Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
April 26, 2015

April 1, 2014

Thanks for the Pranks, Congress

Hill types had their fun this April Fools Day, filling the online ether with bogus press releases — or, in the case of New Mexico Republican Steve Pearce, just really weird news — designed to make everyone question the fragile construct we call reality.

One eagle-eyed observer shared a snapshot of a psych-out perpetrated on the most gullible souls wandering through Statuary Hall:

No word on whether mischievous Capitol Hill cops or fed-up tour guides have taken credit for the moratorium on intra-chamber babbling, but kudos to whoever attempted to orchestrate some blessed silence.

Rep. Mike Honda, D-Calif., was more ambitious in his trouble making, widely broadcasting plans to formally bridge the gap between his home district and the nation’s capital. His tongue-in-cheek pitch to S-T-R-E-T-C-H the Bay Area Rapid Transit System all the way to Capitol South posits that the 41-hour long ride would only set riders back a paltry $347.28 a pop.

“We need bold solutions that increase connectivity, helping grow our economy. If you live in California, why shouldn’t you enjoy direct access to the corridors of power in our nation’s capital?” he suggested.

Colorado Democrat Jared Polis took a more introspective tact, firing back at snarky tweets questioning his sartorial judgment by unilaterally declaring himself GQ’s head fashionista.

“I am thrilled to join the definitive authority on men’s fashion as their chief congressional fashion spokesman,” Polis announced via email. “The ‘potie’ revolution brings the classic, formal look of a bow tie with the comfort and flexibility of a polo shirt, and I knew it was only a matter of time before my new look was appreciated.”

Meanwhile, Pearce worked in a plug for the “Out of This World Job Fair” scheduled to take place April 9 from 2-6 p.m. at the Roswell Convention and Civic Center in Roswell, N.M. Pearce is once again hosting the hiring fest, which plays up the regional connection to a supposed UFO crash, in conjunction with several local employment agencies.

No word if he’ll be canvassing the crowd for a new press secretary.

House Taxwriters Lobby for Taste of ‘Ways & Means’ Brew

Port City Brewing Company has worked up a new rye-based American special bitter dubbed “Ways & Means.” And thanks to Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., House taxwriters won’t have to wander beyond the Capitol to sample the 4.8 percent alcohol by volume beverage.

House Taxwriters Lobby for Taste of Ways & Means Brew

(Courtesy Port City Brewing Company)

The new beer, which PCBC Founder Bill Butcher described as “really refreshing … with a hoppy bite,” made its unofficial debut over the weekend in the Alexandria, Va.-based brewery’s tasting room and is scheduled for wide release on April 7.

Becerra has helped organize a bipartisan reception featuring PCBC’s seasonal draft to be co-hosted by House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., and ranking member Sander M. Levin, D-Mich. The off-the-record mixer is tentatively scheduled to take place on the evening of April 7, after votes have wrapped.

Those not privy to the invite-only affair can give the experimental IPA a whirl April 10 at a Hawk ‘n’ Dove-hosted release party. “Ways & Means” will be the featured draft from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. that evening, and there’ll be PCBC swag (glassware, etc.) on hand.

Artists to Sing House Leaders’ Praises at GRAMMYs on the Hill

The Recording Academy’s annual gala, the toe-tapping GRAMMYs on the Hill awards show, will once rock and roll its way through The Hamilton on Wednesday.

Chart-topping performers Lady Antebellum are slated to be honored with The Recording Academy’s Recording Artists’ Coalition Award, while House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., will move from behind the scenes — McCarthy became co-chairman of the Recording Arts and Sciences Congressional Caucus in 2013; Pelosi addressed GRAMMYs on the Hill advocates during their 2010 lobbying day — to center stage to receive the GRAMMYs on the Hill Award.

Other musicians expected to mix and mingle with lawmakers and their entourages Wednesday night include:

Hanson

The nearly shot-for-shot remake of the Ray Charles-led number from the original “Blues Brothers” they did for their “Thinking ‘Bout Somethin’” video was absolutely brilliant. Full story

Tortilla Coast’s Strasburger Could Use Some Rehab

The long-awaited return of baseball season (The Nationals’ home opener is Friday afternoon against the Atlanta Braves) means restaurants can once again slip their Nats-related promotions back into the rotation.

Tortilla Coast has wasted no time resurrecting its “Strasburger,” a double-decker meal deal erected in honor of D.C. hurler Stephen Strasburg.

Tortilla Coast’s Strasburger Could Use Some Rehab

(Warren Rojas/CQ Roll Call)

The price of the big-mouth burger remains pegged to Strasburg’s career highlights — first pick (1) in the first round (1) of the 2009 Major League Baseball draft + jersey number (37) = $11.37 — and includes a heaping mound of french fries.

According to Tortilla Coast General Manager Bill Anderson, the Strasburger continues to be made the same way it always has: Two, 6-ounce patties of roughly 80/20 ground beef are flame grilled, glazed in chipotle-honey sauce, covered in Jack cheese, topped with fried onion strings, smothered in shredded lettuce and sliced tomato and parked between buns slathered with chipotle-spiked Thousand Island dressing.

Yet, somehow, today it tastes even less like it was supposed to when it left burger buff Jody Fellows wanting two summers before.

Back in 2012, the Burger Days blog founder gave the Capitol Hill watering hole high marks for presentation, but was struck by the disconnect between what was listed on the menu and what registered on his taste buds. “For all the stuff that goes into the Strasburger, it loses a whole hell of a lot when the entire thing gets into your mouth,” he warned. “We expected to be hit with a lot more taste.”

We dare say the kitchen may have actually lost a few more steps since then.

Tortilla Coast’s Strasburger Could Use Some Rehab

(Warren Rojas/CQ Roll Call)

The patties placed before this hired mouth were adequately beefy and surprisingly juicy (with just a hint of smoke), but bore absolutely no sign of the promised honey sweetness or chili pepper-fueled heat. Ditto for the chipotle-Island dressing, which lacked the oomph of even fast food-grade special sauce. The melted cheese served as a decent binder and the tangle of breaded onions provided some crunch. But the mountain of damp lettuce caused the bottom half of our bun to collapse after just one bite.

We hoped the fries might save things, but, alas, the no-frills spuds were as dry and flavorless (the one time a bar decides to ease up on salt) as the burger was disjointed.

Still, people seem to love it.

Anderson said the restaurant sells up to a 20 of the specialty burgers a day during the season. And very few folks appear to be intimidated by its sheer bulk.

“The size and age of the guest has no bearing on their ability to finish the burger; we have been witness to ladies in their 70s and kids in grade school taking it down in one sitting,” Anderson shared.

As it’s done in the past, Anderson said the original Capitol Hill Tortilla Coast will crank out Strasburgers from open to close on days Strasburg takes the mound.

“TCCH will also do a bonus Strasburger day should Stephen Strasburg pitch during the All Star Game,” he said.

Pols Chime In on Capitol Bells

A former House staffer turned civic-engagement evangelist, Ted Henderson has amplified his efforts to connect Congress with constituents by introducing a new way to stake out personal positions: virtual “motions.”

The former aide to one-time Michigan Democratic Rep. Dale E. Kildee told HOH that a fair amount of Hill types — 9,500 total users, including 6,800 House vote alert subscribers  (versus the 250 currently seeking Senate vote updates) — have taken notice of his fledgling tool.

Henderson estimates that roughly 200 to 250 House members and their staffers are utilizing the smartphone app (and companion website) to keep tabs on the issues folks from their home districts are rallying for/against online.

Lawmakers have begun taking their own stands by utilizing the app’s nascent motion-writing feature.

Pols Chime In on Capitol Bells

(Screenshot)

Instead of simply voting a certain issue up or down, the “motion” function gives CB users the opportunity to post a brief statement (up to 200 characters) that can then be shared on other social media platforms.

Per Henderson, the abbreviated stump speeches should help politicians cut through the legislative noise by injecting easily digestible appeals into the conversation.

“Here’s who I am. Here’s what I’m working on … and it’s all translated into regular English,” he said.

Some early adopters have already hopped on their virtual soapboxes, Henderson said, including Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright (the first to pen a “motion”) and Colorado Democratic Rep. Jared Polis (“a huge supporter”).

Moving forward, Henderson hopes to maximize CB’s vote matching capabilities — it currently only compares users’ positions to members from their home-state delegation — by opening up the cross-referencing to presidential and congressional candidates.

And he’s determined to draw even more lawmakers into the feedback loop.

“I want people to use it anytime they’re talking about a bill online … [because] it’s adding that gateway to constituent engagement,” Henderson asserted.

He plans to continue making his case to the online masses next week via Reddit’s “Ask Me Anything” forum  (perhaps as early as April 7).

March 31, 2014

Maher Continues to Bait Grimm, Farenthold for #FlipaDistrict

Comedian Bill Maher still wants to #flipadistrict from Republican to Democrat, and on his HBO show on March 28, he continued to lambast two of his GOP targets: New York’s Michael G. Grimm and Texas’s Blake Farenthold.

“They got pisssssssssssed!” chuckled Maher.

Maher read a statement from Grimm as reported in the lawmaker’s hometown newspaper, the Staten Island Advance: “From the ultra-liberal new Mayor Bill de Blasio and now the left-wing, anti-Catholic Bill Maher, a troubling pattern is emerging where the most radical progressives in the country are coming out and supporting my opponent.”

“I don’t even know who your opponent is!” Maher crowed. For the record, Grimm’s likely Democratic challenger is Domenic Recchia, a former city councilman from Brooklyn.

“It’s said that you can tell a lot about someone by who opposes them,” Farenthold told Breitbart News. “In the case of liberal pundit Bill Maher … I wear his disapproval of me as a badge of honor.”

The Texas Republican, in a separate interview with KTRH News Radio, said, “I do have a Democrat running against me. Unless Maher is able to get him a lot of money, I think I’m okay.”

“I love it when politicians reveal themselves like this,” Maher told his audience after quoting Farenthold. “That’s the point of us doing this. That yes, you have a big wallet, and I don’t think in America ‘I have the biggest wallet’ should always win.”

Fourteen additional House Republicans will be nominated by fans via Twitter over the next few weeks, ultimately to be whittled to one candidate whose midterm opponent Maher will support.

Christina Bellantoni contributed to this report.

Prying Dining Tips From Jim Himes

While we here in the Mid-Atlantic were busy screaming on social media about the screwy weather (surprise snow/hail storm, anyone?), Rep. Jim Himes spent Sunday evening in a paradise of his own design: the kitchen.

 

 

The Connecticut Democrat spent the weekend doing something we only wish we could’ve done: harvesting clams and then baking them up.

“I go out and take oysters, clams and mussels every 2 weeks or so during late fall, winter and early spring. I particularly like to go out when there is a below average ebb tide because that exposes clamming grounds and oysters that are usually under water,” Himes told HOH via email.

Prying Dining Tips From Jim Himes

Jim Himes)" src="http://hoh.rollcall.com/wp-content/uploads/JHclam-445x250.jpg" width="445" height="250" /> (Courtesy Jim Himes)

The seafood lover bills Long Island Sound and Greenwich Point Park, aka Tod’s Point, as his favorite digging grounds. And he credits local authorities with feeding his passion for fresh caught food.

“The former First Selectman of Greenwich, Dick Bergstresser and his wife Jean taught me most of what I know about shellfishing,” Himes shared. Full story

Final Four Didn’t Bust This D.C. CEO’s Bracket

Roger Dow may not have the billion-dollar bracket, but he has definitely earned some bragging rights this March Madness.

Dow, president and CEO of the D.C.-based U.S. Travel Association, correctly picked each of the Final Four teams in the men’s NCAA tournament. According to ESPN, only 612 participants out of the 11 million who submitted a bracket were able to do so.

In other words, only one in every 18,000 participants predicted the Final Four, and Dow is one of them.

“We all laughed at him and told him he was nuts for picking a seven and an eight seed,” said a Travel Association aide, “but he’s the one laughing now. That’s why he’s the boss.”

Dow knows what it’s like to be a college athlete, although he did not play basketball. While attending Seton Hall University, Dow was the captain of the varsity wrestling team.

The NCAA tournament semi-finalists include the universities of Florida, Connecticut, Wisconsin and Kentucky. Connecticut came into the tournament as the seventh seed and Kentucky was an eighth seed.

Wondering which members of Congress will be holding their breath as the Final Four kicks off this Saturday? Check out the Roll Call bracket, which matched members of Congress to the schools in the NCAA tournament that are located in their districts.

MSNBC Permanently Retires Ray LaHood

In the race to report the passing of Ray Hutchison, the late husband of former Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, MSNBC made one fatal mistake: They pictured the wrong man dead.

Huffington Post scribe Jennifer Bendery immediately noticed that the commemorative image used during the Ronan Farrow gabfest was not of the recently deceased Lone Star state attorney, but of ex-Rep.-cum-ex-Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

 

 

According to the Dallas Morning News, Ray Hutchison died of heart problems.

LaHood, meanwhile, remains actively involved in transportation issues as co-chairman of Building America’s Future.

Wandering Tourist Enters Appropriations World

A March 28 meeting of Senate Democratic staffers about the appropriations process had an unexpected visitor.

According to sources familiar with what happened, a somewhat elderly tourist wandered into the meeting and sat down along with an array of senior Senate aides in the audience for a presentation by the Senate Appropriations Committee’s staff director. One source said the assumption was that the gentleman was most likely lost and wandered into a room where there was activity on a quiet Friday in the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

The outsider asked three questions, according to an HOH tipster, including one about how a Democrat from the state of Utah could be involved in the appropriations process. To the credit of the staff director, the individual was not tossed out of the room.

Democracy in action.

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 1:02 p.m.
HillSide

March 30, 2014

Bruce Braley’s Guide to Stepping in It | Capitol Quip

Bruce Braleys Guide to Stepping in It | Capitol Quip

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, campaign gaffe season! Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, who is running for Senate, stepped into it with some impolitic comments about his home-state colleague, Republican Sen. Charles E. Grassley, being a farmer without a law degree. This brings us to this week’s Capitol Quip.

Send us a caption for this week’s contest by leaving it in the comments section. 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

Quite a Workout for This Capitol Quip

Quite a Workout for This 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.

March 28, 2014

Ron Kind Puts LinkedIn Perk to Work

As opposed to those in the social mediaverse who routinely threaten to unfriend/unfollow/disown pals who perpetually pepper them with invites to join the professional networking set, Rep. Ron Kind has not only found a use for LinkedIn, he’s been ushered into an elite club: the “Influencers.”

Ron Kind Puts LinkedIn Perk to Work

(Screenshot)

The nascent program, which appears to have launched in late 2012, provides LI “thought leaders” the opportunity to exponentially grow their audience by giving them maximum exposure on the platform’s newsy “Pulse” pages.

“The LinkedIn Influencer program invites top voices in the professional world to reach professionals across LinkedIn. This is an invitation-only program, so Influencers must be invited by LinkedIn to participate,” the company explains in a recent post.

A Kind aide confirmed that the Wisconsin Democrat joined the ranks of the megaphone-enabled commenters last summer. Full story

By Warren Rojas Posted at 3:22 p.m.
media, Reps, Techie

Powder Scare Draws Sirens Outside Union Station

A suspicious substance found in Amtrak’s main office in Washington, D.C., drew nearly a dozen emergency vehicles to Union Station on Friday morning, but it turned out to be nothing more than a scare.

Powder Scare Draws Sirens Outside Union Station

D.C. Fire and EMS responded to the scene at 10:58 a.m., according to Fire Department spokesman Oscar Mendez, and a hazardous materials unit began investigating. Police were also on the scene and officers with K-9 units stood on guard outside gates to the train tracks.

Trains appeared to be operating as usual inside the station Friday morning, but outside traffic was crawling around Columbus Circle. Capitol Police warned people to avoid the area shortly before noon, throwing some lunch plans into flux around the Capitol community.

Kimberly Wood, a spokeswoman for Amtrak, said in an email that first responders were “investigating an unknown substance found on the premises” and directed further questions to D.C. Fire and EMS.

By 12:30 p.m., ambulances were starting to pull away from the scene. Mendez confirmed that nothing hazardous had been found.

By Hannah Hess Posted at 1:46 p.m.
DC, Drama, HillSide

Congressional Hits and Misses: Week of March 24 (Video)

Members returned this week explaining proper congressional dress code, discussing who is nastier and playing popular television game shows, all wrapped up in this week’s Hits and Misses.

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