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 McCainFrustrated Dems say Obama botched Russia response Coats: Trump seemed obsessed with Russia probe The Hill's Whip List: Senate ObamaCare repeal bill 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 GrahamSenate panel questions Lynch on alleged FBI interference The Hill's Whip List: Senate ObamaCare repeal bill Judiciary Committee to continue Russia probe after Mueller meeting 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 ClintonPelosi: Trump insisted he won popular vote in our first meeting Are Democrats trying to pin the blame for their own sins on Russia? Trump: Calling Warren Pocahontas ‘an insult to Pocahontas’ MORE (D-N.Y.), Mark Dayton (D-Minn.), Dick DurbinDick DurbinDem senator: GOP's healthcare approach will 'devastate Medicaid' Sunday shows preview: Senate healthcare debate heats up Dems push for more action on power grid cybersecurity MORE (D-Ill.), Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), John KerryJohn KerryFrustrated Dems say Obama botched Russia response Budowsky: Dems madder than hell Tillerson: 'My view didn’t change' on Paris climate agreement MORE (D-Mass.), Patrick LeahyPatrick LeahyGoing national with automatic voter registration Republicans slam Trump’s new policy toward Cuba Trump draws a harder line on Cuba MORE (D-Vt.), Carl LevinCarl LevinTrump's crush on foreign autocrats threatens democracy at home OPINION: Congress must press forward with its Russia investigation Democrats and Republicans share blame in rewriting the role of the Senate MORE (D-Mich.), Robert MenendezRobert MenendezBipartisan group, Netflix actress back bill for American Latino Museum The Mideast-focused Senate letter we need to see Taiwan deserves to participate in United Nations MORE (D-N.J.), Barbara MikulskiBarbara MikulskiBipartisan friendship is a civil solution to political dysfunction Dems press for paycheck fairness bill on Equal Pay Day After 30 years celebrating women’s history, have we made enough progress? MORE (D-Md.), Patty MurrayPatty MurrayDems push for more action on power grid cybersecurity Live coverage: Senate GOP unveils its ObamaCare repeal bill Senators grill Perry on Yucca nuclear storage plans MORE (D-Wash.), Jack ReedJack ReedDems push for more action on power grid cybersecurity 3 tips for President Trump before he outsources his duties to Mattis McCain threatens to block Trump's deputy Defense nominee MORE (D-R.I.), Harry ReidHarry ReidCharles Koch thanks Harry Reid for helping his book sales Warren cautions Dems against infighting Dems see surge of new candidates MORE (D-Nev.), Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.), Charles SchumerCharles SchumerSchumer jams to Diana Ross at New York party Warren cautions Dems against infighting FCC advances proposal to unmask blocked caller ID in threat cases MORE (D-N.Y.), Debbie StabenowDebbie StabenowNo certainty on cost-sharing payments to insurers Dems express concerns about Trump's proposed rural development cuts Trump, Clinton campaign aides launch their own bids MORE (D-Mich.), and Ron WydenRon WydenElection hacking fears turn heat on Homeland Security Commerce secretary spoiled Treasury secretary’s secret wedding: report Dems push for more action on power grid cybersecurity MORE (D-Ore.).

House members with perfect scores are: Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerOvernight Energy: Zinke, Perry take heat over Trump budget House passes nuclear energy tax bill Overnight Finance: Ryan wants tax reform to be permanent | White House expects tax bill ready by September | Defense spending battle delays budget MORE (D-Ore.), Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Jim McDermottJim McDermottLobbying World Dem lawmaker: Israel's accusations start of 'war on the American government' Dem to Trump on House floor: ‘Stop tweeting’ 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.