Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 1, 2014

August 15, 2013

Littlest Advice Columnist Arrives for Roll Call’s Hill Navigator

Roll Call Hill Navigator columnist Rebecca Gale announced Wednesday the arrival of her first son, Ezra Alan Margolies.

Dad, Warren Margolies, emailed to say that Ezra “joined the family at 10:28 this morning, weighing in at a lean and mean 6 pounds, 6 ounces.” Coincidentally, her latest blog item, “Wanting It All,” posted two minutes later.

Gale, who also serves as Roll Call’s op-ed editor, said via email that the little guy was very “punctual,” arriving one day before he was due. (HOH might suggest that seems more like being “fashionably early.”)

Gale, who will continue to offer advice to congressional staffers in her blog while on maternity leave, reports that she and Margolies “both liked the name Ezra and Alan is named for Warren’s grandfather. Next up in young Ezra’s life: his bris next week.” A big first week indeed!

Littlest Advice Columnist Arrives for Roll Calls Hill Navigator

Ezra Alan Margolies (Courtesy Rebecca Gale)


By Emily Pierce Posted at 1:14 p.m.

August 14, 2013

5 Captions on Egypt | Capitol Quip

5 Captions on Egypt | Capitol Quip

Since Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. visited Egypt earlier this month, the situation has clearly gotten more dire and dangerous for the people of that troubled country.

McCain and Graham encouraged the leaders of Egypt’s interim government to release political prisoners associated with ousted President Mohamed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood and to broaden political talks as they look to bridge the gap between the interim government and Morsi’s supporters. That obviously hasn’t happened.

So here are five captions to characterize the political situation in Egypt and U.S. efforts to calm it down:

  • You can lead a camel to water, but you can’t make him vote.
  • Geez, even Morsi got a better ride out of town than this!
  • I see the camel’s nose, but where is the tent?
  • Talk about déjà vu.
  • He wants to stay with his mummy.

Using the comments section below, vote for your favorite caption until 5 p.m. EDT Thursday.

The cartoon with the winning caption will appear on this blog Aug. 18. The contest winner will receive a signed color print of his or her Capitol Quip cartoon from the cartoonist, R.J. Matson.

By Emily Pierce Posted at 5:46 p.m.

Is This Congressman Sleeping?

The August recess gives members time to meet with constituents, spend time with their families and … sleep?

According to the Florida Democratic Party, that is exactly what Rep. Steve Southerland II, R-Fla., did Tuesday at a field hearing in his home district. The party posted this photo of the second-term congressman on Twitter:

Is This Congressman Sleeping?

(Courtesy Twitter)

Full story

By JM Rieger Posted at 4:49 p.m.
media, Reps

August 13, 2013

‘Odd Couple’ Rand Paul, John Yarmuth Host Charity Challenge at Valhalla

Sen. Rand Paul and Rep. John Yarmuth are certainly strange bedfellows, but the two will come together for a golf tournament next week.

Before the PGA Championship returns to the Valhalla Golf Club in 2014, the Louisville, Ky., course will play host to the aptly named “Odd Couple Challenge.”

The Aug. 19 golf tournament is hosted by two Kentucky lawmakers who couldn’t be more different. The Republican Paul is a tea party favorite, and Yarmuth is a relatively liberal Democrat. The event will benefit Helping a Hero, a charity that helps build accessible homes for wounded veterans. Festivities kick off with a dinner the night before in Louisville.

Valhalla features a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course that opened in 1986. Next year will be the course’s third PGA Championship. It also played host to the 2008 Ryder Cup.


By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 5:48 p.m.

Town Halls by the Numbers

Town Halls by the Numbers

Republican Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte hosts a town hall meeting for constituents of Virginia’s 6th District on Aug. 19 at the Augusta County Government Center in Verona. He addressed everything from gun control to the Benghazi terrorist attacks, but the evening’s main topic was immigration. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)

Updated: Sept. 3, 3:39 p.m. | ‘Tis the season for town hall meetings. To keep you apprised of what’s going on outside of Washington, D.C., during recess, we’re keeping a top 10 tally of members of Congress with the most town halls scheduled, with a little help from our colleagues over in CQ’s Member Information & Research Department.

Our list is based on data gathered from local news sources and lawmakers themselves. For the purposes of this list, we count only events in which the member is available to interact with the public; our numbers will be updated once daily.

The lawmaker who’s still at the head of the pack is freshman Republican Rep. Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma, who made a bit of news at an Aug. 8 town hall meeting thanks to his response to a question from a self-described “birther princess.” He has 26 events scheduled.

Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado has been the only Democratic lawmaker to crack the top 10 so far, but he was knocked off the list on Aug. 21. He has 10 events scheduled; other Democrats who come closest to making it into the top 10 are Washington Reps. Derek Kilmer (9 events) and Denny Heck (8 events).

When broken down overall by state, Oklahoma leads the way with 58 town halls in August. Texas and California round out the top three with 49 events and 46 events, respectively.

Full story

By Katie Smith Posted at 5:07 p.m.

August 12, 2013

Services Set for Former Staffer Chris Battle

The family of the late Hill staffer and administrative aide Chris Battle, who died last week at age 45, has set dates for two funeral services, which will be held in Savannah, Ga., and Alexandria, Va.

An internment service at Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah will begin at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, followed by a service at 11 a.m. at White Bluff United Methodist Church.

An 11 a.m. service is set for Aug. 23 at Grace Episcopal Church in Alexandria.

Receptions will follow both services and donations in honor of Battle can be made to the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center.

By JM Rieger Posted at 6:20 p.m.
DC, Nationwide

Rap Genius Breaks Down Trey Radel’s ‘Why I’m a Hip Hop Conservative’

Rap Genius Breaks Down Trey Radels Why Im a Hip Hop Conservative

Radel, in a ceremonial swearing-in photo, seems an unlikely “hip hop conservative.” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Rap Genius community embraced Florida Republican Rep. Trey Radel this past weekend.

An essay Radel authored to explain “Why I’m a Hip Hop Conservative,” originally published by BuzzFeed, was added to the user-generated rap music review site Aug. 10.

Rap Genius posts lyrics, news and speeches related to hip-hop music, then allows users to annotate and interpret the meaning. This particular post appeared on the News Genius portion of the site.

By Monday afternoon, 17 pop-up annotations had been added to Radel’s 633-word speech. With encyclopedic knowledge of the genre, users fact-checked Radel’s references to lyrics and rappers (Eric B., of  Eric B and Rakim, was a D.J., “not a rapper,” one pointed out). They also expanded on a few autobiographical references that Radel dropped into the essay. One noted that the three languages he speaks are English, Spanish and Italian. Another added a brightly colored marijuana graphic about “4/20″ to represent his April 20, 1976, birth date.

The site rewards good contributions with “RapIQ,” and users who spit enough knowledge are eventually able to edit anything on the site. One editor with lots of clout linked Radel’s essay to a lyric in “Dumb Out” by rapper Joe Budden: “Let me find out hip-hop’s turning Republican.”

Radel’s entry won him some high praise from a Twitter follower, Trevar Dye (@trevardye), which he subsequently retweeted:


Murphy Brown’s Taxation Without Representation

In our latest edition of Fictional Franchise — the series that examines fictional characters and who represents them in Congress — we look at the fictional residents of the District of Columbia and their non-voting representative, Democratic Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton.

In the past, we’ve concentrated on themes such as baseball players or characters from great American novels. This time around, we’re concentrating on the District itself.

The rules for the series go like this: We decide where a fictional character lives and then look up who represents them in the House. (See more on the rules here.)

Speaking of rules, while the title of this series is “Fictional Franchise,” these Washingtonians are not actually enfranchised when it comes to congressional representation.

By the way, we skipped “The West Wing.” Aaron Sorkin concentrated so much on his characters’ work lives that it was to the exclusion of their home lives. So we determined that we did not have enough research to make definitive determinations on the gang.

Murphy Brown (Candice Bergen)
“Murphy Brown”

It’s hard to reconcile the fact that Murphy Brown, patron saint of a generation of female reporters, is not represented by a voting member of Congress. One gets the sense if she were real, the law would have been changed by now.

It is widely believed that Brown’s townhouse is on Dent Place in Georgetown, a neighborhood home to many famously fictional people.

And while she may have the dance moves of an “Animal House” extra, she is still the coolest fake journalist ever.

Full story

Need a Lyft? New Car Service Aims for Good Vibes

Living in the District means having a car isn’t exactly a necessity, until it is.

Uber swooped into Washington hoping to fill the void with its mobile app connecting the carless-but-connected with its uberTaxi, uberBlack and uberSUV services. The D.C. Taxicab Commission didn’t take kindly to Uber, although the Federal Trade Commission has warned the local commission that coming down hard on Uber and other Web-based car services could stifle innovation.

Against that backdrop, Lyft, a car-sharing service that started in San Francisco, has decided to drive on in.

Lyft, which held a “top-secret kick-off party” earlier this month at 1776-The Penthouse, promises to be “your friend with a car,” complete with its trademark pink fluffy mustache and encouraged driver-driven bonding. Why a pink mustache, you ask? There’s actually a good story behind it.

The pink mustache is a smile, its website says. Its goal is for you to be a little happier at the end of your ride than you were at the beginning.

“What really sets Lyft apart from other services is the community experience,” said Erin Simpson of Lyft. “Riders can sit up front with the drivers, choose the music and have really good conversation.

“We also go above and beyond in the matter of safety,” Simpson said. “Potential drivers are screened through criminal background checks, DMV records, followed by in-person interviews.”

Lyft also has a first-of-its-kind, $1 million per occurrence excess liability insurance policy. Once a ride is complete, passengers are prompted to pay through the app to the extent they’ve enjoyed the experience.

Riders also will  give feedback about drivers, so anyone who isn’t providing comfortable trips will get dumped from the system.

Capitol Bells Toll for Transparency

Perhaps missing the House bells he grew accustomed to while working for Rep. Dale E. Kildee, D-Mich., Ted Henderson started Capitol Bells, an iPhone app that lets users know when House votes are happening and allows them to “vote” in real time with their representative.

The app initially launched in April for members of Congress and their staffs to keep everyone in tune with which votes were happening and when.

Recently, Henderson updated the app, making it available to everyone with an iPhone.

“There has always been a disconnect between the public and Congress,” said Henderson. “This app is trying to make them a part of the process.”

The user chooses his or her district and the bill that is being considered. The user can then vote and the app shows all the voting scores — yea, nay, present, not voting. There’s also the buzzer to remind you time is almost up.

“Congress is there to serve the people, and this is a way for people to express your opinion without just calling the press office, registering your sentiment and not knowing what the outcome of the vote is anyway,” Henderson said.

With this app, representatives will be able to gauge exactly how well they’re representing their most engaged constituents by looking at differences in the past 20 or 30 votes.

The project is far from complete; Henderson hopes to port it to Android by Sept. 9,when Congress is scheduled to be back in session. Windows and a website widget are other platforms Henderson hopes to offer Capitol Bells on in the near future.

After that, he hopes that with more crowdsourcing, he can add tools such as comparing a user’s and representative’s votes, how often the House member votes and whether the votes are in line with the district’s voters/users.

Henderson also plans ambitious updates to include a feature that will allow users to search legislation and promote bills they want their representative to support.

This could start a new public discourse, hashtagging the bill on Twitter alone would pull people in who might not otherwise be tuned in to C-SPAN.

ESPN Profiles Fantasy Softball Winner Kirsten Gillibrand

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., is the subject of a new ESPN profile, and it delves into her passion for sports.

ESPN Profiles Fantasy Softball Winner Kirsten Gillibrand

Gillibrand helped lead the members’ softball team. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Bonnie Bernstein interviewed Gillibrand for her ESPNw series about famous women who played sports growing up. In the interview, Gillibrand discussed playing tennis growing up and her collegiate career with The Big Green at Dartmouth — where she started playing junior varsity tennis and eventually shifted to squash.

“I had a very strong backhand. Serve was strong. Net game was strong. Fairly aggressive player,” she self-analyzed. “My forehand was always my weakest. Unreliable at a times, but I love tennis.”

Gillibrand also spoke of her admiration for tennis legend Martina Navratilova, her interest in running and her well-documented weight loss.

The video includes footage of Gillibrand knocking a hit back a pitch from Yours Truly in the 2012 Congressional Women’s Softball game that raises money for a breast cancer charity.

For the Washington, D.C., community, Gillibrand’s athletic prowess is well-known. Gillibrand was the most-selected ballplayer in CQ Roll Call’s Fantasy Softball competition in the lead-up to the 2013 Congressional Women’s Softball game. She lived up to the hype, hitting two doubles and tied with NBC’s Kasie Hunt as the top RBI-getter in the game.

August 11, 2013

A Visit to Sequester Beach | Capitol Quip

A Visit to Sequester Beach | 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.

A Stubborn Political Problem | Capitol Quip

A Stubborn Political Problem | Capitol Quip

Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., recently visited Egypt to survey the political situation there after a military-backed takeover of the government displaced President Mohamed Morsi.

McCain and Graham encouraged the leaders of Egypt’s interim government to release political prisoners associated with Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood and to broaden political talks as they look to bridge the gap between the interim government and Morsi’s supporters, who aren’t too happy he was toppled.

So how do you think their dynamic duo congressional delegation went? Let us know what you think by sending us a 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.

August 9, 2013

With J.J. Going Into Exile, Georgetown Students Want Another Bulldog

First he lost his job. Now he’s losing his home.

J.J., the bulldog mascot for Georgetown University, was “retired” last month, part of a settlement agreement with two parents whose child was bitten by the dog. Then on Thursday, Rev. Christopher Steck, one of J.J.s’ handlers on the campus, announced he was looking for a local family to adopt the bulldog.

With J.J. going into exile, students want to make sure they won’t be losing out on having a live mascot for too long.

Since the 1960s, Georgetown University has had a live mascot, each making his own mark in campus life.

On March 30, 2012, Georgetown announced the donation of a new bulldog puppy “Jack Junior” from San Diego breeders Janice and Marcus Hochstetler, whose children were attending the university. Things didn’t work out for J.J., but there is still a desire among students to have a canine represent the school.

With J.J. Going Into Exile, Georgetown Students Want Another Bulldog

Photo Courtesy of Georgetown University.

Since the July announcement of J.J.’s retirement a petition has been created to ensure another live mascot will be chosen. It is supported by Georgetown University Student Association and Hoya Blue.

The petition was posted by the head of the Jack Crew, Nevada Schadler, and already has 342 supporters. The petition asks the university to consider students’ perspectives and ensure that a live mascot will continue to live on campus. The petition has worldwide reach and has gotten signatures from Hoya alumini in Switzerland, Peru, Turkey and the United States.

Hoya Blue, the official student spirit organization, stated on its Facebook page that “Hoya Blue played an integral part in bringing Jack back to campus in the late 90s and we will continue to fight to ensure that this tradition continues for Generations to Come.”

Scott Brown’s ‘Estranged Half Brother’ Arrested for Impersonating Cop

Former Sen. Scott P. Brown’s “estranged half brother” has been charged in Connecticut with impersonating a police officer after authorities say he stopped boaters.

Police say 46-year-old Bruce W. Browne of Wolcott, Conn., stopped three vessels on Long Island Sound on Thursday and asked boaters for their registrations and safety certificates after identifying himself as a police officer.

According to the state police report, after confronting Browne at Point O’ Woods Beach in Old Lyme, police searched his 2004 Crown Victoria and found three loaded 9 mm pistols, a black nylon duty belt with two sets of handcuffs, an expandable baton and 12 fully loaded magazines with a total of 101 hollow point and 102 ball-style 9 mm bullets. Browne also had a bullet-proof vest with the word “police” embroidered on the front and back. Attached to the front was a “silver metal TSA badge.”

The full summary of the incident can be found here.

The former Massachusetts Republican senator released a statement on his Facebook page that only added to the bizarreness of the situation. “For those of you who are asking about the news reports on my estranged half brother, I only know as much as you. I read about it in the news this morning. As you many of you know, my mom and my late father were married and divorced 4 times each. Unfortunately, we were not close as a family. These are serious charges and he will need to answer them. I feel badly for his children and I am thankful that no one was injured,” the statement read.

Browne was charged with impersonating a police officer, breach of peace, interfering with a police officer and possession of a dangerous weapon in a vehicle. Additional charges may be forthcoming as the U.S. Coast Guard is looking at Browne in relation to previous incidents similar to the situation that allegedly transpired in Old Lyme.

Browne was arrested and released on Thursday after posting a $50,000 bond. He is scheduled to appear in district court in New London, Conn., on Aug. 22.

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