Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 20, 2014

October 28, 2013

Italian-American Gala Draws Top Federal, Hill Officials

Italian American Gala Draws Top Federal, Hill Officials

(Anna Giaritelli/CQ Roll Call)

Red and green lights enveloped the ceiling of the International Ballroom in the Washington Hilton on Oct.26, bathing the National Italian American Foundation gala — including former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. — in the colors of the Italian flag.

“I served in a number of offices in my public life. In every position that I served, there was one important lesson, which is if you’re going to make a difference, you’re going to have to fight for it,” said Panetta, who flew in from California to accept the foundation’s special achievement in government award.

Panetta, who also served as CIA director, White House chief of staff, Office of Management and Budget director and House Budget chairman, relayed stories that were a break from the government shutdown debate that had plagued public conversation in weeks past.

He told a tale about a boxer who did the sign of the cross over his chest before entering the ring and noted how the reliance on a belief is meaningless if it does not positively change the outcome of the fight.

Tying it to current political matters, Panetta explained that it is not enough to have hope — one must fight for its preservation and strengthen the degree at which it does exist.

In addition to Pelosi, the audience boasted a number of proud Italian-American members of the House, including Reps. Tom Marino, R-Pa., Lou Barletta, R-Pa., Michael G. Grimm, R-N.Y., and Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio. Former FBI Director Louis Freeh also attended, as did Italian Senate President Pietro Grasso.

“We have always had good participation in our government. We have an active delegation. They come out to our events and participate. If we call and need them, they’re there,” said John Viola, president and chief operating officer of the foundation.

David McKinley Right at Home on Megabus

Commuting to and fro can be a major hassle for some lawmakers.

David McKinley Right at Home on Megabus

(Courtesy Mary McKinley)

Not so for Rep. David B. McKinley, R-W.Va., who has no problem allowing cut-rate transporter Megabus to take him home along country roads.

The fiscal conservative made a point of trumpeting his frugality following a particularly contentious Energy and Commerce Committee hearing last week, during which House Republicans laid into the contractors responsible for constructing President Barack Obama’s embarrassingly buggy health insurance portal.

Staff told HOH that while he typically drives back and forth to his home in Wheeling, W.Va., McKinley does find his way onto the discount carrier “several times a year.”

“Talking to riders on the Megabus is a good way for him to listen to the concerns and ideas of a wide range of people. He actually recruited a college student to intern for our office on one of his trips,” a McKinley aide said of the connections the congressman has made over the years. Full story

By Warren Rojas Posted at 3:23 p.m.
Reps

Take Five: Sen. Brian Schatz

It’s time again for Take Five, when HOH talks with a member of Congress about topics relatively unrelated to his or her legislative work.

This week, Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, discusses life on the islands, traveling between Hawaii and D.C., and his twin brother.

Q. What’s your favorite beach or getaway location that tourists don’t know about?

A. I’m not sure I want to tell you that. But actually, my favorite place is a body surfing spot in Honolulu called Point Panic. It also happens to be near the proposed Obama presidential center, so in the president’s post-presidential time, if he wants to jump in the water, he may.

Q: How do feel about the tourists there?

A. We’re big fans of tourism. We’ve set up a situation where it’s a symbiotic relationship. There are sometimes tension in the ocean, but for the most part everyone understands how to get along.

Q. Tell us a little bit about your work with nonprofit organizations before coming Congress.

A. I ran a social service agency on O’ahu, the main island, providing language translation, mental-health services and support for homeless and people who are having difficulty with housing. I did that for just over eight years and it helped to ground me.

Q. How do you manage having a life in both D.C. and Hawaii?

A. I drink an enormous amount of water and I try to follow one simple rule which is to never complain. … You gotta drink a lot of water when you’re on airplanes for [10 hours]. You get dehydrated very, very easily and so that’s the one piece of travel advice I was given and will give to everyone is, ‘Drink more water than you feel like drinking — before and after every plane ride.”

Q. Is there anything else that would be interesting to know about you?

A. You may not know that I have an identical twin brother who lives in Honolulu. … After I became lieutenant governor and then a U.S. senator, he has taken to shaving his head and growing out his goatee so he doesn’t have to spend all of his time saying, “I’m not Brian.”

October 27, 2013

A Fright-Filled Experience | Capitol Quip

 A Fright Filled Experience | Capitol Quip

What’s one terrifying way to spend Halloween? How about wading into the debate over the rollout of the new health care law? And, of course, that brings us to this week’s Capitol Quip.

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

No Direction Home | Capitol Quip

 No Direction Home | 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.

October 25, 2013

Trey Radel’s Favorite Eats and Drinks, in D.C. and Naples

In an effort to spice up a routine flight home from D.C., Rep Trey Radel invited the Twitterati to chat about just about anything — “anything BUT politics or policy,” he pleaded — sparking a lively exchange in which the Florida Republican laid bare where he treats his mouth to food and drink.

His tastes, at least here in D.C., run the gamut from gourmet burgers to bookish retreats.

Radel tapped Capital Grille — which HOH was surprised to learn is apparently too rich for Arizona Republican John McCain’s blood — for power lunching purposes, favors the array of flavored aiolis Good Stuff Eatery makes available for slathering burgers with, enjoys the lighter side of Sonoma, and has been known to bend the elbow at Bullfeathers.

He also revealed that Afterwords Cafe, the beloved eatery attached to Kramerbooks, is his favorite brunch spot. (Zagat users seem to concur.)

“I love the vibe of the Dupont and Logan Circle area, and I especially like any place that has great outside seating,” Radel explained via email, adding that spotting their well-curated beer list didn’t hurt either.

“My go to brunch item is the chili cheese stuffed Obamlet which is a heart attack on a plate and I love it,” Radel shared. Full story

This Week in HOH: Playboy Model Missing

This Week in HOH: Playboy Model Missing

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Heard on the Hill’s presence in the pages of Roll Call. A lot has happened in the intervening years, but we like to think we’ve still got that particular feeling that makes HOH, well, HOH.

And it was 25 years ago this week (exact dates don’t always match up from the 1980s, since we were a weekly back then) that HOH told this revealing story of a Capitol Police officer in its Oct. 30, 1988, edition:

Playboy Model Missing. The day the November issue of Playboy hit the stands, Pamela Pashovsky, the 24-year-old Capitol policewoman who appeared in a provocative (but not nude) pose, was transferred from her security X-Ray machine in Hart to a desk at police HQ, as a crowd-control measure.

‘Some women I pass in the halls snarl at me,’ she says. ‘But about 35 guys have asked for my autograph.’ There would probably be more, she explains sadly, ‘if I was easier to find.’”

Menu Set for Diwali Fest

Everything about Congress’ first-ever Diwali celebration — a commemoration of the Hindu festival of lights scheduled to take place 6-8 p.m. on Oct. 29 in the Rayburn foyer — appears to be falling into place, including the array of vegetarian treats to be shared with guests and the high-profile friends expected to be floating around.

The inaugural event (secure your spot by RSVPing to diwali@ssvt.org) will be catered by Woodlands Restaurant in Langley Park, Md.

A party planner told HOH that attendees will be invited to feast on: cocktail-sized samosas (stuffed pastries), dhokla (a grain-based snack flavored with everything from sweet tamarind to zesty chutneys), paneer tikka (chunks of marinated and grilled homemade cheese), aloo tikki chole (spiced potato patties), kala jamun (deep-fried cheese balls dipped in sugar syrup), and burfee (fudge-like sweets forged from condensed milk and assorted mix-ins). Mango lassis (think fruit-yogurt smoothie) will be the featured beverage.

“Dignitaries will be greeted with jasmine flower garlands [and] will be cloaked in a traditional shawl,” an event coordinator relayed via email.

We’re not sure if Sen. Mark Warner will make the cut for the garland-shawl treatment, but his staff confirmed that the Virginia Democrat plans to attend.

And an aide to Congressional Caucus on India and Indian-Americans Co-Chairman Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y., told HOH that Nirupama Rao, Indian ambassador to the United States, has pledged to make an appearance.

Not a dignitary?

No worries.

Everyone who attends will be sent home with a gift box of Indian sweets.

Jesse Jackson Jr.’s D.C. Home Up for Grabs

Jesse Jackson Jr.’s D.C. Home Up for Grabs

Jackson warms up for a black belt test while he was in Congress. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Soon-to-be-jailed ex-Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. is so strapped for cash to repay the $750,000 in campaign funds he and his wife, Sandi, were convicted of grossly mismanaging that he’s placing his D.C. townhouse back up for sale.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the Illinois Democrat has already liquidated a personal retirement account to help satisfy the federal debt.

An online auction of ill-gotten luxury items was evidently canceled after the authenticity of one of the collectibles was called into question.

Per the Tribune, the last time the Jacksons put their Dupont Circle digs on the market, the asking price was $2.5 million.

October 24, 2013

Barney Frank Floats Into D.C. Council Pot Debate

When it comes to marijuana laws, the D.C. Council might be taking its cues from longtime legalization supporter and former Rep. Barney Frank.

The liberal Massachusetts Democrat’s name floated around the council chambers Thursday, during a hearing on decriminalizing possession of less than an ounce of pot.

First, one of Frank’s favorite anecdotes from his time on the House Judiciary Committee was offered up by a witness testifying on behalf of Mayor Vincent Gray. Full story

By Hannah Hess Posted at 2:22 p.m.
DC

Haters Hijack Renee Ellmers’ Hollywood Moment

Looks like Rep. Renee Ellmers had herself a little fun Wednesday night, stepping out for a buzzy flick — Tom Hank’s skippering saga, “Captain Phillips” — and later rubbing elbows with the eponymous gent who inspired said maritime thriller.

Online trolls, of course, made a point of torpedoing the magic moment, assailing the North Carolina Republican about her voting record:

Haters Hijack Renee Ellmers Hollywood Moment

(Screenshot)

And taking potshots at her about a semi-automatic rifle liberated from Chez Ellmers:

Haters Hijack Renee Ellmers Hollywood Moment

(Screenshot)

Take cover, congresswoman!

The Internet is apparently some sort of war zone.

Overheard: John Dingell Talks Ancient History, Literally

“I remind my colleagues, the last perfect law came off the top of Mount Sinai … written on a stone tablet by the hand of God. Note, nothing so good has happened since.”

— Rep. John D. Dingell, D-Mich., at today’s House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on the rollout of the new health care law.

October 23, 2013

Five Road Signs to Mull Over | Capitol Quip

Five Road Signs to Mull Over | 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. EDT Thursday.

Here are this week’s finalists:

  • We’ll get there faster if we lose the trailer.
  • Let me repeat: We were never in any danger!
  • Oops, lost a few federal employees in those boxes.
  • Whew — almost had to confront our issues with failing infrastructure!!
  • No, I’m not going to ask for directions. This road looks familiar!

The cartoon with the winning caption will appear on this blog on Oct. 27 and in the Oct. 28 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 6:28 p.m.
Capitol Quip

Give the Gift of Paul Ryan

Thank god Congress is back up and running again.

Otherwise the fun-loving staffers in the employ of Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., wouldn’t have been able to pull off a Paul D. Ryan-related birthday surprise that caused one stunned coworker to emotionally shut down.

Give the Gift of Paul Ryan

(Courtesy HOH tipster)

The birthday girl in question is Rogers’ multipurpose legislative assistant, Shannon Brown.

She’s evidently carried a torch for the bodybuilding, 2012 GOP vice presidential pick since he first popped up in the pages of national magazines showing off his finely tuned physique. Our tipster said Brown catches fleeting glimpses of the budget-crunching Wisconsin Republican around campus — “Sometimes on Thursdays he stands in the buffalo chicken salad line. That’s where she gets most of her face time,” our spy shared — but had never worked up the nerve to speak to Ryan in person.

Cue her friends, who coaxed her into taking an “office photo” to commemorate her special day. Unbeknownst to Brown, her trickster buds had already arranged to have Ryan pose in the birthday pic.

Brown obviously figured things out once they wandered over to his office.

But she was still as star-struck as expected once Ryan showed up to fulfill her secret wish. Full story

José Andrés Draws Jim McGovern Into the TEDx Fold

Restaurateur-cum-philanthropist José Andrés is presiding over his first TEDx conference this weekend here in D.C., and he’s bringing along a close buddy — Rep. Jim McGovern.

A Think Food Group aide confirmed that Andrés, who is serving as “guest curator” for the upcoming TEDxMidAtlantic gathering Friday and Saturday, personally invited the Massachusetts Democrat to attend.

“They’ve actually been friends for a really long time now,” Think Food Group spokeswoman Stephanie Salvador said of the bond that’s formed between her cheflebrity boss and the anti-hunger advocate through their continued efforts to feed the world, one mouth at a time:

Per his office, the congressman is expected to continue sounding that particular alarm during his debut TEDx talk, electing to share his thoughts on the “politics of hunger” with the enlightenment-seeking crowd. Full story

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