Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 14, 2016

September 18, 2013

Embassies Get Their Entertainment On

As September draws to a close, several embassies are opening their doors to the public with films and celebrations.

Kicking things off Friday is Film by the Pool at the Embassy of Switzerland (2900 Cathedral Ave. NW.) RSVP tickets will be available online Thursday morning.

“We are very much looking forward to hosting the first-ever movie night at the pool,” said Andrea Kienast, the embassy’s event manager.

“The beautiful embassy park is usually closed to the public,” Kienast said, adding, “We wanted to invite people this fall to enjoy an unusually romantic setting and two great movies.”

The first film is “Un Mundo para Raúl,” a short film Mauro Mueller that tells the story of a 13-year-old boy who must entertain his father’s boss’ son. The film will have English subtitles, and Mueller will be present to take questions from the audience.

Full story

Softball: Ex-Collegiate Ballplayer Eyes Congress

Have the women of Congress found their ringer?

Democrats may have landed a recruit in California’s 21st District against Republican Rep. David Valadao, according to Nathan L. Gonzales of The Rothenberg Political Report. Her name is Amanda Renteria and she is not just a former Capitol Hill staffer, but also a four-year softball player for the Stanford Cardinals.

Why does this matter? Because the women of Congress band together each spring to face off against the women of the Washington press corps in a softball game. After two losses, Team Congress is on the prowl for a win and, maybe after the 2014 midterms, a new ringer.

But this is a bipartisan team. And a Renteria recruitment poses the age-old question to the likes of Reps. Martha Roby, Kristi Noem, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and any other House Republicans on Team Congress: Would you rather hold the seat or “Beat the Press“?

Gonzales, a colleague and “friend” of HOH had some fun on Twitter with this development:


Full story

John Green Rips Health Care a Few New Ones

John Green, author and co-creator of vlogbrothers, shares the bitter pill that is the current state of the American health care system:

(h/t Upworthy)

His prognosis: “It is not a simple problem. There will not be a simple solution. … And it’s vital that we grapple with it meaningfully instead of just treating health care costs as political theater.” Full story

Joaquin Castro, Girlfriend Expecting First Child in December

It’s been an eventful week for Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas.

On Monday, he and his twin brother, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, celebrated their 39th birthday. At their birthday party at San Antonio’s Pearl Stable, the congressman told guests that he and his longtime girlfriend and finacee, Anna Flores, were expecting their first child, a girl, in December, San Antonio’s News 4 reported.

Rep. Joaquin Castro, left, and twin brother Julian, the mayor of San Antonio, celebrated their birthday on Monday. Joaquin also announced he and his fiance Anna are expecting a child. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call.)

Rep. Joaquin Castro, left, and twin brother Julian, the mayor of San Antonio, celebrated their birthday on Monday. Joaquin also announced he and his fiancee, Anna, are expecting a child. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

No word yet on when the nuptials will be.

By Jason Dick Posted at 11:51 a.m.
Kiddies, Reps

September 17, 2013

Public Pledges Big Bucks for Jesse Jackson Jr.’s Stuff

There’s still a full week to go before any of the prospective buyers will be able to decisively claim a piece of disgraced Illinois Democrat Jesse L. Jackson Jr.’s life, but early bidding bodes well for federal authorities hoping to recoup $750,000 in grossly mismanaged campaign funds.

Jackson and his wife, Sandi, are both facing serious jail time — 30 months and 12 months, respectively — for money misspent on everything from luxury items to everyday toiletries.

Online auctioneers Gaston & Sheehan on Tuesday offered up a baker’s dozen of the pair’s former belongings via public auction, a menagerie of random memorabilia designed to fetch at least a couple of thousand dollars (minus now-missing Lot 1007).

Here’s what was leading the bidding war toward the end of the first full day:

1. Framed Michael Jackson poster: $1,360; opening bid: $300 Full story

Rap Legends Convening for Carson’s Hip Hop & Politics Primer

As part of his contribution to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s annual legislative conference (being held Wednesday through Saturday), Rep. André Carson will spitball with rap luminaries about the best ways to transform music fans into full-fledged political activists.

(Courtesy André Carson's office)

(Courtesy André Carson’s office)

“We’re gonna talk about how the hip hop generation can be a driving force for change in the political sphere,” Carson spokeswoman Lauren Burke told HOH of the former battle emcee’s plan to usher urban youth to the table.

The Indiana Democrat will be joined in his recruiting efforts by Darryl McDaniels of Run-DMC, pioneering female rapper MC Lyte, and Hank Shocklee, producer for the politically charged rap group Public Enemy. Political players the Rev. Lennox Yearwood, president of the Hip Hop Caucus; Michael Skolnik, president of Global Grind; and Angela Rye, president of IMPACT Strategies will round out the “Hip Hop & Politics” discussion scheduled to take place Friday from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center (Room 202B).

Carson hosted a similar event in 2011, and his staff said he looks forward to addressing everything that’s on the minds of African-American youth today.

“I’m sure we’ll talk about stand your ground and Trayvon Martin,” Burke said.

Mary Fallin’s Second-Chance Wish List | Overheard

(CQ Roll Call archives)

(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

“Actually, I might focus on political science. I didn’t focus on that or speech or debate” — representative-turned-Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin tells a National Press Club luncheon about the skill sets she’d pursue if enrolling in college today.

Rekindled Hill Vs. Hacks Rivalry Fuels Centennial Spelling Bee

It’s been a century since Ohio Republican Frank B. Willis wrestled the “Best Speller in the United States” crown from Washington Post editor Ira E. Bennett, sealing the fate of the flummoxed scribes at the National Press Club’s inaugural spelling contest.

The media will get the chance to redeem itself at 8 p.m. Wednesday when head-scratching words again start flying in the Press Club Ballroom.

Tickets to the fundraiser —  benefiting the non-profit NPC Journalism Institute — are $15 for NPC members and students, or $25 general admission.

Political contenders include: Reps. Matt Cartwright, D-Pa., Gerald E. Connolly, D-Va., Peter A. DeFazio, D-Ore., Ted Deutch, D-Fla., Anna G. Eshoo, D-Calif., and Sens. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., Tim Kaine, D-Va., Christopher S. Murphy, D-Conn., and Chris Coons, D-Del.

The competing journos include: fellow Roll Caller and World’s Greatest Deliberative Body maven Meredith Shiner, Heard on the Hill alumnus-cum-Fox News Chief White House Correspondent Ed Henry, Howard Fineman of the Huffington Post, Major Garrett of CBS News, Kate Nocera of BuzzFeed, Rebecca Sinderbrand of Politico, Ashley Southall of the New York Times, Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post and Toby Zakaria of Reuters.

Event coordinator Katy Steinmetz told HOH that Merriam-Webster is covering the word selection/pronunciation duties. Scripps National Spelling Bee vet Paige Kimble — she won the national contest in 1981 and now serves as its executive director — will co-judge the event alongside Heidi Hamilton, chairwoman of the linguistics department at Georgetown University. Peter Sokolowski, editor/pronouncer at Merriam-Webster, is on standby should the need for a third judge (can you spell T-I-E-B-R-E-A-K-E-R?) arise. Full story

Grassley *Hearts* America

Someone is feeling particularly patriotic this morning:



Thank you, Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, for taking a break from browbeating the History Channel long enough to remind us how lucky we all are to spend our days living/working/playing in the District of Columbia.

By Warren Rojas Posted at 12:55 p.m.
DC, HillSide, Sens, Webtastic

September 16, 2013

Tween to Pols: Disposable Straws Suck

Milo Cress, the eco-minded 12-year-old who’s spent the past few years trying to convince restaurant-goers to pass on unneeded straws, is back in town this week to share his “offer first” strategy with lawmakers and District administrators.

The mission-driven youngster is scheduled to debrief Congress about his “green” plan at 3 p.m. Wednesday in Room 2456 of the Rayburn House Office Building; the meeting is being sponsored by Colorado Democrats Rep. Jared Polis and Sen. Mark Udall.

Cress founded his “Be Straw Free” campaign in 2011, after realizing that nearly every time he went out to eat, wait staff automatically tossed a disposable plastic straw into the mix — whether he wanted one or not.

“That seemed like a huge waste because I don’t usually need a straw,” Cress told HOH. The enormity of the problem only became more jarring once he researched straw usage trends and discovered that Americans use and discard 500 million straws per day, a figure that reflects our rising dependence on single-serving juice boxes and milk containers.

“I decided, ‘This is something I can do something about,’” Cress said of his newfound mission to curb mindless straw pushing.

He is not advocating for everyone to eschew straws entirely. He totally gets that some people need/prefer straws when imbibing beverages. But, at the very least, he’d like to have hospitality providers inquire if a patron desires one in the first place. Full story

Franchisees to Flood Cannon With Fast Food

Another day, another opportunity to feast on the biggie-sized fruits of some multinational’s willpower-taxing labor.

The International Franchise Association is back, hosting the second annual “Taste of Franchising” event Tuesday night on Capitol Hill. Assorted fast-food vendors are scheduled to put out free sample after free sample in the Cannon Caucus Room from 5 to 7 p.m.

Participating groups include returning grab-and-go giants McDonald’s, Jersey Mike’s, Firehouse Subs and Domino’s. First-timer KFC will be joining the free-dinner-providing fray this time around.

Political whipping boy Chick-fil-A — the Georgia-based restaurant that got simultaneously fragged by the gay rights crossfire during the 2012 election season while earning conservatives’ everlasting affection — has apparently opted to sit this one out. The conservative-leaning chicken joint was present for the debut franchise fest.

No word on what, specifically, each outfit plans to ply attendees with. But confidence is high you won’t be able to eat just one of whatever it is.

By Warren Rojas Posted at 2:07 p.m.
Food, HillSide, Restos

Take Five: Rep. Brad Wenstrup

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

It’s time again for Take Five, when HOH talks with a member of Congress about topics relatively unrelated to his or her legislative work.

This week Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, talks medicine, food and high-school football.

Q. You practiced medicine for a number of years. What is the biggest difference between your time as a doctor and your time now as a representative?

A. When you’re a doctor, you see a patient and you’re presented with a problem and you make your diagnosis. Then you present the treatment plan and then you go through with the patient explaining how long it will take, what you have to do and you go and solve the problem. In D.C., I feel like I can make a diagnosis and even have a treatment plan, but I’ve got to convince 535 others that this is the way to go and so that makes it a little bit different. But it’s still problem-solving on either end; it’s addressing an issue and coming up with a solution for it as best you can.

Q. You also served in Iraq. What was the most meaningful experience you had during your time in the Army?

A. Well it was really the most violent time of the war and I tell people it was the worst thing I ever had to do, but at the same time the best thing that I ever got to do. By that I mean the people that you serve with, and you see how well people can come together for one cause, one common mission, and you’re all wearing the same clothes and it’s just amazing how politics is so far removed from really what you’re doing on your mission and that’s just an interesting dynamic. I’m certainly glad that I had the opportunity to experience that in my life.

Q. What is your favorite movie and why?

A. One of my favorite movies that I ever watched was “The Sting.” One, I always liked Paul Newman. I thought he was a class act and always carried himself well as a person, and you know as we saw later in his life, a philanthropist. It was a clever movie and it pulled me, and I think that’s why I liked it: Because I fell for it, I fell for the sting while I was watching the movie.

Q. You are also a Cincinnati native. How does the food in Washington stack up against The Queen City?

A. I think they both have a lot to be proud of — there are plenty of fine restaurants in D.C. and there are plenty in Cincinnati, and thank you for recognizing some of the culinary expertise Cincinnati has.

Q. Finally, as a St. Xavier High School graduate, which has become a football powerhouse recently and is in the top 25 again this year, do you have any predictions for the Bombers?

A. Well I went to the game last week and they beat a team from Indianapolis called Ben Davis, and Ben Davis is kind of like the Colerain of Indianapolis … Ben Davis had beaten Indy Cathedral the week before and St. X trounced them … so things are looking pretty good.

By JM Rieger Posted at 1:10 p.m.
DC, Reps, TakeFive

September 15, 2013

Here Comes the Law | Capitol Quip


Major aspects of President Barack Obama’s signature health care law go live on Oct. 1, and Republicans are none too happy about it.  Some want to defund the law, others want to delay it, some want to hold up next year’s federal spending bills over it, some see the debt limit as a bargaining chip against it. Which brings us to this week’s Capitol Quip contest.

Send us a caption for this week’s contest by leaving it in the comments section of our Heard on the Hill blog. Editors will pick five finalists on Wednesday, and everyone can vote for the winner through Thursday.

To see our previous winners, check us out on Pinterest.

By Jason Dick Posted at 7:05 p.m.
Capitol Quip

Congress is Square | Capitol Quip


Thanks to the many readers who contributed captions for last week’s Capitol Quip contest. Here’s the winning entry, as voted by readers of Heard on the Hill.

The winner will receive a signed color print suitable for framing from Roll Call cartoonist R.J. Matson. Check out our past winners on Pinterest.

September 13, 2013

Palazzo’s Constituents Tired of Playing Hide-and-Seek

When last we heard from Mississippian Bo Alawine, he was having a helluva time trying to pin down when, where and even if Rep. Steven M. Palazzo, was in town.

A year later, not much has changed.

Alawine, who’s made it abundantly clear that he’s no fan of the GOP lawmaker, told HOH he’s repeatedly called Palazzo’s offices, submitted emails via the Mississippi Republican’s official government homepage and reached out via social media. Yet Team Palazzo continues to guard the boss’s public appearance schedule like some sort of state secret.

“To my knowledge, he didn’t really make himself available,” Alawine told HOH after once again failing to track down Palazzo during the August recess. A Palazzo spokeswoman told HOH in an email that the office had “responded to that request and several others. Believe he also spoke with the boss at a town hall meeting.” Hmm.

Alawine’s not the only one who’d like to engage the congressman.

Jeffrey Wimmer chewed out Palazzo online for failing to show his face in real life.

“Many constituents are extremely upset at the lack of town hall meetings which is every Representatives DUTY in the month of August,” Wimmer griped on Facebook. “We on the coast are VERY disappointed and feel you’re ducking many issues.”

Palazzo aides did not respond to multiple calls and email requests regarding their boss’s whereabouts during the past month. Full story

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