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 McCainLawmakers worry about rise of fake video technology Democrats put Dreamers and their party in danger by playing hardball Trump set a good defense budget, but here is how to make it better 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 GrahamCongress punts fight over Dreamers to March Pence tours Rio Grande between US and Mexico GOP looks for Plan B after failure of immigration measures 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 ClintonWoman behind pro-Trump Facebook page denies being influenced by Russians Trump: CNN, MSNBC 'got scammed' into covering Russian-organized rally Pennsylvania Democrats set to win big with new district map MORE (D-N.Y.), Mark Dayton (D-Minn.), Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinAmerica’s waning commitment to the promise of the First Amendment Senate rejects Trump immigration plan What to watch for in the Senate immigration votes MORE (D-Ill.), Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), John KerryJohn Forbes Kerry2020 Dem contenders travel to key primary states When it comes to Colombia, America is in a tough spot 36 people who could challenge Trump in 2020 MORE (D-Mass.), Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyGrassley, Dems step up battle over judicial nominees Popular bill to fight drug prices left out of budget deal Judiciary Dems want public hearings with Kushner, Trump Jr. MORE (D-Vt.), Carl LevinCarl Milton LevinSen. Gillibrand, eyeing 2020 bid, rankles some Democrats The Hill's 12:30 Report Congress needs bipartisanship to fully investigate Russian influence MORE (D-Mich.), Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezJustice Dept intends to re-try Menendez in corruption case DACA is neither bipartisan nor in America's interest Senate DACA deal picks up GOP supporters MORE (D-N.J.), Barbara MikulskiBarbara Ann MikulskiDems ponder gender politics of 2020 nominee Robert Mueller's forgotten surveillance crime spree Clinton: White House slow-walking Russia sanctions MORE (D-Md.), Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn Murray30 million people will experience eating disorders — the CDC needs to help Mulvaney remarks on Trump budget plan spark confusion Overnight Finance: Mulvaney sparks confusion with budget remarks | Trump spars with lawmakers on tariffs | Treasury looks to kill 300 tax regs | Intel chief's warning on debt MORE (D-Wash.), Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Raymond ReedFBI chief: Trump hasn't specifically directed me to stop Russian meddling in midterms Live coverage: FBI director testifies to Senate Intelligence Committee Senate Dems demand answers on cost of Trump's military parade proposal MORE (D-R.I.), Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidWATCH: There is no Trump-Russia collusion and the media should stop pushing this The demise of debate in Congress ‘North by Northwest,’ the Carter Page remake MORE (D-Nev.), Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.), Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDemocrats now attack internet rules they once embraced Schumer: Trump budget would ‘cripple’ gun background checks Schumer: Senate Republicans' silence 'deafening' on guns, Russia MORE (D-N.Y.), Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann Stabenow10 Senate Democrats are up for reelection in Trump country At least Alzheimer’s research is bringing Washington together Senate Dems block crackdown on sanctuary cities MORE (D-Mich.), and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenOvernight Health Care: Trump eases rules on insurance outside ObamaCare | HHS office on religious rights gets 300 complaints in a month | GOP chair eyes opioid bill vote by Memorial Day Trump eases rules on insurance sold outside of ObamaCare Grassley, Dems step up battle over judicial nominees MORE (D-Ore.).

House members with perfect scores are: Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerSessions' war on marijuana a handout for illegal operators Fox's Wallace: 'It's a mistake' for Dems to boycott State of the Union WHIP LIST: Dems boycotting Trump’s State of the Union MORE (D-Ore.), Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Jim McDermottJames (Jim) Adelbert 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.