- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 29, 2005

Negotiating release

Delayed airline flights or required attendance to matters in one’s district are two of the most common excuses submitted in writing by absentee congressmen who fail to show up for vital roll-call votes.

One unusually honest congresswoman not long ago stood at the House lectern and offered that she was just “too exhausted” to have voted at the appointed time.

But if anybody had a legitimate excuse to be AWOL in the crucial days leading up to this current congressional holiday recess, it was Rep. Joe L. Barton, Texas Republican, who on Dec. 18 inserted the following explanation into the Congressional Record:

“Mr. Speaker, on Thursday, December 15, 2005, I was admitted to the hospital upon suffering a heart attack. As a result, I missed three days of votes.”

Obviously, the 56-year-old Mr. Barton, a former White House Fellow, was quick to mend after being admitted to George Washington University Hospital. However, during his recovery, we had to laugh at one statement in particular issued by his press secretary, Karen Modlin:

“The congressman is currently negotiating his release date with the doctor. If the doctor is more successful than others who negotiate with Joe Barton, we expect him to go home within a few days.”

Paid to hate

Hats off to Rep. Louie Gohmert for sticking up for America.

The Texas Republican is pushing his United Nations Accountability Act of 2004, which would hold U.N. member nations accountable for their anti-American positions. In a nutshell, it would prohibit U.S. financial assistance to any nation that votes in opposition to the United States on a consistent basis.

“It is critical that some of these nations receiving vast amounts of U.S. tax dollars realize some of us are tired of their working so hard against us,” Mr. Gohmert said, adding that he is tired of the United States playing the “role as benefactor to countries” that bash us.

The congressman offered a similar amendment last summer; however, despite 108 votes in support of the measure, it went down in defeat.

Power of Hulk

Veteran Washington writer and author Alicia Mundy, who now pens a column for the Seattle Times, told us yesterday that she’s putting together a piece on Washington fashions, specifically preferred designs and styles worn by politicians.

(She also promises to sound the “poor-taste” horn on the leading ladies in town who regularly “apply their make-up with a trowel,” but we’ll allow her to go out on that dangerous limb by herself.)

That said, Miss Mundy was hanging around the Senate chamber in recent days while on the Senate floor, debate ensued on Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens‘ proposal to allow oil drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

She also happened to observe that the Republican was wearing his Incredible Hulk tie when he took the Senate gavel to oversee the slugfest. (Mr. Stevens often sports the comic book character around his neck “when slugging it out over issues close to his heart,” she noted.)

“What he didn’t know was that his top opponent on the drilling provision, Washington’s Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell, had found an Incredible Hulk tie in the Senate cloakroom the previous night and donned it while she worked the phones to round up anti-drilling votes,” Miss Mundy added.

As it happened, the lady senator “beat congressional oddsmakers and surprised herself with three more votes than needed to block the drilling proposal from going to the Senate floor.”

Record speed

This just in: NASA’s “Stardust” mission is nearing Earth after an incredible 2.88 billion mile round-trip journey to retrieve cometary and interstellar dust particles that could provide answers on the origins of the solar system.

The velocity of the return capsule — it is scheduled to enter the Earth’s atmosphere on Jan. 15 at 28,860 mph, landing at 5:12 a.m. at the U.S. Air Force Utah Test and Training Range — will be the fastest of any human-made object on record, according to NASA.

To land safely, the capsule will first release a drogue parachute at about 105,000 feet, then deploy a main parachute at about 10,000 feet.

Out of time

How I leapt into 2005

And pursued all my plans with such drive!

But it’s now crystal clear

That there’s not enough year

Before 2006 will arrive.

F.R. Duplantier

• John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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