Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
April 24, 2014

April 15, 2014

Web Comic Riffs on Jim Moran’s Plea for Higher Pay

Internet celeb Remy Munasifi has worked up a new tax day ditty ridiculing wasteful government spending, tedious filing practices and a certain Virginia pol’s pitch to have Uncle Sam slip lawmakers a few extra bucks.

In his latest bid to again strike viral gold, the right-leaning comedian twists Pharell’s smash hit “Happy” into an anthem for those beset by paying their fair share.

One of the talking heads featured in the video is ID’ed as Rep. Jim Moranmor — a none-too-veiled-shot at Virginia Democratic Rep. James P. Moran, who recently told our colleague, Hannah Hess, that Congress-folk can no longer afford to live in This Town.

“We are so underpaid,” the Moranmor character mutters as the song begins to trail off. Full story

April 14, 2014

Frazier Glenn Cross Has Long Had His Sights Set on Capitol Hill

Frazier Glenn Cross, the man suspected of killing two people on Sunday at a Jewish community center in Overland Park, Kan., has been trying to hitch a ride to Washington on the racial purity ticket for decades.

Cross’s purported hate crime rattled a nation still reeling from the April 2 shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, a nightmarish scenario that once again featured a disturbed service man — the late Army Spc. Ivan Lopez orchestrated the most recent outbreak of violence, whereas Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hassan took over a dozen lives in November 2009 — ambushing unsuspecting colleagues.

A former Ku Klux Klan activist who later founded the exclusionary White Patriot Party, Cross has repeatedly — and rather unsuccessfully — tried to bring others around to his peculiar way of thinking.

Some online outlets suggest the perennial write-in candidate has been at it since 1984; he has, luckily, never gained significant traction in any contest.

He mounted an unsuccessful attempt to unseat then-Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., in 2006, as well as a failed bid in 2010 (Cross received just seven votes) to replace retiring Sen. Christopher “Kit” Bond, R-Mo. Full story

Future Civic Leaders Fosters Youth Participation in Government

Future Civic Leaders Fosters Youth Participation in Government

Payne thinks Congress can provide a better example for future leaders. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Public figures, members of Congress and other Washingtonians gathered recently to celebrate five years of Future Civic Leaders, an organization that fosters political engagement among high school students.

The Embassy of Luxembourg opened its doors on April 9 to about 200 people for “The Political Party.” The attendees milled around the first floor of the embassy enjoying specialty drinks, appetizers and gelato as a jazz trio played, all the while preparing for this summer’s Future Civil Leaders conference.

While the atmosphere was certainly celebratory, the event also highlighted the importance of fostering political engagement as young people are increasingly disillusioned by partisan gridlock.

“A lot of people my age, in my generation, look at the government today and all they see is the shutdown or they see a dysfunctional government,” said Sarmat Chowdhury, a student at George Mason University who participated in the first Future Civic Leaders conference in 2009.

“Sometimes my colleagues and I don’t set a very good example,” Rep. Donald M. Payne Jr., D-N.J., admitted, “but we need people to be committed to the leadership in government, to continue to focus on those issues that we know are important.”

Full story

By Bridget Bowman Posted at 1:31 p.m.
DC, Parties

Take Five: Pedro R. Pierluisi

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

This week, Puerto Rico’s Democratic representative in Congress, Res. Cmmsr. Pedro R. Pierluisi, discusses his trip on Air Force One and working as a staffer.

Q. While you were attending law school at GWU, you worked as an aide to then-Res. Cmmsr. Baltasar Corrada del Río. How did working as a congressional staffer prepare you for returning to Capitol Hill as a member of Congress?

A. I remember walking with him at a fast pace, in between the office and committee hearing room and trying to talk to him about this or that. And seeing the way that he handled himself — always welcoming people from Puerto Rico. What I do when people come in — the way I run this office — is similar to the way he ran it.

Q. After serving as Puerto Rico’s attorney general for four years, you practiced law in the private sector for a decade. Why did you decide to run for public office again?

A. I was approached by then-Res. Cmmsr. Luis Fortuño — he was going to be running for governor. He approached me and proposed that we run as a ticket from day one. Two out of [my] four [children] had already graduated from college. So I had two out of four and I said, “Well, if I’m going to ever do it, let me do it now.”

Q. You were one of five children, so can you describe what it was like growing up in a large family?

A. I was the middle child so I was a bit spoiled by my mother. … When I was in her belly she had an oven — estufa — a stove that blew up. And she was like six months pregnant or something like that when it happened. And she burned herself badly so she was so worried about me. And so when I was born it was like a gift of God that I was alive and well.

Q. In 2011, President Barack Obama visited Puerto Rico, the first sitting president to do so since John F. Kennedy. What is your fondest memory from his trip?

A. My Air Force ride back with him. I came back with him, pretty much on our own with a couple of people and the Secret Service. And you know he was in his office and so on and I was at the VIP area having dinner, watching a movie. Right after the movie ended, the president comes in.  So he says, “So did you have a good time?” “Yeah the dinner was great, I watched a movie.”  He said, “So what did you see?” And I said, “Unknown.”

And then he says, “Is it any good?” And I said, “You know what, yeah, it’s pretty good. But you know this plane is too noisy. I think I’m going to have to rent it at home because I missed half of the dialogue.” So he laughed because I think I’m the first one who’s on Air Force One and I’m complaining about it!  He’s cracking [up] — like saying, “This guy’s a character, look what he tells me!”

Q. What is one thing you would like your fellow members of Congress to know about Puerto Rico?

A.  People from all over the world live in America and you can be an American and yet also be very proud of your ethnic, racial, cultural, roots. That’s Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico’s what America’s becoming.

By Bridget Bowman Posted at 1:06 p.m.
Reps, TakeFive

April 13, 2014

Spring Forward With This Capitol Quip

Spring Forward With This Capitol Quip

Love is in the air! The cherry blossoms are blooming and members of Congress are getting spring fever. Just ask GOP Rep. Vance McAllister! That brings us to this week’s Capitol Quip.

Send us a caption for this week’s contest by leaving it in the comments section. 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.

Correction April 16, 1:21 p.m.

An earlier version of this post misspelled McAllister’s name.

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

Money Talks, and Politicians Walk | Capitol Quip

Money Talks, and Politicians Walk | 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.

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

April 11, 2014

Appropriations Chairman Piles On to Moran’s ‘Underpaid’ Remarks (Video)

Turns out not even the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee can avoid weighing in on whether members are “underpaid.

At an appropriations markup Wednesday, Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky., laid into Rep. James P. Moran, D-Va., after Moran’s amendment to raise each member’s pay by $2,800 was rejected by voice vote.

“I might with tongue and cheek say that this issue got a raise out of Mr. Moran,” the Kentucky Republican said.

The issue of member pay has created a rift on Capitol Hill of whether members are “underpaid” or out of touch.

By JM Rieger Posted at 4:18 p.m.
DC, Reps, TV Land

Grover Norquist’s Global Suckdom Index

Welcome to the suck. It’s not as bad as it seems. That was sounds-negative-actually-positive sentiment from Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform, at a panel following Thursday night’s screening of Jose Antonio Vargas’ “Documented,” at the Newseum.

Grover Norquists Global Suckdom Index

Norquist, perhaps thinking about the GNGSI, at a Thursday tax event on Capitol Hill with Majority Leader Eric Cantor, right. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call.)

The documentary, which chronicles Vargas’ path as an undocumented immigrant and successful journalist and his involvement in the movement for ab immigration overhaul, played to a full house. After, Norquist joined Vargas, The Atlantic’s Megan Garber, producer Janet Yang and Joe Green, a founder of Fwd.us, to discuss the movie and the politics and culture that surround it.

Cue Norquist, one of Washington’s most lively: “The reason why the United States is the future and Japan is not and China is not and Europe is not, is because we do immigration and because we do it better than everyone else. As poorly as we do it, we do it better than everybody else, kind of like our government, it just sucks less than all the other governments. And that’s a big advantage: sucking less.”

So there you have it. The Grover Norquist Global Suckdom Index, over which the United States sits atop. USA! USA!

Tom Petri’s S.O.S (Save Our Sausages)

Wisconsin Republican Tom Petri took to the House floor Thursday to issue a dire warning to grill tenders the world over: Europe is coming for our pork products.

“Bratwursts are delicious,” he declared in a shout-out to Sheboygan’s claim to fame.

It seems the European Union wants to impose new restrictions on certain products, namely processed meats, cheeses and seasonal beers, as part of a swirling trade agreement — a power grab that’s left a bad taste in the Wisconsin delegation’s mouths.

“This is, frankly, getting ridiculous,” Petri argued, adding, “If anything, we should be trademarking the name ‘bratwurst,’ not them.”

Across the Capitol, Wisconsin Democrat Tammy Baldwin has rallied nearly half the Senate to the cause, raising a bipartisan chorus of voices in favor of protecting homegrown snacks from the proposed geographic restrictions. Full story

Congressional Hits and Misses: Week of April 7 (Video)

While senators explain their beef with cable TV and representatives talk about Big Macs, Majority Leader Harry Reid just cannot get enough Koch.

April 10, 2014

Vance McAllister’s Dalliance With the English Language

Sure, he’s canoodler-in-chief NOW. But just a few short months ago, Rep. Vance McAllister was just another tongue-tied candidate spewing out muddled policy positions on social media.

Just days before the special election that would help bring the lip-locking Louisiana Republican to Washington, McAllister hit his Facebook flock with this doozy of a diatribe (mis)spelling out his positions on family, the Affordable Care Act, immigration and the federal budget.

Vance McAllisters Dalliance With the English Language

(CQ Roll Call photo illustration)

Somewhere in the middle of that 340-odd word, run-on sentence (Grammar police, ho!) McAllister demands that the undocumented get with the program already and learn to “read, write, and speak English.”

Eschewing punctuation, however, does not appear to be a deal breaker in McAllisterland.

Online detractors, meanwhile, have a few choice words of their own for Capitol Hill’s cheater du jour:

Vance McAllisters Dalliance With the English Language

(Screenshot)

Full story

April 9, 2014

Democrats Hustle to Secure 2nd Annual Capital Soccer Classic Win

House Democrats just barely edged out their GOP counterparts Tuesday to clinch the 2nd Annual Capital Soccer Classic, a friendly contest that featured few score changes during regulation play but threatened to become a nail-biter toward the end.

Democrats Hustle to Secure 2nd Annual Capital Soccer Classic Win

(Warren Rojas/CQ Roll Call)

The charity match, co-sponsored by the U.S. Soccer Foundation and POLITICO, brought together pols partial to spending time on the pitch, a roster which included North Carolina Democrat Mike McIntyre, Minnesota Republican Erik Paulsen, Washington Republican Dave Reichert, California Democrat Eric Swalwell and Indian Republican Todd Young.

Democrats Hustle to Secure 2nd Annual Capital Soccer Classic Win

(Warren Rojas/CQ Roll Call)

At the close of the 30-minute contest, Democrats were leading 4-1, thanks largely to the two goals Swalwell fired past the GOP-led squad. Full story

5 Hot Tips for the Political Stock Exchange | Capitol Quip

 5 Hot Tips for the Political Stock Exchange | 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 5 p.m. ET Thursday.

Here are this week’s finalists:

  • Thanks to the Supreme Court, we’re ALL up!!!
  • They’ll never sell us short again!
  • The only time eight figures trump nine.
  • Looks like our stock is rising in this town!
  • In a word: Ka-Ching!

The cartoon with the winning caption will appear on this blog on April 13 and in the following 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 Jason Dick Posted at 5:14 p.m.
Capitol Quip

Forthcoming Barney Frank Documentary Aims to Inspire

Documentarians Sheila Canavan and Michael Chandler are still putting the finishing touches on “Compared to What: The Improbable Journey of Barney Frank,” an unflinching look at the life and times of retired Rep. Barney Frank.

Forthcoming Barney Frank Documentary Aims to Inspire

(Courtesy Jim Ready)

The whole world will get a peek into the insights they’ve gleaned from the Massachusetts Democrat — and the handful of congressional colleagues who agreed to weigh in on his illustrious career — when the feature length project debuts April 27 at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City.

Canavan told HOH she first met Frank while working on the transition team for then-Boston Mayor Kevin White. As a lowly college student, Canavan recalled spending many long nights (she pulled graveyard shift duty) fielding constituent calls. Frank, who devoted his days to setting up the office of public service, would keep her company after work in order to keep his ear to the ground. Full story

Wyden Calls His Own Tune in Senate Finance | Madisonville

Wyden Calls His Own Tune in Senate Finance | Madisonville  Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden is bringing a new accent to the Senate Finance Committee as the recently installed chairman. Literally. Wyden at work constructs whole sentences that roll along in a monotone until he decides to single out a word for the stress.  And a big stress it is, too.

There’s no particular logic to where he chooses to do it. But once the listener gets in the spirit of it, it’s easy to forget the subject: In Tuesday’s case, it was the misery inflicted on Americans by tax preparers who are incompetent or crooked.

“most of those paid tax return preparers don’t have to meet ANY standards, ANY standards for competence,” Wyden says. Except that the normal typeface doesn’t do justice to the difference between monotone Wyden and stressed Wyden.

Wyden makes the capital letters that should open a sentence seem like they’re cowering under his desk. Proper nouns stay under the radar. “my home state of oregon gets this issue RIGHT.” Who’s suffering from this abuse? “they could be immigrants PROUD to pay taxes in their NEW country,” Wyden says. “the most VULNERABLE people in america will bear the brunt.”

Nina E. Olson, the IRS’ national taxpayer advocate and one of the witnesses at Tuesday’s hearing, either speaks the same way Wyden does or she couldn’t resist following his example, the way some people involuntarily mimic the tics of their conversation partners.

“the only CREDIBLE argument,” “seemed very REASONABLE,” “the BEST enforcement,” “it is a BRIGHT line that all taxpayers can understand,” she said.

“it’s your job to go to BAT for taxpayers,” Wyden said.

“as was discussed in YOUR statement,” Olsen said.

“the heart of what YOU’VE been talking about is very unSCRUPulous preparers,” Wyden said.  He said unSCRUPulous a lot.

“that’s a very important distinction that AUDITS will not get you,” Olsen said. “the irs right now is doing a PILOT.” (That sentence may suggest a way for the IRS to avoid notice.) “there may be things on that END that you can work with.”

Olsen even had a flair for this that exceeded Wyden’s. “there’s a very high learning CURVE,” she said, starting with a loud “c” and working up to a crescendo to a finish on the VEEE note. Try that at home. It’s not easy. Wyden looked appreciative of everything she said.

The two of them communicated with a mysterious musicality, reminiscent of the recordings of whale singing available in national parks and wax candle shops.  The Senate could put it in the gift shop.

“what HAPPENS here on the finance committee,” Wyden said. What happens on the Finance Committee may never sound the same.

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