Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
April 24, 2014

April 19, 2013

Al Franken Works the Middle-School Crowd

Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., who made his bones as head writer for “Saturday Night Live” and worked his way to federal office, knows how to work a crowd.

But it seems like the students from Mahtomedi Middle School of Mahtomedi, Minn., proved to be a very tough one, judging from how few appear to be giving him their rapt attention on Thursday in the atrium of the Hart Senate Office Building.

Al Franken Works the Middle School Crowd

Sen. Al Franken speaks to students. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Ricin Man and His Trusty Dog, Moo Cow

By now you may have already heard the tale of the capture of Paul Kevin Curtis, an Elvis impersonator-turned-suspect for sending ricin to elected officials and who might also have believed he was being targeted for uncovering a refrigerator full of black market body parts.

But there’s always another side to every story and, the way Curtis tells it, it starts with a drive with a dog named Moo Cow. Full story

Mayor Rahm Emanuel in DC While Chi-Town Floods

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Thursday morning event at The Atlantic was canceled at the last minute due to the torrential rains and subsequent flood ravaging the Windy City. Yet, it doesn’t appear the mayor canceled plans to be at the White House on Friday.

The weather in Chicago was so horrendous that by Thursday afternoon, flights in and out of Chicago’s O’Hare Airport were grounded or severely delayed. On Friday, Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn has declared a state of emergency in 38 Illinois counties, including Cook County, where Chicago is located, and the neighboring counties. And Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., was on the ground to see the devastation first hand.

By contrast, Emanuel was seen walking past the Westend Bistro in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of Washington, D.C., on Thursday night. On Friday, Emanuel went to the White House, which houses another famous Chicagoan, President Barack Obama.

According to the mayor’s office, Emanuel left Chicago Thursday morning. The mayor was in D.C. to participate in the (now-rescheduled) Atlantic event and to meet with former President Bill Clinton and the U.S. Conference of Mayors for the launch of a new infrastructure taskforce.

The White House visit is just something he does whenever he is in Washington, said Sarah Hamilton, spokeswoman for the mayor’s office. Emanuel, Obama’s first chief of staff, and White House officials apparently catch up and chat about various issues having to do with Chicago.

As for whether the mayor is concerned about how it looks for him to be away while his city is under water, Hamilton assured us that he has stayed abreast of the situation, working the phones beginning late Wednesday night and receiving constant updates.

Meredith Shiner and Warren Rojas contributed to the report.

By Neda Semnani Posted at 2:52 p.m.

March? Madness!

Dear cannabis-worshipping political activists with a half-decade to kill — have we got the event for you.

According to online fun finder Eventbrite, the “1,000,000 Rastafarian Strong March” is scheduled to plow through the streets of Washington for 2,187 consecutive days.

March? Madness!


The rally, which is modeled after the headline-grabbing Million Man March, marks, as best we can tell, the second attempt by organizer Nijah Don to flood the nation’s capital with fellow Rastafarians. Full story

The Cold War Gets a Warm-Up

The Cold War Gets a Warm Up

(Jeff Watts/American University)

Ahead of negotiations between their countries’ heads of state, former Rep. James W. Symington, D-Mo., and Sergei N. Khrushchev, son of the late Soviet leader, provided some context on the Cold War and the relationship between the United States and Russia.

President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this week scheduled two rounds of talks for September, hoping to thaw relations between the two increasingly distant nations.

Those discussions are likely to center on the range of issues separating U.S. and Russian policy, including human rights concerns, missile defense systems and the crises in Syria and North Korea.

The April 13 conversation between the former congressman and the son of the man who succeeded Joseph Stalin as the Soviet premier was as much a walk down memory lane as a detailed policy discussion.

“There are many anecdotes about Soviet life and it shows the difference between the democracy, where you have the rule of law, and the authoritarian state where you have the rule of personality,” the younger Khrushchev said in an interview at the symposium.

“My father — Nikita Khrushchev, the leader of the Soviet Union at the time, he wanted to be recognized as equal, and you know that the United States doesn’t want to recognize anyone as equal,” he said during his remarks. “And if you are not recognized as equal, you are challenged at opposite sides.”

“We have to understand that the Cold War is a natural transition in the global history from the period where we resolve our problem between superpowers,” he said.

Symington, an old foreign policy hand, presented a slide show of photographs from time he spent as a youth traveling in Soviet Russia. “There I am, standing around, looking important,” he said to laughter from the audience.

“The youngsters I met at Moscow University and others, they were ready to go. And they were curious about America,” he told HOH. “They were a downtrodden bunch of folks, but full of spirit.”

American University’s Initiative for Russian Culture hosted the symposium in honor of John F. Kennedy’s 1963 commencement address in which he called for peace between the superpowers.

An ice sculpture and Russian and American music from the 1960s welcomed attendees as they entered the Katzen Art Center, where the university hosted a reception after the panel. Caterers served hors d’oeuvres inspired by Russian cuisine, such as non-alcoholic Moscow mules, pickled vegetables two different types of pirozhki.

Vegetarian Caucus Hosting CVC Lunch

A little more than a month after organizing a push for more diverse vegetarian and vegan options in Capitol Hill cafeterias, the Vegetarian Caucus will host a luncheon April 22 to inform congressional staffers about the “benefits of a plant-based lifestyle.”

More than 200 Hill staffers have signed up for the event, according to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which is co-hosting the luncheon. The meal will feature a flavorful menu of kale chips, cucumber gazpacho, grape leaves with tzatziki sauce and reverse osmosis water.

Staff in attendance will hear from Elizabeth Kucinich, director of the PCRM and wife of former Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio. Both Kuciniches live vegan lifestyles, and pushed for better vegetarian and vegan options in Capitol Hill cafeterias during Kucinich’s time in Congress.

Vegetarian Caucus Hosting CVC Lunch

The Kuciniches follow a vegan lifestyle. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Full story

By Emily Cahn Posted at 12:29 p.m.
Food, HillSide

Take Me Out to Truckeroo

Take Me Out to Truckeroo

(Courtesy Two DC)

It’s been an unbelievably taxing week.

If you, like us, could use some serious decompressing, the first Truckeroo of 2013 may be just the respite we’ve all been waiting for.

The monthly food truck jamboree kicks off today opposite Nationals Park. (The team is up in New York tonight to challenge the Mets.)

No charge to hang (cornhole, live music), but pay-as-you-go in terms of the various vendors  (you-name-it cuisines, cold beers).

The festivities kick off at 11 a.m. and, weather permitting, will keep rolling until just before midnight.

Get your weekend on, y’all!




April 18, 2013

Great Neptune’s Revenge! Coburn Falls Into a Fountain at Gala

Sen. Tom Coburn took an accidental dip in a fountain at Wednesday night’s 31st March of Dimes Gourmet Gala.

Great Neptunes Revenge! Coburn Falls Into a Fountain at Gala

(Photo courtesy March of Dimes)

Two sources confirm that the Oklahoma Republican tumbled into the fountain at the National Building Museum where the gala was being held.

This wasn’t some quick toe-in-toe-out of a shallow fountain. The senator took a serious dive. When he emerged, he was soaked to his neck, his suit was sopping and ”water had to be poured from his cowboy boots.”

“That’s just a natural reaction to making the Time 100 list,” quipped Coburn spokesman John Hart.

Great Neptunes Revenge! Coburn Falls Into a Fountain at Gala

Picture of the offending National Building Museum fountain. Image is from another event with a similar set up to Wednesday’s. (Photo courtesy

It could be. Or this just might have been great Neptune’s revenge on Coburn for pooh-poohing a 2012 fountain restoration project in Lancaster, Pa.
Full story

Tracking Scott Rigell’s Snacking

If they didn’t remind him to stop every once in a while and grab a bite, staff suspect perpetually engaged Rep. Scott Rigell would miss out on some much-needed calories.

Luckily, the Virginia Republican has photographic proof that he squeezes in meals here and there.

Tracking Scott Rigell’s Snacking

(Courtesy Scott Rigell)

Full story

By Warren Rojas Posted at 4:41 p.m.
Food, HillSide

The Trouble With Turning a Camera on Washington

Toward the end of Wednesday night’s “Sidecar Conversation Series” on the love/hate relationship between Hollywood and D.C. — a discussion which was, at turns, self-congratulatory and hyper critical — moderator Ron Brownstein asked the entertainment-savvy panelists to name the defining political flick.

Our own Neda Semnani originally blurted out “The Candidate,” but then amended her choice to tout “Inherit the Wind”:

Full story

Goodlatte Inspires Musical Tribute

House Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte has quite the enthusiastic fan base!

The Virginia Republican was honored at the annual Grammys on the Hill breakfast at the Capitol Hill Club Thursday morning with a song dashed off earlier this week by a group of Roanoke, Va., songwriters.

The song, “Copy-Right, Copy-Wrong,” was written by Goodlatte constituents and members of the Southwest Virginia Songwriters Association: Larry Sakayama, Greg Trafidlo and Barbara Martin. Nashville songwriter Darrell Brown also pitched in.

The lyrics forgive Goodlatte for being born a Yankee, while tracing the congressman’s journey from his “college in Maine” to the law degree that will help him to “slay the piracy giants.”

“To those that make the music, he’s our Moses,” the group crooned. “Even better than Charlton Heston.”

The chorus continues: “Chairman Bob/Get your hands in the mud/Chairman Bob/Roll up your sleeves Bob/Say Copy-right yeah yeah/Not Copy-wrong no no.”

Full story

Jennifer Hudson Honored at ‘Grammys on the Hill’

Music met politics Wednesday night at the annual Grammys on the Hill awards, which honored Jennifer Hudson with the Recording Artist Coalition Award for her philanthropic and artistic achievements.

Dozens of musical and political stars mingled at a VIP cocktail reception at The Hamilton venue in downtown Washington before the awards dinner. Guests included producer Clive Davis, singer Yolanda Adams and songwriter Kara DioGuardi.

Jennifer Hudson Honored at Grammys on the Hill

From left: Yolanda Adams, Jennifer Hudson, Clive Davis. (Danielle Ryan/CQ Roll Call)

Speaking to HOH, Hudson said the award was “extra special” to her.

“Because it’s not just for the arts, but because it’s just like me being me, being the person that I am and trying to make a difference in the world,” she said.

Librarian of Congress James Billington was also there to be honored for the work the library has done to preserve historic audio recordings.

Reps. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., their parties’ respective whips, were among a dozen members of Congress on hand to show support for the protection of intellectual property.

Hoyer turned to the Ten Commandments to illustrate what he said should be the guiding principle when it comes to protecting musical property.

“Thou shalt not steal,” he said. “There’s no caveat.”

Jennifer Hudson Honored at Grammys on the Hill

Reps. Kevin McCarthy and Steny H. Hoyer.  (Danielle Ryan/CQ Roll Call)

Proceeds from Grammys on the Hill go to the Grammy Signature Schools Program, which works to keep music programs alive in schools.

Hudson told HOH how important school music programs were to her as a child.

“I would not be here if it was not for music programs in school growing up — that’s what made me a dreamer,” she said.

“I would hate to see that being taken away from kids and schools.”

After receiving her award, Hudson wowed the crowd with powerful performances of “Hallelujah” and  ”One Night Only.”

As the evening drew to a close, more than a dozen members of Congress joined singers and songwriters on stage for an unrehearsed but rather lively rendition of The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby.”

Jennifer Hudson Honored at Grammys on the Hill

(Danielle Ryan/CQ Roll Call)

Mike Quigley’s Budding Bromance

Sounds like Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., is thrilled to learn that he’s got a secret admirer in the think tank scourge, the Panel Crasher.

After HOH reported on PC’s respect for the potty-mouthed pol, Quigley tweeted out his desire to hang with the anonymous cheerleader:

Mike Quigleys Budding Bromance


Quigley spokeswoman Laura Sisemore said the office has put feelers out to try to piece together PC’s true identity. So far, they’ve drawn a blank.

Full story

Henry Rollins’ D.C. Homecoming

Over the next few weeks, keep your eyes and ears peeled as you wander our great town.

Henry Rollins — punk rock icon, actor, activist and general D.C.-kid made good — will be filming a documentary in Washington over the next three weeks. Unfortunately, he’s not allowed to say just what the documentary is going to be about, which is a wee bit of a bummer. Also, Rollins’ shooting schedule sounds pretty relentless, but “Hank” — who earlier this year emceed the DC Funk-Punk Throwback Jam — did make us a promise.

“If I have a night off,” he said. “I’ll go to a show at the 9:30 Club, at the Black Cat. For sure.”

A nickel to anyone who has a Rollins sighting! And check back later for HOH’s long-form interview with Rollins.

To tide you over until our transcription’s complete, please check out this clip of the Rollins Band killing it at the old 9:30 Club.




This Is 30 for Denham Staffer

If staffer Bret Manley has learned anything during his time on Capitol Hill, it’s that certain things are inevitable.

Death. Taxes. And having your personal belongings encased in streamers every April 18:

This Is 30 for Denham Staffer

(Courtesy Courtney Carrow)

Full story

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