Financial crisis not big enough to keep Rep. Frank from joking

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) is known for making light of his openly gay status, and last week was no exception — even amid questions about the dire financial crisis.

While Frank refused to answer questions about Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson or Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke regarding a plan to set up a government entity to buy up bad debt, he did manage a joke about being part of an exclusive club with The Wall Street Journal.

Moments later, a reporter asked, “Is Paulson a member of your special club?”

Frank replied, “What special club?” A reporter reminded him, “the one with you and The Wall Street Journal.” To which Frank replied, “I thought you meant, is Henry Paulson gay?”

Reporters laughed, followed by a little awkward silence. “No one knew quite what to say after that,” said one reporter who was present.

Frank never elaborated on the exclusive club with The Wall Street Journal. For the record, Paulson is married.

Rep. Pickering debates Scripture with shoeshine attendant

Rep. Chip Pickering (R-Miss.) got into a Bible debate last week with Eddie Carter, the man also known as “the Reverend” who runs the shoeshine booth in the men’s lounge adjacent to the Speaker’s Lobby.

The debate revolved around a passage in the Bible about the wife of David and why people don’t talk about her as much. The men were looking for the specific passage in the Bible to settle the question.

Luckily, Carter, who can often be seen in the Speaker’s Lobby reading the Bible, had one with him. But the two couldn’t agree on which Bible passage would provide an answer to their question.

Carter thought it was 2 Samuel, but Pickering, a devout Baptist, thought it would be in 1 Samuel. The congressman was right. He found the answer in 1 Samuel 18.

Pickering, in a phone conversation with ITK on Monday, said he has been in discussion with Carter on Scripture for the past two years. When he’s not shining shoes, Carter is a church pastor. Pickering said he often wants to know what his weekly sermon is.

He’s not the only one. The men’s room off the House floor can become something of a bathroom Bible study. Many lawmakers discuss Scripture with Carter as the shoeshine man prepares his sermons. The congressman said he reads the Bible regularly and belongs to a House Bible study group. He also traveled overseas on a church missionary trip just out of college.

“When he’s shining shoes and members are the in the bathroom they’ll be discussing Bible verses and what [he’s] preaching about,” Pickering said.

A woman’s place is in the White House, Ford said before he died

When talking to ITK recently about the hot topic of the day — GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin — Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.) was reminded of something told to her by a constituent and friend who died in 2006: Gerald Ford.

“Gerald Ford was a constituent and a dear friend of mine before he passed away,” she said. “He believed that we would soon see a woman in the White House. He said, ‘Once we have a woman in the White House, there would be no turning back.’ ”

Bono Mack said she’s amazed by what her female colleagues are doing these days. She remembers the difficulty of balancing work and family when, as a freshman member in 1998, her children were 6 and 9 years old.

Now female politicians — like Reps. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) and Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-S.D.) — are having babies while serving in Congress “and haven’t missed a beat,” she said.

Rep. Ros-Lehtinen gets a new hairdo: The Suze Orman

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) debuted a new hairstyle last week and also appeared to have added blond highlights. The short cut takes her hair off her neck and above her ears but leaves a fullness at the top. It could rightly be called the Suze Orman look, named after the self-help-style financial adviser with short, layered white-blond hair.

Ros-Lehtinen was not thrilled about the cut.

“It was a most unfortunate decision,” she said. “I was about to go on the Larry King show and went to a hair salon to get my hair washed and blown out. The stylist said, ‘Let me take just a bit off the top.’ I said, ‘Sure,’ and immersed myself in my BlackBerry news of the day in order to prepare for the show. And in a matter of minutes, most of my hair was gone. My family is aghast, as am I. But I vote in a more prepared manner than I make hair choices. It shall grow. No worries.”

Take a Politi-scape — a vacation devoid of all things political

It’s hard to imagine Capitol Hill or campaign aides parting with their BlackBerrys for even a moment, let alone facing a weekend of gadget withdrawal. But the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay is betting that some Americans in Washington are sick of politics.

This is the impetus behind a new ad campaign to lure people to a luxury hotel close to Washington where guests can enter a politics-free zone. “During elections, political talk seems to infiltrate our lives,” said Fred Findlen, the Hyatt Regency’s general manager.

Now through the presidential inauguration in January, guests who have signed up for the Politi-scape will, upon arrival, check in their cell phone or BlackBerry with the front desk to be safely locked away during their visits. They will then head to a 1,430-square-foot deluxe suite, where they will trade in their power suits for plush spa robes and iPod shuffles filled with relaxing music.

Political junkies might find the next step to be difficult. The suite is set up without TV or newspaper access. Instead, guests receive a non-political book or access to non-political board games. The package includes a $40 breakfast credit and a $130 credit at the spa, which features a “BlackBerry Balm Hand Massage.”  

Cost: $2,008 a night.

Overheard: Women get star-struck over seeing Sen. Clinton

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) clearly has a following.

Last week three women dressed head to toe in black suits (one in a pantsuit) were crossing Constitution Avenue and walking toward the Senate side of the Capitol when they spotted the famous former presidential hopeful and her sizable entourage walking toward them.

“Ooh, that’s Sen. Clinton walking across the street!” one woman excitedly told the others.

Another remarked: “I didn’t realize she was that small!”

Clinton, in a royal blue blazer, black trousers and sunglasses, greeted the women who were obviously staring at her, saying, “Hello, how are you today?”

The women walked off toward the Capitol, whispering and ecstatic about their senator sighting.