Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
January 28, 2015

November 20, 2013

‘Alpha House’ Premiere Attracts Alpha Lawmakers

Alpha House Premiere Attracts Alpha Lawmakers

Durbin, left, speaks with Consuelos and Alter before a screening of “Alpha House” on Tuesday. (Niels Lesniewski/CQ Roll Call)

Two of the lawmakers who have called Capitol Hill’s real-life “Alpha House” their home away from home were among the distinguished guests on hand at a screening of the Amazon series Tuesday evening in D.C.

But Sen. Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., wanted to make clear that the real house was nothing like the one in the TV program, lacking the usual Hollywood blend of sex, drugs and violence.

“Violence would involve rats, drugs would involve Metamucil, and the closest thing to sex is pictures of our grandkids,” Durbin said of the row house he shares with fellow Democrats Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York and Rep. George Miller of California, who is the landlord. The fictional house is shared by four Republican senators.

One former roommate, retired Rep. Bill Delahunt, D-Mass., also attended the screening.

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 11:48 a.m.
TV Land, VIPs

November 19, 2013

Trey Radel Facing Cocaine Charges (Updated)

Updated 5:44 p.m. | Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fla., is scheduled to be arraigned at 9 a.m. Wednesday on a misdemeanor charge of possession of a controlled substance, a court date stemming from a three-week old arrest involving cocaine.

Trey Radel Facing Cocaine Charges (Updated)

Radel, center, makes a point at a May press conference. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

In a statement, the freshman lawmaker said: “I’m profoundly sorry to let down my family, particularly my wife and son, and the people of Southwest Florida. I struggle with the disease of alcoholism, and this led to an extremely irresponsible choice. As the father of a young son and a husband to a loving wife, I need to get help so I can be a better man for both of them.

“In facing this charge, I realize the disappointment my family, friends and constituents must feel. Believe me, I am disappointed in myself, and I stand ready to face the consequences of my actions.

“However, this unfortunate event does have a positive side. It offers me an opportunity to seek treatment and counseling. I know I have a problem and will do whatever is necessary to overcome it, hopefully setting an example for others struggling with this disease.

“Please keep my family in your prayers.”

Updated 5:44 p.m.

When asked whether GOP leaders would urge Radel to resign, a spokesman for Speaker John A. Boehner told CQ Roll Call: “Members of Congress should be held to the highest standards, and the alleged crime will be handled by the courts. Beyond that, this is between Rep. Radel, his family, and his constituents.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said “I feel very sad for his family, and bad,” at a BuzzFeed Brews event on Tuesday evening. “His leadership will have to deal with him,” she added.

The arrest, first reported by Politico, happened on Oct. 29 here in the nation’s capital. Radel, who has missed votes on the House floor this week, will have to answer to D.C. Superior Court Judge Robert S. Tignor.

A quick scan of the social media-obsessed pol’s Twitter feed on the day in question didn’t point to anything being out of the ordinary:

“Had some fun last few wks,” he alerted followers, touting signature time-wasters like his real-time reviews of SkyMall catalogs.

Then again, perhaps Radel was trying to clue us in about this little habit all along.

Back in March, he told HOH that Cartagena, Colombia — the one-time seat of the Pablo Escobar-controlled Medellin Cartel — was his favorite vacation spot.

Emma Dumain contributed to this report.

New App Vies to Become ‘Yelp for Politicians’

Rod Massey, the CEO of iCitizen, is excited about getting his new civic engagement platform into the rapidly texting hands of responsive voters and the social-media-savvy pols they most care about.

“It will show them how their constituents feel about the actions they’re taking,” Massey told HOH of the fledgling application that allows folks to keep tabs on what their elected officials are up to and “rate” the legislators accordingly.

Per Massey, the initial version of the new tracing tool — feted at 6:30 p.m. tonight at an invitation-only soiree (free cocktails and hors d’oeuvres) at the Ronald Reagan Building at 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW — is configured to work on iOS 7-enabled iPhones. He said the company hopes to launch an Android version in early 2014.

Currently, users are able to select overall ratings for individuals on a scale of 1 to 5 stars. But those scores can fluctuate based on different impressions, new legislative actions or plain old buyer’s remorse.

“Individuals have the ability to change that at any time. So think it more as a flag,” he suggested.

That’s why his programmers are hard at work on an iPad version designed specifically to provide elected officials with real time data (an “analytics dashboard,” Massey called it) to chew on. Once released, most likely in early 2014, registered lawmakers will be able to view how their ratings have risen or fallen over time — a snapshot of reactions to their every political move.

“We’re more like social media with a purpose,” Massey said. Full story

Jerry Moran Stays True to Hometown ‘Cue

An innocent plug for Global Entrepreneurship Week by Sen. Jerry Moran made us a do a double take when we noticed the not-so-local business he was flogging:

Could it be that the Kansas Republican, by hailing the original Arthur Bryant’s, was officially switching teams and siding with Missourians in the longstanding regional battle for total barbecue dominance?

Fat chance.

For those unfamiliar with the duality of Kansas City barbecue, there are world famous establishments native to each metropolis — one in Kansas, one in Missouri — as well as restaurants with locations in both states.

While staff confirmed that Moran has sampled Arthur Bryant’s fabled brand of barbecue before, the lawmaker clarified his go-to pits for HOH.

“When in Washington, DC, I like Old Glory and Hill Country,” Moran shared in an email. “But they’re just not the same as Gates, Oklahoma Joe’s, Jack Stack, Smokehouse and others back home.

“The history, personality, sauce and world-class Kansas beef make Kansas City barbecue tough to beat,” the avowed burnt ends fan (us too!) asserted.

Much like that foul-mouthed radio pitchwoman who is habitually dousing everything with Frank’s Red Hot sauce, Moran, too, has a simple solution for dealing with flavorless fare he encounters in his epicurean travels.

“My favorite sauce is KC Masterpiece, which I often add to non-barbecue dishes too,” he said.

HOH Alumna Recalls the One That Got Away

Former Heard on the Hill scribe Emily Heil is gearing up to grab the gossip reins as co-author of the Washington Post’s Reliable Source column in just a few weeks.

But at a dinner Monday in her honor, she shared the tale of one particularly frustrating HOH item she was never able to successfully pin down. Full story

By Warren Rojas Posted at 2:44 p.m.
DC, media

November 18, 2013

GOP Aide Recruits Tour Companions for Proposal

Senate Republican Policy Committee counsel Michael Stransky not only fulfilled his sweetheart’s wish of finally taking in the breathtaking view from the top of the Capitol Dome, he also convinced visiting tourists to pose as paparazzi during the surprise proposal he sprung on his now-fianceé, Jennifer Pollom.

GOP Aide Recruits Tour Companions for Proposal

(Courtesy HOH tipster)

“We had been talking a little bit about it. But I certainly didn’t see the Capitol Dome coming,” Pollom told HOH about the extra-special spot Stransky selected to pop the question on Nov. 15. Full story

What We Learned From Manchin’s AMA

Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., opened up last week, answering 10 questions submitted by Redditors in a video posted by The Atlantic.

In a visual version of Reddit’s “Ask Me Anything” posts, Manchin spoke widely on his political beliefs. In fewer than 20 minutes, Manchin said he believes in traditional marriage, that redistricting can and should be done by objective computer models and that identification should be required when voting in federal elections.

“I just don’t have a problem showing an ID,” he said. “I show an ID everywhere I go.” Full story

Take Five: Rep. Bill Flores

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. Bill Flores, R-Texas, discusses Texas A&M football, life on the ranch and snow skiing.

Q. As a Texas A&M alumnus, how do you feel about Johnny Manziel’s behavior on and off the football field?

A. His behavior on the field is exceptional. He still has a little maturing to go through off the field. Hopefully that’ll come with age. We all go through that same struggle when we’re younger.

Q. What was life like growing up on the ranch?

A. The work was hard, the hours were long, and since I was working for family, there was no pay involved. But I have to say, the work was very fulfilling. For instance, if I built a mile of fence, the feeling of satisfaction I got when I looked back and looked at that mile of fence … that made me feel good.

Q. How long has your family been in Texas? How do you define a Texan?

A. My family came from Spain and settled in the area near Nacogdoches, Texas, in 1725. So I’m a ninth-generation Texan. But I don’t know if you’d call us Texans because it predates Texas; it predates the United States. I’ll have to go back and come up with a better definition.

Q. What are some of your hobbies?

A. Well, my two primary hobbies are snow skiing and flying. I learned how to ski when I was in high school, when I was 18. And I just love that particular sport. My other hobby of flying is something I’m passionate about as well. I’m a private pilot … I have about 2,500 hours of pilot and command time.

Q. Where do you do your snow skiing?

A. The primary place I go is Telluride, Colo. There’s just no more beautiful place in the world to ski — well, I don’t think there’s any more beautiful place in the world to do anything.

Montana Campaign Ad Prompts Political Guessing Game

A recent job posting seeking a highly motivated campaign manager got tongues wagging about just who the mystery employer might be. When you start off a post with “Duties include everything,” it’s the kind of honesty normally not seen in job listings.

The HOH tipster who stumbled across the matter-of-fact solicitation — “If you don’t already know what it takes to run a multi million dollar statewide campaign, you’re not qualified,” is far and away our favorite caveat — just assumed that the bid for a seasoned congressional strategist was coming from Senate hopeful John Bohlinger. The former lieutenant governor is the latest Democrat to toss his hat into the ring to succeed retiring Montana Democrat Max Baucus.

Turns out, the opening in question is to help usher forth Dirk Adams’ bid.

“People have realized it’s going to be a contested primary,” political fundraiser Jerald Lentini told HOH about the brewing race.

Lentini stressed that Adams, who announced his candidacy earlier this year, is determined to represent the same people he’s grown to know and love during the nearly three decades he’s spent as a cattle rancher. “We’re going to be putting on a first-class race … because that’s exactly what the people of Montana deserve,” Lentini asserted.

He noted that Adams was making the rounds in Washington, D.C., this week and is looking forward to formally announcing his full team (he’s still hunting for a finance director, as well) in early December.

Meanwhile, Montana Republican Rep. Steve Daines has officially announced his desire to make the leap from the House to the Senate.

By Warren Rojas Posted at 3:01 p.m.
Nationwide, Reps, Sens

November 17, 2013

Today’s Political Football | Capitol Quip

Todays Political Football | Capitol Quip

The furor over the rollout of the new health care law continues unabated, with message bills, windy floor speeches, presidential mea culpas and hearing after hearing after hearing. 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. Editors will pick five finalists on Nov. 20, and everyone can vote for the winner through Nov. 21.

To see our previous winners, check us out on Pinterest.

By Jason Dick Posted at 7:05 p.m.
Capitol Quip

Stuck in the Middle With You | Capitol Quip

Stuck in the Middle With You | 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.

November 15, 2013

Swalwell Puts San Fran’s Fate in Batkid’s Hands

California Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell has an urgent message for Miles, the 5-year-old leukemia survivor who donned his Dark Knight costume to help secure the Bay Area today: San Francisco needs your help.

“Only you can defeat the Riddler and the Penguin. … We’re all counting on you, Batkid, to use your superhero powers to protect our city,” Swalwell said in a special S.O.S. to be delivered to the heroic youth who has captured the imagination of just-for-the-day Gotham.

Swalwell Puts San Fran’s Fate in Batkid’s Hands

(Courtesy Make-A-Wish Greater Bay Area)

Make-A-Wish Greater Bay Area has recruited tens of thousands of people to help choreograph Miles’ dream day as the caped crusader. Follow along with the unfolding adventure here.

Ranking congressional Bat-fan (and “Dark Knight” guest star) Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., tweeted out his best wishes for the youngster.


The House Wrath and Forgiveness Committee | Madisonville

The House Wrath and Forgiveness Committee paraded four more hapless Obamacare functionaries in for ritual humiliation on Wednesday. The committee is formally called Oversight and Government Reform, but the Republicans hurl so much wrath and the Democrats offer so much forgiveness that oversight and reform don’t even get out of bed on meeting day.

Chairman Darrell Issa of California and ranking member Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland nevertheless make the panel worth the price of admission.  Words are barely necessary. Body language says it all.

The House Wrath and Forgiveness Committee | MadisonvilleAs one talks, the other contorts his body in such a way to create as much distance as possible without actually getting up and moving. Issa holds his head still as his shoulders and torso shift away from Cummings. Eventually, he discovers that his head has to go where his body goes. Cummings tries to disguise the movement, but there’s a perceptible slant in the other direction when Issa talks. He’s the leaning tower of Maryland’s 7th District.

Cummings has the demeanor of a man who has seen every evil under the sun. The rings under his eyes are so pronounced he might have been present when the tablets came down from the mount. God cursed him by making him sit on this committee and encounter ever new levels of depravity, often committed by his own side.  Cummings runs those big hands up and over his head and wonders whether it can get worse.

Issa usually finds a way. He’s more of a New Testament person, by way of California and show business. Issa is the supporting actor who believes he deserves top billing. God cursed him by constantly finding someone to challenge his view of himself. Issa gets ornery when that happens. As a result, he doesn’t always stay on point.

Democrats noticed his mood Wednesday and quickly started to bait him. It beats listening to four technology experts from the administration explain why — or for most people, not explain why — things are working.

Massachusetts’ John F. Tierney tweaks Issa for talking four minutes more than he allowed Cummings. Virginia’s Gerald E. Connolly builds a case that Issa and Co. smeared one of the witnesses by selectively leaking documents. Jim Cooper of Tennessee calls the hearing a kangaroo court. Pennsylvania’s Matt Cartwright says the Republicans are circulating a playbook on how to exploit the Obamacare problems for political gain. Tierney baits him a second time by walking a witness into testimony that Issa is telling untruths on national television.

Issa leaps to his own defense. He corrects, adds context, contradicts, pleads ignorance, complains that his words are being disparaged and mischaracterized.

The four guys from Obamacare — Obamacarriers? — must have wondered what the committee needed them for.

Manchin Preaches Common Sense at Common Ground Awards

The D.C.-based group No Labels wants to bridge the growing gap between Republicans and Democrats, a lofty goal but one that the Search for Common Ground praised at its Thursday night awards ceremony.

Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., and Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kan., were on hand at the National Geographic Museum to accept the award. A couple of hundred people crowded into the museum’s auditorium for the ceremony.

Before joining the Senate in 2010, Manchin was the governor of the Mountain State. Manchin, now a co-chairman of No Labels, said he had hoped to bring the common-sense solutions he worked on there to the Senate.

“I found out common sense wasn’t so common here,” he said to laughs.

Manchin Preaches Common Sense at Common Ground Awards

Manchin is a co-chairman of No Labels. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Full story

‘You’ve Got Hate!’ What Not to Wear Edition

The consensus appears to be that playing fashion critic is not my strong suit.

‘You’ve Got Hate!’ What Not to Wear Edition

(Courtesy Jamison Foser)

A recent 93-word intrusion into Federal Reserve nominee Janet L. Yellen’s wardrobe has spawned pages and pages of unbridled outrage, prompting feminists, economists and all-around pragmatists to flood comment boards and social-media feeds with burning questions about this publication’s sudden interest in sartorial decision-making.

Where is the blistering assault on President Barack Obama’s strict rotation of blue or gray suits, some wondered. Why no exposés about current Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke’s penchant for Jos. A. Bank wear, prodded others. Hell, when have you ever taken note of a man’s appearance? (Oh, let’s see, just in the recent past there were musings about South Carolina Republican Rep. Mark Sanford’s shorts, North Carolina Republican Rep. Howard Coble’s blazer and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum’s sleeveless gear.)

Then, of course, there were the personal attacks.

Outraged peers and readers alike urged me to “suck a fat one” for polluting the politisphere with “Breitbart-level juvenile” “garbage” I presumably vomited onto my keyboard because I am “obviously a sexist douchebag.”

“Are you Claudia from the Babysitters Club, determined to never wear the same outfit? Do you burn your clothes the minute you take them off?” demanded one email interrogator. (No clue. Never read that series.)

“How would you like comments on your heritage or weight being relevant to your worth?” asked another. (Fair point.) Full story

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