Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
September 16, 2014

August 28, 2013

Restaurant Associates Rebuts Mold Rumors

Congressional diners have nothing to fear.

So says Restaurant Associates spokeswoman Gina Zimmer, who assures HOH that the moldy food bulletin an HOH tipster caught while cutting across the Longworth House Office Building cafeteria was a precautionary tale, not an admission of defeat.

“While the staffer overheard one of our recent food safety training sessions, rest assured there is absolutely NO issue regarding mold in any of our products served at the House and there never has been,” Zimmer relayed a few days after HOH reported on the unsettling menu update.

Per Zimmer, every morning, RA convenes a pre-service meeting at which crew members often openly discuss food-handling concerns.

“At the pre-meal that the aide was present at, our manager was reminding our staff of the RA food quality standards,” she said.

Moreover, Zimmer maintains that when they do encounter spoiled supplies, the suspect offerings are spirited away post-haste.

“If any RA employee sees a product that is not to our specifications, they remove it immediately and bring it back to our receiving department to return back to the vendor,” she said of the company’s quality-control protocol.

By Warren Rojas Posted at 2:27 p.m.
Food, Staffers

Jerry McNerney’s Social Media Aide Is Killing It Today

Recess, shmecess.

Jerry McNerney’s Social Media Aide Is Killing It Today


Whoever is in charge of archiving the speeches Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Calif., rattles off in the course of his legislative duties is taking advantage of the relative quiet to weave together what appears to be an all-encompassing — Hispanic heritage stuff? ¡Si Señor! Veterans Affairs claims? Ooo-rah! Cyber intelligence issues? You betcha — highlight reel.

By Warren Rojas Posted at 12:31 p.m.
Reps, Staffers, Webtastic

House GOP Aide Denies Sandbagging Filner Flack

House staffer Jeff Leieritz assures HOH that, contrary to what San Diego CityBeat says, he did not deliberately set out to ruin Lena Lewis — spokeswoman for embattled San Diego Mayor Bob Filner — when the pair posed for a now-infamous snapshot in Las Vegas.

Leieritz, who when we last caught up with him was accused of making waves at home by playing house with his fiancée, explained that he was in Las Vegas the weekend of Aug. 16 — bidding farewell to his single days (natch) — and did cozy up to Lewis, who was in the midst of her own bachelorette send-off, for a quick pic.

But he maintains that the encounter was purely serendipitous — not the premeditated takedown the West Coast weekly made it out to be on Monday.

“As a part of my bachelor party, I was prompted by friends to pose for pictures with several bachelorette parties who were also celebrating that night,” he said, suggesting that he and Lewis “just happened to be at the same location.”

“Any suggestion that I was involved in any ‘orchestrated’ activities against anyone is simply not true, and way overblown,” Leieritz asserted. “I’m very disappointed that this blogger jumped to such an outrageous conclusion.” In a previous political life, Leieritz worked for Republican Carl DeMaio, who is exploring a run for mayor of San Diego now that Filner is on his way out.

Leieritz did not address how Derek Wixon, whom he admitted to knowing in high school (“I have not seen him in several years,” Leieritz said), would have known enough about the piano bar shenanigans to brag on Facebook about bringing Lewis down, nor would he reveal who snapped the incriminating photo. Full story

August 27, 2013

Enviros Pin Disastrous Weather to Pols

The 350 Action Fund has poured some money into a new campaign aimed at naming catastrophic meteorological events after sitting lawmakers who seem to pay the weather no mind.

In addition to the handful of elected officials lampooned in the promotional video, the powers that be behind call out more than three dozen elected officials — mostly Republicans, though a few Democrats made the cut — that the group believes are either actively opposing or dragging their feet on climate issues.

The environmentalists are asking supporters to sign a petition urging the World Meteorological Organization to switch from arbitrarily naming threatening storms to hanging them around the necks of perceived obstructionists.

Should they succeed, the nightly news may soon be flooded with election-crushing visuals like these:

Enviros Pin Disastrous Weather to Pols


Full story

August 26, 2013

Tortilla Coast Celebrates the First Day of School

Haven’t seen enough cute first-day-of-school pictures in your Facebook feed?

Here’s one more:

Tortilla Coast Celebrates the First Day of School

(Abby Livingston/CQ Roll Call)


House GOP Hopeful Compares N.C. Voter ID Law to Excrement

Jason Thigpen, a political newcomer looking to unseat Rep. Walter B. Jones, R-N.C., has parted company with his fellow Tar Heel State Republicans over a voter ID change he insists just plain stinks.

“You can paint a turd and sell it as art, but it’s still a turd,” Thigpen asserted in a Facebook post denouncing the election tweaks that state lawmakers approved in late July.

North Carolina Republican Gov. Pat McCrory signed the new restrictions — which mandate voters to show a government-issued ID, trims the early voting window by a week and abolishes same-day registration — into law on Aug. 12.

“This is 2013 and any legislator that puts forth such a discriminatory bill should be laughed out of office. This is America, not Russia,” Thigpen argued.

His opposition, however, appears to be more technical than purely ideological. Full story

Pelosi Pleased About Princess Leia Award

Christine Pelosi, daughter of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., collected a rather curious prize for her mom this weekend, attending a Women’s Equality Day celebration to accept the otherworldly “Princess Leia” award.

For those of you with a tragically low midi-chlorian count, Princess Leia, as portrayed by actress Carrie Fisher, is the heroine of the original “Star Wars” trilogy (episodes IV-VI).

The tribute was presented on behalf of the Women’s Intercultural Network. The group did not respond to requests for comment about the history of an award named for an empire-bucking, rebellion-leading Jedi scion, or any past recipients.

Team Pelosi, on the other hand, seemed only to happy to play along.

“Leader Pelosi knows that from Alderaan to America, the full participation of women in society provides A New Hope to restoring freedom to the galaxy,” a Pelosi aide told HOH about the unique honor. “House Democrats’ women’s economic agenda — When Women Succeed, America Succeeds — would ensure that the force of women will be with you.” Full story

John Lewis Tops Best-Seller Lists

John Lewis Tops Best Seller Lists

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. John Lewis’ debut graphic novel, “March,” is a bona fide hit, landing in the top spot on multiple best-seller lists — including the coveted Gray Lady’s.

The book is currently No. 1 on The New York Times best-seller list for paperback graphic novels and leads The Washington Post’s entire nonfiction section. Full story

August 25, 2013

I Have a Speech | Capitol Quip

I Have a Speech | Capitol Quip

With President Barack Obama slated to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech this week, the pressure may be on him to inspire as King did back in 1963. No doubt his speechwriters are working overtime to come up with something grandiose and visionary.

So what’s your take? Send us your caption for this week’s Capitol Quip. Leave it in the comments section below.

Editors will pick five finalists Wednesday, and everyone can vote for the winner until Thursday afternoon. To check out past winners, visit Pinterest.

By Emily Pierce Posted at 7:10 p.m.
Capitol Quip

Asked and Answered | Capitol Quip

Asked and Answered | 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.

August 23, 2013

Simpson Challenger Still Steamed About Lobster Dough

House hopeful Bryan Smith has a real beef with the spending choices Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, has made in the past, including some taxpayer funds he voted to send halfway across the country for seafood development.

During an interview conducted here at CQ Roll Call — watch more of the Q&A here — Smith laundry-listed what he believes to be some of Simpson’s greatest misses, harking back to the $188,000 that Maine Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe (since retired) and Susan Collins tucked into the appropriations pipeline half a decade ago.

The watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste squealed about the funds funneled to the University of Maine’s Lobster Institute in its “Congressional Pig Book” for 2008.


Patrick Leahy ‘Batty’ for Ben Affleck

The Internet continues battling it out over whether Ben Affleck is “daredevil” enough to successfully play Bruce Wayne in the Superman-Batman team up Warner Bros. has slotted for release in 2015. But “Dark Knight” alumnus Patrick J. Leahy has endorsed the Beantown native.

The Vermont Democrat and ardent comic book fan praised Affleck as a solid pick to play the brooding billionaire cum cowl-donning vigilante. Given that he worked with the late, great Heath Ledger, we’re willing to trust Leahy’s judgment — for now. Full story

Ben’s Chili Bowl Celebrates 55 Years

Fifty-five years ago, on Aug. 22, 1958, Ben’s Chili Bowl opened for business. Now an essential and thriving part of the community, it has seen the landscape of U Street Northwest drastically change over the years. It survived the riots in the ’60s, waves of construction around the U Street Metro and a sluggish D.C. economy. Yet through it all, it beckoned people to come in, sit down at the counter and share conversation.

Bens Chili Bowl Celebrates 55 Years

Marion Barry in front of the mural of President Barack Obama outside Ben’s.
(Courtesy BadAperture)

It doesn’t matter if you like your half-smoke grilled, split and fried, or, as their biggest fan Bill Cosby likes it, topped with onions, mustard and chili. You can even be a vegetarian, Democrat or Republican. Ben’s is nonpartisan, and celebrities and average Joes are all treated like family.

As Councilmember Marion Barry put it at Thursday’s celebration for Ben’s 55th anniversary, “The only people I know who could get Jesse Jackson, Marion Barry, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Mayor Gray and the community together at one time, is the Ali family at Ben’s.”

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, who said he frequents Ben’s one to two times a week, made a proclamation that Aug. 22 is Ben’s Chili Bowl Day in the District of Columbia.

Bens Chili Bowl Celebrates 55 Years

Gray congratulates the Ali family on 55 years of Ben’s Chili Bowl.
(Courtesy BadAperture)

Even President Barack Obama showed his support by sending a message to the Ali family via Brian Summers, a staunch Republican. “Ben’s celebrates family equality and fosters a strong sense of community to all who visit. As we mark this milestone, we take pride in this special day at Ben’s,” Summers said. In closing, he noted the first lady “will come back for a special visit.”

Being a pillar in the community, the restaurant sees everybody. But only comedian Bill Cosby and the Obama family get to eat at Ben’s for free. Cosby is also the only one whom Nizam Ali — the youngest of Ben’s sons —  has delivered half-smokes to in New York, the Solomons Island and Richmond, Va. But Cosby has been a fan for 54 years, so he’s treated like family.

Still, the entire Ali family tries to remain humble about their success.

“The success isn’t something we feel we can take credit for,” Nizam Ali told CQ Roll Call. “Someone in the family is here every day; you do what needs to be done.”

Bens Chili Bowl Celebrates 55 Years

Cosby was the master of ceremonies at the 55th anniversary celebration at Ben’s Chili Bowl.
(Courtesy BadAperture)

Nizam Ali credits his parents for raising him and his brothers in the business and having them do every conceivable job in the restaurant.

“But it’s also God looking out for us,” he continued. “It’s Karma. You can’t get arrogant because it’s everyone who comes through our doors that keeps us here. We’ve been blessed.”

It’s no secret that Ben’s is a big tourist draw, and people come from all over the world to visit. But it’s more than the food that keeps them coming back, Nizam Ali said.

He recalled a story his father told him of  a guy who sat down and ordered a chili dog, then another and another.

“At some point, my dad started talking to him, and the guy tells him, he just got out of jail, and Ben called him ‘sir.’ No one calls him sir, and it was nice to feel like a normal person for once.”

Moe, a 16-year employee of Ben’s Chili Bowl who was introduced at the celebration, met his wife at Ben’s Chili Bowl. During his time at Ben’s, he said he picked up some of the Ali family’s values of being an anchor in the community.

“I’ve become a mentor, an uncle to young men  in neighborhood,” Moe said. “For the Howard students, I’ve been a counselor. The stools at the counter have become couches. I’ve been a psychologist and Monday morning quarterback.”

The excitement for the anniversary drew thunderous applause and joyous yelling from the large crowd that gathered Thursday.

“Hello,” Cosby said, at one point taking the microphone, “you all don’t have to pay much attention just walk around and enjoy and take your medication and in 20 minutes you will quiet down.”

“It wouldn’t be Ben’s if we didn’t have someone yelling from the community,” Nizam Ali joked.

August 22, 2013

D.C. United Hosts Inaugural Capitol Hill Night

The District’s soccer team is trying to integrate into the Capitol Hill scene.

D.C. United will host its inaugural Capitol Hill Night on Saturday at 7 p.m. D.C. residents living in the 20002 and 20003 zip codes receive discounted sideline tickets and the event also includes local vendors and a pre-game tailgate at RFK Stadium. D.C. United’s Vice-Captain John Thorrington said the event is a cool new initiative for the team.

“It’s a really cool city, and it hasn’t disappointed,” said Thorrington, who played in England, Germany, Chicago and Vancouver before joining the black and red this year. “The people, the monuments and the history are all great. I really appreciate how accessible everything is; you can hop on a bike and be at all the monuments and museums in 10 to 15 minutes.”

D.C. United faces Toronto FC. Despite the team’s struggles this year, Thorrington said the team is playing for the future and this event will help boost fan support, especially as the team builds a new stadium.

“I live on Capitol Hill, and it really has a neighborhood feel,” Thorrington said. “I have been to pretty much every stadium and the location of the stadium is very important, particularly in D.C., and the fact that the new stadium will remain in the city is great.”

Thorrington also hit the streets to promote the event. Check out the team’s video below:

Moldy Food in the Longworth Cafeteria?

Are you happy now, congressional vegetarians? Reports are cropping up about moldy grub in the Longworth cafeteria.

It remains unclear whether Restaurant Associates has embraced fungus-laced foodstuffs as a passive-aggressive response to those who have grumbled about the dearth of “green” menu options or if the corporate catering outfit just caught a bad one somewhere down its distribution chain. The Capitol Hill dining vendor did not respond to calls or emails requesting comment about the gut-wrenching disclosure.

But a House aide passing through the Longworth food court this morning about lost his lunch after getting an earful of the following, terribly unsavory status report.

“We serve good food here. Good food doesn’t have mold in it … and there’s been some mold in the food. We can’t serve food with mold,” an HOH tipster said he heard a managerial type alerting rank-and-file food service personnel.

The harried staffer did not have time to stick around for the rest of the “great mold speech of 2k13” but suggested that none of the crew seemed totally shocked by the revolting development.

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