Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 13, 2016

February 4, 2016

Obama, Straight Clownin’ With The NBA Champs


President Barack Obama holds up the No. 44 jersey presented to him by the NBA champion Golden State Warriors on Thursday at the White House.

President Barack Obama gave up basketball in 2010 after a bloody lip required stitches. But maybe the 54-year-old president will find a second career on the hardwood.

Okay, that’s not going to happen. But it didn’t stop Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr from floating the idea during a Thursday ceremony at the White House honoring his 2014-15 NBA championship squad.

Kerr joked that Obama “will be a free agent next year” when his second term ends. He presented the outgoing president a white Warriors jersey with Obama’s name and the No. 44 emblazoned on it and called it “a symbol of an offer that is coming.”

Obama nodded and mimicked a jump shot — although hoops fans know Obama would rather sign with his beloved hometown Chicago Bulls.

Speaking of the Windy City’s professional basketball team, Obama — predictably — found a way to mention the Bulls early in the brief ceremony.

He singled out Kerr, who won three of his total NBA titles with the Michael Jordan-led Bulls. Those in the audience laughed as Obama dropped the Bulls line, prompting a knowing shrug from behind the podium.

The president seemed to issue a challenge to the Warriors, who have the best record in the NBA this season at 45-4. He said they may — or may not — break the 1995-96 Bulls’ record of 72 regular-season wins. (Either way, Obama noted, Kerr can claim the record. He was on that Chicago team.)

The annual event did include some politics.

Seated in the front row were California’s own House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who wore the Warriors signature yellow and blue colors.

In a fitting — or corny, depending on your current mood — bit of symbolism, there was an aisle between them. That meant as they chatted before the Warriors and Obama entered, they were, literally, talking…across the aisle.

And Obama summed up the 2014-15 Warriors as an entity who achieved some major goals despite being constantly doubted by “the critics.”

“I can’t imagine how that feels,” he said in a tone tinged with more than a little sarcasm.

But the festivities were mostly about basketball, with Obama calling Warriors star guard Stephen Curry “a pretty good shooter.” (Obama rejected Curry’s assertion that the commander in chief beat him in a golf match last year because Secret Service agents intimidated him. “That was not the case,” Obama deadpanned.)

Curry went 19-28 from the field during a Wednesday night win over the Washington Wizards, making 11 three-pointers en route to a 51-point night. How did Obama sum up Curry’s white-hot shooting night during the Warriors’ 134-121 win?

“He was clownin’,” Obama said before imitating a dance the Golden State star often does when he’s scoring buckets in bunches.

Everyone laughed, including the Warriors players standing on risers behind him. But Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th U.S. president and a noted sportsman, remained stone faced in a portrait hanging near the scene.

Contact Bennett at and follow him on Twitter at @BennettJohnT.


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Alicia Keys Sends Speaker Ryan a Valentine

UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 4: Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., holds a news conference on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Ryan said the House would hold votes on the criminal justice legislation that the Judiciary Committee passed. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Musician Alicia Keys is making a plea to Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., in hopes he will schedule a vote on criminal justice policy.

Keys posted a video “Justice Reform Now” to YouTube on Thursday, opening with a flirtatious, “Can I call you Paul?” She said she saw a picture of the speaker working out and figured he was “cool.”

“Show me how cool you are,” she said. “In fact you can even maybe be my Valentine if you help me spread some love.” Full story

By Alex Gangitano Posted at 3:53 p.m.

Martin Shkreli Invokes Attitude — and the Fifth

UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 04: Martin Shkreli, right, former CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in Rayburn Building on "methods and reasoning behind recent drug price increases," February 04, 2016. Turing had raised the price of Daraprim, a drug used by AIDS and cancer patients, from $13.50 to $750 a pill. Ranking Member Elijah Cummings, appears on the monitor. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Shkreli laughs during his appearance before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Thursday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Martin Shkreli giggled and smiled his way through his testimony before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Thursday and at times seemed distracted. And members of the committee called him out on it.

Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, asked Shkreli, “Do you think you’ve done anything wrong?” Shkreli giggled.

Full story

Don’t Stop Catching Fire for the Bern

UNITED STATES - FEB 2. - A campaign worker sticks his head out the door while on the phone at the campaign headquarters of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, Monday, Feb. 1, 2016 in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

A campaign worker sticks his head out the door while on the phone at the campaign headquarters Sanders. Hutcherson and Foster campaigned hard for Sanders. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

DES MOINES, Iowa — As the great political exodus from Iowa got underway following Monday’s presidential caucuses, it was just another winter day at Des Moines International Airport: Planes got de-iced, souvenirs were purchased and celebrities like Josh Hutcherson (Peeta from “The Hunger Games”) and Mark Foster of the band Foster the People — fresh off their days of rallying for Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt. — rushed to catch flights to warmer climes and future caucuses.

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IMGE Hires Strategist Mindy Finn


Finn (Photo courtesy of IMGE).

Finn is a veteran of two presidential campaigns. (Photo courtesy of IMGE)

The consulting firm IMGE has hired Mindy Finn as a senior adviser. Finn’s background is in digital strategy and she is the brains behind the non-profit website, the Empowered Women project.

Finn will work on client strategy and business development at IMGE, according to the firm.

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Habitat Lobbies for Affordable Housing

Meadows has going on a Habitat build on his bucket list. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Meadows has going on a Habitat build on his bucket list. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Habitat for Humanity lobbied on Capitol Hill this week for changes to the country’s housing policies. The Habitat on the Hill conference had support from 200 Habitat for Humanity leaders, homeowners and Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C.

“I have a very long and intimate relationship with the local affiliate [back home in North Carolina] and Habitat in general to make federal regulations not effect affording housing,” Meadows told HOH. He first met with Habitat in fall 2013. The congressman now reaches out to the group from a legislative standpoint.

Full story

Prepare for a Healthy Super Bowl Sunday

Sodexo's Fimbres will be at the event Friday. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sodexo’s Fimbres will be at the event Friday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Congressional Vegetarian Staff Association is providing no-meat Super Bowl snacks in the Capitol on Friday.

The Veggie Touchdown is the group’s 2016 kickoff event, which was rescheduled due to the blizzard. No RSVP is required and the event starts at noon in the Capitol Visitor Center, Room 268.

Full story

February 3, 2016

Congressional Spouse Events Surround National Prayer Breakfast


Aderholt co-hosts the National Prayer Breakfast. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Aderholt co-hosts the National Prayer Breakfast. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Congressional spouses traditionally get together every February to meet one another, break bread together and share in each other’s faiths.

“I think these events show people that the spouses are real people and that we really care about each other,” Caroline Aderholt, whose husband Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala.,  is a longtime co-host of these events, told HOH. “Prayer is important to us and we believe in it, and it makes a difference in our personal lives, in our family’s lives and we think it can make a difference in our world.”

Full story

Capitol Police Union Catch Congressman’s Ear

Leaders from the Capitol Police Labor Committee dropped by Rep. Richard Nugent’s office Wednesday to say thank you — in the form of a commemorative badge that recognizes the board’s 100 years of existence.

The visit also came with a little opportunity to catch the congressman’s ear about their needs, specifically how to lobby for cost of living raises and the benefits to delaying the retirement age days before budget season begins. Full story

Staffer Turned Entrepreneur to Make Shark Tank Début

Blount, left, and Rodgers, right, will appear on ABC on Friday night. (Photo courtesy of ABC)

Long time House staffer Willie Blount will make his television debut on Friday on the ABC show, Shark Tank, where he’ll pitch a pair of gloves he’s invented to a panel of investors.

Blount is the director of information systems for the House Legislative Counsel and has worked on Capitol Hill for 16 years. Aside from his job, his veteran, inventor and motorcycle rider background got him on the show.

“I wanted to control music while I rode my motorcycle, so I decided it needed to be done with your hands,” Blount told HOH.

The idea came to him in 2009, in 2011 he pitched it to his cousin, Tarik Rodgers, and in 2012, the company launched. Rodgers was personally interested in investing because he is a skier and is now the chief operating officer.

The invention, BearTek Gloves, function as a remote control, which is used by touching your thumb to one of six points, two on each finger. The entity is a technology company that licenses through manufacturers so they can integrate it into their brands.

Shark Tank 2

Blount’s invention. (Photo courtesy of ABC)

Blount, 41, served in the Marine Corps as an aviation radar technician for six years before working on the Hill.

“Balancing is very hard,” he said. “Something’s got to give when you’ve got a family, a job and a business. So what goes? Sleep.” He is the father of a 14-year-old boy and 5-year-old girl.

Blount was invited to the veteran’s episode of Shark Tank. About 40,000 companies apply to be on Shark Tank and only 130 get interviewed; Blount got the call to be interviewed on the show in September, but was scheduled to fly to Los Angeles at the same time as his sister’s wedding. ABC allowed him to come  the morning after the wedding, but he could tell only his wife where he was going.

ABC makes it very clear that just because your interview was filmed, doesn’t mean your segment will air. The station also stresses that even if none of the shark “investors” picks you, your interview can still air. Blount got a call that his interview would air a week and a half ago.

Don’t ask how he did. Blount has not even told his wife.

Tune into ABC at 9 p.m. on Friday. BearTek Gloves’ segment is 10 minutes long and 14 minutes into the episode. The company is having a viewing party on Friday at the Columbia, Md., Buffalo Wild Wings, and all are welcome.

Contact Gangitano at and follow her on Twitter @alexgangitano.

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By Alex Gangitano Posted at 4 p.m.

Office Space: Bob Casey’s Presidential Suite

Casey is Roll Call's guest on Office Space this week. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Casey is Roll Call’s guest on Office Space this week. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

In this week’s edition of Office Space, Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., shows off his office’s historical ties and explains his collection of Pittsburgh Steelers memorabilia.

Full story

Rocking the Natural History Museum

natural history

An aggregates industry trade group is celebrating passage of the highway bill at the Natural History Museum. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Lawmakers are invited to celebrate the nation’s infrastructure at the Natural History Museum on Wednesday.

The National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association, a mining group, is hosting a reception at the museum’s rotunda, followed by an tour of the rocks gallery at the museum.

Full story

Take Five: Rep. John Delaney

Delaney (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Delaney (Photo By 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 legislative work.

This week, Rep. John Delaney, D-Md., talks about Bruce Springsteen, the New York Stock Exchange and time with his four daughters.

Q: I hear you’re a big Bruce Springsteen fan, when did you start loving the Boss?

A: In high school is when it really started forming, so that’s when I really came to age with Bruce music, which was the late 70s, early 80s. It was kind of between [albums] Born to Run and the River.

Q: Do you have a favorite Springsteen song?

A: You know, I have so many. As a kid I loved Jungleland and more recently, it goes to [the Ghost of] Tom Joad that’s been kind of a favorite. I just like what it symbolizes. And, I’ve seen Springsteen about 30 times in concert.

Q: You’re a successful businessman, what is your biggest accomplishment in your business career?

A: Well, I would have to say one high point that comes to mind was when we took my first company public, which was in 1996. And, standing up there with my whole team on the balcony of the New York Stock Exchange, ringing the bell. The New York Stock Exchange is right across the Hudson River from basically where I grew up, in this blue collar neighborhood of New Jersey. And I was 33 at the time, at the time I think I was the youngest CEO in the history of the New York Stock Exchange. For the whole team, being able to do that in a relatively short period of time, we had only started the [health care financing] company three years earlier, was a big thrill for all of us.

Q: You studied biology at Columbia University, what did you originally want to do after graduation?

A: I thought I would go to medical school and while I was at Columbia and studying biology and thinking of going to medical school, I did two things. I worked at St. Luke’s Hospital, which was a hospital right near Columbia, and I also worked up at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. And it became pretty clear to me based on doing that, that it wasn’t what I wanted to do. I largely was pursuing that because it was something my parents thought I should do, less because I was a good student.

Q: You’re the father of four daughters and one of the closest lawmakers to your home, what do you do with your daughters in your spare time?

A: I just like enjoying spending time with them, which often times is going to their activities, their games, whatever they may be doing at the time. And all the girls have had different interests across time. We tend to be pretty active, so one of the things we like doing as a family is spending time out in the mountains, whether it being skiing or hiking or any of those kinds of things.

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February 2, 2016

He Made the Gavel Boehner Wielded

Slagle made the gavel that Boehner used as speaker (Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly File Photo)

Slagle made the gavel that Boehner used as speaker. (Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly File Photo)

Former Speaker John A. Boehner mourned the loss of a mentor and friend Tuesday who created the gavel the Ohio Republican used to lead the House.

Richard “Dick” Slagle, of Middletown, Ohio, died at 90 years old.

Full story

By Alex Gangitano Posted at 4:25 p.m.

Rep. Fattah’s Son Faces Five Years for Fraud

Rep. Chaka Fattah faces legal issues himself. (Photo By Bill Clark/Roll Call File Photo)

Rep. Chaka Fattah faces legal issues himself. (Photo By Bill Clark/Roll Call File Photo)

Chaka Fattah Jr., the son of Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Chaka Fattah, was sentenced to 60 months in prison on 22 federal counts of bank and tax fraud.

Fattah Jr., who uses the nickname, Chip, was found guilty in November of bank fraud, making false statements to banks to obtain loans and settle loans for less than what he owed, filing false federal income tax returns and failing to pay income tax. He also is guilty of wire fraud and theft from a program receiving federal funds, according to a press release from the Department of Justice. Full story

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