted, “I see the rainbow!”


Cornhole enthusiasts to unite at Gov. Strickland’s tournament

It sounds obscene — cornholing.

(Even Stephen Colbert has decried the cornholing game as “horseshoes crossed with sodomy.”)

But really, it’s a wholesome game and a new concept in political fundraisers for Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland (D), who is up for reelection in 2010 and looking to raise money through a Cornhole Tournament Tour throughout Ohio this summer. Cost: $50.

Players pitch small bags of corn at a small platform, typically made of plywood, with a hole in it. A corn bag in the hole scores three points; one on the platform scores one point. A player’s goal is to reach 21 points.

Cornhole enthusiasts, as they are called in Strickland’s invitation, can sign up for the singles bracket or team up in the doubles bracket.

The campaign aide who came up with the idea said the campaign is issuing a 10,000-piece mailer on the event. “I don’t believe any politician has ever had a cornhole tournament,” the aide said. “I wanted to do something a little bit different from the same fundraiser where people come, pay money, eat hors d’oeuvres and go home.”

The idea is to draw a wider demographic to the governor’s fundraising operation. “It doesn’t require a lot of skills,” the aide said.

To join in the summer fun, e-mail the governor’s cornhole reservation hotline at  rsvp@tedstrickland.com.


Rep. Meek tries facial hair

Late last week Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.), the baby-faced lawmaker who is a member of the 30-something Caucus, was seen with a brand-new, well-groomed mustache and goatee.

Over the recess, Meek went on a vacation from shaving. “You know, during the break I went fishing a couple of days and decided to let the facial hair that would grow, grow,” Meek explained.

The lawmaker said there has been a lot of reaction to the new hair growth.

“My mother said, ‘Wow, you haven’t had a mustache in 15 years,’ ” he said of former Rep. Carrie Meek (D-Fla.). “My wife thinks it’s interesting. My daughter has been calling me ‘Captain Jack,’ from ‘Pirates of the Caribbean.’ ”

Meek believes the facial hair makes him look older. “Since the goatee I haven’t been carded,” he said.

 
Cantor aide flees meeting as trees take out his deck and part of his neighbor’s home


During the recent tornado scare, an aide to House Chief Deputy Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) had reason to worry.

While sitting in a Capitol whip meeting, Steve Stombres, the congressman’s leadership chief of staff, received word from his wife that trees had hit their Fairfax, Va., home. He quickly ran out.

“We had four trees down in my backyard,” he said. “Two trees hit my house, one hit my neighbor’s house. One tree took out the deck. One took out the corner of my roof. A third took out my fence and part of my neighbor’s house. It was a great day.”

At the time, Stombres’s wife was home with their infant son, who was playing on the floor near a window. “She picked up my son and ran down to the basement and called me,” he said.

And the neighbor? “He was pretty surprised. It was a big tree,” the aide said.

Fortunately for Stombres, he recently got elected to the Fairfax City Council. The post comes with perks: The mayor and police went to make sure everything was OK. Both wife and child were safe. The house, however, suffered $25,000 in damage, which Stombres is hoping his deductible will cover.


Announcements

NPR spokeswoman to join McCain campaign

Leah Yoon, a National Public Radio spokeswoman, is joining Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) campaign as the regional spokeswoman for Michigan, Wisconsin and Indiana. Yoon never sought the post. The campaign tapped her from a large pool of those under consideration. “It’s a risk worth taking,” Yoon said of suddenly leaving NPR. “It’s a real honor to serve one of this country’s real heroes.”