In the Loop: Someone’s able to play ball on Capitol Hill

Al Kamen
Columnist June 26, 2013

At five years old, the Congressional Women’s Softball Game looks all grown up.

At the game Wednesday night, signs abounded that the annual charity matchup, which pits members of Congress against the Washington press corps, has become an established tradition on Capitol Hill.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

There were bigger crowds than in previous years, food trucks peddling gourmet ice cream and pineapple-basil popsicles, a full-fledged social-media campaign to promote it and a few Washington celebs in the stands (hey, Speaker John Boehner!, hi, Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough!).

“I even have tabs on my folder!” boasted Sen. Amy Klobuchar , the Minnesota Democrat, who, along with CNN’s Dana Bash, serves as one of the announcers and color commentators. She held up a sheaf of well-organized notes detailing statistics about the players.

Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.), the Members’ starting catcher, tells the Loop that the more professional tone has extended to her team’s preparation and training schedule. “We’ve really been working on our skills development,” she says. “You’ve seen people really showing up for practice, taking it seriously — and I think you’ll see that on the field.”

The lawmakers put in a strong performance throughout, but the sixth inning proved lethal for them, when the Bad News Babes scored six runs.

Although the competitive spirit was alive and well, the players were quick to note that the evening was really about raising money and awareness for the Young Survival Coalition, an organization devoted to supporting young women who have breast cancer.

The lawmakers’ strong performance prompted Bash to jokingly question whether Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who co-founded the game after her battle with breast cancer and is the chair of the Democratic National Committee, was using some new techniques.

“I’m convinced she’s recruiting not just new members but softball players,” Bash said.

Not all the drama was on the diamond, though. The lawmakers were urged on by pom-pom-waving squad of cheerleaders led by former congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.). Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) heckled from the sidelines. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) danced to an Alicia Keys tune while House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) chowed down on Cracker Jack.

Filibuster footwear

Say what you will about Wendy Davis’s now-famous 11-hour filibuster of an abortion bill, but the Texas state senator got one thing indisputably right: her choice of footwear.

Davis sported a rouge-red pair of running shoes (they were Mizunos, probably a model called “The Wave Rider,” which promise joggers an “exquisitely smooth ride.”)

We can already hear the squeals of indignation: Why do the news media always focus on a powerful woman’s footwear? In other words, why is it always about the shoes?

But the Loop contends that proper filibuster footwear is an issue that knows no gender. Senators, male and female, take note. This is how it’s done.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) could have benefited from better kicks when he launched his own filibuster in March in protest of the Obama administration’s use of drones. Paul didn’t know ahead of time that he would have the opportunity to take to the floor, and so he was wearing his usual senatorial togs — dress shoes included — for the marathon session, which lasted nearly 13 hours, more than an hour longer than Davis’s.

“I didn’t wear my most comfortable shoes or anything,” he told reporters afterward. Given the opportunity, he said, he “would have worn different shoes.”

He recounted in a Washington Post op-ed how Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) even offered to lend the senator the cowboy boots off his own feet when Paul complained about his footwear.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) tells us he wore his “normal leather loafers” for his eight-hour filibuster of a tax deal in 2010 and didn’t seem too much worse the wear for using them.

But we think Davis, with her high-performance footwear, was on the right track.

Just ask Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), who often wears a pair of black Puma sneakers in lieu of dress shoes. His spokesman tells us that shortly after Whitehouse came to the Senate, he realized how much walking was involved in the job and promptly swapped out wingtips for comfier sneaks. “If he’s going to be running around here, he’d rather be wearing the Pumas,” a spokesman tells us.

Bottom line: Leaving aside questions about other ways in which filibusters may be an uncomfortable proposition (no bathroom breaks!), it’s even harder when your dogs are barking.

With Emily Heil

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop
. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

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