Rules Committee places the Senate on a diet

Don’t take this the wrong way, senators, but somebody appears to have noticed that those suits aren’t fitting quite as well as they once did.

Staff for the Senate Rules Committee sent out a Sept. 4 memo, misleadingly titled “Two NEW cafeteria items,” alerting members and aides to a development in the Dirksen Senate Office Building’s North Servery: less food.

“We are implementing the better nutrition area today including the 400 calorie box lunches,” the memo declared.

Rules Committee Staff Director Howard Gantman did not cite growing Senate waistlines as the reason for the change, but said that panel Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and ranking Republican Bob Bennett (R-Utah) — both pretty trim themselves — have more changes coming.

Senate Restaurants has recently started offering fresh-packaged sushi, and the tuna salad is no longer made with full-fat mayonnaise, thanks to the Rules Committee’s efforts.

And stay tuned: Senate podiums may be attached to treadmills soon enough.

“We expect to see more changes soon,” Gantman said. “While there has been lots of talk about the polarization on Capitol Hill, this has been a truly bipartisan effort by Senator Feinstein and Senator Bennett.”

Coleman earns bit part in Craig saga

A Google search of “Coleman” and “sex in a bathroom” immediately produces almost 300 hits — not because Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) has been accused of anything unsavory, but because he holds the distinction of being the very first senator to condemn the behavior of colleague Larry Craig (R-Idaho).

Coleman explained that he never set out to kick Craig, who was already very much down, when he sat down for a radio interview on the morning of Aug. 29.

Coleman had almost finished his spot on “Hot Talk with Scott Hennen” without addressing the Craig issue at all until his host got to his last question: “Do you believe that Larry Craig is innocent?”

“I’m thinking to myself, ‘Nothing seems credible,’” Coleman said in a Sept. 4 interview when asked to comment on Craig’s claims that his actions were misunderstood by the arresting police officer. “‘I pled guilty, but now I want a do-over?’”

Because reporters have almost no access to members of Congress during recess, Coleman’s characterization of Craig’s conduct as “disgusting” made newspapers from coast to coast — cementing Coleman’s Web connection to the incident.

“Look, I feel bad for Larry Craig, I feel bad for his family. That must be awful,” Coleman said. “But [the radio host] asked a question, and I gave a candid answer — we do actually do that in this business.”

Get ready to rock. And pray. And vote. Think Dalai Lama

If you like your rock concerts with a side order of religion and more than a whiff of politics, Graham Nash has your back.

Tickets go on sale tomorrow for the “Pray for Peace Benefit Concert and Prelude Prayer Ceremony,” planned for Oct. 16 at the National Cathedral. Planners of the event say it is in honor of the Dalai Lama, who will receive the Congressional Gold Medal on Oct. 17.

The lineup will include David Crosby, Jackson Browne, Keb’ Mo’, Emily Saliers, John Hall, Krishna Das and a slew of interfaith religious leaders. Proceeds will go to the International Campaign for Tibet and Washington National Cathedral’s Center for Global Justice and Reconciliation programs.

The old Ben Nelson is back — with a plan

Readers will be relieved to hear that Sen. Ben Nelson’s (D-Neb.) hair has returned to the salt-and-pepper (mostly salt) color that was so startlingly changed to brown in July.

Nelson, who maintains that he didn’t understand what his untested barber was up to when he turned Nelson’s hair color to
a deep chestnut, explained that the experience has led him on a new crusade.

“I am challenging all women to let their natural hair color grow back — it’s only fair,” Nelson joked.

Nearby, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a brunette whose coiffure we had never thought to question, thought not.

“No way,” Collins said, pointing to her own hair with both hands.

About one-fifth of Congress’s Harvard grads deemed  ‘influential’

A Harvard University publication announced on Sept. 4 its second annual list of the “Harvard 100” — sort of like People magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful,” except not.

The magazine, named 02138, included a mere seven members of Congress on its list of the school’s most influential alums, although about three dozen former grads roam the Capitol campus.

Making the cut were Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), who can’t get through a newspaper profile without being called a “rock star”; Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who’s blamed for all Democratic success and never met a camera he couldn’t love; Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), who is still kicking after all of these years; Carl Levin (D-Mich.), who has never been called a rock star but knows his way around a defense authorization bill; and Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), the Senate’s face of the anti-war movement. House members on the list include Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who is perhaps the most quotable of all chairmen, and Ron Kind (D-Wis.), who … well, who seems nice.

Most of the folks who did make the list were business types, but don’t worry: At least half of them will retire and run for Congress soon enough.