WASHINGTON – George Clooney joked that he had to sneak into a Capitol Hill office building through a window Wednesday.
“I'd been banned,” he said at a news conference to support a bill that would help volunteers and those who need help.
The A-list Hollywood star has had a big week in Washington.
“K Street,” a television series featuring real politicians that Clooney co-produced,debuted on HBO Sunday night. After Clooney filmed part of the show in the Capitol complex, officials reminded members of Congress that such commercial ventures were against the rules.
The show’s premiere has many Washington tongues wagging,but that's not why he strutted around Capitol Hill Wednesday.
In the words of Sen. Hillary Clinton,D-N.Y.,Clooney “took some time away from ‘K Street' to help Main Street” by showing his support for the 2-1-1 Act of 2003.
The bipartisan legislation would expand 211 service nationwide.
Already available to 23 percent of the population,the three-digit phone number is a two-way street to help – people call if they need it or if they want to help others.
For instance,dialing the three-digit number in Atlanta,where it's been in the phone book since 1997,connects callers to important community services,such as child care or food banks,and volunteer opportunities.
Clinton said Connecticut's service was useful in the days following Sept. 11,2001,but New York really could have used its own number.
Clinton,a co-sponsor of the bill,said eager volunteers who didn't know what to do stopped her on the street.
“Because we didn't have the infrastructure,we didn't know the best way to manage,” she said.
Clinton predicted 211 service would also be helpful in times of natural disaster,mentioning Hurricane Isabel and the damage it’s likely to cause on the East Coast.
Adding to the event’s star power was Jordan’s Queen Rania,in town with her husband King Abdullah II. Queen Rania was visiting Clinton. Absent from the event was bill co-sponsor Sen. Elizabeth Dole,R-N.C.
“I was always taught that as a country we should be judged by how we take care of the people who can't take care of themselves,” said Clooney,an at-large board member of the United Way of America.
If he has his way,more Americans will be able to do just that soon.
The Federal Communications Commission laid the groundwork for national 211 service in 2000,when it reserved the number for community use.
A nod from Congress and some funding from the private sector could give half the population 211 access by 2005.