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

August 8, 2013

Chicago Bookends Obama’s Presidential Medals of Freedom

Did President Barack Obama consult some Chicago insiders (Mayor Rahm Emanuel? Political mastermind David Axelrod?) when drafting up his list of Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients?

Topping the White House’s list of 16 individuals receiving the nation’s highest civilian honor, which was announced today, is Second City sports hero Ernie Banks, known to many as “Mr. Cub” after 19 seasons of running the bases in Wrigley Field. At least Obama didn’t give the nod to a player from his favorite Chicago team. The president, a South Sider, is a White Sox fan.

Rounding out the White House release was Chicago media queen Oprah Winfrey, who established herself as a daytime television powerhouse on the city’s airwaves. She opened Harpo Studios for “The Oprah Winfrey Show” on the Near West Side during the show’s 24-season reign. The White House recognized her philanthropic passions and humanitarian work (not the mass distribution of prizes and cars to audience members) in awarding her the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

We think Mayor Rahm, the president’s former chief of staff, and Axelrod, an ex-Chicago Tribune journalist and 2012 campaign veteran, would both be big fans of his picks. Is this enough evidence to formulate a Chicago conspiracy?

The Cure for Sequesteritis? The President’s SAVE Award!

Here’s something for federal employees to ponder in the age of the sequester.

The Friday deadline to submit ideas for the annual Securing Americans Value and Efficiency Award, is fast approaching.

The SAVE award is a contest created by President Barack Obama in 2009, seeking creative ideas from federal employees to help cut the budget, ensure tax payers dollars are spent wisely and improve the way government operates.

The judging criteria focuses on several key points:

  • Improving the quality of output at lower costs; or
  • Simplifying processes to reduce administrative burden; or
  • Improving the speed of government operations to improve efficiency

Only federal employees can submit ideas, and those who plan to submit their ideas must use their federal email address to have a proposal considered. Those who don’t have an idea to submit can still participate — the website is set up like a forum, where you can vote on, agree with or comment on already posted ideas.

According to the White House website, ideas are sent to the relevant agencies to review for potential action, including inclusion in the budget. Over the past four years, more than 85,000 ideas have been submitted and so far approximately 80 have been included in the administration’s budget proposals.

Perhaps this is something for those folks who are taking a sequester-mandated furlough day to work on?

By Diana Oberoi Posted at 2:08 p.m.
Nationwide, POTUS

August 7, 2013

The Gospel According to Steve Stockman

In one of those rare occasions when he (and his staff) were not totally consumed with flat out busting President Barack Obama’s chops, Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, decided to drop a little science on his Twitter flock on Wednesday.

The Gospel According to Steve Stockman

(Screenshot)

The outspoken Texas Republican — which is to say his type-happy spokesman Donny Ferguson — took to social media to debunk that pesky old world hunger myth, pinning the “problem” not on  production issues but on lackluster market opportunities. (Dear starving people: it’s not that you’re life-threateningly poor, it’s that supply-side economists haven’t quite gotten to you — yet.)

Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., apparently couldn’t resist twisting Stockman’s philosophic statement into a teachable moment.

The Gospel According to Steve Stockman

(Screenshot)

We have no doubt there’s plenty of red meat here for fiscal junkies to sink their teeth into.

But even us non-accounting types know a delicious Twitter fight when we see one.

Five Captions for Recess | Capitol Quip

Five Captions for Recess | 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:

  • I just don’t have the heart to tell him that the beach is closed because of sequester.
  • Well, at least the motion to adjourn got bipartisan support.
  • Once you get over the overwhelming public disgust — it’s a pretty sweet gig.
  • Last one in the pool is a hardworking congressman!!
  • Well, they say congressmen are dressing more casually these days.

The cartoon with the winning caption will appear on this blog Aug. 11 and in the following 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 4:10 p.m.
Capitol Quip

Goat Stage Fright at Congressional Cemetery

Goat Stage Fright at Congressional Cemetery

(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)

“They were a little intimidated by it.”

— Brian Knox, supervising forester for Eco-Goats, referring to the reaction of his herd of grazers to the dozens of onlookers and press people at Congressional Cemetery this morning. The cemetery has employed Eco-Goats to graze the invasive species that choke the perimeter of the historic grounds.

August 6, 2013

Immigration Cantaloupes Were Donated to Food Bank

When you work for a man who impersonates Santa Claus, you’re bound to have some generous ideas.

It was a staffer in the office of Old Fashion Santa & Co. proprietor and freshman Rep. Kerry Bentivolio, R-Mich., who suggested re-gifting some politically charged cantaloupes to a local D.C. food bank last week.

Of the 224 melons delivered to Capitol Hill by immigration activists as a gag gift on Aug. 1, 96 made it to the Capitol Area Food Bank.

“It took one minivan and four people,” Bentivolio Communications Director Matt Chisholm told HOH.

The donation, first reported by the Washington Examiner, weighed in at 350 pounds.

Page Crosland, communications director for the Capitol Area Food Bank, said the fresh produce was then distributed to “some very luck families out there.” She emphasized that the food bank is nonpartisan and does not like to insert itself in partisan news stories.

Group Kicks Off ‘Fishy’ Tour

Wondering what the parade of frankenfood was doing traipsing through the streets of Washington on Monday night?

Are We Eating Fishy Food’s tour kicked off on the National Mall on an 11 city-tour to make the case that the public deserves to know when they are eating food with genetically modified organisms.

Group Kicks Off Fishy Tour

(Screenshot)

César Maxit and DC51, an artist collective in Washington, D.C., designed the first of the fishy fleet of cars in 2011. The first car was FishyCorn aka “Poppy.” In January 2013, Maxit designed five more cars including “Goldie” the SharkApple, and “Soyna” the soybean seahorse.

Sixty-four countries require labeling of GMOs, but in the U.S. and Canada, GMO items are commonly found in the grocery store without a label.

Activists behind Are We Eating Fishy Food want companies to provide full disclosure on what makes up our food. On their website, they proclaim, “There is something fishy about GMOs, aka Genetically Modified Organisms, plants or animals which have been genetically altered and would not occur naturally despite what biotech companies claim.”

The group maintains that in this case, labels matter. They want the public to have a right to choose whether they want to buy and eat genetically engineered food.

The tour wraps up in Seattle on Aug. 14th at the Rally for Right to Know.

Philanthropub Needs Charity, New Air Conditioner

Prepay for a cocktail and support a local business. Yes, prepay … and no, it’s not what you’re probably thinking.

Cause, the world’s first “philanthropub” opened last October with the premise “you eat, drink, and be merry, we pay all our bills, and we donate 100% of net profits to charities.” Its charitable donations rotate between different local and international organizations. One Acre FundYear Up and Life Pieces to Masterpieces are on the current receiving list. So, where does the prepaying and drinking come in?

Recently, Cause’s air conditioner unit went on the fritz. Instead of dipping into its own funds and cutting down on the amount of money it can give to its charities, it asked for the public’s support. The philanthropub has an Indiegogo campaign seeking $11,000 to purchase a new air conditioning system. With a little more than a day left in its campaign, Cause is still $10,184 short of its goal.

It’s an exchange, really. Typically when you donate or give a handout, you get nothing in return. Cause plans to give you something in return if you donate to its, well, Cause!

Give $11, and your next drink is on Cause. If you factor in classic cocktails that are $10, you’re essentially prepaying for a drink. Oh, and, please, 21 and over only for this.

For $20, the generous get an “I Drink CAUSE I Care” T-shirt. For $109, it’s dinner and drinks for four — two drinks each, two shareable appetizers and main course of choice. Want a cocktail party for you and nine of your friends? Hand over $500 and that’s what you’ll get!

Shadow Senator Power Lunches With ‘Chasing the Hill’ Star

D.C. shadow Sen. Paul Strauss is doing some power lunching.

Strauss shared a midday meal today with “West Wing” alumna Melissa Fitzgerald, an actress he got to know on the set of Web-based political drama “Chasing the Hill.”

Strauss and Fitzgerald talked about a shared political passion — “how we get statehood for D.C.” — over Russian cuisine at Dupont Circle’s Mari Vanna, Strauss told HOH.

The pair met last year, when the shadow senator did some bit work in an episode starring Fitzgerald’s character, Samantha Clemons, and her fictional congressional campaign. Strauss said he makes “one cameo as ‘man getting cursed at the Democratic convention.’”

On Friday, Fitzgerald will help launch a real-life candidate into California politics.

The actress is scheduled to appear at a campaign event in Malibu, Calif. Fitzgerald will introduce “Chasing the Hill” director Brent Roske, as he kicks off his independent campaign against 39-year incumbent Rep. Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif.

Strauss did not comment on whether Fitzgerald mentioned the campaign during lunch.

August 5, 2013

Team Gosar Invents New SCOTUS Justice (Updated)

Updated 5:10 p.m. | Rep. Paul Gosar has been after Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. for weeks now, taking to the House floor for a series of tongue-lashings that include throwing a Supreme Court justice’s trepidation about privacy issues in the administration’s face.

Team Gosar Invents New SCOTUS Justice (Updated)

(Screenshot)

The only problem is he’s citing a nonexistent authority.

An eagle-eyed HOH tipster noted that the Arizona Republican seemed to be relying on moral support from a “William Brandeis” when, in fact, he meant to stand on the shoulders of Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis.

“I know it’s just a typo, but for the love of God, Louis Brandeis is one of the most important Justices in the Court’s history — at least get his name right,” the anonymous stickler griped.

Full story

Take Five: Robert Pittenger

It’s time again for Take Five, when HOH talks with a member of Congress about topics relatively unrelated to legislative work. This week Rep. Robert Pittenger, R-N.C., talks about being banished from caffeine and what he’s learned from strong leaders.

Q. You have long days while Congress is in session. Are you a coffee/tea/soda addict now? What is your beverage of choice to get you through the day?

A. My staff won’t let me have caffeine. They say I’m high strung enough without it! The long days and busy schedule have forced me to start wearing rubber-soled shoes. After work, I enjoy a club soda with a splash of cranberry juice, and occasionally a glass of wine.

Q. You began your career in service to your faith. Do you continue working with faith-based projects?

A. Actually, I was in east Asia on a mission trip when I was first contacted about running for Congress. My wife and I met while working for a campus ministry organization, and we continue to be actively involved with several Christian ministry groups.

Q. What is your favorite movie of all time and why?

A. “Patton.” Gen. Patton was a remarkable military leader, and I am always interested in learning from great leaders.

Q. What are your plans over the congressional recess?

A. “Recess” was in the fourth grade when you go outside and play kickball! During August, I will host seven town hall meetings in the district, congratulate summer school graduates and travel to Israel with Majority Leader Eric Cantor. May I have my club soda now?

Q. If you could travel anywhere in the world [some place you have not visited], where would you go, and why?

A. Australia — a beautiful country that is fertile for growth and great opportunity.

August 4, 2013

The Winning Caption’s Coming Right at You | Capitol Quip

The Winning Captions Coming Right at 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. And check out our past winners on Pinterest.

And … They’re Off! | Capitol Quip

And ... Theyre Off! | Capitol Quip

Congress has left for its August recess — ahem, district work period — leaving critics to claim that the legislative branch is taking time off when the country can least afford it. Most members, though, will spend a great deal of the next five weeks in town halls and fundraisers, perhaps punishment enough.

Regardless of where you fall on this divide, send us a caption for this week’s Capitol Quip! Leave it in the comments section below. Editors will pick five finalists on Wednesday, and everyone can vote for the winner until Thursday afternoon.

To check out past winners, visit Pinterest.

August 2, 2013

John Culberson’s Insanely Simple To-Do List

Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, is living the political version of “Groundhog Day.”

And he freakin’ loves it.

The Blotto Files: Congressional Staffers’ Greatest Misses

The Blotto Files: Congressional Staffers’ Greatest Misses

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

As we were so beautifully reminded this week, sometimes Hill staffers hit the sauce a little too hard.

Mind you, bending the elbow is pretty much part of the job these days, with lawmakers and their lackeys obliged to flock from a cocktail hour for this to a policy reception for that just about every night they are actually here in town (lobbyists are hard-cases like that).

And while no one should begrudge overworked colleagues the opportunity to live a little, we’d just like to point out that many of these sad sacks effectively committed career suicide (ranked from most to least damaging outcome) all for a few drinks.

  • Rep. Rick Larsen’s doomed “December to Remember” crew: A trio of myopic social-media addicts decided to not only get wrecked while working for the Washington Democrat but also to advertise said debauchery via Twitter.
  • Rep. Steven M. Palazzo’s party girl: HOH rock star Whitney Donald swore there was nothing too crazy going on at the Annapolis, Md., home she secretly rented in the Mississippi Republican’s name for a weekend rager. The neighbors begged to differ.
  • Rep. Paul D. Ryan’s bleary-eyed super fan: Young love can be disorienting enough. Add in a serious bender, misplaced footwear and an office-wide declaration of your burning desire to bask in the glow of the Wisconsin Republican’s presence and you’ve got a teachable moment that clearly deserves its own chapter in the Cap Hill orientation manual.
  • Rep. Suzanne Kosmas’ mouth-bashing mouthpiece: Marc Goldberg, spokesman for the Florida Democrat, decided to let his fists do the talking during a dispute at a Dupont Circle watering hole. Guess when you gotta go, you gotta go …

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