The four Singing Senators joke they'll have trouble giving away copies of their new CD, but its debut helped raise an estimated $200,000 for Alzheimer's research.
The GOP lawmakers belted out a few standards Monday evening at the $10,000-per-table event, closing with a rendition of "Elvira" by the Oak Ridge Boys, complete with Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott growling its "ummmmh poppa, ummmmh poppa, mau, mau" bass line.The quartet has sung in Branson, Mo., with the Oaks, at the 1996 Republican convention and at countless other fund-raisers and charity events.
"I think everyone's surprised when senators in blue suits stand up to sing - we're not supposed to do that," said Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, who sings lead. "And I hope it adds a new dimension, that we really are real people who are interested in things that real people are interested in."
Offstage, the lawmakers wrestle with such weighty issues as last week's battle over tobacco legislation to curb teen smoking and bring nicotine under federal regulation. The issue divided them evenly, with Craig and Missouri Sen. John Ashcroft working to kill the bill and Lott and Vermont Sen. James Jeffords arguing for its passage.
"We don't fight issues out in the practice room, we fight them out on the floor of the Senate," Ashcroft said. "I think that's where the business of America ought to be conducted, in the open and on the floor."
This performance had particular significance for Ashcroft, a baritone who's sung on his own at the Grand Ole Opry and has three albums already under his belt.
"My father-in-law died of Alzheimer's disease, and my wife was one of the primary organizers of Alzheimer's Foundation in Missouri," the former governor said. "This is a personal matter; it's not just an opportunity to raise money for some charity."
The event, which raised an estimated $200,000 for the Ronald and Nancy Reagan Research Institute for Alzheimer's Association, also featured performances by country singers Suzy Bogguss and Travis Tritt.
The senators' CD, "Let Freedom Sing!" was recorded in Nashville Dec. 12.