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 Sidney McCainMcCain rips Trump for attacks on press NSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle Meghan McCain says her father regrets opposition to MLK Day 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 Olin GrahamDHS chief takes heat over Trump furor Overnight Defense: GOP chair blames Dems for defense budget holdup | FDA, Pentagon to speed approval of battlefield drugs | Mattis calls North Korea situation 'sobering' Bipartisan group to introduce DACA bill in House 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 Diane Rodham ClintonIntel Dem decries White House 'gag order' after Bannon testimony 'Total free-for-all' as Bannon clashes with Intel members Mellman: On Political Authenticity (Part 2) MORE (D-N.Y.), Mark Dayton (D-Minn.), Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinMcCarthy: ‘No deadline on DACA’ Ex-Sheriff David Clarke: Trump only one who 'cares about black American citizens' DHS chief takes heat over Trump furor MORE (D-Ill.), Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), John KerryJohn Forbes KerryFeehery: Oprah Dem presidential bid unlikely Dem hopefuls flock to Iowa Change in Iran will only come from its people — not the United States MORE (D-Mass.), Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyNSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle McConnell to Dems: Don't hold government 'hostage' over DACA Nielsen acknowledges Trump used 'tough language' in immigration meeting MORE (D-Vt.), Carl LevinCarl LevinCongress: The sleeping watchdog Congress must not give companies tax reasons to move jobs overseas A lesson on abuse of power by Obama and his Senate allies MORE (D-Mich.), Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezCongress must provide flexible funding for owners of repeatedly flooded properties Senate ethics panel resumes Menendez probe after judge declares mistrial Judge declares mistrial in Menendez bribery case MORE (D-N.J.), Barbara MikulskiBarbara MikulskiClinton: White House slow-walking Russia sanctions Top Lobbyists 2017: Hired Guns Gore wishes Mikulski a happy birthday at 'Inconvenient Sequel' premiere MORE (D-Md.), Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayCDC director to miss fourth hearing because of potential ethics issues Week ahead: Lawmakers near deal on children's health funding Ryan suggests room for bipartisanship on ObamaCare MORE (D-Wash.), Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Raymond ReedLawmakers, political figures share their New Year's resolutions for 2018 Congress must provide flexible funding for owners of repeatedly flooded properties Senate panel moves forward with bill to roll back Dodd-Frank MORE (D-R.I.), Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidDems search for winning playbook Dems face hard choice for State of the Union response The Memo: Immigration battle tests activists’ muscle MORE (D-Nev.), Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.), Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDemocrats will need to explain if they shut government down over illegal immigration White House: Trump remarks didn't derail shutdown talks Schumer defends Durbin after GOP senator questions account of Trump meeting MORE (D-N.Y.), Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowSenate Finance Dems want more transparency on trade from Trump Prominent Michigan Republican drops out of Senate primary GOP chairman shoots down Democrat effort to delay tax work until Jones is seated MORE (D-Mich.), and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenWeek ahead: Senate takes up surveillance bill This week: Time running out for Congress to avoid shutdown Senate Finance Dems want more transparency on trade from Trump MORE (D-Ore.).

House members with perfect scores are: Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerFifth Dem announces plan to boycott Trump's State of the Union Maxine Waters to skip Trump's State of the Union People with addiction issues should be able to control their own health data 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.