'Mars fever' on House floor

A debate broke out last week on the House floor as members debated the commerce-justice-science appropriations bill that has us asking, “What would Carl Sagan do?”

A debate broke out last week on the House floor as members debated the commerce-justice-science appropriations bill that has us asking, “What would Carl Sagan do?”

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) kicked things off by offering an amendment saying that none of NASA’s funds could be used for a “manned space shot to Mars.”

“Sending human beings to Mars, in my judgment, is at best a luxury that this country cannot now afford,” he said.

Rep. Dave Weldon (R-Fla.) quickly took issue, noting that he thought we’d be on Mars 10 years after we last left the moon.

But Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.), ranking member of the Appropriations Committee, was there with Frank, arguing that we need to invest in healthcare and education and pay down the deficit first. “You get that done, then, baby, I am all for you, if you want to go to Mars,” he said.

“Until then, I would like to send to Mars every politician that thinks that the existing priorities are the right ones. They are not. They are wacky.”

After a few other members, Republicans and Democrats alike, rose in opposition, Frank became exasperated. “Can’t we get an honest debate about whether or not to go to Mars?” he asked.

“Not in five minutes, unfortunately,” conceded Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.).

The amendment was defeated. But the members weren’t done. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) offered another amendment that would restrict the boost in NASA funding as an offset to fund the Community Oriented Policing Services anti-crime program.

Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.) was the first to rise. “If and when we get back to the moon under the Weiner amendment, we will be looking at Chinese flags and maybe Chinese bases when we get there,” he said.

After some further discussion of Mars and the moon, it was Obey’s turn again.

“Some people attack members of Congress for having Potomac fever,” he said. “I think some members of the House have Mars fever.”


Bryant wins one for the NASCAR dads

Darrell Waltrip wants you to know that he’s a Republican, he’s a conservative and he’s voting for former Rep. Ed Bryant (R-Tenn.) to succeed departing Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.).

The NASCAR great and Tennessee resident endorsed Bryant in the 2002 Senate primary and his primary opponent, former Rep. Van Hilleary, in the 2002 gubernatorial race. But between the two, he’s throwing his support to Bryant this year.

In a new, 60-second radio ad he taped for Bryant, Waltrip says, “You know, when there’s a lot at stake, it pays to have the most experienced driver behind the wheel. That’s why I’m voting for conservative Ed Bryant for U.S. Senate.”

Waltrip must be comfortable in front of a mike by now: He worked as voiceover talent for the Pixar movie “Cars.”

“D.W. speaks for a lot of Tennesseans — and not just NASCAR fans — when he joined Team Bryant in this important race,” Bryant said. “Much like a NASCAR driver relies on his pit crew and team to win the race, we are building a strong grassroots ‘pit crew’ formed of economic and social conservatives. … They are going the extra mile in getting out the vote, and their support and hard work now will help us capture the checkered flag on Election Day.”

Let’s see if Hilleary can get himself a NASCAR driver — or even match Bryant metaphor for metaphor.


And bring an umbrella…

The Public Opinion of Chambersburg, Pa., had an amusing take on Rep. Bill Shuster’s (R-Pa.) response to the recent rains and flooding in the state.

As the paper editorialized: “Congressman Bill Shuster’s office jumped the gun a bit last week when it issued a press release telling people affected by the flooding to contact FEMA for assistance.

“Those who called the numbers provided were told FEMA couldn’t help until the president declares the area a disaster.

“A day later, the congressman’s spokesman advised people to contact local agencies and the Red Cross first and to check FEMA’s Web site for flood tips. With more showers supposedly on the way, he also advised people to check weather reports regularly.

“Thanks for thinking of us!”


Weldon’s birds of prey

Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.) met with two rare falcons Friday before briefing reporters on new evidence that weapons of mass destruction have been discovered in Iraq.

As a handful of reporters walked into Weldon’s personal office, they were greeted by what appeared to be an Osama bin Laden look-alike wearing a long white robe and thick glove with a hooded falcon perched on his forearm. His sidekick, a smaller gentleman in a suit, had another falcon on his gloved forearm.

Before the falcons and their handlers were ushered into a waiting room, they told the reporters that the falcons, at full speed, could descend as fast as 300 miles per hour.

Weldon’s spokesman could not be reached for comment on the visit.


Candidate already a Stewart vet

Most politicians are already veterans of the national stage before they ever get the ignominious honor of being skewered on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.” But for Randy Graf, a Republican state legislator running for Arizona’s 8th District House seat, the show is so two years ago.

Graf, who hopes to replace Republican Rep. Jim Kolbe, was featured in a 2004 segment about a bill he was supporting that would overturn a ban on guns in bars.

“It’s always fun when Arizona is the punch line to a national joke,” reads a 2004 release by the South East Arizona Republican Club, which tried to make lemonade out of the lemons being hurled at their man by Jon Stewart and company.

“It was a very interesting better part of three hours,” Graf said of his interview. “It will be even more interesting to see how they edit it down to about two minutes or less.”

The bill died in the state Senate.


Hot-dog lobby: Ketchup, a kiddie condiment

With their annual Hot Dog Lunch on the Hill looming, the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council is offering up an etiquette guide for munching the popular meats.

At the top of the list: an admonition that hot dogs should be topped with mustard. Nevertheless, a poll conducted for the council by Opinion Dynamics in June reveals that nearly two-thirds of hot-dog consumers under the age of 45 and half of the over-45 age group said they top their frankfurters with ketchup — “a children’s condiment.”

According to a release, the council is considering a “wiener commission” to determine if a social warning — or an etiquette modification — is in order.

Other points of dog etiquette: Never serve hot dogs on good china or with linen napkins; never take more than five bites to eat one; and do lick the mustard off your thumbnails.

The annual Hot Dog Lunch will take place July 19 from 11:30 to 1:30 in the Rayburn courtyard. Baseball greats Graig Nettles of the New York Yankees, Mike Boddicker of the Baltimore Orioles and Hall of Famer Juan Marichal of the San Francisco Giants will be on hand to sign autographs.


Irony or unfortunate coincidence?

During the markup last week of the telecom bill, did the Senate’s server make an argument for the very legislation the Senate was debating?

According to one Hill source, “The Senate recording studio’s stream of the Commerce Committee markup was terrible. The server even crashed a couple of times while net neutrality was being debated.”

Jonathan Kaplan contributed to this page.