Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 9, 2016

Posts by Meredith Shiner

17 Posts

February 25, 2014

African-American Senators Reflect on Their Own History

 Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., left, speaks during the "Honoring our Past and Celebrating our Future: Discussing Personal Journeys and a Nation's Progress with America's Black Senators" event, hosted by Sen. Scott on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014. Also pictured are U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry Black, former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, D-Ill., and former Sen. Roland Burris, D-Ill. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Tim Scott, U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry Black, and former Sens. Carol Moseley Braun and Roland Burris at an event to honor America’s black senators. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Chaplain Barry Black stood in front of a packed auditorium Tuesday and discussed one of the two times he was late to open the Senate because of D.C. traffic.

Former Sen. William “Mo” Cowan of Massachusetts had been the freshman Democrat delegated that day to preside over the chamber and gavel Black in. Though Black said he is loathe to pick favorites among lawmakers and parishioners, Cowan is one because on that morning, he offered the Senate prayer in the chaplain’s place.

“Fortunately, No. 1, he’s African-American. No. 2 he has a bald head, and No. 3 he wears bow ties,” Black joked with a mostly African-American crowd at the Library of Congress, there for a Black History Month panel organized by Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C. Black noted that several people could and had confused him with Cowan, who is one of only nine African-Americans to ever serve in the Senate.

Black’s anecdote was a joke, but in telling it, he shined light on an unfunny truth: Minority politicians are still the outlier in the Senate and its history. Full story

February 12, 2014

Did the RNC Steal Its Beats for Anti-Senate Dems Ad From B.o.B and 2 Chainz?

Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., might not be “booty poppin’ in a headstand,” but he did vote for Obamacare, and the Republican National Committee would like you to know — in seven web ads attacking 2014 Senate Democrats that seem to lift beats from B.o.B. featuring 2Chainz’s song “Headband.”

The 40-second Web-only spots can be viewed here. They hit Pryor, along with Sens. Mark Begich of Alaska, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Mark Udall of Colorado and Mark Warner of Virginia, all of whom are up for re-election in 2014.

“Out of work? It’s tough out there,” the ad reads, before splicing together clips on the health care law and a Congressional Budget Office report about its impacts on the job market (which, of course, lacks the context for what the report really said, because … YOLO, it’s 40 seconds).

Now, here is the video for the B.o.B./2 Chainz jam. HOH should warn you that many of the lyrics are NSFW and there are quite a few scantily clad ladies featured throughout. But everything is sort of amazing when you think about the RNC’s message against the seven vulnerable Democrats set to this beat.

“She broke it down started moving like Shakira/Like she do it in the mirror,” a cleaner lyric reads.

Insert “Jeanne Shaheen” for “she” and you’ve got a solid sequel for the next “HeadBand”-inspired RNC spot: “Jeanne Shaheen’s hips don’t lie … or do they?”

Whatever. Maybe the beats are different and the RNC added a “little bitty ting.”

“I can assure you we purchased this music and didn’t steal anything,” RNC spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski said in an e-mail.

By Meredith Shiner Posted at 12:52 p.m.

November 4, 2013

Lord Stanley’s Cup Visits Capitol Hill, Parties in Durbin’s Office

National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman chats with Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., at a reception for the 2013 Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman talks to Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, at a reception for the 2013 Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks.

For the second time in four years, the Stanley Cup found its way to Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin’s Capitol leadership suite as Illinois ex-pats, Capitol Police hockey superfans, Senate pages and ogling reporters (including this one) celebrated the Chicago Blackhawks.

Or at least they snapped photos with one of sports’ most iconic and unhygienic trophies.

Durbin spent much of the Monday afternoon open house holding court, sitting on his desk and chatting up reception attendees such as National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman and fellow Illinois Democratic Rep. Mike Quigley.

As HOH friend Jordan Fabian of ABC News-Univision points out, perhaps Durbin’s talk with Bettman would have been more useful during the shutdown, as the NHL head has some experience with work stoppages stemming from an “impasse” between two sides.

Earlier Monday, the Stanley Cup was at the White House, where adopted Chicagoan President Barack Obama celebrated the Blackhawks players and staff.

Obama, a declared White Sox fan, even squeezed in a jab at the Cubs.

“Since I’ve been president, only one team has brought the world championship to my hometown of Chicago, and now the Blackhawks have done it twice,” Obama said. “Three years ago, the ‘Hawks won their first Stanley Cup in 49 years. Keep in mind the Cubs have been waiting for 105. So 49 might not have seemed so bad.”

Sorry, Dad.

October 2, 2013

Rand Paul Just Wants Bipartisan Coffee … and Maybe Some Photos of It

In these difficult times, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has asked his colleagues to join him Thursday for a nice, leisurely, comity-building bipartisan coffee … on the Capitol steps. Where anyone can take photographs.

Two Democratic sources passed along Paul’s “Dear Colleague” invitation, which was distributed over the Democratic Senate schedulers Listserv. Hopefully those schedulers are essential and still checking email!

The letter:

Bipartisan Coffee

“Rand Paul appointing himself the arbiter of bipartisanship is like Miley Cyrus appointing herself the arbiter of modesty,” says one of our snarky sources.

September 19, 2013

Essential Senate GOP Staffer to Fellow Republicans: Let’s Avoid a Shutdown

Apparently the Senate administrative director’s Listserv got a little sassy Thursday morning, with Sen. Susan Collins’ administrative director telling Sen. David Vitter’s administrative director that her office’s priority should be to avoid a government shutdown, not determine who is nonessential staff.

Multiple sources of both parties (laughs are bipartisan!) sent this exchange HOH’s way, and it is awesome. If we can’t laugh at the upcoming tedium of being at the Capitol at all hours for days on end as a government shutdown looms, what can we laugh at? Full story

August 19, 2013

Reid: MLB Should Let Pete Rose Into the Hall of Fame

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., thinks that Major League Baseball should lift its lifetime ban on Pete Rose and induct him into the Hall of Fame.

Because, of course. Reid loves talking about baseball. And he’s also from Nevada, where gambling is nbd. For those of you a little more #WGDB and a little less #MLB, Rose is baseball’s all-time leader in hits but is permanently banned from Cooperstown because he bet on games while playing for and managing the Cincinnati Reds.

Before a scheduled political interview with the Reno Gazette-Journal, Reid was talking up the Hall of Fame credentials of Ichiro Suzuki, when he dropped the bomb about Charlie Hustle.

“And let’s also bring in Pete Rose. He has been punished enough,” Reid said, according to the paper. “He [Rose] has been [punished] for years. … He bet when he was a manager of a team. Games were lost. All that stuff. But he’s been punished enough. He is one of the great baseball players of all time. He didn’t take drugs, so yes; I think he should be in.”

It remains unclear whether Reid’s last indictment — “he didn’t take drugs” — was a direct shot at embattled New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez. But at this point, a shared hatred of that guy could be the only bipartisan bridge to avert a government shutdown, so maybe we’ll take it. But let us not forget, Reid is still the guy who makes political analogies on the Senate floor pegged to Davey Johnson being the best manager in baseball and that dude appears to be on his way out.

August 16, 2013

Domino’s Sends Proof of Halibut Receipt to Begich

How do you like them halibut? I guess OK, says Domino’s CEO J. Patrick Doyle, to Sen. Mark Begich, who called out the pizza magnate after an ad went after the famous Alaskan fish.

Domino’s posted a picture of Doyle with the fish sent to him by the Alaska Democrat in an “I <3 Halibut” polo shirt, which lord knows, they probably had to have made for the occasion.

The tweet:

Thanks again @SenatorBegich…usually it’s pizza for Friday lunch. Today, Alaskan Halibut. It’s “ofishal” – I love it!

7 Must-Follow Lawmakers on Twitter

The most interesting politicians on Twitter are the ones who show the most personality, which certainly creates heartburn for their press staffers but sometimes delivers amusing glimpses into their lives.

This is especially important during recess when lawmakers are home in their natural habitats, while the denizens of D.C. have little to do.

So without further ado, a few folks you should follow on the Twitter machines — because why not inflate the egos of senators and congressmen on a recess Friday?

1. @ChuckGrassley: The original best Senate tweeter. “Assume deer dead” is part of the D.C. dork lexicon, which is a testament to the strength of personal candor and our own nerdiness. But really, how else would we be able to see the biggest pig at the Iowa State Fair? No way else.

ChuckGrassley ‏@ChuckGrassley
Biggest pig Iowa StFair

2. @ChrisMurphyCT: Check out this tweet, bro. One hashtag, two words: #buttvine. Then jokes about said #buttvine here and here.

Chris Murphy @ChrisMurphyCT
Let thou who hast never sent out a pocket vine AND pocket tweet within two weeks cast the first stone.

3. @jahimes: The Twitter Robin to Senate Bro Murphy’s Batman. Or Something. This feed’s got it all! Ricky Bobby jokes AND pickles.


Jim Himes @jahimes
Stand back jack! Seizing on this overcast day to make pickles!

4. @clairecmc: Come for the 140-character opinions, stay for the baby pictures.

Claire McCaskill ‏@clairecmc
Pure Sunday bliss with my grandson.

5. @farenthold: No filter, no problems. I mean just look at this royal baby joke. Don’t you hear the “ba dum ch”  in your head? You do.

Blake Farenthold @farenthold
Congrats to Prince William & Kate on the birth of the #RoyalBaby. The baby weighed a little over 8 pounds. Or about $12.29 in US dollars.

6. @SteveWorks4You: The most HOH-documented Twitter feed for a reason. The “just let it happen” approach to social media.

Rep. Steve Stockman ‏@SteveWorks4You
He’s doing an impression of MSNBC’s ratings. MT @ktumulty I’m sharing the MSNBC green room with a deceased #olinguito

However, we would be remiss if we didn’t note that Stockman’s communications director, Donny Ferguson (@DonnyFerguson) ghost-writes most of Stockman’s tweets. So follow him, too.

7. @mocowan: No longer in Congress but still the best. Everybody likes Mo Cowan in real life. Everybody should like him on Twitter. #bowties

Mrs @mocowan (born in Brooklyn) just kicked it up a notch when Jay Z ripped into “Empire State of Mind”. #iaintmadather

August 15, 2013

Begich to Mediocre Pizza CEO: Stop Hatin’ on Halibut

Yo Domino’s. If you’re going to insult a fish while trying to put together a clever ad campaign, Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, would prefer you not pick on halibut.

The senator sent a halibut fillet and accompanying letter to Domino’s Pizza CEO J. Patrick Doyle accusing him of having an “uniformed palate” that led to his slight of the fish in the 30-second TV spot, “Powered by Pizza.” Given that Doyle is the CEO of Domino’s, HOH finds the likelihood of him having an “uninformed palate” quite high.

The ad, in case you have no desire to waste the next 30 seconds of your life, declares, “No one’s coming up with a world-changing idea over halibut. No way.”

From Begich’s letter:

“It occurs to me that your pizza preference may be the result of an uninformed palate, so I’ve sent you a delicious Alaska halibut fillet for your edible edification,” said Begich.  “I know you’ll enjoy this tasty treat and hope it will become the first of many fresh Alaska fillets you will feast on in the future.” Full story

August 1, 2013

Senators Attend Bipartisan BBQ Before Recess Stampede

At least it wasn’t one of their colleagues on a spit.

Just minutes after a contentious vote on a Transportation-HUD spending bill, senators gathered for an August recess farewell barbecue lunch in the Kennedy Caucus Room.

Sens. Dianne Feinstein, Dan Coats, Jeanne Shaheen and Charles E. Grassley arrive in the Russell Building for a bipartisan BBQ. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call.)

Sens. Dianne Feinstein, Dan Coats, Jeanne Shaheen and Charles E. Grassley arrive in the Russell Building for a bipartisan BBQ. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

It was unclear what the farewell fete was to celebrate, perhaps that many members won’t have to see each other for five weeks.

Not every senator went. Others still were seen exiting the Senate office buildings early to get back to the Capitol.

A few, though, embraced the proximity of bipartisanship. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., chatted collegially with Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., on an open-air subway car back to the Capitol. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., stopped to talk briefly with TV cameras on her way out.

This was the second consecutive August send-off pig pickin’, with a similar gathering happening last year as well.

Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., said he provided the food for the barbecue, which came from Sam’s BBQ 1 in Marietta, Ga., the same barbecue joint that catered the event last year. “I think it’s a good way to end the session for the summer and leave on a good note,” Isakson said.

Perhaps when senators come back after Labor Day, they can make a wager on a friendly game of cornhole to raise the debt limit.

July 26, 2013

Happy 24th Birthday to the Greatest Floor Speech of All Time

On this day 24 years ago, a spirited congressman from Illinois named Richard J. Durbin, now the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, delivered what is unquestionably the greatest diatribe to ever grace the House floor — in defense of the wooden bat.

A young Durbin, still speaking with his strong Illinois accent, (as a Land of Lincoln lady myself, trust me on this; listen for how he says “pajamas” and “Americana”) was so riled up by the cheers of his colleagues as he hit the dramatic crescendo of his speech that he effectively dropped the mic when it was over.

Eat your heart out, Harry Reid, with your tired Davey Johnson metaphors.

“I don’t want to hear about saving trees, any tree in America would gladly give its life for a day of glory at home plate,” Durbin proclaimed. “I don’t know if it will take a constitutional amendment to keep the baseball traditions alive, but if we forsake the great Americana of broken-bat singles and pine tar, we certainly will have lost our way as a nation.”

May we mark this day every year to remember what America is really all about, and that even though it’s unclear who Durbin was addressing with this little ditty, aluminum bats have remained out of professional baseball for decades.

If we don’t take a moment to appreciate the glory that is the Durbin Wooden Bats™ speech now, in the heart of baseball season, then HOH has to ask, “Is nothing sacred?”

July 18, 2013

Not So Much Fun in the Sun: No Labels on a Sweltering Day

No Labels? No extra shirt? Probably a problem. Sorry, Congress.

On Thursday, the nonpartisan group No Labels — dubbed on its own website as “a movement of Democrats, Republicans and everyone in between dedicated to promoting a new politics of problem solving” — held a rally in Senate Park to demonstrate how awesome being bipartisan can be. One by one, dozens of lawmakers, sweating through shirts in the blistering sun, declared themselves problem solvers. Problem solvers for the children. Problem solvers for America. Problem solvers for photo opportunities.

Here’s the thing, children, America and photographers: People who think it’s a good idea to hold a giant news conference in 93-degree heat with 65 percent humidity to bask in the love of their own ambition to solve problems call into question their ability to solve problems, or at least plan an event. Full story

July 15, 2013

Leader Reid, It’s Mark Sanchez on Line One

Hey, if Harry Reid can take a gratuitous knock at the University of Southern California football program, HOH can take a gratuitous shot at the New York Jets, amirite?

With that out of the way (sorry, Jets fans), we’ll get to the serious accusations the Senate majority leader launched against Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez’s alma mater — that they bought players! — which is sort of like that one time Mitt Romney paid an effective zero percent tax rate, except probably a little truer.

The Nevada Democrat spoke Monday morning at the Center for American Progress and made little to no news about the Senate’s filibuster standoff, but he did take a 20-second timeout to flash his sports acumen by making fun of a poor, unassuming intern from USC, who told the majority leader that he was mulling “switching sides” after Reid’s Trojan insults. Full story

June 18, 2013

The Ron Johnson Facts of Life

At a Senate Budget Committee hearing Tuesday, Ron Johnson, R-Wis., shared his three top keys to succeeding in life, two of which involve sex and drugs, or the lack thereof.

Johnson was filling in for Budget ranking member Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., at a hearing with Education Secretary Arne Duncan about the department’s budget when he imparted the wisdom he usually reserves for students to his colleagues and the nation’s top education official.

“There’s no doubt about it that we all know that education is real key. We share that same goal that we want to make sure our children are armed with the tools to lead a successful and productive life. When I meet with students, I frequently cite the three things that if you either do or avoid doing, you’ll have a pretty good chance at leading a successful life,” Johnson said at the top of his remarks. Full story

June 13, 2013

Richmond Dominates Again for Democrats

House Democrats may not be able to reclaim the majority for another decade because of redistricting, but for as long as Rep. Cedric L. Richmond, D-La., is an elected official, they’re certain to reign supreme on the baseball diamond.

Rep. Cedric Richmond slides headfirst into third with a triple during the 52nd Annual CQ Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call.)

Richmond slides headfirst into third for a triple during the 52nd Annual CQ Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Richmond, donning an old-school Brooklyn Dodgers No. 42 jersey in honor of the late Jackie Robinson, dominated the game, pitching 7 shutout innings, notching 4 hits and driving in 2 runs, to lead the Democrats to the most lopsided win in 52 years of CQ Roll Call Congressional Baseball, 22-0. The Louisiana Democrat told teammates and reporters he was sick before the game. Yet he recorded a Michael-Jordan-in-Game-Five-Of-The-1997-NBA-Finals-like performance, making everyone else on the field look like the out-of-shape congressional amateurs that they are.

“If it was high school or college, I wouldn’t dare try to get away with it,” Richmond told Roll Call before the game at Nationals Park.

Richmond said there was a lot of pressure being the best athlete on the field, but he was sure to point out fellow Democrats who also know how to play ball. In particular, he said, freshman Patrick Murphy of Florida, a former varsity high school baseball captain, was a “true story.” “He can play and he can hit,” Richmond said.

Sen. Christopher S. Murphy, D-Conn., no relation, overhearing a claim of Patrick as “the better Murphy” outside the dugout pregame, bristled at such a designation.

“He hasn’t even played a game, how can you say he’s the better Murphy yet?” the Democrats’ catcher quipped. While the senator might not be the better player, he impressed this reporter by passing my baseball trivia test, knowing that former Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona was Jordan’s manager at Double-A Birmingham (See? And you thought I wouldn’t tie all my obscure sports references together?).

With their victory Thursday night, Democrats took their fifth straight win from Republicans, a small solace for being the House minority for three years and counting. The previously most lopsided win was a 17-1 GOP drubbing of the Democrats in 1999.

Meanwhile, on the Republican side, Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, dressed in a casual light-pink dress shirt, tried to rally his troops in the dugout before first pitch. True to form, the speaker’s effort was valiant but ultimately futile.

“Keep your eye on the ball. When it comes to you in the field, just keep your eye on it,” Boehner said, his voice raised. “Let’s go out there and kick their ass!”

Rep. Linda T. Sánchez, D-Calif., the only female player, was a fan favorite, getting to first base twice and taking second base on an error in the 5th inning after notching a single.

Roll Call’s most quotable player award, however, goes to Rep. Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y. Crowley, dressed head-to-toe in Mets gear, warmed up before the game on the third-base line with Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., who once mulled challenging the New Yorker for his leadership post.

Crowley said he’s “still a Mets fan” despite the recent demotion of family friend Mike Baxter to Triple-A Las Vegas. Roll Call asked if he would play better than the last congressman to wear a full Mets uniform in the game, current New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner, Crowley brought the quintessential Empire State lawmaker sass.

“I don’t know that I’m going to play better than him, but I’m definitely going to use the Internet better than him,” Crowley said.

When pressed on whether there was a “Sports Illustrated”-like Congressional Baseball Game cover jinx, given that this year’s program featured defeated Republican Rep. Robert Dold of Illinois in a Cubs jersey, Crowley had an answer for that, too.

“They had a hard time finding a decent picture of a Republican with a smile on his face, so that’s all they could come up with. it was a rough night for them,” Crowley said.

If only he knew there would be even fewer smiles this year, and more Republican staffers hitting the exits early.

But as the image of a smiling defeated congressman in a Cubs jersey reminds everyone, there’s always next year.

By Meredith Shiner Posted at 10:13 p.m.
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