Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 22, 2014

November 22, 2013

On Reddit AMA, Niels Lesniewski Discusses Nuclear Option, Movember

Roll Call’s own Niels Lesniewski took to Reddit Friday to field questions about what happened in the Senate Thursday in the wake of the nuclear option being triggered.

On Reddit AMA, Niels Lesniewski Discusses Nuclear Option, Movember

Lesniewski with his favorite reading material, Riddick’s Senate Procedure. (Jason Dick/CQ Roll Call)

His “Ask Me Anything” thread is still live on the site.

“Democrats seem to have decided that being able to get President Obama’s nominees confirmed outweighed the risks of the next Republican president doing the same,” he wrote of the historic change to the Senate’s rules.

Redditor arrggg asked what the most monumental rules change was previously.

“This was probably the biggest change since 1975, when they reduced the number needed to break most filibusters from two-thirds to 60 votes,” Lesniewski responded.

But not all the questions were so serious.  Full story

Congressional Hits and Misses (Video) | Week of 11/18/13

From being fed up with task force after task force to parliamentary points of order, expect the unexpected on the House and Senate floor in this week’s Congressional Hits and Misses.

JFK’s Roll Call Testimonial

As a member of Congress who made his way to the White House, John F. Kennedy never forgot his Capitol Hill roots. In the days after the president’s funeral, Roll Call’s editorial on Nov. 27, 1963, recalled that Kennedy wrote to us the year before, on the occasion of our seventh anniversary, to wish us well:

“The original aims of your newspaper — to provide the members and staffs on Capitol Hill with a weekly medium of news about each other and to inject a healthy spirit of fun into the proceedings of Congress — have been admirably fulfilled. We on this end of Pennsylvania Avenue will continue to count on ROLL CALL for the excellent ‘under the dome’ coverage it provides.”

As Roll Call founder Sid Yudain wrote in the editorial: “No newspaperman could wish for a greater testimonial.”

Georgetowners Toasting JFK in Neighborhood Tribute

Capitol Hill veteran-turned-lobbyist Bill Broydrick on Friday is following in President John F. Kennedy’s historic footsteps, rounding up those who share a postal code with the late Massachusetts Democrat for a commemorative drink.

“My wife Cindi and I live on the same block as President Kennedy did when he was elected President,” Broydrick told HOH in an email, putting himself in the proximity of the love nest JFK and Jackie shared at 3307 N. St. NW during his 1960 campaign. “We have invited all of our neighbors to share a drink and toast to JFK at Martin’s Tavern where JFK asked Jackie to marry him.”

Per Broydrick, this is the first time he’s attempted to orchestrate such a pilgrimage; just more than a dozen neighbors — including the folks currently residing in the old Kennedy roost — have agreed to make the trek. Full story

By Warren Rojas Posted at 12:03 p.m.
Booze, DC, POTUS, VIPs

November 21, 2013

Biden Stumps for Capriotti’s Subs

During Thursday’s grand opening here in D.C., Capriotti’s — a sandwich shop that got under way nearly four decades ago in Wilmington, Del. — got a visit from a very special fan: sub-dispatcher-in-chief Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Biden Stumps for Capriotti’s Subs

(Warren Rojas/CQ Roll Call)

The Delaware Democrat strode into the new location (1800 M St. NW) and was immediately welcomed by thunderous applause. The store was packed with friends and family of the Capriotti’s chain (95 stores and counting), while Racing Presidents, freebie-seekers and star-struck tourists milled about outside.

Biden Stumps for Capriotti’s Subs

(Warren Rojas/CQ Roll Call)

Once at the counter, Biden ordered lunch for himself and President Barack Obama. He put in for two medium Italian subs — “We don’t call them hoagies in Delaware. We call them subs,” VPOTUS explained to the crush of reporters on hand for the lunch outing — both stripped of onions, an order of hot peppers on the side, one large “Bobbie” (a Thanksgiving-style mash-up of roasted turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing and mayo) and another large Italian sub, again with hot peppers on the side.

The crowd erupted in laughter after Capriotti’s CEO Ashley Morris recited back the charge ($56.25), at which point Biden, who discovered he only had $50 on him, called back to staff to loan him a few bucks. Full story

By Warren Rojas Posted at 1:50 p.m.
DC, Food, POTUS, Restos, Uncle Joe

For Holiday Season, Hillys Offer a Guide

Now that the Roll Call holiday gift and eating guide is out, it seems like as good a time as any to plug the Capitol Hill businesses, nonprofits and services that were recently honored at the Hilly Awards.

About 100 people milled about the Stars and Stripes Club on Nov. 16, drinking, snacking and chatting in a large room that overlooked Nationals Park from behind home plate.

“I love being part of this community. … I love being the best damn hair salon on Capitol Hill,”  said Michael Anthony, whose eponymous salon won best the award for health and beauty service of the year.

Below is list of the 2013 winners followed by the runners-ups:

Best bar: Beuchert’s Saloon. Runner-up: The Pug.

Best restaurant: Acqua Al 2. Runner-up: Belga Café.

Best retailer: Frager’s Hardware. Runner-up: Hill’s Kitchen.

Best health and beauty service: Michael Anthony Salon. Runner-up: Bubbles.

Best fitness service: Biker Barre. Runner-up: Results the Gym.

Best professional service: D.C. Access. Runner-up: National Capital Bank.

Best home and garden service: Frager’s Garden Pad. Runner-up: Moody Landscape Architect.

Best arts organization: Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital. Runner-up: Atlas Performing Arts Center.

Best nonprofit: Capitol Hill Arts Workshop. Runner-up: Rural Dog Reserve.

Best cafe/coffee shop: Peregrine Espresso. Runner-up: Pound The Hill.

Best new restaurant: District Taco. Runner-up: Beuchert’s Saloon.

Best new business: Hank’s Oyster Bar. Runner-up: Beuchert’s Saloon.

Full story

Ex-Obama Aide Hosts Medical Fundraiser at Vendetta

Communications guru Scott Goodstein wants to thank the trauma team that came to his rescue after a life-threatening motorcycle wreck earlier this spring.

Ex Obama Aide Hosts Medical Fundraiser at Vendetta

(Courtesy Scott Goodstein)

So he’s paying everything forward by hosting a fundraiser Thursday night at Vendetta (1212 H St. NE) benefiting the medical personnel that placed him on the road to recovery.

The party, which is open to the general public (one can RSVP via Facebook or Evite, but a promoter assured HOH it was not required), begins at 6 p.m. and will feature complimentary appetizers. Meanwhile, $1 from each of the specialty drinks sold will flow through to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.

The external online director during President Barack Obama’s first bid for the White House most recently made headlines by having some fun with the government shutdown. His company, Revolution Messaging, put together the lawmaker-needling DrunkDialCongress.org service.

Goodstein launched another campaign shortly after the accident, vowing not to shave until after his final surgery and inviting well-wishers to style his next facial hair configuration while also stumping for some charitable giving.

He seeded that initial pot with a $218 donation — and was since watched it grow into a $4,200-and-counting windfall for UMD.

November 20, 2013

Jim Cooper Muses About App Replacing the Newspapers It Depends on

Jim Cooper Muses About App Replacing the Newspapers It Depends on

(Anna Giaritelli/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., believes government shortcomings and a concerned print news industry will soon be transformed into something more efficient.

“Our newspapers are dying. Dead tree products like this are having a hard time economically. The business model is not working and it needs to be replaced with something like iCitizen so that people can get the news they need,” said Cooper at  launch party for the new iCitizen app.

iCitizen combines data from a variety of news sources to inform users on issues, legislation and how to correspond with public officials.

A number of Nashville health care professionals, members and former members, including former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., rallied support for the product debut at the Ronald Reagan Building Pavilion on Tuesday night.

Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn, another Tennessean, talked about the frustrations she has heard from constituents about the lack of reporting on select issues, but also noted the importance of community papers.

“I find it very interesting in my district, community newspapers that are specific to one area are very popular,” Blackburn said.

Interesting, too, that iCitizen relies on many “dying” organizations to provide news to users.

CEO Rod Massey listed the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and Tennessee Tribune as examples of sources for iCitizen’s 8,900 separate data feeds.

“We’re just in our infancy as far as the sources we’re incorporating. … As we integrate more diverse sources, I absolutely see us bringing that from a variety of different venues,” Massey said.

Feeding Joe Biden

It’s Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s birthday!

Feeding Joe Biden

(Courtesy HOH tipster)

According to our sources, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee elected to surprise the 71-year-old Delaware Democrat with a dozen donkey-clad baked goods — featuring flavors ranging from red velvet to chocolate marshmallow — special ordered from Sprinkles Cupcakes (3015 M St. NW).

No word from our DCCC friends as to how many of the frosted goodies, which were delivered at 11 a.m., VPOTUS may have indulged in during the friendly pop-in.

We just hope Biden didn’t ruin his appetite — because he’s presumably expected to chow down at a new sub shop opening up Thursday. (Stay tuned).

Five Gridiron Plays to Choose From | Capitol Quip

Five Gridiron Plays to Choose From | 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:

  • Good grief.
  • Wow, and nobody even pulled the football away.
  • Think the 5 cent Psychiatric Help booth still takes his insurance?
  • I bet he’ll be on the disabled list for 3 years.
  • That’s how it always ends, Charlie Brown!

The cartoon with the winning caption will appear on this blog on Nov. 24 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 4:16 p.m.
Capitol Quip

Pooch-Loving Pols Seek to Fast-Track Pets on Trains Plan

Pooch Loving Pols Seek to Fast Track Pets on Trains Plan

(Warren Rojas/CQ Roll Call)

Reps. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., Michael G. Grimm, R-N.Y. and Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., brought out the big guns Wednesday — which is to say terribly photogenic little dogs — for yet another push to persuade Amtrak to let furry-footed friends ride the rails with their loved ones.

“It happens on planes all the time. So why not trains?” wondered Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council President Mike Canning. He portrayed the idea of keeping people and their pets together as a quality-of-life issue, particularly during the already stressful holiday travel season.

Pooch Loving Pols Seek to Fast Track Pets on Trains Plan

Denham, right, and his dog, Lily. (Warren Rojas/CQ Roll Call)

Lead sponsor Denham, who also happens to serve as chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials, said he’d like to see his proposal signed into law early next year.

“We have opportunities to move this either as a stand-alone bill or  as part of the passenger rail re-authorization act,” Denham said.

Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman pumped the breaks a bit in terms of immediate action.

“We’re going to work with the congressmen. But we also have to make sure we’re doing it the right way,” he told HOH. Full story

By Warren Rojas Posted at 3:59 p.m.
Critters, HillSide, Reps

Honk if You’re Driverless | Madisonville

Vehicles that accelerate, brake and park themselves. Lane markers that keep cars on the straight and narrow. Children alone in a car that drives itself. No more accidents from fatigue, drunkenness or distraction.

Even in the presence of technology that would allow every American to watch C-SPAN on the road, members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Highways and Transit Subcommittee didn’t know what to make of the Brave New World seminar on driverless cars on Tuesday.

Honk if Youre Driverless | Madisonville“I envision the day we’ll have these vehicles, like the Flintstones, or something,” said Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. Nevada Democrat Dina Titus provided him with a verbal poke: Didn’t he mean the the Jetsons? Ah, yes, Cohen replied: “Who? The Jetsons? Yeah, that’s the opposite.”

Cohen then showed that something driverless can keep moving. “I got a ticket — and I went to court on it, which was a mistake, I guess, for parking more than 12 inches from the curb, which I didn’t know was even the law. And I don’t think I did it. The car’s going to know 12 inches? I mean, how’s the car going to know the Memphis city code?”

New Jersey Democrat Albio Sires and Illinois Republican Rodney Davis saw a similar problem but from opposite ends. Davis worries that the autonomous car industry will overlook rural drivers. Sires wonders if the industry is too optimistic about urban areas.

“It’s hard for me to fathom a car in New York City being without a driver,” Sires said. This worry conjures up questions about whether these cars can scream obscenities without human assistance. Or what amount of body damage will an autonomous taxi consider acceptable to cross three lanes of traffic to pick up a fare?

“I used to have a ’65 Mustang that I did a lot of work on,” Sires said, taking the path of greatest nostalgia to another point, about the loss of backyard tinkering. “I can’t imagine anybody doing any work on these cars that are so sophisticated. I think it’s just going to put people out of work.”

Texas Republican Roger Williams, a car dealer no less, may know something about the market that advocates of autonomous cars overlooked. “Something like this is going to have to be able pull a horse trailer,” he said.

Publius Valerius Publicola

‘Alpha House’ Premiere Attracts Alpha Lawmakers

Alpha House Premiere Attracts Alpha Lawmakers

Durbin, left, speaks with Consuelos and Alter before a screening of “Alpha House” on Tuesday. (Niels Lesniewski/CQ Roll Call)

Two of the lawmakers who have called Capitol Hill’s real-life “Alpha House” their home away from home were among the distinguished guests on hand at a screening of the Amazon series Tuesday evening in D.C.

But Sen. Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., wanted to make clear that the real house was nothing like the one in the TV program, lacking the usual Hollywood blend of sex, drugs and violence.

“Violence would involve rats, drugs would involve Metamucil, and the closest thing to sex is pictures of our grandkids,” Durbin said of the row house he shares with fellow Democrats Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York and Rep. George Miller of California, who is the landlord. The fictional house is shared by four Republican senators.

One former roommate, retired Rep. Bill Delahunt, D-Mass., also attended the screening.

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 11:48 a.m.
TV Land, VIPs

November 19, 2013

Trey Radel Facing Cocaine Charges (Updated)

Updated 5:44 p.m. | Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fla., is scheduled to be arraigned at 9 a.m. Wednesday on a misdemeanor charge of possession of a controlled substance, a court date stemming from a three-week old arrest involving cocaine.

Trey Radel Facing Cocaine Charges (Updated)

Radel, center, makes a point at a May press conference. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

In a statement, the freshman lawmaker said: “I’m profoundly sorry to let down my family, particularly my wife and son, and the people of Southwest Florida. I struggle with the disease of alcoholism, and this led to an extremely irresponsible choice. As the father of a young son and a husband to a loving wife, I need to get help so I can be a better man for both of them.

“In facing this charge, I realize the disappointment my family, friends and constituents must feel. Believe me, I am disappointed in myself, and I stand ready to face the consequences of my actions.

“However, this unfortunate event does have a positive side. It offers me an opportunity to seek treatment and counseling. I know I have a problem and will do whatever is necessary to overcome it, hopefully setting an example for others struggling with this disease.

“Please keep my family in your prayers.”

Updated 5:44 p.m.

When asked whether GOP leaders would urge Radel to resign, a spokesman for Speaker John A. Boehner told CQ Roll Call: “Members of Congress should be held to the highest standards, and the alleged crime will be handled by the courts. Beyond that, this is between Rep. Radel, his family, and his constituents.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said “I feel very sad for his family, and bad,” at a BuzzFeed Brews event on Tuesday evening. “His leadership will have to deal with him,” she added.

The arrest, first reported by Politico, happened on Oct. 29 here in the nation’s capital. Radel, who has missed votes on the House floor this week, will have to answer to D.C. Superior Court Judge Robert S. Tignor.

A quick scan of the social media-obsessed pol’s Twitter feed on the day in question didn’t point to anything being out of the ordinary:

“Had some fun last few wks,” he alerted followers, touting signature time-wasters like his real-time reviews of SkyMall catalogs.

Then again, perhaps Radel was trying to clue us in about this little habit all along.

Back in March, he told HOH that Cartagena, Colombia — the one-time seat of the Pablo Escobar-controlled Medellin Cartel — was his favorite vacation spot.

Emma Dumain contributed to this report.

New App Vies to Become ‘Yelp for Politicians’

Rod Massey, the CEO of iCitizen, is excited about getting his new civic engagement platform into the rapidly texting hands of responsive voters and the social-media-savvy pols they most care about.

“It will show them how their constituents feel about the actions they’re taking,” Massey told HOH of the fledgling application that allows folks to keep tabs on what their elected officials are up to and “rate” the legislators accordingly.

Per Massey, the initial version of the new tracing tool — feted at 6:30 p.m. tonight at an invitation-only soiree (free cocktails and hors d’oeuvres) at the Ronald Reagan Building at 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW — is configured to work on iOS 7-enabled iPhones. He said the company hopes to launch an Android version in early 2014.

Currently, users are able to select overall ratings for individuals on a scale of 1 to 5 stars. But those scores can fluctuate based on different impressions, new legislative actions or plain old buyer’s remorse.

“Individuals have the ability to change that at any time. So think it more as a flag,” he suggested.

That’s why his programmers are hard at work on an iPad version designed specifically to provide elected officials with real time data (an “analytics dashboard,” Massey called it) to chew on. Once released, most likely in early 2014, registered lawmakers will be able to view how their ratings have risen or fallen over time — a snapshot of reactions to their every political move.

“We’re more like social media with a purpose,” Massey said. Full story

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