Jeff Flake — Marathon Man

With this week’s official bankruptcy announcement for General Motors hogging the headlines, Mills on the Hill awards the coveted Line of the Week Award to Rep. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeTrump's GOP impeachment firewall holds strong How to survive an impeachment Are Senate Republicans certain that Trump can return to office? MORE (R) of Arizona for his response to President Obama’s statement that the government’s new ownership role in GM might “give some Americans pause.” Flake tamely called the line “the understatement of the century,” but then just couldn’t help himself when he added: “a lot of nausea or a good case of the shivers would be more accurate.”

It’s been a few weeks but Flake, apparently re-energized after a week away from Capitol Hill (or Earmark Central, as most Flake-ites no doubt call it), is back at it, attempting to get the House to focus on the connection between earmarks and campaign contributions. Flake, who this week offered his ninth privileged resolution calling for the House ethics committee to examine the relationship between earmarks for clients of the John Murtha-related PMA Group and PMA-related campaign contributions, has been slowly gaining floor support from Democrats when it comes to the procedural floor vote to pursue the matter.
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Hard to say if Flake eventually gets enough Democrats to join him, but with each week bringing a new set of PMA-related headlines underscoring his concerns, you never know.

One of the latest headlines adding fuel to the Flake fire was the news that Rep. Pete Visclosky’s (D-Ind.) chief of staff, Chuck Brimmer, had resigned his post after receiving a subpoena as part of a federal grand jury investigation of the PMA Group.

Another form of victory for Flake could come if House Democratic leaders, always sensitized to the restless-native quotient in the caucus, decide to get ahead of the PMA parade and craft their own resolution. Whether that turns out to be the case or not, Flake gets credit for keeping the issue front and center. Not easy to do in the minority party, let alone a non-leadership member of the minority party …


Directionless GOP?



Who says the Republicans on Capitol Hill lack direction — or, in this case, directions? Mills on the Hill — who seems to be spending a lot of his discretionary time these days unsuccessfully navigating the hallways of the new Capitol Visitor Center, might need to check in more frequently with the press shop over at the GOP conference. They seem to have it all figured out.

In anticipation of a Wednesday morning GOP leaders news conference following a closed-door conference meeting on the house side of the Visitor Center (HVC to you and me) the conference press shop sent out quite interesting directions to “The Alcove,” just outside HVC 210, where the leaders would make themselves available. Here goes:

“From the Cannon Tunnel, take the hallway towards the CVC on the right. Go through a set of double doors.

“Continue down the hallway and through a second set of double doors. After the second set of doors, turn left and proceed down one flight of the spiral staircase under the skylight. (Note: there are elevators to the left of the stairs.) At the base of the staircase, bear right towards the blue carpeted hallway. At the end of this hallway, turn right. The stakeout area will be pushed into the wall about halfway down the hallway on your left.”

Whew! Get all that? Where’s the theme music to “Get Smart” when you need it? I know we have spent a ton of dough on the CVC as it is, but how much more could it cost us for personalized GPS devices to get around that place. Maybe we could get some sort of Segway station down there and travel around in a group so we don’t get lost. Sounds like a nice little transportation earmark for someone. Just please don’t tell Jeff Flake about it — he’s already got too much on his plate.



And finally …




From the Credit where Credit’s Due file: A real nice moment up at the White House this week when President Obama announced Republican New York Rep. John McHugh as his new secretary of the Army. McHugh, quite well-thought-of on both sides of the aisle, seemed to be genuinely embarrassed by the effusive praise being heaped on him by the President in making the announcement. Then, when it was his turn to speak out, came this rare (in Washington) but nice moment of candor from McHugh, who seemed genuinely moved by the moment:

“Thank you, Mr. President. I’ve thought long and hard as to what I might say that would sound original at this moment. But honestly, I don’t have an original thought in my mind — all I know is what I feel in my heart, and that is that I am enormously moved and deeply proud of this nomination.”

What a concept! If you actually don’t have anything original to say about a particular topic, just admit it, and don’t ramble on until it comes to you. Too bad McHugh is leaving Capitol Hill. Would be nice if he had a little more time here so he could infect a few of his colleagues with a little of that candor thing. You never know. Those stilted, unilateral, non-responsive, talking-point floor statements that disguise themselves as “floor debate” might actually start sounding like real conversations yet.

Please send any snarky comments or effusive praise — stilted or otherwise — to Jim Mills at jmills@thehill.com.