Senator shoots down reports of close call

The headlines sounded frightening. 

“Missile Fired at McCain’s Helicopter,” one read, referring to an apparent Aug. 28 incident in the Republic of Georgia during a codel led by Sen. John McCainJohn McCainGroup hopes to have independent candidate by end of July Poll: Trump gets 1 percent support among black voters Cutting corners in a federal campaign is criminal MORE (R-Ariz.), which included six senators.  

According to news stories, the Georgian Interior Ministry said a helicopter escorting a delegation of U.S. senators was fired on.

But returning from the month-long recess, senators on the codel, including Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamOvernight Defense: US blames ISIS for Turkey attack | Afghan visas in spending bill | Army rolls up its sleeves Senate panel passes bill that would create 4K visas for Afghans Trump: Rivals who don't back me shouldn't be allowed to run for office MORE (R-S.C.), said they heard of the purported missile fire only after they had returned home.  It turned out the statement is inaccurate, and that the senators’ helicopter was never under fire. The U.S. embassy in Georgia on Sep. 5 released a statement setting the record straight. 

“A thorough investigation by Georgia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), confirms that, contrary to initial reports, no missile was fired at any helicopter transporting the U.S. Senate Delegation led by McCain on August 28, 2006,” the statement read. “It appears that another helicopter, which was on the way from Tbilisi to join the Senate delegation helicopters in western Georgia, was the intended target of the missile.”

Even though the senators were never in the line of fire, the incident at least made for a colorful what-I did-on-my-summer-vacation exchange.

“Did you get shot at over there?” Graham asked Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), who had been part of a separate, earlier codel to Georgia. 

“Yeah, they missed,” Lugar joked.



Lightening bolt more likely to hit Senate

For House staffers who continuously gripe about the Senate’s lack of good faith, it’s official. The Senate is in fact more “godless” than the House when it comes to upholding the separation of church and state.

The folks at the Secular Coalition for America  awarded 18 members of the Senate (and only seven in the House) a “perfect score” for  “commitment to the separation of church and state, and their willingness to protect the interests of the non-theistic community.”

The group based the grades on 10 key votes in each chamber, including those on judicial nominees in the Senate. 

Senators earning the aetheists’ praise are: Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonGroup hopes to have independent candidate by end of July Trump: My Supreme Court pick would have upheld Texas abortion law Retirees group endorses Clinton MORE (D-N.Y.), Mark Dayton (D-Minn.), Dick DurbinDick DurbinClinton ally stands between Sanders and chairmanship dream Reid backs House Puerto Rico bill McConnell pledges redo vote on Zika after break MORE (D-Ill.), Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), John KerryJohn KerryCutting corners in a federal campaign is criminal Navy investigation concludes Iran broke international law by detaining sailors Top Democrat wants Obama to block Boeing's deal with Iran MORE (D-Mass.), Patrick LeahyPatrick LeahyDems leery of Planned Parenthood cuts spark Senate scuffle Israel’s false friends Clinton ally stands between Sanders and chairmanship dream MORE (D-Vt.), Carl LevinCarl LevinFight for taxpayers draws fire Gun debate shows value of the filibuster House won't vote on Navy ship-naming restrictions MORE (D-Mich.), Robert MenendezRobert MenendezOvernight Finance: Trump threatens NAFTA withdrawal | Senate poised for crucial Puerto Rico vote | Ryan calls for UK trade deal | Senate Dems block Zika funding deal Menendez rails against Puerto Rico bill for 4 hours on floor Overnight Cybersecurity: Senate narrowly rejects expanding FBI surveillance powers MORE (D-N.J.), Barbara MikulskiBarbara MikulskiSenate Appropriations speeds through spending bills Clinton ally stands between Sanders and chairmanship dream If 'bipartisanship' is now a dirty word, how about a rebranding? MORE (D-Md.), Patty MurrayPatty MurraySenate Dems: No August break without Zika deal Senators press Obama education chief on reforms Overnight Finance: Senate sends Puerto Rico bill to Obama | Treasury, lawmakers to meet on tax rules | Obama hits Trump on NAFTA | Fed approves most banks' capital plans MORE (D-Wash.), Jack ReedJack ReedMcChrystal backs McCain's Pentagon reform proposal Overnight Defense: Biden hits Trump on national security | Dems raise pressure over refugees | Graham vows fight over spending caps Graham: Opponents of lifting military spending caps are 'a-holes' MORE (D-R.I.), Harry ReidHarry ReidThe Hill's 12:30 Report Senate Dems: No August break without Zika deal Top Senate Dems defend Lynch-Clinton meeting MORE (D-Nev.), Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.), Charles SchumerCharles SchumerFormer Gillibrand aide wins NY House primary Senate faces critical vote on Puerto Rico Juan Williams: GOP sounds the sirens over Trump MORE (D-N.Y.), Debbie StabenowDebbie StabenowFDA concerned with GMO labeling 'compromise' Overnight Finance: Senate sends Puerto Rico bill to Obama | Treasury, lawmakers to meet on tax rules | Obama hits Trump on NAFTA | Fed approves most banks' capital plans Senate Dems pledge to keep fighting over Zika MORE (D-Mich.), and Ron WydenRon WydenIRS inversion rules face blowback Senate faces critical vote on Puerto Rico Reid backs House Puerto Rico bill MORE (D-Ore.).

House members with perfect scores are: Earl BlumenauerEarl Blumenauer19 House Democrats' sites hacked at close of gun sit-in Democrats stage sit-in on House floor to push for gun vote Lawmakers push for more marijuana research MORE (D-Ore.), Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Jim McDermottJim McDermott19 House Democrats' sites hacked at close of gun sit-in 'Will on the Hill' pokes fun at 2016 election Overnight Healthcare: House mental health bill finally moving forward MORE (D-Wash.), Pete Stark (D-Calif.), and Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.).



Crikey!  Hill’s Aussie pays tribute to croc hunter

As the Hill’s lone Aussie (at least by his own count), Greg Keeley is shedding more than crocodile tears over the death last week of Steve Irwin. The outdoorsman and TV personality known as the “Crocodile Hunter” had a special place in the hearts of Australians, particularly those living abroad, says Keeley, who is the communications director and military advisor for Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.).

The beloved Irwin was a great ambassador for the land Down Under, he notes. 

“He’s done wonders for me personally,” Keeley says. “Everyone thinks I wrestle crocodiles and have a kangaroo in my backyard.”

Keeley and his wife, Katie, met Irwin at a dinner in Los Angeles, and were impressed by Irwin’s energy and easygoing manner. 

“The personality you see on TV is exactly the way he was in real life,” Keeley says. 

Since Irwin’s death, condolences have been pouring in from fellow Hill staffers, journalists, and military officials, Keeley says, and he’s touched by the sentiments. 

“It literally stopped the country,” he said.



Feehery turns into a TV talker

It’s nearly impossible to throw a Blackberry in D.C. without hitting a pundit.  Now, there’s one more target. John Feehery, the former spokesman for House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) turned flack for the Motion Picture Association of America, has become a talking head, at least part time. 

Feehery has a regular gig on Bloomberg TV, appearing every other week to gab about the usual roundup of politics and what’s ahead in the next week’s news.  He alternates with former Clinton spokesman Joe Lockheart in a seven-minute segment every Friday on the show “Money & Politics.”

Feehery says the new role (for which he isn’t paid and does not represent the views of the MPAA) is much the same as his current and former jobs.

“It’s just talking,” he laughs. 

Hill cable junkies have noted an uptick in the wattage of the guests on Bloomberg TV of late, and we hear Washington bureau chief Al Hunt—and his A-list Rolodex—is behind the change.  


Alexander Bolton and Elana Schor contributed to this page.