Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
July 28, 2014

April 1, 2013

Politics Makes for Rich April Fools’ Fodder

April Fools’ Day has come and gone, and while most of us have retained a certain amount of faith in the basic decency of humanity, others seem to have been taken in by the nation’s annual day of pranking.

For example, after “news” broke that Sen. Patrick J. Toomey, R-Pa., was throwing his hat in the gubernatorial ring in the Keystone State, one Pennsylvania reporter had to tell her editor this factoid was false.

“I had to break the news to him that it was a joke before he pitched it at the morning budget meeting,” the reporter told HOH. “I was like, ‘Simmer down. It’s fake.’”
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Skilled Debaters to Tackle Minimum Wage

Rhetorical road show Intelligence Squared U.S. will be rolling into town on Wednesday, and podcast-loving policy wonks are invited to get in on the ideological smackdown.

The public affairs discussion, which airs on NPR and PBS, will tackle the merits of tossing out the minimum wage April 3 in front of a live audience at the Burke Theater at the U.S. Navy Memorial, 701 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Tickets are $40 per person and $12 for students. Attendees are welcome to enjoy a pre-taping reception from 4:30 p.m. to 5:15 p.m., and the main event is 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.
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Soup’s On for FDA Protest

Food activists opposed to genetically modified crops will take their fight to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration next week, sponsoring an old school eat-in at the agency’s College Park, Md., campus staged around a truly historic meal.

The anti-GMO protest is scheduled for 8 a.m.-6 p.m. April 8 outside the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (5100 Paint Branch Parkway) and will feature a full day of activities. It will include the preparation and consumption of a massive cauldron — “Don’t forget to bring your own bowl, spoon, mug, and vegetables!” the group advocates on its promotional materials — of all-inclusive “stone soup.”

Occupy Monsanto organizer Adam Eidinger told HOH that the event is geared toward one simple goal: a clear understanding of what we are all eating.

“We want transparency. This is a very reasonable thing to ask for,” he said, adding that protesters would, obviously, also have plenty to say about the controversial agri-industrial safeguards that hitched a ride to President Barack Obama’s desk via a recent spending bill.
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By Warren Rojas Posted at 5:56 p.m.

April Fool It, Sen. Toomey!

Sen. Patrick J. Toomey, R-Pa., and the Pennsylvania political community got a healthy dose of April Fools’ Day this morning.

“Some of you may know, I am seriously considering running for Governor of this Commonwealth,” Toomey was quoted as saying on the PoliticsPA blog. “I’m thinking of doing this because I believe that I can bring about the kind of reforms that can help get Pennsylvania growing again and restore the confidence of the people of Pennsylvania in the integrity of its government.”

Sy Snyder, a pseudonym for the editors of PolitcsPA, wrote that Toomey made this claim on Saturday and buoyed the joke by using a 2009 clip where Toomey actually mentioned he was considering a gubernatorial run.

Spoiler alert: Toomey did not make this announcement last weekend. Toomey’s office apparently had a busy morning slapping down media inquiries about the senator’s fake big plans. Toomey’s spokeswoman confirmed that the post was a joke and told Roll Call that the senator’s office wasn’t aware that the prank was in the works.

Shira Topelitz contributed to this post.


Kid Prez Takes Over 1600 Penn

A web-anointed “Kid President” took over briefly at the White House today, at least on YouTube.

The insanely cute youngster poked his head above the podium in a video released by the White House.

“It looks like you’re expecting somebody else, but April Fool’s on all y’all,” viral vid veteran Robbie Novak says. “I’m Kid President, and I hope everyone has an awesome day.”

The precocious would-be POTUS, who was invited to participate in the annual Easter Egg Roll festivities, has been presiding over his own online channel since just before the election.

March 29, 2013

Capitol Quip: Better Late Than Never

Capitol Quip: Better Late Than Never

Here are the five finalists for this week’s caption contest. Now it’s your turn to vote.

Using the comments section below, vote for your favorite caption until 10 a.m. Monday morning. (HOH is a little a little late posting finalists this week, so we’re giving some extra recess time for voting.)

Here are this week’s finalists:

  • SequEaster this.
  • Don’t shoot until you see the whites of their dyes!
  • I heard Cheney still roams around these parts … can’t be too careful!
  • I’ll assault them, you pepper them.
  • This is much better than last year’s “Easter Egg Subdue and Restrain.”

The cartoon with the winning caption will appear on this blog April 1 and in Tuesday’s 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 12:09 p.m.

Garamendi’s ‘Learning Tour’ of Africa Comes in at $40,000

World traveler Rep. John Garamendi is gaining on fellow Rep. Jim McDermott.

Coming in at just more than $40,000, Garamendi’s recent four-day trip to South Sudan and Tanzania rivals McDermott’s $45,000 trip last year to Jakarta, Indonesia. Both Garamendi’s and McDermott’s trips were funded by international development organizations — CARE in Garamendi’s case and Chemonics in McDermott’s.

LegiStorm first reported the jaw-dropping price tag for Garamendi and his wife’s four-day privately funded trip. It was part of one of CARE’s Learning Tours, which the group organizes four times a year. The tours bring influential people — members of Congress, private sector leaders, media and others — to a country in the global south that receives foreign aid, both private and publicly funded. The Learning Tours are funded by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

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Don Young Thinks the Word ‘Wetbacks’ Is OK

Hey  Rep. Don Young — 1956 called and it wants its racial epithets back.

The Republican from Alaska gave a wide-ranging interview with a local radio station KRBD, which aired Thursday, when he used the term “wetbacks” to describe laborers on what apparently was an extraordinarily large ranch his family owned.

“My father had a ranch; we used to have 50-60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes,” the 79-year-old Young said. “It takes two people to pick the same tomatoes now. It’s all done by machine.”

Don’t believe us? You can listen to the audio here:

KTUU in Alaska has since reported that Young issued a statement Thursday night saying he was simply using the vocabulary of his youth.

“During a sit down interview with Ketchikan Public Radio this week, I used a term that was commonly used during my days growing up on a farm in Central California,” Young said in the statement, according to KTUU. “I know that this term is not used in the same way nowadays and I meant no disrespect.”



By Meredith Shiner Posted at 8:09 a.m.

March 28, 2013

Senate Rules Committee = Killjoys

Dear Senate staffers: The Senate Rules and Administration Committee hates festive posters and that finger-paint drawing you taped to your window so the world could see your child’s genius.

And if you don’t immediately take them down from the windows of the Hart Senate Office Building, Big Brother is going to come around the fish bowl and take them down for you. Or so implied an email sent Wednesday to all Senate offices by the committee’s Chief Clerk Lynden C. Armstrong.

Please note the caps lock for emphasis.

“I’ve gotten some complaints and have seen a number of signs, posters, photos, charts, etc. that have been placed facing outwards into the Hart Atrium. It is against the regulations governing the Senate Office Buildings to place any kind of material facing the exterior of the building and into the Hart Atrium,” the e-mail, obtained by HOH said. “Because there are a NUMBER of violations, I’m asking each of you to walk your spaces and have any items removed or turned around. It will make life simpler for me when I don’t have to start tracking down every individual item and contacting you separately.”

Armstrong then included the full memo of building rules in case staffers already had forgotten office rules “do’s and don’t’s,” which includes the anti-window display edict. The justification provided for the rules was “to assure the safety of the thousands of staff and visitors who pass through these buildings and to maintain a professional appearance in the buildings.”

HOH’s favorite rule? The one based on the assumption that staffers would somehow treat food services like room service.

“Please do not place dishes or trays in the hallways. Any property of the Senate Restaurants should be returned to them. The Superintendent’s personnel are not responsible for returning restaurant items.”

March 27, 2013

Coons Is Red in the Face Over Gay Marriage

Sure, it’s become en vogue for Senate Democrats to come out in support of gay marriage this week. But several members are taking things a step further — with at least 13 members changing their Twitter avatars in support of gay marriage.

While most lawmakers took the easy way out by simply adopting the new red and pink equal sign, Delaware Democratic Sen. Chris Coons painted his face red.

Coons Is Red in the Face Over Gay Marriage

Somewhat surprising — considering he announced just Monday his conversion on the issue — Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., is proudly displaying the equal sign.

Coons Is Red in the Face Over Gay Marriage

Other members (all Democrats) who got into the spirit of the two day Supreme Court arguments over marriage equality include: Sens. Robert Menendez, N.J., Frank R. Lautenberg, N.J., Benjamin L. Cardin, Md., along with Reps. Diana DeGette, Colo., David Cicilline, R.I., Niki Tsongas, Mass., William Keating, Mass., Rosa DeLauro, Conn., Sam Farr, Calif., and James P. Moran, Va.

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida also changed her avatar.

Seeing Red Over Gay Marriage

On Tuesday, after the Supreme Court heard the first of two days worth of oral arguments on same-sex marriage issues, it seemed most of Facebook went red.

Almost at the same time, thousands of people changed their avatar from a simple selfie, a picture of their wedding or a picture of their dog/cat/bird/child to the now ubiquitous red equal sign.

Enter those who can’t leave a good Internet meme alone, to whom we say: Thank you.

Full story

March 26, 2013

Scenes From the SCOTUS: Gay Marriage Edition

Throughout the weekend, Monday and early Tuesday morning, the sidewalk and lawn in front of the U.S. Supreme Court was dominated by those in favor of same-sex marriage. Rainbow flags, equality signs and the color red was splashed about.

But just before 10:00 a.m. Tuesday, the crowd became more diverse as the anti-gay marriage march, organized by the National Organization for Marriage, began to barrel up Constitution Avenue toward the court.

“One man, one woman,” chanted the NOM marchers.

Scenes From the SCOTUS: Gay Marriage Edition

(Neda Semnani/CQ Roll Call)

Victorino and his wife, Mary, declined to give their last name, but said they traveled from Guatemala to participate in the march.

A group of eight 13- and 14-year-olds from southern California couldn’t believe their eyes as the NOM marchers passed the front of the court with gay equality activists lining the street.

“It’s pretty scary,” one young girl said. “Because these people are kind of going around.”

“There’s one crazy guy dancing around in a pink dress,” one of the boys said.

“There might be fights happening,” another girl said.

Scenes From the SCOTUS: Gay Marriage Edition

(Neda Semnani/CQ Roll Call)

When we asked if they had ever seen anything like this, they responded, “No!” in the unison of school children. When we asked if this is what they thought democracy looked like, they shook their heads.

“[I] didn’t think it would be like this,” the first girl said. “I didn’t think I would be seeing cuss words all over signs.”

The group agreed, again in unison, that the moment felt historic, important, special. The chaperones forbid the kids to give their names.

Meanwhile, back inside the NOM march, the protesters stopped and knelt in unison just in front of the court.

While someone out of view led the prayer, the women and men began shouting, “Gloria!” “Hallelujah!” and “It will be done!”

Scenes From the SCOTUS: Gay Marriage Edition

(Neda Semnani/CQ Roll Call)

Joe and Frank Capley-Alfano came to D.C. from San Francisco, Calif., to stand against California’s Proposition 8.

They came to Washington “to stand in solidarity with the other 18,000 couples who were legally married, and to hope and to advocate for equal treatment of all couples in California,” Joe Capley-Alfano said.

“I think that the justices see the tide of change that has occurred throughout history in our nation,” he continued. “And I believe the arch of justice bends toward equality and I think that today there will be an affirmation of our nation’s belief in equality for all people.”

Scenes From the SCOTUS: Gay Marriage Edition

A group from now-notorious Steubenville, Ohio, came to D.C. to protest same-sex marriage and sing to the crowd. (Emily Cahn/CQ Roll Call)


Scenes From the SCOTUS: Gay Marriage Edition

(Rebecca Shabad/CQ Roll Call)


Scenes From the SCOTUS: Gay Marriage Edition

(Neda Semnani/CQ Roll Call)


March 25, 2013

CES to Bring New Toys to Congress in April

Our digital overlords know how much the masses enjoy bright and shiny things. Which is why they’ll be dangling their snazziest smart-things before lawmakers at the 2013 CES on the Hill techstravaganza.

The Consumer Electronics Association treks to Congress every year, and the annual fly-in is usually well-attended by gadget-loving lawmakers and smartphone-tethered staffers.
Full story

Take Five With Rep. Hakeem Jeffries

It’s Tuesday. That means it’s time for another Take Five, HOH’s weekly chance to get to know a member of Congress a little better by asking five fun questions relatively unrelated to their legislative work. This week, freshman Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., talks about how Washington, D.C., has changed since he was a master’s candidate at Georgetown University and discloses his New York baseball team of choice.
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Lt. Dan Cheers Up SCOTUS Campers

During a cold snowy Sunday in the District, Lt. Dan Choi brought coffee, donuts and conversation for dozens of folks who were queued up to to hear the Supreme Court’s oral arguments for and against same-sex marriage.

Andy Bakker, a courier working in the District and living in Virginia, told HOH Choi’s visit was a highlight of his four-day Supreme Court vigil.

“He brought hot coffee and donuts and he engaged everybody,” Bakker said. “Especially the folks on the other side of the issue, so that was interesting.”

Choi, who is a Iraq War vet and a graduate of West Point, was famously discharged when he came out as a gay service member on national television. Choi has since become a leading voice against the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

“[Choi] did a good job. He was very, very direct. He asked folks, ‘Do you think I should have a family?’ But in a very nice, cordial manner; [he was] making jokes,” Bakker said.

How did the anti-same sex marriage folks respond to Choi’s question? ”People would say, ‘You can have a family, but I don’t approve of your activity’ or what have you.”

Bakker said Choi was “very good” at engaging with and listening to those people who disagreed with him. Plus, he said, “his coffee was still hot when he got here, which was very nice.”

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