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March 13, 2014

Wrap-up: The D.C. Experience at SXSW

AUSTIN, Texas — The doors to South By Southwest Interactive closed Tuesday after five days of nonstop events, just as the madding crowds for the music festival started arriving.

Austin has a counterculture reputation, and SXSW’s origins are in the Wild West of the tech space. But recently, the festival has turned into what critics have called a brand orgy, and some SXSW attendees didn’t seem all that surprised that Washington was getting in on the action. (Early SXSW attendees have been saying the festival has jumped the shark for years.)

By one count, the number of members of Congress who stopped by South By this year was 17. Roll Call was able to confirm the presence of 12 (not counting at least a dozen Hill staffers), from both sides of the aisle.

Here’s what some of them had to say about South By: Full story

By Grace Dobush Posted at 10:58 a.m.

February 25, 2014

African-American Senators Reflect on Their Own History

African American Senators Reflect on Their Own History

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 13, 2014

Cap Lounge Sets Snow Day Agenda

Why shovel when you can spoon?

Cap Lounge Sets Snow Day Agenda

(Courtesy Capitol Lounge)

This has been a public service announcement from a Capitol Hill watering hole.

(We now return you to your Netflix binging.)


February 3, 2014

Milton Wolf’s Family Feud

Meet Senate hopeful Milton Wolf.

Milton Wolf’s Family Feud

(JM Rieger/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The tea party candidate hoping to knock off longstanding Kansas Republican Pat Roberts this fall is not only not at odds with the parties currently controlling Congress, he’s also at war with his own bloodline.

As Wolf explained to At the Races, the trained physician just happens to be a distant cousin of President Barack Obama.

The two are, admittedly, not all that close:

That’s a tough spot to be in.

And it’s not one that many others appear to be able to relate to.

Progressive problem solver Walter White is clearly stumped by Wolf’s antagonistic attitude: Full story

January 29, 2014

3-Word Stories: State of the Union Edition

We sent CQ Roll Call reporters Emily Cahn, Sarah Chacko and Cristina Marcos to Statuary Hall after President Barack Obama’s 2014 State of the Union address to get reactions from members of Congress in their own words (and their own handwriting!) You can see the original #SOTUin3words photos on Instagram, or view them all in one place below.


January 22, 2014

McCain: Richard Sherman’s a ‘Loudmouth From Seattle’

It wasn’t all serious business when Sen. John McCain showed up on a local Phoenix radio show Tuesday.

Arizona’s senior senator made sure to call out the Seattle Seahawks’ trash-talking cornerback Richard Sherman as a “loudmouth” and underscored his grudge against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

McCain said he was picking Peyton Manning’s Denver Broncos over Sherman’s Seahawks in the Super Bowl.

“I think Denver. You know, everybody is such a Manning fan,” McCain told KFYI radio. “That loudmouth from Seattle sort of epitomizes the Seattle team to me. … I’m sure I’m going to get in trouble for that one, too.”

Full story

January 15, 2014

Welcome Back, You Crazy Kids!

The second session of the 113th Congress is now fully under way.

And while we’re happy for the steady stream of fresh content, the truth is, it is an election year. So who knows how much time we have with the following striking personalities once the legislative wheels come careening off.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas

Welcome Back, You Crazy Kids!

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Folk hero? Conniving villain? Canadian?



We prefer to think of Cruz as the Senate’s wildest card. Full story

November 14, 2013

K Streeters Downplay Their Influence on Reddit

Two D.C.-based lobbyists bore down on their keyboards Wednesday, telling Redditors in their “Ask Me Anything” that lobbyists are people, too.

In a rare occurrence, K Streeters Jack Quinn and John Feehery of  QGA Public Affairs came to Reddit — a site not known for its appreciation of corporate or special interests —with open arms.

AMAs are fast becoming the Internet equivalent of stump speeches for politicians, but K Street’s presence on Reddit is a novelty. The post received modest attention per Reddit standards, but still garnered more than 100 comments. Full story

October 30, 2013

House Hopeful Brandishes Birther Credentials, Flunks Civics Test

Were the special election to replace retired Rep. Jo Bonner, R-Ala., based solely on correct answers delivered during a recent candidate Q&A, aspiring lawmaker Dean Young wouldn’t have to think too hard about why he fell terribly short.

The proudly anti-establishment candidate went 0-3 on of civics questions posed by The Guardian, in a side-by-side comparison with his opponent, Bradley Byrne, including:

House Hopeful Brandishes Birther Credentials, Flunks Civics Test


Where President Barack Obama was born, Full story

October 17, 2013

Five Explosive Captions To Choose From | Capitol Quip

Five Explosive Captions To Choose From | Capitol Quip

The five finalists for this week’s caption contest are ready for your votes.

Using the comments section below, vote for your favorite caption until 10 p.m. EDT Thursday.

Here are this week’s finalists:

  • We shut down the government and destroyed our reputation, and you let Obamacare get away?!
  • Dang! That Cruz missile was supposed to soar, not blow up in our faces.
  • That’s how you solve all the nation’s problems with a push of a button.
  • We’ll get ‘em next time. Can’t say we didn’t make an impact!
  • Well, we blew SOMEthing up. Not bad for government work.

The cartoon with the winning caption will appear on this blog on Oct. 20 and in the Oct. 22 print edition of Roll Call. The contest winner will receive a signed color print of his or her Capitol Quip cartoon from the cartoonist, R.J. Matson.

By Emily Pierce Posted at 1:21 p.m.

October 12, 2013

Volunteers Clean Up National Mall Over the Weekend

Volunteers Clean Up National Mall Over the Weekend

Anna Pederson and her son pick up trash on the west side of the Capitol on Saturday morning. (Anna Giaritelli/CQ Roll Call)

Former Marine Ian Grinnals drove six hours from Syracuse, N.Y., to pick up trash on the National Mall as part of the “Fix Up DC” National Day of Service event on Saturday morning.

Approximately 700 attendees showed up at 10 a.m. on the West Lawn of the Capitol  to clean up what 12 days of furloughed park rangers and maintenance officials have not been able to maintain.

The spontaneous community service event was organized on Thursday by FreedomWorks, Tea Party Patriots and Glenn Beck in an effort to enable citizens “to make a difference and do what government is not doing,” explained Deneen Borelli, FreedomWorks outreach director and Fox News contributor.

Leading officials in the tea party movement addressed volunteers, including television and radio host Beck and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah.

“We came up with this idea when we saw the man from South Carolina come out and mow the lawn. We thought all of us could do the same thing,” said Ellen Wheeler, director of messaging for FreedomWorks. “Congress may try to shutdown the government but they can’t shutdown the people.”

Individuals and families raked and bagged leaves near the outer paths of the National Mall grounds between 3rd and 7th streets NW.

Volunteers Clean Up National Mall Over the Weekend

Amanda O’Donovan of Eldersburg, Va., made the hour trip with her husband and children to rake leaves in front of the Capitol Reflecting Pool. “It’s a good cause for the family and community to come together and take care of the problem.”

The majority of volunteers walked westward with the Lincoln and World War II Memorials as the final destinations.

Co-Founder of Tea Party Patriots Jenny Beth Martin said the event’s purpose was “to show America that while the government shutdown is happening we are still doing what we can to take care of the Mall.”

Martin and Diana Banister, vice president and partner of Shirley and Banister Public Affairs, walked separately from the crowds and arrived at the World War II Memorials with bags nearly full.

Beck, who unofficially led the way down the Mall, arrived at the World War II Memorial shortly after noon and greeted dozens of veterans despite the signs of closure surrounding the oval-shaped space.

Volunteers Clean Up National Mall Over the Weekend

Glenn Beck greets a veteran from World War II.
Photograph by Anna Giaritelli

Grinnals, who served two tours in the Middle East between 2004 and 2008, had personal reasons for making the road trip down to Washington.

“I want to make sure these memorials stay clean for future veterans, especially veterans on these honor flights that are coming here usually on their last leg. They should have a place to come and be remembered,” added Grinnals, a member of the Sons of Sam motorcycle club, which supports men and women of the armed forces.

October 8, 2013

Arrests Make Members Tardy for House Votes

The House started voting around 7 p.m., but a few of its most progressive members may still be tied up with the Capitol Police.

Eight members of Congress were among the 200 people arrested at an immigration rally on the National Mall on Tuesday afternoon. Among those charged with “crowding, obstructing, and incommoding” were Democratic Reps. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, John Lewis of Georgia, Raúl M. Grijalva of Arizona, Joseph Crowley of New York, Al Green of Texas, Luis V. Gutierrez of Illinois, Jan Schakowsky of Illinois and Charles B. Rangel of New York.

Each will face a $50 fine for their civil disobedience on behalf of immigration reform.

Before being cuffed, Gutierrez vowed he and other members would “lose a few hours of our freedom to stand for justice for the children who are being put in foster care today because their parent was deported last night.”

The arrests began at approximately 4 p.m. on First Street between Maryland Avenue Southwest and Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest. As of 6:30 p.m., Gutierrez had not yet been released, according to Press Secretary Douglas Rivlin.

By Hannah Hess Posted at 7:17 p.m.

October 4, 2013

Layman Explains Shutdown’s Horse Sense

Liberal Frank Kelly has penned his first one-act play, a dramedy in which the ongoing government shutdown is boiled down to a farcical horse race.

“I’m an aerospace engineer in Los Angeles (non-furloughed!). And I promise I don’t have a script I’m ‘working on,’” Kelly, who claims he doesn’t typically wade too far into politics, assured HOH via email. But he said he became so transfixed by the psychology behind the budget impasse — the idiocy of it all kept him up for a bit one night, then turned to resolve the following evening — he felt compelled to break down the fight for even the most casual of observers.

He blasted out the cheeky analysis, titled, “Government Shutdown as a Horse Race Metaphor,” to 18 friends — one of whom must have shared it with the GOP tipster who zapped it our way:

Scene: At the Horse Race Track

Republicans: “I don’t like that horse that’s winning.”

Democrats: “Oh, I actually kind of like that horse that’s winning.”

Republicans: “Well, you’re going to have to stop that horse from winning.”

Democrats: “Excuse me?”

Republicans: “Stop that horse from winning, I hate it.”

Democrats: “We already started the race, I can’t stop the horse from winning.”

Republicans: “Well fine, if you don’t stop that horse from winning I’m going to kill all the horses.”

Democrats: “What! You’re going to kill ALL the horses?”

Republicans: “Well, you leave me no choice.”

Democrats: “So just cause that horse is winning you are going to kill it and all the other horses in the race?”

Republicans: “Well, I actually can’t kill the one horse that’s winning.”

Democrats: “So you’re just going to to kill all the OTHER horses?”

Republicans: “Exactly.”

Democrats: “How is that going to stop the horse that’s winning?”

Republicans: “I don’t know, but you sure will be depressed about all these dead horses laying about.”

End Scene

“I think it was emailed to one person in DC who works in politics and is a Republican moderate. I think he is more upset about the whole thing than I am,” Kelly said of the shared contempt he believes the shutdown has fostered across the ideological spectrum.

To wit, Kelly hinted that he’d be just as wary of allowing the far left to wield absolute power.

“It’s like if a bunch of annoying hippies got to run the Democratic Party. ‘We’re not raising the debt ceiling until all the nuclear weapons and reactors and bad feelings are destroyed!’” he joked about his personal nightmare scenario.

Kelly may not be a comedic genius, but his comparison did make us chuckle. It remains, however, only the second-biggest debacle involving bumbling gamblers and perplexing messaging.

Congress has the Marx Brothers to thank for that.

October 3, 2013

‘Citizen Cabinet’ Could Give Lawmakers a Feel for Their Constituents’ Opinions

Voice of the People, a new non-partisan organization in Washington, announced Thursday its campaign to create a national citizen Cabinet that will allow the opinions of Americans to be heard by Congress.

The organization’s long-term goal is to pass legislation that will establish a “congressionally-chartered national academy for public consultation that will develop a full Citizen Cabinet so that every member of Congress will be able to hear from a representative sample of their constituents,” explained Steven Kull, president and founder of Voice of the People.

Joining the organization’s advisory board are former Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D.; former Rep. Michael N. Castle, R-Del.; former Rep. Bill Frenzel, R-Minn.; and former Rep. Martin Frost, D-Texas.

The plan to scientifically-select a sample of 120,000 Americans — 275 from each congressional district throughout the country — will allow those chosen to first be informed by a set of facts agreed upon by experts on both sides. Full story

Shutdown Reaches All the Way to … Belgium?

Shutdown Reaches All the Way to ... Belgium?

(Courtesy Susan Parry)

Signs like these are all over Washington and the rest of the country these days, but what makes this one unusual is that it was taken by this scribe’s mother-in-law in Waregem, Belgium, at the Flanders Field American Cemetery.

Yes, it appears even our overseas cemeteries honoring fallen U.S. soldiers from World Wars I and II are shuttered. Indeed, the American Battle Monuments Commission, which manages 24 cemeteries and 26 memorials, monuments and markers abroad, has shut down.

“The sacrifice of more than 218,000 U.S. servicemen and women is memorialized at these locations. Nearly 125,000 American war dead are buried at ABMC cemeteries, with an additional 94,000 individuals commemorated on Tablets of the Missing,” the ABMC’s website notes.

But the site also notes something else: “Due to a lack of funding for ABMC operations (U.S. Government shutdown), ABMC cemeteries and memorials are temporarily closed. We are unable to respond to your inquiries or provide the services and products described in the ‘Services Available’ section of this Web site. We regret any inconvenience these temporary actions may cause.”

Susan Parry, a D.C. resident (and mother to this reporter’s husband), said that one Belgian worker at the Flanders cemetery told her there are usually four people who man the site. The cemetery is the final resting place for 368 soldiers, who the ABMC said “gave their lives in liberating the soil of Belgium in World War I” in September 1918.

But the ABMC also serves larger and more popular tourist sites, such as the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial that contains the graves of 9,387 soldiers, most of whom died on D-Day.

Shutdown Reaches All the Way to ... Belgium?

(Courtesy Susan Parry)



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