Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
September 17, 2014

September 16, 2013

Tween to Pols: Disposable Straws Suck

Milo Cress, the eco-minded 12-year-old who’s spent the past few years trying to convince restaurant-goers to pass on unneeded straws, is back in town this week to share his “offer first” strategy with lawmakers and District administrators.

The mission-driven youngster is scheduled to debrief Congress about his “green” plan at 3 p.m. Wednesday in Room 2456 of the Rayburn House Office Building; the meeting is being sponsored by Colorado Democrats Rep. Jared Polis and Sen. Mark Udall.

Cress founded his “Be Straw Free” campaign in 2011, after realizing that nearly every time he went out to eat, wait staff automatically tossed a disposable plastic straw into the mix — whether he wanted one or not.

“That seemed like a huge waste because I don’t usually need a straw,” Cress told HOH. The enormity of the problem only became more jarring once he researched straw usage trends and discovered that Americans use and discard 500 million straws per day, a figure that reflects our rising dependence on single-serving juice boxes and milk containers.

“I decided, ‘This is something I can do something about,’” Cress said of his newfound mission to curb mindless straw pushing.

He is not advocating for everyone to eschew straws entirely. He totally gets that some people need/prefer straws when imbibing beverages. But, at the very least, he’d like to have hospitality providers inquire if a patron desires one in the first place. Full story

Franchisees to Flood Cannon With Fast Food

Another day, another opportunity to feast on the biggie-sized fruits of some multinational’s willpower-taxing labor.

The International Franchise Association is back, hosting the second annual “Taste of Franchising” event Tuesday night on Capitol Hill. Assorted fast-food vendors are scheduled to put out free sample after free sample in the Cannon Caucus Room from 5 to 7 p.m.

Participating groups include returning grab-and-go giants McDonald’s, Jersey Mike’s, Firehouse Subs and Domino’s. First-timer KFC will be joining the free-dinner-providing fray this time around.

Political whipping boy Chick-fil-A — the Georgia-based restaurant that got simultaneously fragged by the gay rights crossfire during the 2012 election season while earning conservatives’ everlasting affection — has apparently opted to sit this one out. The conservative-leaning chicken joint was present for the debut franchise fest.

No word on what, specifically, each outfit plans to ply attendees with. But confidence is high you won’t be able to eat just one of whatever it is.

By Warren Rojas Posted at 2:07 p.m.
Food, HillSide, Restos

Take Five: Rep. Brad Wenstrup

Take Five: Rep. Brad Wenstrup

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

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 Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, talks medicine, food and high-school football.

Q. You practiced medicine for a number of years. What is the biggest difference between your time as a doctor and your time now as a representative?

A. When you’re a doctor, you see a patient and you’re presented with a problem and you make your diagnosis. Then you present the treatment plan and then you go through with the patient explaining how long it will take, what you have to do and you go and solve the problem. In D.C., I feel like I can make a diagnosis and even have a treatment plan, but I’ve got to convince 535 others that this is the way to go and so that makes it a little bit different. But it’s still problem-solving on either end; it’s addressing an issue and coming up with a solution for it as best you can.

Q. You also served in Iraq. What was the most meaningful experience you had during your time in the Army?

A. Well it was really the most violent time of the war and I tell people it was the worst thing I ever had to do, but at the same time the best thing that I ever got to do. By that I mean the people that you serve with, and you see how well people can come together for one cause, one common mission, and you’re all wearing the same clothes and it’s just amazing how politics is so far removed from really what you’re doing on your mission and that’s just an interesting dynamic. I’m certainly glad that I had the opportunity to experience that in my life.

Q. What is your favorite movie and why?

A. One of my favorite movies that I ever watched was “The Sting.” One, I always liked Paul Newman. I thought he was a class act and always carried himself well as a person, and you know as we saw later in his life, a philanthropist. It was a clever movie and it pulled me, and I think that’s why I liked it: Because I fell for it, I fell for the sting while I was watching the movie.

Q. You are also a Cincinnati native. How does the food in Washington stack up against The Queen City?

A. I think they both have a lot to be proud of — there are plenty of fine restaurants in D.C. and there are plenty in Cincinnati, and thank you for recognizing some of the culinary expertise Cincinnati has.

Q. Finally, as a St. Xavier High School graduate, which has become a football powerhouse recently and is in the top 25 again this year, do you have any predictions for the Bombers?

A. Well I went to the game last week and they beat a team from Indianapolis called Ben Davis, and Ben Davis is kind of like the Colerain of Indianapolis … Ben Davis had beaten Indy Cathedral the week before and St. X trounced them … so things are looking pretty good.

By JM Rieger Posted at 1:10 p.m.
DC, Reps, TakeFive

September 15, 2013

Here Comes the Law | Capitol Quip

Here Comes the Law | Capitol Quip

Major aspects of President Barack Obama’s signature health care law go live on Oct. 1, and Republicans are none too happy about it.  Some want to defund the law, others want to delay it, some want to hold up next year’s federal spending bills over it, some see the debt limit as a bargaining chip against it. 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

Congress is Square | Capitol Quip

Congress is Square | 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 13, 2013

Palazzo’s Constituents Tired of Playing Hide-and-Seek

When last we heard from Mississippian Bo Alawine, he was having a helluva time trying to pin down when, where and even if Rep. Steven M. Palazzo, was in town.

A year later, not much has changed.

Alawine, who’s made it abundantly clear that he’s no fan of the GOP lawmaker, told HOH he’s repeatedly called Palazzo’s offices, submitted emails via the Mississippi Republican’s official government homepage and reached out via social media. Yet Team Palazzo continues to guard the boss’s public appearance schedule like some sort of state secret.

“To my knowledge, he didn’t really make himself available,” Alawine told HOH after once again failing to track down Palazzo during the August recess. A Palazzo spokeswoman told HOH in an email that the office had “responded to that request and several others. Believe he also spoke with the boss at a town hall meeting.” Hmm.

Alawine’s not the only one who’d like to engage the congressman.

Jeffrey Wimmer chewed out Palazzo online for failing to show his face in real life.

“Many constituents are extremely upset at the lack of town hall meetings which is every Representatives DUTY in the month of August,” Wimmer griped on Facebook. “We on the coast are VERY disappointed and feel you’re ducking many issues.”

Palazzo aides did not respond to multiple calls and email requests regarding their boss’s whereabouts during the past month. Full story

NARAL Wrangles Democratic Dudes for Fundraiser

Given the option between hosting another combative reproductive rights rally or parading around the “studs” in the Democratic stable, NARAL Pro-Choice America chose the latter.

NARAL Wrangles Democratic Dudes for Fundraiser

(Courtesy NARAL)

The inaugural “Men for Choice and the Women Who Love Them” fundraiser is scheduled to take place Sept. 18, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at LOOK Supper Club (1909 K St. NW). Admittance to the abortion rights fundraiser ranges from $100 (guest) to $1,000 (host).

Many featured guests are political scions and/or administration heavies, including: Hunter Biden, son of Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., Nathan Daschle, son of former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., Joe Lockhart, former press secretary to President Bill Clinton, Bill Burton, former campaign press secretary for President Barack Obama, Brian Wolff, former executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and former Rep. Tom Perriello, D-Va.

Luckily, the man-bait will not be the sole source of entertainment.

Attendees can expect to also feast on Angus beef sliders, chicken-vegetable kebabs, mini caprese creations, mac and cheese balls and cucumber-hummus canapés.

A Banner Week for Capitol Hill Pets

A Banner Week for Capitol Hill Pets

Aragon and Quince in the Cannon Building.
(Courtesy Aragon’s Facebook page)

Capitol Hill loves its pets — cats, dogs and the exotic alike — and the affection was on full display last week, as Fireside21 revealed the winners of its “Top Dog” contest and the Animal Health Institute hosted its 17th Annual Celebrity Pet Night, complete with the winners of its 2013 Cutest Pets on Capitol Hill Contest.

“Pet Night is a fun, popular and interactive way to highlight how much we love and care for our pets,” Ron Phillips, AHI’s vice president of legislative and public affairs, said of Thursday night’s event.

The judges — Kate Bennett of Washingtonian Magazine, Benny Johnson of BuzzFeed, Tommy McFly of 94.7 Fresh FM and Nikki Schwab of US News & World Report — were tasked with sorting through the  awww-inducing submissions. Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., a veterinarian, announced the winners, bracketed by Quince, who plays Baxter in “Anchorman II” and Aragon, who plays Lord Tubbington on “Glee.”

The cutest exotic pet was the turtle Senator, owned by Megan Thompson, from the office of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. The cutest cat was Avon Barksdale, who is owned by Aly Lubov, who works for Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn. And the cutest dog was Lily, who is owned by Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif.

A Banner Week for Capitol Hill Pets

(Courtesy Facebook)

Meanwhile, Fireside21′s “Top Dog” winners, an online contest that had the Hill burning up the Internets, were announced Tuesday on its readers radar.

A Banner Week for Capitol Hill Pets

“Top Dog” Winston
(Courtesy Fireside21)

Online voting has been under way since August. The competition was nothing to woof at, but the top honors went to Winston, the English Labrador representing the office of Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas.

“The winners were chosen based upon their point total with one point for a ‘Like’ and two for a ‘Share’ on Facebook,” explained Fireside21 CEO Ken Ward, who was impressed with the voting support that the inaugural competition’s dog-testants received.

Ward told HOH that the cumulative score was 158,309, with the top vote-getter receiving 56,195 points.

“We do anticipate repeating this contest in future years,” Ward said, “but since we received a few complaints from cat people feeling left out, we may have to expand the concept.”

September 12, 2013

House Defeats Senate in Dress for Success Drive

House and Senate members and staffers faced off Thursday in the fourth annual Dress for Success/FedEx Congressional Dress for Success Challenge, collecting 1,459 articles of professional clothing for low-income women. The House collected 866 pieces to the Senate’s 593. After the deadline, another 100 or so items flooded in, but didn’t affect the final contest tally.

House Defeats Senate in Dress for Success Drive

Landrieu, center, donates clothing during the Congressional Dress for Success Challenge. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate and the House each had a designated drop-off location, and Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., and Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., served as honorary chairwomen of the event.

“It’s such an easy, fun and rewarding way to reach out to women who need that extra boost,” Landrieu said. Dressing professionally gives people the confidence to fully embrace their career ambitions, she added.

“It’s important to feel good about yourself … both inside and out,” Landrieu said.

In an outdoor alcove at Johnny’s Half Shell Take Out, staffers stood behind a row of tables, accepting and sorting donations into the FedEx boxes behind them.

While this is the fourth year of the “Congressional Challenge,” Dress for Success has been holding an annual women’s clothing drive for seven years and Landrieu said she’s “almost certain” she’s attended every one of them.

As one of only 20 female senators, Landrieu noted that entering male-dominated fields can be intimidating, but having the proper attire can be a much-needed confidence boost.

She said that donating isn’t hard — women just need to look for those clothes they don’t wear or that don’t fit right.

“Every woman has something in her closet” to donate, Landrieu said.

Krysten Joyce, who works for Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., attended the event, donating shirts and jackets.

“I think it’s important to give these ladies a good head start,” Joyce said. “I had extra clothing and was happy to donate.”

Dress for Success is a national organization and its Washington, D.C., affiliate organized Thursday’s event. In addition to providing professional clothing to low-income women, Dress for Success offers several career-focused services such as mock interviews, help with résumés and workshops about entering the workforce.

Tumultuous Day for Concepcion Picciotto’s White House Peace Vigil

First, the man who was supposed to be watching Concepcion Picciotto’s 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week peace vigil wandered away from his guard duty.

Then the Park Police, finding the site abandoned around 4 a.m., packed up the patio umbrella draped with white plastic that has served as Picciotto’s makeshift shelter since the Reagan administration and placed it in agency storage.

News that Picciotto’s anti-nuclear vigil — a collection of hand-drawn signs calling on the president to BAN ALL NUCLEAR BOMBS that is widely considered the nation’s longest-running act of political protest — had disappeared spread fast.

The Washington Post, which published a fascinating profile of Picciotto in May, was on the scene and checking in with activists at The Peace House in Northwest D.C., who help take care of the vigil.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., instructed staffers to call the Park Police and try to track down Picciotto’s belongings.

National Park Service Public Information Officer Jeffrey Olson put out a statement explaining that officers removed the site after finding it abandoned, according to federal regulations that require it to be “continuously attended.”

By 2:30 p.m., activists returned to the site with the reclaimed signs and shelter materials.

Norton’s office released a statement trumpeting her staff’s role in the imbroglio: “I appreciate that the Park Police have worked with us to defuse a growing controversy about the removal of Concepcion Picciotto’s belongings.”

She also took the opportunity to praise and defend Picciotto: “She is well known for her willingness to engage in principled activism at considerable personal costs. She and her friends and allies have abided by the rules, and this single mishap by a fellow activist should not torpedo her longstanding vigil. In this city, we work together to find solutions.”

Or, as Picciotto phrased it for The Washington Post: “This is just so much trouble for nothing.”

By Hannah Hess Posted at 4:53 p.m.
DC, media, Reps

Conservative Pols to Deliver Collegiate Crash Course on Benghazi

 

Conservative Pols to Deliver Collegiate Crash Course on Benghazi

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Republican lawmakers Lindsey Graham, Trey Gowdy and Jason Chaffetz are taking their critiques of the deadly 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, on the road Friday, sharing their well-documented concerns about President Barack Obama’s handling of the international conflict with poli-sci students at Furman University in South Carolina.

Dr. Danielle Vinson, professor of “The American Congress” course the pols will be presiding over, told HOH that Gowdy pitched this particular guest lecture plan to school administrators — an offer she readily accepted.

“It’s an opportunity for students to meet with members of Congress and see how they think and act and interact,” she said. “We want students at Furman to experience the real world.”

Vinson noted that she had previously invited Gowdy, along with fellow Palmetto State delegation member Jeff Duncan, to chat up one of her classes during their first terms in Congress. A Graham aide assured HOH that his boss has spoken “at just about every college/university in South Carolina;” Vinson confirmed she’d seen him around campus — “Sen. Graham has done a town hall at Furman,” she shared. Full story

Gaming Lobby Hosts ‘Madden 25’ Roll Out at Hawk N Dove

Are you ready for some make-believe football? (No, we’re not talking about your fantasy draft.)

The Entertainment Software Association is in town to show off the latest installment of the incredibly addictive Madden NFL franchise, and wants to give Hill staffers a chance to get their game on Thursday.

The group has thrown together a “Back to Football” tailgate party taking place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Hawk ‘n Dove. (329 Pennsylvania Ave. SE). Gaming fans just need to give a heads up to RSVP@TheESA.com to score entrée.

Attendees will be able to demo the new game and are invited to hang afterward to watch “Thursday Night Football.”

Can’t make it tonight?

ESA will be on the Hill Friday morning, sharing its feedback about the job creation power of the video game industry with the E-TECH Caucus. That exchange is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. in the Rayburn House Office Building.

September 11, 2013

Obama to Congress: No Picnic for You!

The 2013 Congressional Picnic is dead for sure. Just when you thought Capitol Hill-White House relations couldn’t get much worse, on Wednesday afternoon, in the news-dump hour of after 5 p.m., President Barack Obama officially killed a chance to hang out in a relaxed setting at the White House.

In a particularly antiseptic notice from the White House Office of Legislative Affairs, Congress was informed thusly that its presence at the summer picnic, the tradition of which has stretched back decades, was no longer needed. Perhaps Obama’s trip to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to talk Syria was all he needed to see of Congress for the time being, and he had no desire to see members of Congress again on Sept. 18.

Nothing says “Happy Summer!” like telling people to buzz off. Here’s the letter, which exudes all the charm of a tax audit notice:

Good evening,

The 2013 Congressional Picnic has been cancelled. The President and Mrs. Obama look forward to welcoming Members of Congress and their immediate families at the Congressional Holiday Ball in December. More details regarding the Congressional Holiday Ball will follow at a later date.

Thank you,

White House Office of Legislative Affairs

By Jason Dick Posted at 6:44 p.m.
DC, POTUS, Reps, Sens, VIPs

House, Senate Go Head-to-Head for Dress for Success Donations

The House and Senate face off on Thursday to see who can provide the most donations for the fourth annual Capitol Hill Dress for Success competition.

Congress is partnering with Dress for Success and FedEx to collect women’s business attire for those women not fortunate enough to have the clothes needed for a professional interview.

Two drop-off locations will accept donations from 7-11 a.m.: Johnny’s Half Shell Take Out at North Capitol Street and Louisiana Avenue for Senate side, and the Capitol Hill Club across from the Capitol South Metro for House side. For more location details, they’ve set up an Eventbrite page.

After the donation period has ended, the chamber with more donations will be declared the winner.

The House has won two of the three previous competitions.

Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., and Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., are the honorary co-chairwomen of the event. In a statement, Ellmers expressed high regard for Dress for Success and encouraged donations.

“As soon as I learned about the work they are doing, I was eager to lend a hand and help encourage my colleagues to participate,” she said. “I’m excited to see the turnout on Thursday and would encourage anyone out there with the ability to donate professional attire to do so and spread the word about this important cause.”

Team Barrasso’s Baby Boom

Is there something in the water over in Sen. John Barrasso’s office?

Team Barrasso’s Baby Boom

(Courtesy John Barrasso’s Office)

The Wyoming Republican has, over the past nine months, welcomed four new members to the club.

The XX chromosome-led crush of next-generation supporters includes (from left): Caroline Bunning, born June 10 to Brad (a Barrasso legislative assistant) and Collette Bunning; Alexandra Moyerman, born March 28 to Shane and Amber (Barrasso’s deputy chief of staff) Moyerman; Lilly Eberle, born December 29 to Jay (another office LA) and Ali Eberle; and, Vivienne Ziegler, born May 28 to Charles (do Barrasso’s LA’s know how to party, or what?) and Cara Ziegler.

As you can see from the photo, the babies are doing great. And Barrasso looks to be just tickled pink about his rapidly expanding professional family.

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