Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
September 15, 2014

July 29, 2013

Take Five: Ami Bera

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. Ami Bera, D-Calif., talks about the serenity of waterfront spots, as well as the similarities of two capital cities.

Q. What, if any, successes are you most proud of in your term in Congress so far?

A. I’ve only been in Congress since January, but I’m proud of the work I’ve done with my colleagues to start to create a sense of bipartisanship in the House. Our freshman class gets along very well, both Democrats and Republicans, and I think over time this class is really going to leave its mark on Congress. I’m also proud to be a co-chair of the No Labels Problem Solvers coalition, a group of members from both parties who are working together to try to break through partisan gridlock.

Q. As a congressional representative, you obviously don’t have “normal” work hours. Are you planning to take a break over the recess?

A. During August, I have several events planned in my Sacramento County district. Among the many things I’ll be doing are Congress on Your Corner meetings with constituents, a veterans resource fair and town hall to help our vets get the services they need, an event with local business leaders and our local Chamber of Commerce, and several back to school events. In addition to time in the district, I’ll also be traveling to India and Israel to deepen my understanding of the U.S. relations with these key allies and to promote trade and economic development in the Sacramento region.

Q. What is something people would be surprised to know about you?

A. I love the outdoors. I’m an avid fisherman and love to get out on the water when I can. I also love backpacking and going on summer backpacking trips. Most people also may not know I’m the only Unitarian Universalist in Congress and only the third Indian-American ever elected to Congress.

Q. Do you play or follow a particular sport or sports?

A. I played basketball all through high school. Now I golf and snowboard when I can, which is not often. And when I’m back home, I spend a lot of time swimming.

Q. What is your favorite place in D.C. that reminds you of home?

A. I love to walk along the Potomac River. Sacramento is the River City and there are many great waterfront spots in my district. Being on the water is incredibly peaceful and it’s one of the most beautiful aspects of both Washington, D.C., and the Sacramento region.

July 28, 2013

Keeping Watch on Obamacare | Capitol Quip

Keeping Watch on Obamacare | Capitol Quip

On guard!

Republicans have staked out a hard position on Obamacare, with some senators threatening to try to shut down the government if the health care law is not defunded and political operatives stating it will be a keystone issue in the 2014 elections. So tell us what’s on the mind of the folks targeting the law in the comments section of our Heard on the Hill blog. Editors will pick five finalists on July 31, and everyone can vote for the winner until the afternoon of Aug. 1 on the HOH blog.

To check out past winners, go to pinterest.com/rollcalldc/capitol-quip.

By Jason Dick Posted at 7:45 p.m.
Capitol Quip

Think About It, Sneetches | Capitol Quip

Think About It, Sneetches | 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.

July 26, 2013

Lincoln Memorial Gets Slimed

Seriously? Green splat on the Lincoln Memorial?

The splatter of green paint on the ground of the statue and flanking Lincoln’s left side puzzled the United States Park Police, who traced the vandalism to early Friday morning.

Maybe The Hulk went for a run and its his sweat the authorities found? Doubtful. The last time he was seen, in “Iron Man 3,” he seemed pretty sleepy. Alien slime? Unlikely, although the Corcoran’s exhibit, Ellen Harvey: The Alien’s Guide to the Ruins of Washington, D.C., suggest aliens are keeping on eye on things.

Maybe the vandal was inspired by one of the superhero splatter paintings on the Internet? Someone should have told the person it’s all digitally created.

Since honest Abe can’t tell us, the public will have to wait until police finish reviewing surveillance footage.

Anyone going to the Mall should beware of the police tape. The hipster hijinks or misplaced artistic expression or full-on act of vandalism will close the Lincoln Memorial until crews manage to clean up all the green paint.

By Diana Oberoi Posted at 4:37 p.m.
DC, POTUS, ScandalFaced

Recess Destinations for a Curious Congress

It’s that time again! Time for the countdown to recess — ahem, district work period — when members of Congress carefully take the pulse of their constituencies at reasonable and polite town halls, and the invisible hand of the democratic process works its magic.

It’s also a time for raising boatloads of cash if one happens to be running for re-election, touching base with key players in the political process and educating oneself about the issues of the day.

As part of its public service mission, HOH is suggesting some dream destinations for curious members of Congress, places right here in the good old US of A that can provide public servants with a firsthand look at the issues of the day they’ll encounter on Capitol Hill as elected representatives of the people.

Detroit

The Motor City’s recent bankruptcy filing brings into sharp focus a host of issues: urban decay, the degree to which cities can deliver on long-ago promises as demographics change, local control, federal aid for states and municipalities. Once the city that powered America, Detroit now faces the indignity of seeing professional auctioneers check out the paintings in the Detroit Institute of Art. Before throwing down positions, perhaps members of Congress could see firsthand the complex things are.

Nogales, Ariz.

Immigration policy, thanks to the recent Senate debate and Rep. Steve King’s comments about a 1-to-100 ratio of valedictorians to cantaloupe-calved drug mules in the undocumented population, is hot right now. What better way to see what’s going on than to actually visit a bona fide border town? Nogales, Ariz., and Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, are actually divided down International Street, and they offer a more nuanced example of the issues around immigration that one might not find by watching FX’s “The Bridge.”

New York City

The sad truth about modern campaigns is that most members of Congress never really have to fight and claw their way to victory in a wide-open race with twists and turns. Lucky for them, they can visit the Big Apple and see a real political gladiator fest in the mayoral race, starring one of their most distinguished alumni, ex-Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., aka Carlos Danger, the serial sexter. New York hasn’t seen a mayoral Democratic primary like this one since 1977, when then-Rep. Ed Koch, Mario Cuomo, Mayor Abe Beam and then-Rep. Bella Abzug duked it out amid the Summer of Sam.

Fort Hood, Texas

How about a journey to the center of the Lone Star State and one of the largest military bases in the world, with more than 50,000 personnel, to see how the sequester is playing out? Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and the Joint Chiefs of Staff can traipse up to Capitol Hill to discuss how the sequester is affecting readiness and morale, but how about asking some of the rank and file, as well as their families?

San Diego

Instead of attending some dry HR seminar about sexual harassment, why not head to America’s Finest City, which is a true case study in personnel management, thanks to its hands-on mayor, ex-Rep. Bob Filner.

It’s a big country, Congress! Get out and see it.

Quad-Caucus Members On Board for ‘Fruitvale Station’ Screening

The heads of the minority-led Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Progressive Caucus have joined Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., in shepherding lawmakers to a July 30 screening of “Fruitvale Station,” Hollywood’s take on the very public killing of Oscar Grant III. Full story

By Warren Rojas Posted at 12:56 p.m.
Flicks, Reps

Happy 24th Birthday to the Greatest Floor Speech of All Time

On this day 24 years ago, a spirited congressman from Illinois named Richard J. Durbin, now the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, delivered what is unquestionably the greatest diatribe to ever grace the House floor — in defense of the wooden bat.

A young Durbin, still speaking with his strong Illinois accent, (as a Land of Lincoln lady myself, trust me on this; listen for how he says “pajamas” and “Americana”) was so riled up by the cheers of his colleagues as he hit the dramatic crescendo of his speech that he effectively dropped the mic when it was over.

Eat your heart out, Harry Reid, with your tired Davey Johnson metaphors.

“I don’t want to hear about saving trees, any tree in America would gladly give its life for a day of glory at home plate,” Durbin proclaimed. “I don’t know if it will take a constitutional amendment to keep the baseball traditions alive, but if we forsake the great Americana of broken-bat singles and pine tar, we certainly will have lost our way as a nation.”

May we mark this day every year to remember what America is really all about, and that even though it’s unclear who Durbin was addressing with this little ditty, aluminum bats have remained out of professional baseball for decades.

If we don’t take a moment to appreciate the glory that is the Durbin Wooden Bats™ speech now, in the heart of baseball season, then HOH has to ask, “Is nothing sacred?”

July 25, 2013

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s Locker Room Jokes

There was one senator conspicuously absent at the beginning of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s markup on Thursday morning: Charles E. Schumer. The committee was slated to mark up a media shield bill, sponsored by the New York Democrat and about 10 minutes into the meeting, the senator was nowhere to be found.

Since the committee was short of a quorum, members waited several minutes for a few more of their colleagues to show up.

A few minutes later, Schumer arrived, a quorum was reached and the committee promptly agreed to hold over work on the bill until next week. After announcing that the bill would be held over, Schumer said he had a “good dog ate my homework excuse” as to why he was late.

“The showers stopped working in the gym,” he said.

Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy responded, “When Sen. [Dianne] Feinstein was chair of the Rules Committee, that never happened.”

That garnered laughs from the rest of the committee, as Schumer is the current chairman of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration and has jurisdiction of a lot of Senate operations.

The last thing that could be heard before Schumer’s voice was drowned out by the chatter of others in attendance was, “I had to have someone stand guard …”

Mark Sanford Can’t Escape the Appalachian Trail

Rep. Mark Sanford can’t seem to escape the Appalachian Trail, even in the Speaker’s Lobby.

As HOH reported previously, Sanford wasn’t aware the House moved up Wednesday evening’s vote series, and he was caught en flagrant delit excerciso, racing to the floor in sweaty attire and borrowing a dark blazer to attend to the people’s business on the floor.

Mark Sanford Cant Escape the Appalachian Trail

(Courtesy HOH tipster)

As if that wasn’t enough, someone from his own team jabbed the South Carolina Republican about one of his most famous mishaps:  His trip to Argentina for an extra-marital affair with now-fiancee Maria Belen Chapur.

No one seemed to know where the then-South Carolina governor was for days, and aides were stuck telling the press he was hiking the Appalachian Trail, the birth of one of the political world’s greatest euphemisms ever.

At any rate, as Sanford showed up sweaty in athletic casual gear for Wednesday’s votes, Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., yelled out, for all to hear far and wide, “Where have you been? Hiking?”

And the beat goes on.

By Jason Dick Posted at 3:53 p.m.
Foolishness, HillSide, Reps

Did Christopher Walken Inspire Steve King’s Cantaloupe Moment?

When is a cantaloupe no longer a cantaloupe? When Rep. Steve King uses it to describe the calves of underweight, drug-running border crossers.

We at HOH racked our brains to figure out where the Iowa Republican might have come up with such a fruity simile.

And, as frequently happens, the road led us to Quentin Tarantino, specifically the Tarantino-scripted “True Romance” and its epic stare-down between Dennis Hopper and Christopher Walken.

Mystery solved.

July 24, 2013

Mark Sanford’s New Business Casual: Shorts on the House Floor

Somebody obviously didn’t tell Rep. Mark Sanford the House moved up the Wednesday evening vote series an hour earlier than anticipated. Otherwise, he might have changed clothing first — or taken a shower, at least.

The South Carolina Republican came into the Speaker’s Lobby sporting a sweat-soaked T-shirt, gym shorts and sneakers.

Asked by HOH if he had thought he had adequate time for an exercise run before having to report to the chamber to vote on amendments to the Defense Department appropriations bill, Sanford deadpanned, “I think that’s a fair assessment.”

Mark Sanfords New Business Casual: Shorts on the House Floor

(Courtesy HOH tipster)

For the most part, he stayed sheepishly in one corner of the long hallway, hovering near one of the chamber doorways to monitor when he needed to run out onto the floor and cast his votes and trying to ignore giggling reporters.

Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, is a stickler for proper attire, and has been known to admonish male lawmakers from the dais for not wearing required jackets and ties. Sanford donned a blazer supplied by an aide when he had to go into the chamber, but took it off when he was in the Speaker’s Lobby, perhaps wanting to avoid taking it into the dry cleaner’s.

Mark Sanfords New Business Casual: Shorts on the House Floor

(Courtesy HOH tipster)

Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Mich., asked Sanford if he needed to borrow a tie. “I might,” Sanford replied.
Other colleagues were less helpful.
“Nooooo wayyyyyyy,” freshman Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fla., drawled.  ”Noooo wayyyyy. This is the best thing I’ve ever seen, and I’ve only been here six months.”
He then suggested Sanford pull down his shorts a little bit so they looked like pants. Sanford declined.

Educators Gleefully Picture ‘March’ in Their Curriculums

Yes, Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., made a big splash at Comic-Con last weekend, barreling directly into the belly of the entertainment-starved beast to promote his debut graphic novel, “March.”

And, yes, Top Shelf Productions, the publisher of said title, would undoubtedly love it if every major book vendor/discerning magazine stand/corner comic book shop stacked “March” right in the sightline of serious buyers.

But everyone involved seems to know exactly where their bread and butter is in this particular scenario: educators.

And it seems that those tasked with bringing the past to life for tomorrow’s leaders can’t wait to add Lewis’ groundbreaking project to their toolboxes.

Making It Count

Long before anyone was even thinking about putting pen to paper, “March” point man Leigh Walton said Top Shelf thought long and hard about whom they might tap to translate Lewis’ vivid memories into striking 2-D.

Educators Gleefully Picture ‘March’ in Their Curriculums

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

They ultimately settled on award-winning graphic novelist Nate Powell because of his eye for detail, as well as his passion for capturing every shade of the American experience.

Full story

Hitch Up Your Breeches, Here’s Five Sneetches | Capitol Quip

Hitch Up Your Breeches, Heres Five Sneetches | 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 shall not be a D. Or an R I could not be. I should not work on the Hill. I would not, could not pass a bill.
  • Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try. — Dr. Seuss
  • The non-squabbling Sneetches are leaving the beaches!
  • No more blues and reds, your colors are dead. We work for the people, get it through your head.
  • Compromise is now in style. Drop your label and cross the aisle!

The cartoon with the winning caption will appear on this blog July 28 and in the next day’s 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 3:53 p.m.
Capitol Quip

Steve King’s Greatest (Recent) Hits

HOH favorite Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, ignited a prairie fire with his recent comments to Newsmax about the physical attributes of immigrants who traipse through the desert with illicit substances: “For everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds — and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”

This got us to thinking about some of King’s other noteworthy statements and actions that have shown up recently on the HOH radar. Without further ado, here’s a list of some moments fit for a “King”:

Standoff at the Rayburn Corral

“20 brazen self professed illegal aliens have just invaded my DC office,” King raged on social media last month, when advocates for immigration legislation came to his office and asked for a meeting. The advocates were provided contact information for a future visit. King demanded that Sens. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., and John McCain, R-Ariz., co-sponsors of Senate immigration legislation, prevent future invasions.

(No) Sympathy for the Devil

“It’s hard to find sympathy for people who would do that to people’s faith,” King said during a recent congressional delegation trip to Russia about the harsh prison terms that members of the Russian punk rock group Pussy Riot are serving for a musical protest against President Vladimir Putin they performed at the Moscow Church of Christ.

It’s What’s for Dinner

“I eat concentrated, recycled, enhanced vegetables in the form of meat,” King bragged to a town hall in Iowa in April, showing he can haze vegetarians in committee hearings with the best of them, regardless of context.

Surfin’ USA

“I’m not the only one she drove to the Internet. There must have been six or eight iPads there. If you were out in the Judiciary Committee sitting there, you were either surfing on the Internet or you were back in the back having lunch,” King told us when asked about how he was bragging about surfing the Internet when Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, was talking during a hearing on the Stop Online Piracy Act.

By Jason Dick Posted at 3:45 p.m.
AwesomeSauce

Mo, Mo, Mo — Cowan’s Post-Congress Tweets Heat Up

William “Mo” Cowan left the Senate on July 16 and, on returning to civilian life, switched his Twitter handle from @SenMoCowan to @MoCowan. The former Massachusetts Democratic senator sent out this last sweet message under his senatorial names.

William Mo Cowan@SenMoCowan 16 Jul:

Before they shut off this acct allow me to say: thank you all for the kind words. I have lived the American dream. Best wishes to all. -MC

And then, Mo moved along to the real stuff: his wife, bowties and the royal baby. Here are some highlights from the unhinged Mo Cowan Twitter account.

Mo Cowan@mocowan 19 Jul:

My beloved spells her name sans “e” MT @KellyO: “I was able 2 serve because she was willing 2 B mom & dad… @mocowan thx wife Stacey

Mo Cowan@mocowan 19 Jul:

Alert! Alert! MY BOWTIES NEVER MADE IT BACK FROM DC! They were packed up but have yet to arrive. If you see my ties on @cspan, call me ASAP!

Mo Cowan@mocowan 21 Jul:

Just sat down on plane & realized I’m still in makeup from @upwithsteve. Explains why some in airport asked if I was Denzel. #justsayin

Mo Cowan@mocowan 22 Jul:

Should they name the lad “Mo” I won’t be upset. #justsayin#royalbaby

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