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 McCainHow House Republicans scrambled the Russia probe The Hill's 12:30 Report The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by CVS Health - A pivotal day for House Republicans on immigration 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 GrahamSunday shows preview: Lawmakers weigh in after Texas school shooting Kim Jong Un surprises with savvy power plays Overnight Finance: Watchdog weighs probe into handling of Cohen bank records | Immigration fight threatens farm bill | House panel rebukes Trump on ZTE | Trump raises doubts about trade deal with China 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 ClintonTrump Jr. met with Gulf adviser who offered help to win election: report Voters Dems need aren't impressed by anti-waterboarding showboating After year of investigation, Trump can rightly claim some vindication MORE (D-N.Y.), Mark Dayton (D-Minn.), Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinOvernight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — Trump hits federally funded clinics with new abortion restrictions Dem lawmaker spars with own party over prison reform Dem senators ask drug companies to list prices in ads MORE (D-Ill.), Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), John KerryJohn Forbes KerryJuan Williams: Trump's dangerous lies on Iran Pompeo: US tried, failed to achieve side deal with European allies Trump administration braces for big week ahead in foreign policy MORE (D-Mass.), Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyDem senator mocks Pruitt over alleged security threats: 'Nobody even knows who you are' Pruitt tells senators: ‘I share your concerns about some of these decisions’ Protesters hold up 'fire him' signs behind Pruitt during hearing MORE (D-Vt.), Carl LevinCarl Milton LevinHow House Republicans scrambled the Russia probe Congress dangerously wields its oversight power in Russia probe The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by CVS Health — Trump’s love-hate relationship with the Senate MORE (D-Mich.), Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezThe Hill's Morning Report: Can Trump close the deal with North Korea? Senate must save itself by confirming Mike Pompeo Poll: Menendez has 17-point lead over GOP challenger 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 MurrayOvernight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — Trump official won't OK lifetime limits on Medicaid Dems warn against changes to federal family planning program Overnight Health Care: Drug company under scrutiny for Michael Cohen payments | New Ebola outbreak | FDA addresses EpiPen shortage MORE (D-Wash.), Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedOvernight Defense: Trump aide's comment mocking McCain sparks outrage | Haspel gets another 'no' vote | Pompeo floats North Korea aid for denuclearization Politicians, media explode over White House aide's comments Senate Dems urge Trump to remain in Iran deal ahead of announcement MORE (D-R.I.), Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidMcConnell not yet ready to change rules for Trump nominees The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by CVS Health — Trump’s love-hate relationship with the Senate Trump to press GOP on changing Senate rules MORE (D-Nev.), Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.), Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer: GOP efforts to identify FBI informant 'close to crossing a legal line' Patients deserve the 'right to try' How the embassy move widens the partisan divide over Israel MORE (D-N.Y.), Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by CVS Health - A pivotal day for House Republicans on immigration GOP, Dem lawmakers come together for McCain documentary Dem presidential hopefuls flock to Trump country MORE (D-Mich.), and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHillicon Valley: Facebook, Google struggle to block terrorist content | Cambridge Analytica declares bankruptcy in US | Company exposed phone location data | Apple starts paying back taxes to Ireland Firm exposes cell phone location data on US customers Overnight Finance: Watchdog weighs probe into handling of Cohen bank records | Immigration fight threatens farm bill | House panel rebukes Trump on ZTE | Trump raises doubts about trade deal with China MORE (D-Ore.).

House members with perfect scores are: Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerWhiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting Russia, China eclipse US in hypersonic missiles, prompting fears Water has experienced a decade of bipartisan success 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.