Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 30, 2014

October 7, 2013

Pedicabber Shuttling Food Around During Shutdown

Self-propelled tour guide James Willett has apparently had a tough time shepherding potential fares into his pedicab during the ongoing government shutdown.

Thankfully, folks still gotta eat.

Pedicabber Shuttling Food Around During Shutdown

(Courtesy Carmine’s)

According to a Carmine’s spokeswoman, the self-employed tourist wrangler has seen his business “catastrophically depleted” because of all the administration-mandated closures around town — particularly the suddenly inhospitable National Mall and historic monuments.

“He basically has to warn everybody, ‘I can go ahead and ride you by, but you can’t stop,’” the Carmine’s rep said of Willett’s politically inspired predicament.

When Jeff Bank heard about Willett’s dilemma last week on 94.7 Fresh FM (Willett’s mom was sharing his tale of woe with morning drive personality Tommy McFly), the Carmine’s CEO hired him on the spot, offering Willett the opportunity to pad his income by peddling around mountainous pasta dishes to carb-loving customers.

Willett jumped at the opportunity, tacking up the following thank you message on the rear of his ride for all to see: “Thanks Carmine’s for hiring me!! No longer a victim of the FURLOUGH ripple effect!!!!”

Somebody, Somewhere, Do Something

Fans of conspiracy theories about the puppet masters have apparently had enough, and they want everyone from the Masons to Google and the Knights Templar to fix the hurtling mess that we’ve come to call the U.S. government.  Full story

While Uncle Sam Turns His Back, Howard Stern Provides

Any cash-strapped feds had all the belt-tightening they can handle? Broadcasting magnate Howard Stern just might have a solution for you.

While Uncle Sam Turns His Back, Howard Stern Provides


The satellite radio kingpin Monday announced that he’s growing his game show catalog — who can forget the hours of good, clean family fun provided by “Dial-a-Date,” “Hollyweird Squares” or the multiple installments of “It’s Just Wrong” — by launching the hottest nude mother-daughter contest.

“I got a feeling that a lot of federal workers who are not getting paid might enter that contest,” Stern told his SiriusXM audience after trying to guesstimate who, in their right minds, would actually vie for the $5,000 prize.

The contest opened Monday and entries will be accepted till noon on Oct. 31; the actual drama will unfold inside Studio 69 on Jan. 14, 2014. Peep all the rules here.

Healthcare Firm Aims to Control Potential Shutdown Baby Boom

It’s not exactly a free lunch. But NV Healthcare LLC wants to help furloughed federal workers satisfy another craving.

The New York-based company has wrapped its head around the lingering shutdown and come up with a stopgap solution: free contraception for the duration of the government standoff. Take that, non-functioning Obamacare sign-up portals!

Full story

Hill Vets Aim to Scare Up Some Fun

The last time they co-hosted a Camp Freddy rager here in D.C., campaign operatives John Murray and Doug Davenport drew an enthusiastic crowd that partied hard, rocked out and kicked in $70,000 for the military-rehab-minded folks at Rivers of Recovery.

Hill Vets Aim to Scare Up Some Fun

The folks behind Warehouse Productions, Bruce Gates, with eyepatch, and Joyce Gates, left, are helping produce this year’s event. (Courtesy Mike Kandel)

The duo are now hoping to sell out the 9:30 Club (815 V St. NW) by dangling the free-form super group and a timely excuse for cosplay in front of those who wouldn’t dream of missing the “2nd Annual Bipartisan All Hallows Eve Costume Party.”

The show is scheduled to take place at 8 p.m. on Oct. 26. General admission tickets start at $50 — or you can spring for a VIP sponsorship package, which includes access to an open bar, semi-private breathing room on the cordoned off second floor and a meet-and-greet with the featured performers — with all proceeds flowing through to the Boulder Crest Retreat. Full story

Conservative Meme Tries to Play Both Sides

Railing against the do-nothing government you helped grind to a halt is nothing new here in Washington.

Now we have memes that help commemorate the hypocrisy.

Conservative Meme Tries to Play Both Sides


This non sequitur jab (attributed to a right-leaning website) at 44 is rhetorical junk, since money was never really the issue in either case: both battles are about political will.

The former was stymied by lack of agreement on military action, while the latter is the unforeseen — and now deeply lamented — consequence of the scorched earth policy both parties have adopted regarding anything to the do with the polarizing Affordable Care Act.

But that didn’t stop pols, such as Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La., from trying to score points with it over the weekend.

“No, Mr. Cassidy, it’s not a good point. It’s not even remotely the same thing and goes to show either how much he doesn’t know or how much he just wants to push hate during a shutdown,” an HOH tipster vented via email. Full story

October 6, 2013

Give Me Your Tired of Shutdown, Your Poor | Capitol Quip

Give Me Your Tired of Shutdown, Your Poor | Capitol Quip

The first week of the government shutdown produced its share of rancor, which seemed to give way to a sense of fatalism as people questioned whether this is really the best the country can expect from its elected officials. Which 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

The Filibuster, in Tune With the Times | Capitol Quip

The Filibuster, in Tune With the Times | 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 4, 2013

Shutdown Nearly Kills Z-Burger

Z-Burger to Feds: Make it stop.

Since Z-Burger announced its shutdown special — a free burger for furloughed federal workers — the local chainlet has served up 15,840 gratis burgers, a retail equivalent of about $88,000, The The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire blog reports.

“It literally almost put me out of business,” Z-Burger owner Peter Tabibian told the WSJ. To wit, he shut down the promotion on Thursday.

By Jason Dick Posted at 4:01 p.m.
DC, Food

Richard Simmons to Congress: You Can Cope if You Have Hope

Fitness maestro Richard Simmons is worried about Capitol Hill.

“I think there’s a lot of stress in Washington,” he said about the government shutdown in an exclusive interview with HOH. “You should be blessed, not stressed.”

Richard Simmons to Congress: You Can Cope if You Have Hope

Richard Simmons wants people on the Hill to be happy! (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

He expressed concern for the members, Hill staffers and reporters feeling worn down by the drama. But he noted there are many Americans with self-esteem and weight issues who are far worse off than those caught in the middle of this political crisis.

“I planted a weeping willow tree just to sit under it and cry,” he said of his contact with those individuals.

“You can cope if you have hope,” he added. “And that’s what I try to give people.”

He was adamant that even amid the political chaos, Washingtonians should still prioritize a healthy lifestyle.

Full story

Congress Puts Politicking on Autopilot

Congress Puts Politicking on Autopilot

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Just because members have technically switched the lights off in their offices doesn’t mean the behind-the-scenes sniping has to stop.

That’s what Maryland resident Bunnie Riedel said she discovered when she tried to ring members of her delegation to protest the shameful treatment of visiting World War II veterans who were temporarily turned away from the monuments on the first day of the government shutdown.

“It was almost like a campaign speech on those recordings,” Riedel complained to HOH about the announcements she had to sit through during calls to Democratic Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski and Benjamin L. Cardin.

Full story

Layman Explains Shutdown’s Horse Sense

Liberal Frank Kelly has penned his first one-act play, a dramedy in which the ongoing government shutdown is boiled down to a farcical horse race.

“I’m an aerospace engineer in Los Angeles (non-furloughed!). And I promise I don’t have a script I’m ‘working on,’” Kelly, who claims he doesn’t typically wade too far into politics, assured HOH via email. But he said he became so transfixed by the psychology behind the budget impasse — the idiocy of it all kept him up for a bit one night, then turned to resolve the following evening — he felt compelled to break down the fight for even the most casual of observers.

He blasted out the cheeky analysis, titled, “Government Shutdown as a Horse Race Metaphor,” to 18 friends — one of whom must have shared it with the GOP tipster who zapped it our way:

Scene: At the Horse Race Track

Republicans: “I don’t like that horse that’s winning.”

Democrats: “Oh, I actually kind of like that horse that’s winning.”

Republicans: “Well, you’re going to have to stop that horse from winning.”

Democrats: “Excuse me?”

Republicans: “Stop that horse from winning, I hate it.”

Democrats: “We already started the race, I can’t stop the horse from winning.”

Republicans: “Well fine, if you don’t stop that horse from winning I’m going to kill all the horses.”

Democrats: “What! You’re going to kill ALL the horses?”

Republicans: “Well, you leave me no choice.”

Democrats: “So just cause that horse is winning you are going to kill it and all the other horses in the race?”

Republicans: “Well, I actually can’t kill the one horse that’s winning.”

Democrats: “So you’re just going to to kill all the OTHER horses?”

Republicans: “Exactly.”

Democrats: “How is that going to stop the horse that’s winning?”

Republicans: “I don’t know, but you sure will be depressed about all these dead horses laying about.”

End Scene

“I think it was emailed to one person in DC who works in politics and is a Republican moderate. I think he is more upset about the whole thing than I am,” Kelly said of the shared contempt he believes the shutdown has fostered across the ideological spectrum.

To wit, Kelly hinted that he’d be just as wary of allowing the far left to wield absolute power.

“It’s like if a bunch of annoying hippies got to run the Democratic Party. ‘We’re not raising the debt ceiling until all the nuclear weapons and reactors and bad feelings are destroyed!’” he joked about his personal nightmare scenario.

Kelly may not be a comedic genius, but his comparison did make us chuckle. It remains, however, only the second-biggest debacle involving bumbling gamblers and perplexing messaging.

Congress has the Marx Brothers to thank for that.

October 3, 2013

‘Citizen Cabinet’ Could Give Lawmakers a Feel for Their Constituents’ Opinions

Voice of the People, a new non-partisan organization in Washington, announced Thursday its campaign to create a national citizen Cabinet that will allow the opinions of Americans to be heard by Congress.

The organization’s long-term goal is to pass legislation that will establish a “congressionally-chartered national academy for public consultation that will develop a full Citizen Cabinet so that every member of Congress will be able to hear from a representative sample of their constituents,” explained Steven Kull, president and founder of Voice of the People.

Joining the organization’s advisory board are former Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D.; former Rep. Michael N. Castle, R-Del.; former Rep. Bill Frenzel, R-Minn.; and former Rep. Martin Frost, D-Texas.

The plan to scientifically-select a sample of 120,000 Americans — 275 from each congressional district throughout the country — will allow those chosen to first be informed by a set of facts agreed upon by experts on both sides. Full story

Witnesses Describe Chaotic Scene

Several eyewitnesses of Thursday’s car chase and shooting at the Capitol described a chaotic scene as Capitol Police officers attempted to get a female suspect to exit her car — she refused and they opened fire with service weapons as she sped away.

One 57-year-old man from the District, Frank Schwing, said he was near a grove of trees “on the Mall side … at the base of the Capitol. Police came out with their their guns drawn, opened the passenger side [door], tried to get the driver out. At that point, the driver slammed in reverse, slammed into a cruiser, did a 180 and took off. At that point there were about a half a dozen shots fired. … At that point you could hear a number of cars coming in, police up on the Hill made us get down. They were trying to evacuate us into a safe place. They had their guns drawn.”

Regina Romero, 54, of Sacramento,Calif., is visiting D.C. with her family on vacation. She said she was standing near the Botanic Garden at the time of the incident, on the west side of the House side of the Capitol.

“There were a lot of police cars coming from all directions,” she said, adding she heard 10 to 12 gunshots.

“We were kind of scared because we heard what happened a couple of weeks ago,” she said, referring to the Navy Yard shooting.

Irina Kleiman of Toronto, said, “My husband [and I] were right beside the Capitol Building [on the Senate side]. And we heard three or four shots in front of the building [on the west side]. We just stood there looking. Then we heard some more shots up the street [from Constitution Ave.] And then suddenly everybody started running. Thousands of police showed up. Where we were, there was a policeman with a huge rifle who yelled at us, ‘This is real, get down.’ I was so scared, so we just ran and he said to crouch behind a bench.”

Nathanael Bennett had a birds-eye view of Thursday’s incident from his office on the third floor of the American Center for Law and Justice, at the southeast corner of the intersections of Maryland and Constitution avenues and Second Street Northeast, across from the Hart Senate Office Building.

“I heard a commotion — a screeching car, car crashing, and gun shots — all in rapid succession,” Bennett told Roll Call. At that point, he turned around in his chair to look out the window.

From Bennett’s vantage point, the car was behind the guard shack at the intersection. He saw three police officers converge on the vehicle from three sides, firing their weapons: one officer from the median, standing behind some electrical boxes near the guard shack, a second officer in front of the car on Constitution Avenue, and a third officer from the sidewalk near the Sewall-Belmont House & Museum.


Witnesses Describe Chaotic Scene

(Courtesy Nathanael Bennett)

After a series of at least a dozen gunshots, the car went into reverse, careened into the median and into the guard shack. At that point, Bennett and his co-worker decided to move to the interior of their offices.

“The whole thing lasted about three or four seconds,” Bennett said.


Griffin’s Angry Tweet Sparks Social Media Firestorm

While Capitol Hill police raced to contain a mid-afternoon scare punctuated by gunshots, car chases and emergency evacuation procedures, Rep. Tim Griffin was busy firing partisan insults into the online ether.

Griffin’s Angry Tweet Sparks Social Media Firestorm

(CQ Roll Call photo illustration)

Less than a minute after alerting his Twitter flock about the life-threatening drama right outside the Capitol, the Arkansas Republican took a swipe at President Barack Obama, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y. — a move many observers took to mean that he somehow blamed Democrats for the violent episode.

Reactions ran the gamut from disbelief:

to derision: Full story

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