An Iowa Wife Picks and Pans the Pols

updated 08/18/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/18/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Television on Capitol Hill may not yet have the soaps on the ropes, but there may be something to Sen. Dale Bumpers' prediction about the attraction of legislative video (see previous story). For Kay Cutcher of Sioux City, Iowa, C-SPAN's live coverage of Congress isn't just another cable offering—it's a way of life. Housewife Cutcher, 60, plans her day around Ted (Kennedy) and Bob (Dole) and Jake (Garn). By 8:30 a.m. on weekdays, she's planted in front of her Magnavox TV, coffee cup in hand, waiting to find out what the day will bring on the Hill. If the Senate has scheduled hearings on a hot topic, she puts lunch dates and shopping trips on hold. Housework is done in spates (during voting recesses); when Cutcher is forced to leave home, she tapes the proceedings and catches up when she returns. Before she discovered C-SPAN's comprehensive House coverage during an idle channel scan in 1981, "I never watched much TV," she says. "Now I have the set turned on C-SPAN from the moment I wake up till the time I go to bed."

A longtime political junkie and volunteer for her beloved Republican Party, Cutcher is blunt when it comes to sizing up Congress: The House's Bill McCollum (R-Fla.) is "an independent thinker...a nice young man but as homely as all get out." Sen. Bill Bradley (D-N.J.) "is one of my pet peeves—his habit of talking through his nose comes between me and what he has to say." And Senator Garn (R-Utah) "is so darn sexy that when he appears on the screen I go sit down."

As Kay sees it, only Julio Iglesias—and perhaps her husband, Lane—are anywhere near as scintillating as the U.S. Congress. The manager of a Sherwin-Williams paint store, Lane, 58, is remarkably good-humored about his wife's fixation. While her acquired acumen can be a touch annoying—"She is so knowledgeable about what's going on that she makes me feel out of it," he says. The only real problems arise when he wants to watch Hill Street Blues, Moonlighting or reruns of Barney Miller. Kay relents, but she often doesn't have to miss a whole hour of rip-roaring legislative action: "I just wait for him to fall asleep, and then I switch back to C-SPAN," she says.

Although some of Kay's chums share her habit (and occasionally gather for a lunch of cold cuts and salad and the afternoon Senate session), not everyone understands the obsession that once led her to rise at 3 a.m. to tape the rerun of a hot debate. "Friends tell me that it's not good to sit here all the time in front of the TV," says Cutcher. "But I don't even like to go into the kitchen for a cup of coffee, because when I come back I might find the session gaveled shut."

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