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

March 2, 2014

Wordplay With Russian Autocrats | Capitol Quip

 Wordplay With Russian Autocrats | 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.

February 28, 2014

Dragons, Daffodils and a Drop of Whiskey for Welsh Caucus

Dragons, Daffodils and a Drop of Whiskey for Welsh Caucus

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

“What about the Welsh?” Rep. Morgan Griffith asked more than a year ago.

When the congressman of Welsh and Scottish descent was approached about joining the Friends of Scotland Caucus, he was surprised to learn that there was no Welsh caucus. So the Virginia Republican set out to start the new group, which launched this week.

Griffith attended the annual St. David’s Day event at the British ambassador’s residence on Wednesday in celebration of the patron saint of Wales. Full story

By Bridget Bowman Posted at 1:15 p.m.
DC, Reps, VIPs

Congressional Hits and Misses: Week of Feb. 24 (Video)

Seth Rogen talks pot, the speaker of the House pronounces his name and Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., explains sibling rivalry. After a week off, HOH is back with the best and worst from the nation’s Capitol.

Pols Pounce on Kitties of Congress Campaign

Political leaders have famously compared the infinitely frustrating chore of having to steer a majority of their members toward any given goal as being tantamount to herding cats.

Too bad they didn’t have kitten-flinging, relationship builder Benny Johnson in their corners.

 

 

BuzzFeed’s Viral Politics Editor has had lawmakers eating out of the palm of his hand all week thanks to his “Kitties of Congress” campaign, a playful base-broadening ploy he launched on Feb. 21.

While he originally toyed with the idea last March, Johnson told HOH he recently decided to fully embrace the cat-to-congress crossover — and, more importantly, resolved to make lawmakers do the same.

“This year, one of my personal goals is to get followed by every member of congress on Twitter. This kitty campaign partially serves that end, but also provides a fun social interaction component that is far too rare in politics,” Johnson said of his unconventional outreach.

His plan hinges on helping solons shoot past the worst stuff on the web (“corny partisan messaging tools that no one really enjoys or shares”) and embrace some purely-for-the-hell-of-it silliness.

 

 

“Kitties of Congress is about getting members to join in a fun internet meme simply because it is enjoyable, like normal people do,” he suggested. “I’m thrilled that it has been successful and I will continue to make kitties for every member who follows me.“

By his count, over 100 lawmakers have followed him down this particular rabbit hole to date. We tallied roughly six dozen congressional followers — with Republicans outpacing Democrats, roughly two-to-one in terms of reaching out — who had opted in for the feline matchmaking.

Using Johnson’s math, this social media stunt has already dwarfed several coalition-building efforts happening on Capitol Hill right now, wooing five times the number of those willing to rally around the House GOP’s tenuous immigration plan and scores more than those who have formally lined up behind head taxwriter Dave Camp’s pitch to rewrite the Internal Revenue Code.

The response has been rather overwhelming. Full story

Thinking Like a Terrorist With House Homeland Security | Madisonville

The government spends billions of dollars to find terrorists and plug leaks in the borders. It turns out much of that money could be saved simply by asking members of the House Homeland Security Committee where to look. Members were bubbling over with good ideas for Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson when he came to talk about his “vision for the future.”

Members of Congress like security. They can back-seat drive to their heart’s content. There’s no penalty for false alarms, and if they happen to get one right, well, they look more clear-eyed than the rest of us. Full story

February 27, 2014

That’s Mr. Boner to You (Video)

One day after Speaker John A. Boehner was complimented on his tan, the Ohio Republican again found himself joshing with reporters Thursday.

After a reporter incorrectly addressed him as “Mr. Camp,” referring to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp and his tax code rewrite, Boehner responded with a candid, “It’s Boner.”

Watch the full exchange below.

Snarchitect Draws Political Battle Lines Across NoVa

As the last few decades have taught us, Northern Virginia’s influence in the politisphere — fueled largely by a constant influx of upwardly mobile workers, swelling affluence and issues-minded electorate — remains on the rise.

Which is probably exactly why the bomb throwers who contribute to Judgmental Map felt compelled to cut the high and mighty area down to size.

 

The ‘hood slamming site was created by self-styled comedian Trent Gillaspie last January. The amateur cartographer fired the opening salvo by carving up his then-hometown, Denver (Gillaspie has since relocated to Austin, Texas). Over the past year, would-be satirists have taken turns dissecting metropolitan areas across the country, targeting Manhattan, Chicago, Phoenix, Minneapolis, San Antonio, Nashville, Tenn., Chattanooga, Tenn., Memphis, Tenn., and Richmond, Va.

The dressing down of Northern Virginia appears to be the broadest-based attack to date, targeting multiple cities and, most importantly, several congressional districts. Full story

February 26, 2014

Capitol Hill Fox, Friends Back on the Prowl

The now-weekly snowfalls keep threatening to render the little slice of heaven Capitol Hill dwellers call home inhospitable to man or beast.

Capitol Hill Fox, Friends Back on the Prowl

(Courtesy number7cloud)

Good thing the four-legged friends who’ve taken up residence around town refuse to let Mother Nature ruin their fun.

The last time we checked in on Capitol Hill Fox emotions were still running high after a widely reported death scare. What a difference a few weeks makes.


View Capitol Hill Fox sightings in a larger map

CHF has, apparently, kept busy visiting local landmarks.

In the most well documented adventure yet, CHF kicked off Valentine’s Day by posing right in front of the Capitol, before bolting towards the National Mall for some art appreciation. Full story

Five Captions Want to Medal for This Week’s Capitol Quip

Five Captions Want to Medal for This Weeks 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: Full story

By Jason Dick Posted at 6:14 p.m.
Capitol Quip

Nuclear Fallout Colors Pro-Test-Ban Artist’s Memories

Standing up against nuclear weapons testing seems like a common-sense thing today. But the world was a very different place when renowned artist and test ban advocate Karipbek Kuyukov began down that very road nearly a quarter-century ago.

Nuclear Fallout Colors Pro Test Ban Artists Memories

(Courtesy Patrick Gilsenan)

The Kazakh-born activist is expected to share the culmination of his experiences in the battle to halt nuclear proliferation during a Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament reception hosted by PNND Co-President and Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Edward J. Markey. The “Ending the Terror of Nuclear Weapons” event is scheduled to take place Thursday from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the Kennedy Caucus Room (Russell 325). Prospective attendees are encouraged to RSVP here.

Kuyukov, who currently serves as honorary ambassador for the ATOM Project, told HOH he first visited the U.S. in 1991.

That year, he joined others opposed to the stockpiling of nuclear weapons in marching from D.C. to the Nevada test site — a cross-country trek during which Kuyukov warned locals about the perils of the arms race.

Nuclear Fallout Colors Pro Test Ban Artists Memories

(Courtesy Patrick Gilsenan)

“It is my mission to be one of the last to suffer from nuclear testing,” he said of his desire to spare future generations from the horrors (birth defects, physical deformity, premature death) that those, like himself, who grew up around the Semipalatinsk test site — proving ground operated by the Soviet Union from Aug. 29, 1949, to Aug.29, 1991 — experienced over time.

“The time of global competition is over and should be confined to history,” Kuyukov said. He urged world leaders to focus on more worthwhile causes, ticking off economic development, energy efficiency and pressing social issues as possible alternatives. “Turn away from the weapons as the fetish … the ultimate symbol of manhood, so to speak, of power,” he chided. Full story

Reykjavik Provides ‘Simply the Best’ Party Pitch We’ve Ever Seen

REYKJAVIK, Iceland — A Marist College poll released Wednesday shows District Mayor Vincent Gray ahead of a crowded pack of candidates vying to capture the Democratic mayoral nomination on April 1. But when queried about their level of excitement for the upcoming race, only 32 percent of Democrats polled claimed to be “very enthusiastic” about voting. That number might be different if we were in Iceland, where the mayor here told a magazine he would only work with politicians who have watched “The Wire” and agree it was the best thing to happen to TV.

Reykjavik Mayor Jón Gnarr, a comedian turned elected official, took office in 2010 after running mostly on a lark as a Best Party candidate. He promised to “do away with all debt,” get a polar bear for the Reykjavik Zoo and to economize, saying, “We only need one Santa!”

The Best Party platform is worth digging into. Thankfully, they’ve made that an entertaining task by shooting a “We Are the World”-esque music video laying out their priorities to the tune of, you guessed it, “Simply the Best.” (The production values are impressive, but we’d expect nothing less from a party that counts the Sugarcubes’ Einar Örn Benediktsson as a member; he joined the city council in the same election cycle.)

Unfortunately for us, the mayor announced in the fall he would not seek re-election, which means we only have until May to enjoy his antics.

Sure, Gray attends the 17th Street High Heel Race, but being photographed with drag queens is different than donning the wig and gold earrings yourself, as Gnarr did in 2010 at the Icelandic capital’s Pride parade.

Reporter to Boehner: Nice Tan, Sir (Video)

Speaker John A. Boehner has a special affinity for poking fun at reporters’ sartorial decisions. But on Wednesday, it was Boehner who found himself on the butt end of a joke.

The Ohio Republican began his question and answer session Wednesday morning with some classic schoolyard sarcasm regarding Bloomberg reporter Derek Wallbank’s decision to wear a light purple button-down Wednesday.

“Nice shirt,” the Speaker said.

Wallbank took the comment — or at least tried to take the comment — as a compliment.

“Thank you, sir,” he said. Full story

February 25, 2014

Regilding of Union Station Continues Apace

In August 2011, a 5.4-magnitude earthquake rocked Union Station, cracking the ornate, vaulted ceiling above the transportation hub’s Main Hall.

Structural repairs began immediately, and it was soon realized that the iconic building, where generations of powerful people have arrived by train and walked to Capitol Hill to lead the nation, would need further work to preserve its historic integrity. More than 100,000 people pass through the station each day, and it is the busiest Metro stop in the District, serving about 32,000 Red Line riders every weekday.

On Tuesday, the groups behind a $350,000 grant to regild the aged ceiling and restore its original grandeur — American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation — gave the media a peek at the ongoing repairs.

Regilding of Union Station Continues Apace

The team led reporters on a climb to the surface of the 96-foot barrel-vaulted ceiling, up a scaffolding tower constructed by the same company that raised scaffolding for projects at the National Cathedral and the Washington Monument.

To date, only 20 percent of the ceiling has been restored and regilded with a 23-karat goldleaf material, promised to be more lustrous and more durable than the current 22-karat finish. As repairs continue, the scaffolding will roll the entire length of Main Hall, from east to west.

When repairs are completed in 2016, officials promise the Main Hall will be returned to the grandeur and elegance it had when it opened to the public in 1908.

Priscilla Presley, Paul Williams Storm the Hill; More Celebs to Come

The latest smattering of fast falling flakes to blanket the area could not keep advocacy-minded entertainers away from the Capitol on Tuesday. And there’s still more help from Hollywood already on the way.

Actress-turned-animal-rights-activist and former Elvis spouse Priscilla Presley made the rounds on behalf of the Humane Society, stumping for equine rights and relief from soring.

Priscilla Presley, Paul Williams Storm the Hill; More Celebs to Come

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A tipster placed Presley at neighboring 701 Restaurant the night before, sharing that the world famous “Naked Gun” co-star broke bread for several hours with friends at the pol-pleasing establishment.

Paul Williams, ’70s-songwriter-turned-president and chairman of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, proved that he’s still a big man on this campus by tag-teaming pressers across Capitol Hill.

Priscilla Presley, Paul Williams Storm the Hill; More Celebs to Come

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Williams helped usher in the new Library of Congress exhibit, “ASCAP: One Hundred Years and Beyond” and shared his thoughts with lawmakers about music royalties.

Bono, meanwhile, didn’t make it all the way to the halls of Congress — sending, instead, 250-odd friends to share his concerns with lawmakers.

Priscilla Presley, Paul Williams Storm the Hill; More Celebs to Come

(Courtesy Ralph Alswang)

A tipster said the U2 frontman surprised members of his ONE Campaign by popping into town Feb. 22 for a brief visit during which he “thanked the volunteers for their time and dedication to the fight against extreme global poverty.” The pep talk must have worked: ONE aides from more than 44 states were expected to take 222 meetings with House and Senate staffers Tuesday.

And the celeb worship is far from over.

Come Wednesday, the Dirksen Senate Office Building will be the place to be, thanks to dueling hearings featuring a pair of Tinsel Town heavies.

Actor/screenwriter Seth Rogen kicks things of at 2 p.m. by joining ex-Rep. Dennis Moore, D-Kan., for the second round of questioning during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education hearing about Alzheimer’s. Rogen, whose mother-in-law has the debilitating disease, serves as a “celebrity champion” for the National Alzheimer’s Association.

Not to be outdone, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has snagged Academy Award-winning director — and the next in line to don Batman’s iconic cowl — Ben Affleck for a discussion poised to begin at 2:15 regarding peace prospects in the Republic of Congo. Affleck co-founded the philanthropic Eastern Congo Initiative in 2010.

Internet Confused About John Walsh, the College Years

Newly minted Sen. John Walsh is no stranger to academia, having bounced between three repositories of higher learning before securing a Master of Arts from the U.S. Army War College.

But if one were to believe the incongruous résumés available online, the source of his undergraduate degree is more puzzling than textbook.

CQ Roll Call’s official biography lists the Montana Democrat as having attended Carroll College (1984); he later graduated from distance learning-friendly Regents College (1990) with a Bachelor of Science.

Back then, Regents operated within the statewide scholastic network overseen by the overarching University of the State of New York. The school was rebranded as Excelsior College in 2001  — and we have not even gotten to the widespread goofiness yet.

On his campaign website, Walsh acknowledges the brief stint at Carroll College. He also, rather curiously, lists himself as having attended SUNY — the State University of New York.

The government-run biographical directory of the United States Congress does Walsh one better, not only placing him at SUNY but also bestowing bragging rights to having snagged his sheepskin in Albany.

While the five dozen-odd SUNY campuses do fall under the purview of USNY, the two organizational structures are not interchangeable.

Whether this is all predicated on a single, mistakenly transcribed character or an elaborate plot to rewrite history remains unclear. All we got from Team Walsh was a confirmation (“I double-checked with the Senator, and he did graduate from USNY (not SUNY),” his office relayed via email) of what we already knew.

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