Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
August 21, 2014

September 23, 2013

Rob Portman Plunges Forward With Boating Hobby

Sen. Rob Portman spent the weekend doing something he loves: working hard toward a definable goal with a tangible outcome.

Needless to say, this all happened miles away from Washington, D.C.

The Ohio Republican put the finishing touches on a boat storage project he’d been tinkering with beneath his home; the end product looks well thought out and perfectly secure — attributes no longer shared by most anything up for consideration in the bitterly partisan Senate.

Still, it sounds like Portman doesn’t let the acrimony dampen his spirit.

A longtime kayaking enthusiast — he’s carved his way through waterways ranging from the Colorado River to the Yangtze — Portman has, in recent years, begun volunteering with Team River Runner, a group dedicated to helping disabled military veterans develop a passion for paddling. Full story

George Washington Spirits Society Toasts Heidi Heitkamp

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., Tuesday night will join the growing fraternity of lawmakers held in the highest regard by the booze lobby, taking her place among the handful of pols who have previously been honored by the George Washington Spirits Society.

George Washington Spirits Society Toasts Heidi Heitkamp

(Warren Rojas/CQ Roll Call)

Heitkamp and former Sen. Dirk Kempthorne, R-Idaho, will be inducted into the burgeoning group as part of the annual “Spirit of Mount Vernon” gala held at the first president’s sprawling Virginia estate.

The swanky invite-only affair, which features top-shelf liquor at nearly every turn, as well as the auctioning of rare tipples, kicks off at 6:30 p.m. with — what else — a see-and-be-seen cocktail reception held on the picturesque Mount Vernon lawn.

Heitkamp’s selection, and Kempthorne’s for that matter, is a bit of a break from the norm for GWSS, which tends to favor solons from the South. The group has tapped four members from the Kentucky delegation — Reps. John Yarmuth, a Democrat, and Harold Rogers, a Republican, were brought aboard in 2010 and 2011, respectively, while ex-Sen. Jim Bunning, a Republican, and GOP former Rep. Ron Lewis got the nods in 2003 and 2005 — and welcomed South Carolina Democrat James E. Clyburn in 2007.

The others residing above the Mason-Dixon Line to get the call include Iowa Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin (2008) and ex-Nevada Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley (2009).

Per GWSS, Heitkamp is being recognized for the work she’s done during her tenure on the advisory board of The Century Council, an organization committed to stamping out problem drinking (underage, driving-related).

September 22, 2013

The Shutdown Gambit | Capitol Quip

The Shutdown Gambit | Capitol Quip

To shut down the government or not to shut down, that is the question for Congress, one that occurs with an unfortunate regularity around these parts. Which brings us to this week’s Capitol Quip contest.

Send us a caption for this week’s contest by leaving it in the comments section of our Heard on the Hill blog. 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.

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

Many Lines to Cross | Capitol Quip

Many Lines to Cross | 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.

September 20, 2013

Howard Coble Gets a Call From the Fashion Police

Howard Coble Gets a Call From the Fashion Police

Coble takes a call from the “fashion police,” according to his office. (Courtesy Howard Coble)

He may be one of the oldest members of the House, but North Carolina Republican Rep. Howard Coble, 82, is still looking to start trends on the House floor.

During the House’s rancorous debate over a continuing resolution that would fund the government but defund Obamacare, Coble rocked a light blue and green madras sport coat.

His fashion choice lit up Twitter and even earned the congressman a call from the fashion police, according to his office. Full story

‘Alpha House’ Elects to Keep It Real

Cameras are rolling. The cast keeps growing. And politically plugged-in visitors who have scouted the New York-based set are purportedly loving every minute of it.

That’s the incredibly early read on “Alpha House,” the forthcoming Web series about the life and times of a group of Republican senators who reside together in a group house, as envisioned by “Doonesbury” creator Garry Trudeau.

The show, which is scheduled to debut on Amazon Prime sometime this November, follows the exploits of the titular roomies: John Goodman, playing embattled North Carolina Republican Gil John Biggs; Mark Consuelos, playing newly minted Sen. Andy Guzman; Matt Malloy, playing Sen. Louis Laffer; and Clark Johnson, playing Sen. Robert Bettencourt.

The latest additions to the star-studded ensemble include “Sex and the City” alumna Cynthia Nixon, playing Sen. Carly Armiston, D-N.Y.; “Strangers with Candy” alumna Amy Sedaris, playing Louise Laffer; “Curb Your Enthusiasm” alumna Wanda Sykes, playing Democrat Rosalyn DuPech; and Julie White as Mrs. Biggs.

Alpha House Executive Producer Jonathan Alter told HOH they’re done shooting about a third of the first season (four episodes are in the can), and that Trudeau is busily shaping the satiric arc of the remaining installments.

“There are definitely going to be some things that strike people as familiar … but we’re not writing it from the headlines,” he said of the general tone of the show. And don’t expect a lot of stunt casting.

“It won’t be like ‘K Street,’” he asserted, citing HBO’s attempt to make stars of those inside the Beltway bubble. Full story

House CSA Fans Send Out SOS

House staffers who’ve feasted all summer on healthful produce from Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative don’t want the vitamin-rich party to stop. But they need some help to keep the fiberrific times rolling.

House CSA Fans Send Out SOS

(Courtesy Barbara Riley)

Barbara Riley, an aide to Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., tells HOH those partaking in the nascent community-supported agriculture program are in danger of losing their neighborhood drop-off point (First and E streets Southeast) if they don’t round up more subscribers.

By Riley’s count, the group needs to nab 10 new members before the fall harvest gets under way (Nov. 4) or else they risk losing the cherry location.

“There is another pickup at 907 Maryland Ave. NE, but not as convenient for many staffers,” Riley said.

A Lancaster Farm aide indicated that the congressional clique has until Oct. 25 to corral new recruits. “I haven’t been contacted for a check on their number,” the CSA administrator said, noting that the group, at least so far, has had no trouble meeting the ordering quota.

Should they fall short, Lancaster would attempt to relocate the remaining buyers to the nearest pickup point at Maryland Avenue. Last resort: issuing full refunds to everyone involved.

But help is on the way: Lancaster is mailing out promotional materials to all its member sites on Sept. 23.

September 19, 2013

H&M Mobbed on First Day at Union Station

The grand opening of retailer H&M’s Union Station store drew scores of visitors Thursday, including Hill staffers on lunch hour.

“For us, it’s really about opening and inviting everyone in today, showing strength in light of recent events,” said Nicole M. Christie, acting communications manager for North America at H&M.

Eager shoppers waited in line while employees entertained the masses with cheers and dancing to the music of DJ Bounce as everyone waited for the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Among the customers visiting H&M on its first day of business were a number of Hill staffers, whose lanyards gave them away. No members of Congress were seen.

The new store joins more than 30 other H&M locations in the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area and is the 281st store to open in the United States. The space previously housed a Barnes & Noble, which closed on March 1.

The 8,000-square-foot area is being used as the company’s first-ever boutique-style space and will feature both ladies’ and men’s styles. Although the average H&M is 20,000 square feet, this location was expected to see 600 visitors in its first day of opening, according to Ashlee Griffin, the Union Station store manager.

For the 90,000 people that pass through Union Station’s doors daily, opening a business there meant capitalizing on commuters at one of the nation’s largest transit hubs.

“It gives us a unique advantage to focus and hone in on what’s working here so we can tailor and bring in certain parts of collections, maybe even our capsule collections,” Christie said. “We understand the market that we are in, so we could have after-work events for the D.C. professional. We try to think of unique ways to think locally and connect; this really is a great space and atmosphere for it to happen.”

See scenes from the opening on our Pinterest board.

GOP Hopeful Has Miss Alabama 2012 in His Corner

Beauty pageant vet Katherine Webb is trying on the pundit hat for a change, tossing her support behind aspiring lawmaker Wells Griffith in the race to replace retired Rep. Jo Bonner, R-Ala.

 

Webb gave Griffith the nod Thursday on Twitter, heralding the former Republican National Committee operative’s political vision (“He will do great things for our country”) and personal values (“Great guy and great family!”). Full story

Spike Mendelsohn, Tommy Wells Tag Teaming Splashy Fundraiser

Restaurateur Spike Mendelsohn is not just throwing his support behind D.C. Councilmember Tommy Wells for the next mayoral race, he’s helping the Capitol Hill personality stage a so-long-to-summer bash Sunday at the Capitol Skyline Hotel.

Spike Mendelsohn, Tommy Wells Tag Teaming Splashy Fundraiser

(Screenshot)

“The Last Hoorah of Summer” shindig is scheduled to run from 2-7 p.m. (or later, depending on how the scene is going) at the hotel’s rooftop pool (10 Eye St. SW). A suggested $25 donation to Wells’ mayoral campaign gets you in the door; potential revelers can RSVP here.

The entrance fee covers access to the water features and entitles attendees to snack on the selected nibbles — beef tartare on crostini, Brussels sprouts with béarnaise sauce, smoked trout mini tartines, mini croque Monsieurs — Béarnaise toque Brad Race will crank out for the occasion.

No dice on free booze, though Capitol Skyline General Manager Jeff Ragonese assured HOH that District Lounge plans to sling discounted beers ($5 a pop for Budweiser, Bud Light, Miller Lite, Yuengling, Corona, Corona Light, Heineken) and cocktails ($8 for Jose Cuervo-spiked margaritas and regular rail drinks) throughout the event. Full story

Essential Senate GOP Staffer to Fellow Republicans: Let’s Avoid a Shutdown

Apparently the Senate administrative director’s Listserv got a little sassy Thursday morning, with Sen. Susan Collins’ administrative director telling Sen. David Vitter’s administrative director that her office’s priority should be to avoid a government shutdown, not determine who is nonessential staff.

Multiple sources of both parties (laughs are bipartisan!) sent this exchange HOH’s way, and it is awesome. If we can’t laugh at the upcoming tedium of being at the Capitol at all hours for days on end as a government shutdown looms, what can we laugh at? Full story

September 18, 2013

Tennesseans Blindsided by Must-See C-SPAN

Comcast subscribers in the Volunteer State got caught in public access hell Tuesday night after the cable provider broadcast an Amber Alert that inadvertently locked a slew of set-top boxes on C-SPAN during prime time.

“Last night, the Comcast system serving the Nashville area experienced a problem with its emergency alert system when an AMBER alert was triggered by state authorities. Impacted customers had their equipment locked onto CSPAN for about 15 minutes,” a Comcast spokesman told HOH via email. “The company has been investigating this issue and plans to install a new EAS system as soon as possible. We apologize for the inconvenience this disruption caused our customers and their entertainment experience.”

The drama played out in real-time on Twitter, as TV viewers struggled to understand why Congress was suddenly streaming into their living rooms.

 

Some were absolutely incredulous. Full story

Nothing to See Here, Says Erica Elliott

Erica Elliott, spokeswoman extraordinaire for House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., had the unenviable task of calming frayed nerves Wednesday, after the House community had been informed that plans for the foreseeable future had been officially flushed down the toilet.

Because Congress can’t figure out how to pass appropriations bills before the end of the fiscal year, the word went out around 3:45 p.m. that the House would be in session longer than anticipated.

“Members are advised that on Wednesday, September 25, the House will reconvene at 2:00 p.m. for legislative business with votes postponed until 6:30 p.m.  Members further are advised that the House will remain in session through the week, and possibly the weekend, until the completion of the CR. This is a change from the previously announced schedule,” the notice read.

Apparently, all hell broke loose, not that anyone enjoys finding out their schedule’s been thrown into a chaos of their own making. But the wording was a bit confusing, prompting some people to not be very pleased at all. Elliott sent out a missive a little while later, chiding everyone and, for good measure, she included a YouTube link to a scene at the end of “Animal House” that depicted mass hysteria, as well as a young Kevin Bacon yelling, “All is well,” before being flattened by the frightened hordes.

“To clarify all of the confusion and panic: The House was supposed to be out next week. Instead of being out next week, we will be in starting Wednesday. We will consider the CR before we leave this week. C’mon y’all …” her missive read, followed by the YouTube link.

So remember, as we get closer to a government shutdown and a possible worldwide economic slowdown: All is well!

After all, look how it turned out for Kevin Bacon’s character!

H&M Courts Union Station Shoppers

Swedish-based retailer H&M is throwing open the doors to its new Capitol Hill store Thursday at 11 a.m.

H&M Courts Union Station Shoppers

(Warren Rojas/CQ Roll Call)

Promotional materials promise can’t miss deals (pants for under $10) as well as free giveaways to the first 300 people in line.

Have at it, clotheshorses …

Sunlight Foundation Targets Congressional Shooting Events

To celebrate the five-year anniversary of its soiree-tracking “Political Party Time” project, the Sunlight Foundation threw a shindig of its own — a lighthearted affair with one killer amenity.

Sunlight Foundation Targets Congressional Shooting Events

(Warren Rojas/CQ Roll Call)

Your eyes do not deceive you. That is, in fact, a fully functional, blaze orange-barreled zapper tethered to a vintage Nintendo Entertainment System console.

Sunlight Foundation Media Director Liz Bartolomeo told HOH the group struck on having a “Duck Hunt” station at the anniversary party after combing through its ever-growing database of fundraising invitations and figuring out that lawmakers love to unload on assorted fowl (pheasants, pigeons, turkeys, quail) every chance they get.

Sunlight Foundation Targets Congressional Shooting Events

(Warren Rojas/CQ Roll Call)

Their rogues’ gallery of trigger-happy solons included: Reps. Collin C. Peterson, D-Minn. (two events), Rob Wittman, R-Va., and Bill Owens, D-N.Y., as well as former lawmakers Debbie Halvorson, D-Ill., Frank Kratovil, D-Md., Heath Shuler, D-N.C., Jason Altmire, D-Pa., and Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan.

All that video sharpshooting, naturally, tends to work up a mighty hunger.

Sunlight Foundation Targets Congressional Shooting Events

(Warren Rojas/CQ Roll Call)

Luckily, Sunlight thought ahead and set out lobbying standard-specific snacks.

Whether members appreciate having their sporting activities mocked is debatable.

But congressional types should take comfort in the fact that Sunlight staff — the majority of which, Bartolomeo explained, are under 40, may be (at least temporarily) — so distracted by the 8-bit distraction, they might not have time to catch EVERYTHING pols get into around Capitol Hill.

“I’m sure it’ll stick around awhile,” Bartolomeo said of the ’80s time waster.

Should the mood strike, Sunlight gamers can also blow off some steam by conquering the original Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3 or Tecmo Bowl.

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