Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 23, 2014

November 15, 2013

The House Wrath and Forgiveness Committee | Madisonville

The House Wrath and Forgiveness Committee paraded four more hapless Obamacare functionaries in for ritual humiliation on Wednesday. The committee is formally called Oversight and Government Reform, but the Republicans hurl so much wrath and the Democrats offer so much forgiveness that oversight and reform don’t even get out of bed on meeting day.

Chairman Darrell Issa of California and ranking member Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland nevertheless make the panel worth the price of admission.  Words are barely necessary. Body language says it all.

The House Wrath and Forgiveness Committee | MadisonvilleAs one talks, the other contorts his body in such a way to create as much distance as possible without actually getting up and moving. Issa holds his head still as his shoulders and torso shift away from Cummings. Eventually, he discovers that his head has to go where his body goes. Cummings tries to disguise the movement, but there’s a perceptible slant in the other direction when Issa talks. He’s the leaning tower of Maryland’s 7th District.

Cummings has the demeanor of a man who has seen every evil under the sun. The rings under his eyes are so pronounced he might have been present when the tablets came down from the mount. God cursed him by making him sit on this committee and encounter ever new levels of depravity, often committed by his own side.  Cummings runs those big hands up and over his head and wonders whether it can get worse.

Issa usually finds a way. He’s more of a New Testament person, by way of California and show business. Issa is the supporting actor who believes he deserves top billing. God cursed him by constantly finding someone to challenge his view of himself. Issa gets ornery when that happens. As a result, he doesn’t always stay on point.

Democrats noticed his mood Wednesday and quickly started to bait him. It beats listening to four technology experts from the administration explain why — or for most people, not explain why — things are working.

Massachusetts’ John F. Tierney tweaks Issa for talking four minutes more than he allowed Cummings. Virginia’s Gerald E. Connolly builds a case that Issa and Co. smeared one of the witnesses by selectively leaking documents. Jim Cooper of Tennessee calls the hearing a kangaroo court. Pennsylvania’s Matt Cartwright says the Republicans are circulating a playbook on how to exploit the Obamacare problems for political gain. Tierney baits him a second time by walking a witness into testimony that Issa is telling untruths on national television.

Issa leaps to his own defense. He corrects, adds context, contradicts, pleads ignorance, complains that his words are being disparaged and mischaracterized.

The four guys from Obamacare — Obamacarriers? — must have wondered what the committee needed them for.

Manchin Preaches Common Sense at Common Ground Awards

The D.C.-based group No Labels wants to bridge the growing gap between Republicans and Democrats, a lofty goal but one that the Search for Common Ground praised at its Thursday night awards ceremony.

Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., and Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kan., were on hand at the National Geographic Museum to accept the award. A couple of hundred people crowded into the museum’s auditorium for the ceremony.

Before joining the Senate in 2010, Manchin was the governor of the Mountain State. Manchin, now a co-chairman of No Labels, said he had hoped to bring the common-sense solutions he worked on there to the Senate.

“I found out common sense wasn’t so common here,” he said to laughs.

Manchin Preaches Common Sense at Common Ground Awards

Manchin is a co-chairman of No Labels. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Full story

‘You’ve Got Hate!’ What Not to Wear Edition

The consensus appears to be that playing fashion critic is not my strong suit.

‘You’ve Got Hate!’ What Not to Wear Edition

(Courtesy Jamison Foser)

A recent 93-word intrusion into Federal Reserve nominee Janet L. Yellen’s wardrobe has spawned pages and pages of unbridled outrage, prompting feminists, economists and all-around pragmatists to flood comment boards and social-media feeds with burning questions about this publication’s sudden interest in sartorial decision-making.

Where is the blistering assault on President Barack Obama’s strict rotation of blue or gray suits, some wondered. Why no exposés about current Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke’s penchant for Jos. A. Bank wear, prodded others. Hell, when have you ever taken note of a man’s appearance? (Oh, let’s see, just in the recent past there were musings about South Carolina Republican Rep. Mark Sanford’s shorts, North Carolina Republican Rep. Howard Coble’s blazer and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum’s sleeveless gear.)

Then, of course, there were the personal attacks.

Outraged peers and readers alike urged me to “suck a fat one” for polluting the politisphere with “Breitbart-level juvenile” “garbage” I presumably vomited onto my keyboard because I am “obviously a sexist douchebag.”

“Are you Claudia from the Babysitters Club, determined to never wear the same outfit? Do you burn your clothes the minute you take them off?” demanded one email interrogator. (No clue. Never read that series.)

“How would you like comments on your heritage or weight being relevant to your worth?” asked another. (Fair point.) Full story

Overheard: ‘Let’s be Honest’

“Let’s be honest, the Upton bill today does not fix this thing.”

Texas GOP Rep. Michael C. Burgess, appearing on Fox News on Friday morning.

By Jason Dick Posted at 12:53 p.m.
Overheards, Reps

November 14, 2013

Jim Cantore Visits Barbara Mikulski, Gets Senate Umbrella

When Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski met Thursday with Jim Cantore of the Weather Channel, she offered an appropriate gift: a Senate umbrella.

Cantore, of course, is a longtime Weather Channel meteorologist frequently dispatched toward the eyes of hurricanes and the areas most pummeled by winter storms. He’s also something of a fixture on other NBC News programs during times when severe weather makes headlines.

Jim Cantore Visits Barbara Mikulski, Gets Senate Umbrella

(Office of Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski)

That Cantore and Mikulski would want to meet should come as no surprise.

Full story

Italian Envoy Drops by CVC for Lunch

Italian-American members of Congress broke bread with Claudio Bisogniero, Italy’s ambassador to the United States, on Thursday at a Capitol Visitor Center lunch.

Italian Envoy Drops by CVC for Lunch

Bisogniero, center, dropped by Capitol Hill for lunch on Thursday. (Mustafa Ozer/AFP/Getty Images)

“For those of you who haven’t met him, he speaks incredibly good English, better than many of my constituents and certainly better than Pascrell’s constituents,” said Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio, ribbing himself and Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-N.J.

Tiberi, Pascrell and Reps. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., Tom Marino, R-Pa., and David Cicilline, D-R.I., were all on hand for the National Italian American Foundation’s Frank Guarini Public Policy Forum luncheon, the last of the year. Full story

This Week in HOH: Speaker Jim Wright’s ‘Busy-Beaver’ Co-Author

This Week in HOH: Speaker Jim Wrights Busy Beaver Co Author

Texas Democrat Jim Wright became the first speaker of the House to resign his office because of scandal in May 1989. Perhaps the handwriting was already on the wall in November of the previous year, when news broke about the titillating bibliography of the man who was set to help him write a book about his time in Congress.

From the Nov. 13, 1988, Heard on the Hill:

Tome on the range. Just as the controversy over Speaker Jim Wright’s last book, Reflections of a Public Man, seems to be dying down, the literary lawmaker is writing a new one, appropriately titled Mr. Speaker. The book is being co-authored by George Mair, Wright’s busy-beaver press secretary. Mair, the famed author of The Sex-Book Digest: A Peek Between the Cover of 113 of the Most Erotic, Exotic and Edifying Sex Books, is typing away on a tome of his own to be called The Rules of Love, illustrated by Scott Bennett. Both works have yet to find a publisher.

Wright went on to write other books, but “Mr. Speaker” wasn’t one of them. Mair wrote many more books, making quite a name for himself as a celebrity biographer and ghostwriter.

Somebody Spot Janet Yellen Some New Threads

Updated Nov. 15, 1:43 p.m.| HOH responds to critics of this post.

Whether Janet Yellen, President Barack Obama’s latest pick to head the Federal Reserve, proves to be the financial genius our sputtering economy so desperately needs, remains to be seen.

At least we know her mind won’t be preoccupied with haute couture.

Here’s the black-on-black ensemble she sported last month when President Barack Obama officially nominated her:

Somebody Spot Janet Yellen Some New Threads

(Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

And her battle gear of choice for today’s nomination hearing on Capitol Hill:

Somebody Spot Janet Yellen Some New Threads

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Mind you, nobody has ever accused HOH of being particularly stylish. But we do manage to switch up outfits on the reg.

By Warren Rojas Posted at 3:21 p.m.
HillSide, VIPs

Overheard: Someone’s Head Is a ‘Difficult Place To Be’

“And [Rep. Cedric L. Richmond] was touching on this notion of how do you get inside somebody’s head just a moment ago. I think it’s a very difficult place to be.”

— Rep. Mark Sanford, commenting on the Transportation Security Administration’s risk-methodology procedures at a House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security  hearing on Thursday.

K Streeters Downplay Their Influence on Reddit

Two D.C.-based lobbyists bore down on their keyboards Wednesday, telling Redditors in their “Ask Me Anything” that lobbyists are people, too.

In a rare occurrence, K Streeters Jack Quinn and John Feehery of  QGA Public Affairs came to Reddit — a site not known for its appreciation of corporate or special interests —with open arms.

AMAs are fast becoming the Internet equivalent of stump speeches for politicians, but K Street’s presence on Reddit is a novelty. The post received modest attention per Reddit standards, but still garnered more than 100 comments. Full story

November 13, 2013

The Three Oversight Amigos | Madisonville

High school may be as good a preparation as one needs to understand how Congress works. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has a Republican trio most people will remember from growing up:  Utah’s Jason Chaffetz, Ohio’s Jim Jordan and North Carolina’s Patrick T. McHenry.

The Three Oversight Amigos | MadisonvilleJordan’s the jock who nobody expects to do much with his life; Chaffetz is the brain the teachers wish would perform up to his potential and McHenry’s the kid the jock and the brain found stuffed into a locker. They rescued him and the three have been inseparable since.

At least, that’s what it looks like when they sit side-by-side in the top row of House Oversight, to the left of the chairman — possibly striving to avoid his notice while they whisper and giggle as more studious classmates pay attention to the lesson. Full story

5 Ways to Push the Health Care Cart | Capitol Quip

5 Ways to Push the Health Care Cart | 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:

  • Man, this is getting to be a drag ….
  • Hey, I’m concerned about my own legacy!
  • I liked it better when all we had to worry about was the government shutdown.
  • I hate to be such a jackass, but I don’t think I can pull this load.
  • It’s easier to see his view from up here.

The cartoon with the winning caption will appear on this blog on Nov. 17 and in the Nov. 18 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 6:33 p.m.
Capitol Quip

Jim McDermott’s (Brief) Rap Phase

Jim McDermott’s (Brief) Rap Phase

(Courtesy Jim McDermott)

According to an aide to Rep. Jim McDermott, the Washington Democrat enjoyed his first Sir Mix-A-Lot concert earlier this month. But confidence is low that the jazz and folk rock fan will delve much deeper into the rap world.

McDermott first became aware of the Seattle-born rhyme spitter when faux conservative newsman Stephen Colbert attempted to pin him down about his preference of posteriors during a recent “Better Know a District” segment.

The Colbert Report
Get More: Colbert Report Full Episodes,Video Archive

His curiosity piqued, McDermott ventured over to Mix-A-Lot’s Nov. 2 show to see what all the fuss was about.

“It was interesting. But it was a bit loud for his tastes,” a McDermott spokesperson related about the overall experience. The aide added that McDermott certainly enjoyed meeting Mix-A-Lot — “He thought he was very nice” — but suggested that he’s more likely to stick with longstanding musical favorites Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Miles Davis and Israel Kamakawiwoʻole.

Hill Staffers Capitalize on Few Remaining Dome Tours

A planned overhaul of the time-worn Capitol Dome has sent Hill staffers into a frenzy for constituent-appeasing tours, a mad dash for the closely guarded reservations that’s spawned a black market of promised food, drink and even forced labor.

Hill Staffers Capitalize on Few Remaining Dome Tours

The Capitol Dome is set to undergo a long-overdue renovation, and tours will be curtailed after it starts. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The announcement of the two-year restoration project touched off a behind-the-scenes bidding war among those in congressional offices charged with securing the walk-throughs for folks back home. Architect of the Capitol aide Justin Kieffer confirmed that the last of those tours are scheduled to take place Dec. 15.

An HOH tipster provided us with a glimpse into the panicky exchanges bouncing back and forth on an internal administrative message board. Full story

Al Franken Helps Radio Pal Flog New Show

Progressive radio personality Ben Wikler is convinced his left-leaning views will thrive on the web. So he’s taking his daily radio show online — and he’s bringing his friend and mentor, Sen. Al Franken, along for the first on-demand ready episode.

Wikler will promote his new show, “The Good Fight,” from 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at The 201 Bar (201 Massachusetts Ave. NE) during an invitation-only preview party. Franken is scheduled to attend the kickoff festivities, along with Anna Galland, executive director of MoveOn.org’s Civic Action program.

MoveOn, which also sponsored Wikler’s previous show, “The Flaming Sword of Justice,” is banking on the Franken alumnus — he served as lead researcher on Franken’s media-bashing tome, “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them,” and also served as a producer and writer for the Minnesota Democrat’s eponymous Air America show — to shake up political talk.

Per Wikler, the first installment of the revamped program — “We’re moving a lot more towards ‘This American Life,’” he said, citing the Holy Grail of public affairs broadcasting — will be available both by subscription and in the iTunes store on Thursday.  Full story

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